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SouthsideCentral’s Dam Opinion

The discussion about what to do with Danville’s dam at the old White Mill location has been blown way out of proportion by a lot of people. On Tuesday night, Danville City Council will vote on a resolution authorizing the demolition of the dam.

SouthsideCentral strongly urges a “No” vote on this resolution and asks for more time to consider all of the options and the ramifications of those options. There’s no immediate pressing need to start demolishing the dam right now.

When it comes to possible decisions on the eventual future of the White Mill Dam, it’s boiled down to Keep, Remove or Modify (and those three options are self-evident to what they mean).

Those in favor of the Keep option point out the beauty of the dam, the history of the dam and the relative lack of accidents. The beauty of the dam is a given. It’s a serene, beautiful experience to watch the water falling and if you don’t agree with that, you’re a Communist who hates America. Heh. The history of the dam has been traced back to around the 1880’s but it’s clear that the river did not have a dam until then. The relative lack of accidents is an argument that’s not quite as clear-cut as it seems. Let’s talk about that.

Almost everybody knows the story of 5-year old Kolton Karnes who was caught in the rotational hydraulics at the old Brantley Steam Plant dam and drowned. The child’s death was pretty much the impetus to demolish that dam as the dam had no “purpose” for being there anymore. I can’t remember any outcry to save that dam when the discussion came up. The demolition process was relatively quick and there were no long-ranging environmental impacts. It’s just gone, now. Nobody has gotten killed at the White Mill Dam, that’s true. The city owns the dam and has put No Trespassing On The Dam signs out, but those ordinances have never been enforced. A small minority of people do fish in the Dan River and a small minority of those people have been seen walking out on the dam. The potential for danger is there and that can’t rationally be discounted by anybody, no matter what side of the issue that you fall on.

The City of Danville has botched this entire process. The city is planning (and will eventually build) a waterfront “park” on the parking lot area of the old White Mill property. However, the city has never came out directly and told the public about this plan yet. I’ve been talking about it through all SouthsideCentral channels for at least the last six months but there’s still a lot of people that have no idea about what’s going to happen. The city also botched this process by coming out very ham-fisted with the evidence, almost leading people to a Remove feeling.

Those in favor of the Remove option have a very strong case just by pointing at the tragic death of the 5-year old child and the similarities of the dam. The proposed waterfront park is going to attract a lot of people to the White Mill Dam area, and the chances of an accident will go up by definition. The city could eventually fence off the dam area but that would come at the cost of the natural beauty of the dam.

There’s a third option that’s been proposed by some citizens and has caught some traction. That’s to Modify the dam with some sort of rock-fall construction that would be pleasing to the eye and remove most (if not all) of the hazardous conditions). Currently, that’s Dead On Arrival because of the cost estimates provided by the city and the city saying that the Army Corps of Engineers would not issue a permit for a modification of a dam that serves no useful purpose anymore. I’m naturally suspicious of both the cost estimates and somebody saying that somebody else won’t do something. I want more proof of this before I rule out the Modify option.

One other thing that city staff has done that I don’t like? The “You Need To Make This Decision Now” push. No, we don’t need to make this decision now. The proposed waterfront park has to be announced first, then it has to be built. That’s not going to be completed in the next 12 months, no matter what anybody thinks.

I want to see a higher standard of proof that the Modify option is too expensive or won’t be permitted by the Army Corps of Engineers. I want to see a higher standard of proof that the Remove option won’t be extremely detrimental to the river and the environment. Without those higher standards of proof, I’m not ready to make a decision on the future of the White Mill Dam.

Without those higher standards of proof, Danville City Council shouldn’t be ready to make a permanent decision on the future of the White Mill Dam either. Since the resolution coming up on Tuesday night is to demolish the dam, that should be voted down at least for now until we get that higher standard of proof.

SouthsideCentral strongly urges a “No” vote on this Remove resolution. We ask for more time and proof so that we can consider all of the options and the ramifications of those options. It’s the right thing to do.


4 comments to SouthsideCentral’s Dam Opinion

  • White Mill and it's damn dam need to go

    There is no use to the dam….take it down.. The more navigatable the river is the better……there is no historical nor is there any present or future economic value to the dam

  • Trevor

    tired of all of the DAMville issues….a lot in a year. even with resolution no one is pleased. no relief in sight

  • Berkeley Bidgood

    Keep the Dam, It may not serve a purpose to some but creates a beautiful body of water for everyone’s viewing pleasure.Not everything that does not still serve its original purpose needs to be destroyed.

  • Berkeley Bidgood

    By all means listen(sarcasm) to the people who are not willing to be known who they are with their comments.

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