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Dams

By Kyle, Nathan, Paria, Ross and Ryan

A dam is an engineered structure built to control the flow of the water. Dams can be used for storing water for a water treatment plant. This reservoir can be enjoyed by people who like to sail on the reservoir or bike along the paths around it. Dams can also be used for flood control. Some dams have turbines that are pushed by the flow of the water to create hydroelectricity. A weir is a miniature dam that can be used for hydro electricity just like a real dam and there are some in Calgary.

There are four dams along the Bow River. The first one is Ghost Dam and it is in Seebee upstream from Calgary. TransAlta Utilities built the Ghost Dam (Seebee Dam) in 1911. It was the first dam on the Bow River. It was built for hydro electricity. The town of Seebee located close to the dam started to grow because all the people were working at he dam. As technology improved, the dam was modernized and they didn’t’ need as many people to work there. Ghost Dam was so profitable that Trans Alta Utilities built a second dam. The second dam is Horseshoe Dam and it is jut downstream from Seebee, close to Morley. The third dam is Bearspaw Dam and it is just upstream from Calgary, beside the Bearspaw Water Treatment plant. The fourth dam is called the Bassano Dan and it is very far downstream from Calgary.

The building of a dam is complicated. Before a dam is built, it is important for the river to be redirected. For all dams you need a wooden frame to start with. This frame becomes the dam before the dam is built. Dams are made three different ways. One way is to use metamorphic rocks and place them on top of each other to build a wall. This was a method used in the olden days. A second way is to make a dam out of earth. This is like making a hill of dirt. The third way is by making a dam out of cement with earth on the side.

Some dams are very large and people can walk along the top. These people have to be very careful that they don’t fall off. Another safety concern is that the workers on top could be knocked off the dam when it overflows. If the water hits them it could carry them down the river. People who work at the dam test water levels in the holes they drill, take the distance between the dam and a test point to make sure it stays the same, and do visual inspections. All of these jobs have risks and so the workers need to wear ear protection and discuss any job with a supervisor before the job is done.

The height of a dam can range depending on the water level of the river and the engineer’s plans. Not all of the dams on the Bow River are the same height. It ranges, though the dams on the Bow River are some of the smallest in the world. A couple of examples of the larger dams in the world are the Hoover Dam in the United States of America, and the Three Gorges Dam in China. The Hoover Dam is 726.4 feet (220 m) from foundation rock to the roadway on the crest of the dam. The Three Gorges will be the largest hydropower dam in the world when it will be finished in 2009. It will 610.5 feet (185 m) tall and will have water storage of 12.3 billion cubic meters.

Dams are both good and bad. A dam is good because it steadies the water flow. The dam controls the river’s water level and keeps it the same. Hydroelectric dams are good because it gives us electricity all year round. A dam is bad because it stops fish from getting to their spawning area, but fish in the Bow River don’t have to swim very far to get to their spawning areas. Dams are also bad because to make the dam the area has to be flooded. This takes away a lot of the land where people and animals could live.

There has never been a critical accident on a dam in the Bow River. Many dams have cracked but none on the Bow River. The only things that could go wrong are cracks and breakages, but they take extra precautions anyway.

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