killer low head dam

Killer low head dam

killer low head damI needed a quiet stress free weekend, and, for the most part, I found one.  What a special pleasure it was to paddle our golden retriever puppy down our backyard creek for the first time (next post).

Much like we've done for almost 50 years, we put in at Cox Creek Bridge.  And, within ten minutes we are greeted by THE DAM.  The dam that has been killing our residents for decades.  The dam that was built without approval of the Corp of Engineers. 

But the really terrifying thing about it is that it looks/sounds/feels so harmless.  It's nothing like Niagara Falls, that you can hear from miles away.  This little dam actually looks like a nice little "whitewater moment".  A brief and short change in water elevation - the kind of thing that paddlers on a hot summer day are looking for.

The dam's innocense is so misleading, it continues to even mislead it's critics, who believe that it's only dangerous when the water is high - like after a rain.  This is absolutely not true, and believing this and particularly printing this in the paper will only cause more deaths.


cypress creek alabama low head damI have a particular interest in this problem for several reasons;  1)  Dad and I were the founders of the Great Cypress Creek Raft Race back in the late 70's and early 80's.  Hundreds of mostly locals enjoyed the creek during this summertime event.  After a few years of the event, the city installed this dam.  After realizing how dangerous it was, and after seeing our insurance for the race skyrocket, we cancelled what some resident's have claimed to be the best event in the city (certainly the wettest).

2)  I have been sucked under into the dam's undertow.  Several year's ago, I (and my Dad's dog Wilbur) were both pulled under.  I had ignorantly paddled thru the opening of the dam on an inner tube and Wilbur followed close behind.  We were both pulled under, only for maybe 20  seconds?, before arriving back at the surface for air (and life).  But back at the surface, I even then had trouble getting out of the reverse currrent's grip.  I was held appro 5' from the dam.  Swimming toward the concrete wall or away didn't work, but to the side did.  I instantly had more "respect" for this innocent looking dam, and have portaged my kayaks around ever since.  I've often thought of the irony, had it turned out differently, of "Cypress Creek Raft Race Found drowns in Cypress Creek.  Whew, gives me chills remembering the event.

3)  I've lived most of my life on the creek.  Through the summer months I've been seeing more and more residents enjoying it, typically paddling down the Raft Race Route of Cypress Creek Bridge to  the Park below the Nelson Starkey (still miss him) Bridge.  And when talking with many of the younger nature lover's, I can see that they really don't "believe" the risk.

It's way past time to solve this killer problem.  Our current City Council had nothing to do with the installation of the dam.  But it's totally their responsibility to solve the problem.  I'm thinking that it needs to be blown up.  But I don't  know the details or all the alternatives.  I also don't even know exactly if the dam is actually providing water, or is just a backup or what?  I guess that's the first question here.

Back off the soap box (for now)


Robin Wade