Science-based discussion not ‘divisive’

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To the Editor:

In a Letter to the Editor published last week (Oct. 20, “Vigorous discussion about Mill Brook”), selectman Richard Knabel chose to personalize the important discussion about Mill Brook, and referred to my advocacy for stream restoration as an “ongoing and divisive campaign.” Further, he characterized the article by Nelson Sigelman in the Times Oct. 12 edition, “Mill Brook summer data points to deadly temperature spikes,” as “another instance of his unsurprising loyal support” of my cause, which Richard determined was related to Nelson’s passion for fishing. In doing so, Richard attempts to minimize the science and data gathered thus far, which is what moved Nelson to write about Mill Brook, not any blind loyalty to me.

I am tired of this discussion being referred to as a “swirling controversy.” As a town, we should be able to have a discussion that includes all points of view and all options without it being called “divisive.” What I have done is to rely on the current and best ecological understanding of rivers and dams, rather than just emotion. For Mr. Knabel to reach back 45 years and use the Fort Edwards dam removal and resulting release of PCB-laden sediments as a reasonable example of what “potential disasters” lie in wait for us if we consider dam removal at Mill Pond is an irresponsible comparison designed to play on people’s emotions. It does not help to inform this important discussion.

In recent articles about the Wynants Kill dam removal on a Hudson River tributary, John Waldman, author of “Running Silver,” said, “Every dam should have an existential crisis. These are artifacts of the Industrial Revolution that are persisting and doing harm.” The dam at Mill Pond is such an artifact. Before dams interrupted its flow, Mill Brook had its own complex ecology of interconnected parts and species, which flourished for thousands of years. That we have thoroughly unraveled that ecology during our short tenure should give everyone pause. It is absolutely correct that we should have this existential crisis about the Mill Pond dam and our part in its past, present, and future.

Riverkeeper, the Hudson River organization with which Mr. Knabel is affiliated as an emeritus board member, supported the Wynants Kill dam removal. This quote from John Lipscomb, vice president for advocacy, is from the Riverkeeper website: “By helping to restore life to this stream, Troy, N.Y., is demonstrating that communities can not only benefit from the river, they can also benefit the river in return. The river is better off today than before Troy took this action. How many communities can say the same?”

Prudy Burt

West Tisbury