Dam this dam
September 16, 2019 4:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for first-person accounts (or long-reads) about the experience of being forced to abandon a town in a valley that's scheduled to be flooded as part of a dam/hydroelectric plant project.

The more modern the account, the better. Thanks!
posted by egeanin to Society & Culture (31 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
This MA thesis from the University of British Columbia by Maia Wikler contains first-person accounts by members of the Cheslatta First Nation in northern British Columbia. They were forced to relocate in the 1950s because of the actions of the Government of British Columbia and the Aluminum Company of Canada in building the Kenney Dam: they were given 10 days notice, their land was flooded, and many of their sacred sites were destroyed. They received very little in the way of compensation, especially compared to what non-Indigenous people received when they were relocated.

Although the government claimed they had received overwhelming support from the Cheslatta for relocation, later investigation showed that consultation was poor, there were suspicions about forged signatures, and many of the Cheslatta did not know they could refuse the government's request or have a third-party advisor.

This is only one of the accounts of similar forced relocation of First Nations people in Canada.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:47 PM on September 16 [5 favorites]


The Quabbin Reservoir provides water to the City of Boston and surrounding communities, it's now a beautiful nature reserve but it used to be four towns--Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott. There may be memoirs from people who lived there. You might be interested in 'The Day Four Quabbin Towns Died,' by JR Greene (2001) which has some first-person accounts.
posted by epanalepsis at 4:52 PM on September 16 [6 favorites]


Also, if you're ever in Western Massachusetts you can actually visit the remains of Prescott (once a year on a memorial tour, it's in an off-limits part of the reservoir). All that's left is the cellar holes and some roads but it's pretty chilling nonetheless. All that beautiful water and trees and the rest of the town under it.
posted by epanalepsis at 5:04 PM on September 16 [4 favorites]


St. Thomas, Nevada: A History Uncovered might be of interest - here are some bonus photos.
posted by zepheria at 5:05 PM on September 16


‘They are barbaric’: Turkey prepares to flood 12,000-year-old city to build dam (Guardian) The ancient settlement of Hasankeyf will soon be submerged as part of a controversial dam project – despite residents’ protests
Hasankeyf is thought to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements on Earth, dating as far back as 12,000 years and containing thousands of caves, churches and tombs.

But this jewel of human history will soon be lost; most of the settlement is about to be flooded as part of the highly controversial Ilisu dam project.
posted by katra at 5:11 PM on September 16 [2 favorites]


Oooh these are good. Also if anyone knows of any documentaries, those count too! Thanks!
posted by egeanin at 5:37 PM on September 16


Underwater, from 2003, about the Three Gorges Dam.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 5:41 PM on September 16 [2 favorites]


I made a post in 2007 about the flooding of the Swift Rover Valley (to create the Quabbin, in Massachusetts). Not particularly contemporary, but maybe worth a look.
posted by jessamyn at 5:49 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]


I PAID MY last respects to the Cromwell Gorge on the sort of mid-winter Central Otago morning when the air is brittle with cold.

The river, inching imperceptibly up the sides of the gorge, had already drowned most of the remaining trees; the tip of a lone pine protruded mid-stream...
posted by McNulty at 6:06 PM on September 16


Previously, from 2015: "A presentation about Ontario's lost villages, ten communities which were flooded as part of the creation of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1958."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:13 PM on September 16 [5 favorites]


The Celilo fishing area and village of Pacific Northwestern Native Americans, was destroyed when The Dalles Dam was built in 1957.

There's quite a few narratives online regarding Celilo. The local public television station, OPB has done some video, but it doesn't look like they're available online currently.
posted by hydra77 at 6:16 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]


The documentary Kwadacha by the River would fit with what you are looking for. You can watch the trailer online but would need to contact the producers to screen a copy.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:55 PM on September 16


Not a first person account, but you might enjoy listening to Farewell Ball by Mark Erelli while you research. It's a song about a town about to be flooded out to create the Quabbin reservoir.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:33 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]


The Jocassee Valley in upstate South Carolina was flooded in 1973 by the state and Duke Power in order to create a hydroelectric station.

This created what is now Lake Jocassee

Interesting to note, a scene from the movie Deliverance was filmed at a church cemetery in the valley before it was flooded.

