Letter: Double rolled

The burning cigarette photo title in Charlotte Kahn’s well-written, informative climate-change column, “Let’s not get rolled again” (July 21) should also be applied in another climate-altering industry analogy besides using the fossil fuel industry.

The citizens of Massachusetts are, as I write, “getting rolled” by Hydro Quebec’s corporate playbook.

The well-meaning but unknowing Massachusetts governor and citizens in tow have invited Canadian hydropower to be conveyed by a new transmission line south to Massachusetts through Maine. Hydro Quebec refers to this new electric power line as the New England Clean Energy Connect.

In my July 2 letter, I discussed the science behind how mega hydro-dams and their flow regulation in Canada and Russia are major players in the amplified warming of the Arctic region. Add fossil-fuel burning to mega-dam impacts, and that is why we will need to soon elevate the road to what will be left of Crane Beach.

The unaccounted-for mega-dam heat pollution of the Arctic is accelerating sea-level rise beyond which present models based only on fossil fuel burning have predicted. The hydro industry and their partner governments have apparently skillfully avoided discussion of the direct amplifying impacts of mega-dams on the chemical, physical, and biological nature of the Arctic.

They have deceived or “rolled” the masses into dogmatic belief that their energy is ”clean.”

The late Canadian government oceanographer Hans Neu, along with others, warned in the 1980s of a collapse of the North Atlantic fishery due to crossing an ecological tipping point by continued dam-building when the La Grande River’s hydro complex and others were completed. The late Michael Rozengurt, a former Russian fisheries scientist, provided detailed data about the demise of many coastal fisheries which were destroyed by dams and flow regulation.

The disappearance of the valuable North Atlantic cod population in the early 1990s was the tragic and economically devastating example for how mega-dams will ruin a world-class marine fishery. The fishery had always rebounded when moratoriums were in place to prevent overfishing. Thanks to the dams now, this fishery has not and will never recover.

Neu explained that the hoarding of the spring runoff and the winter dumping of that stored water was akin to farming on land where irrigation and application of fertilizers took place all winter long and then was stopped or reduced abruptly when the snow melted and long days of sunlight warmed the earth.

For millennia, the marine ecosystem had adapted to the energy and nutrient delivery of the spring runoff. It is not adapted to Hydro Quebec’s flow regulation and the ending of the life-giving spring freshet. Not only has the food availability been reduced, but the timing of energy of ocean currents has greatly affected fish reproduction and larval transport.

Scientists are still learning about diatoms, a type of phytoplankton algae, but there is a general consensus that healthy diatom populations are the key foundation of the marine food chain. If diatoms could talk, you would hear them angrily moaning every time a Hydro Quebec dam impounds another river.

Diatoms require dissolved silica to form their frustule shell. Dams deny diatoms the silica and nutrients in two main ways. The first is that these nutrients never make it past the dams to the estuary of the river. The second is that the flow regulation reduces coastal current energy, which is necessary to create upwellings that bring nutrients and silica near the surface “life layer,” where diatoms use the sun’s energy for photosynthesis to take in carbon dioxide, and release oxygen. Then, thanks to the heavy “rock” shells laden with pure carbon, the diatoms can sink to the depths of the ocean bottom, where the carbon is permanently sequestered.

Diatoms are the best natural biological mechanism for reducing carbon dioxide levels and thus are a key cooling mechanism for the planet. According to a NASA study, between 1998 and 2012, diatom populations have been falling by one percent per year worldwide. Diatom decline coincides with the building of modern dams.

Without a healthy diatom population, the copepod population, which is dependent on this rich source of food, cannot support a world-class fishery, which the Gulf of Maine once provided. Marine mammals like the North Atlantic right whales, which heavily depend upon the copepod Calanus finnmarchicus, are stressed by the reduced food supply and face extinction.

Cigarette companies formerly would hire college co-eds to hand out sample packs of cigarettes to middle-school-age kids at state fairs to ensure the next generation was soon to be addicted to nicotine. Hydro Quebec, like the cigarette companies, is doing a superb job of ensuring that Massachusetts’ next generations will be strongly addicted to one of the most harmful climate-changing and marine-ecosystem-killing sources of power generation.

The only way for Massachusetts to not “get rolled” again is for its citizens to start asking questions about why Hans Neu’s warnings were ignored about the impacts of the dams. They must resist Hydro Quebec’s Madison Avenue propaganda campaign to convince citizens how “clean” their hydro “cigarette” is.

Also, they need to hope enough Maine citizens vote “yes” to defeat the proposed NECEC.

Roger Wheeler