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Dams are an alternative

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Funny how a little thirst can change your point of view. Back in the 1960s, when the United States was still building massive river dams, people decided the harm to the environment and the impact on the scenery made the dams obsolete.

Now, with the West growing by leaps and bounds, global warming becoming an issue and a need for power growing critical, governments are tossing the notion of dams into the water again, just to see if it floats.

And there have been more than a few nods of approval. A project is being considered near Las Vegas to create a reservoir and capture more Colorado River water. Colorado itself is looking at two sites on the Yampa River for dams, and some in Idaho are even toying with the idea of rebuilding the Teton Dam, despite its grim history.

Need, it seems, is the mother of more need.

Still, unlike past eras when the massive concrete structures were considered modern wonders of the world, those pitching dams as an alternative this time around have scaled back. They talk of damming tributaries, not major rivers. And along with the dams there also would be a hard push for conservation, aquifers, pipelines and desalination plants. That "mix and match" approach has environmentalists a little more willing to talk and people a little more willing to consider dams. A compromise appears to be brewing.

After all, despite strong opinions about damming rivers, dams are one of the cleanest ways to produce power. And at a time when climatologists are saying winter moisture likely will be taking the form of rain, not snowpack, the notion of a reservoir for that water makes more sense.

Many Utahns still remember the tooth-and-nail battle over the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1966. Since then, no new major dams have been built because of the hassles and money involved.

But that was when water was seen as unlimited. Now we know better.

We don't mind dams. And we also like the idea of conservation and desalination. People no longer have to pick and choose. The concern today is about problem solving. And if the water woes in the West can be solved with a friendly compromise, all the better.