Debbie Fletcher wrote a book about her childhood growing up in the valley Whippoorwill Farewell: Jocassee Remembered
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 10:06 PM on September 16


This documentary describes the controversy surrounding the proposed Tocks Island Dam on the Delaware River - people were evicted, but the dam was ultimately never built, and the land acquired by the government anticipating its construction ultimately became the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
posted by pemberkins at 11:41 PM on September 16 [2 favorites]


Check your memail :)
posted by cilantro at 3:14 AM on September 17


Here's some information about Tryweryn in Wales.
Owain Williams, one of those jailed for setting explosives in protest, has written about it.
A lot more has been written in Welsh of course.
posted by sianifach at 4:46 AM on September 17 [1 favorite]


There's some info here about Poulaphuca / Blessington Lakes in Ireland which were created in the late 1930s - there are videos available including interviews and before/after photos. (As well as some photos from last year when the water level dropped low enough that some of the village became visible.)
posted by scorbet at 5:48 AM on September 17


This story has some (including an urban legend about someone refusing to leave) about the flooding of Sanish, North Dakota (on the Forth Berthold Indian Reservation) -- the North Dakota state historical society may be able to provide more.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:52 AM on September 17


I was going to suggest looking into the Three Gorges Dam. I know there were numerous articles and documentaries about it, and with over ten million people displaced, there are bound to be lots of first-person accounts.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:36 AM on September 17 [1 favorite]


Regarding Three Gorges, I enjoyed Up The Yangtze, which I think I saw on Netflix. It largely takes place on a river boat, but definitely does cover those affected by the rising waters. I remember there was a family that was squatting by the riverbank, after the nearby village had already been demolished.
posted by serathen at 7:50 AM on September 17


Two towns in Maine were flooded, Flagstaff and Dead River Plantation, as outlined in this article.

The article mentions a book, which I could only find available for $55 on AbeBooks, There Was a Land: Memories of Flagstaff, Dead River, and Bigelow (Maine), which has first person accounts of the event.

Here is a blog entry referencing it, with a music video published in 2004, at the bottom of the entry.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:06 AM on September 17


There are a couple of documentaries about the Narmada Dam project, one of the largest in the world. (First link directly to full version on YouTube).
posted by jb at 1:46 PM on September 17


Eileen Delehanty Pearkes recently published "A River Captured". Great read with many accounts of people's experiences.

A Google of "Columbia River treaty dams" will get you even more leads to follow up.
posted by snoboy at 2:27 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


There's a fair amount of information about Arrow Lake in BC being formed by the Columbia River Treaty. There's a historical society and plenty of articles about it.
posted by sauril at 3:04 PM on September 17


The town of St. Thomas, Nevada was flooded and abandoned when Lake Mead formed behind Hoover Dam. A newspaper article from 2002 says that at least one resident of St. Thomas recorded an oral history with UNLV before her death. However, I can't find that history when I search the UNLV collections online. It may be worth reaching out to someone at the university.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area may or may not have a special collection with oral histories. Not sure who you would get in touch with there.
posted by compartment at 9:41 AM on September 18




Not a true account but H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space takes place as they are preparing to flood an area to create reservoir.
posted by lowtide at 5:00 AM on September 19


When the the Kinzua Dam was built in the 1950s & 60s to stabilize the Allegheny River to protect Pittsburgh from flooding it involved breaking multiple treaties and flooded hundreds of Seneca and other tribes villages.

Here's a paper about it.

Lake of Betrayal: The Story of the Kinzua Dam is a relatively recent documentary about it.

When I was teaching archaeology in the late 90s / early 2000s at Pitt there was a documentary / mini series one of the professors used to show that really impacted my feelings about topics like reparations. It started by focussing on the white residents of a New York (I think) town that was built on land with a 99 year lease from a local Native American tribe that was about to expire. The tribe planned to renew the lease but increase the rates to be much closer to current market rates for land in the area. The white townspeople were up in arms, threatening to sue, etc. They juxtaposed this with the impact of the Kinzua damn on the tribe that held the lease. Basically they tribe were forced out of their ancestral homes with days notice while they watched their village drown. It was incredibly powerful. I cannot for the life of my remember the name of the documentary but I'll see if I can find it.
posted by DarthDuckie at 2:38 PM on September 20


Missed the edit window. Here's the correct link for the paper.

The town that I was thinking of was Salamanca, NY. I believe this PBS show was the documentary we were showing in class. Here's a summary/review of Honorable Nations.
posted by DarthDuckie at 2:54 PM on September 20


There is also Anne Michael's novel Winter Vault that has fictionalized accounts of both the flooding of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Aswan Dam.
posted by blue shadows at 9:29 PM on September 27


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