Hydro....

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Dug
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Hydro....

Post by Dug » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:09 pm

Just sitting at work listening to the radio and more news of another hydro scheme, this time at Wooler on the Wooler Water. Doubt its any good for paddling but the whole thing has raised the topic in my mind again.
With the imminent arrival of all these new hydro systems in Scotland and the sad but real fact that nobody in government wants to listen to paddlers and heritage organisations opposing them. It is government policy after all to build as many as possible (this is fact rather than just ramblings) and good olde 'King Alex' never misses an opportunity to lay out his idiotic environment destroying green credentials (the irony!). I highly doubt being 'nice' about it will achieve very much, who has it helped in the past? The fact is we are very disenfranchised in this matter.

Essentially what I'm getting at is that direct action seems to be the only way to get your point of view recognised and publicised.... I'm not talking about blowing things up, breaking things or anything that extreme but the olde 'we shall not be moved' seems to have some effect in gaining publicity if nothing else.
What are other people's opinions on this? Do paddlers really care enough to protest properly if the right (or indeed wrong) river is dammed?

Doug

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RichW
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Re: Hydro....

Post by RichW » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:30 pm

To play devil's advocate, the power's got to come from somewhere. If I recall correctly some of the country's nuclear power stations are on their last legs before needing replacement. Wind turbines have proved extremely unpopular with the wider community and are thought not to produce enough power to be a viable alternative to fossil fuels or nuclear power. Nuclear power is pretty unpopular due to the implications of radiation on the environment and people. Dounreay and Sellafield are not easily forgotten (whether or not others or new plants have accidents of not). It's a pretty efficient source but it's not very "green" and therefore isn't an election winning alternative. Hydro on the other hand is power for nothing. The carbon footprint is predominately from building it. Yes, you flood a few valleys, destroy a few eco-systems and displace the odd village but you're not letting off any CO2, and that's what we've all be told is bad.

Hydro isn't all bad. People flock to the Tryweryn (sorry small submerged Welsh village), Morriston and Spean's releases. The build up and release of water makes for good paddling when there otherwise wouldn't be any. My point is though, there's got to be some compromise. The UK has a lot of water and whilst it is a shame to lose a few rivers I would rather raise a family (if I had any wish to) within a few miles of a large damn and hydro facility than a nuclear power station. Yes, it's messing with nature, but limited hydro where it's best placed to produce the maximum amount of electricity has got to be better than radioactive rods pumping crap out in every direction.
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Re: Hydro....

Post by The Drowned Fish » Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:04 pm

Nuclear is the only real carbon free* solution that can provide the base load an industrial society needs. For domestic use thermal, solar, wind, wave and, yes, hydro are really only suitable for small scale generation.

Using these small scale methods for domestic generation (i.e. solar panels on house roofs, wind turbines on chimneys) and nuclear for the base load of the nation grid would in my mind be the way forward. But it'll never happen - to many fears about radiation, largly unfounded and not green bling enough help shine the politition's...

Just an opinion.

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* Though I'm guessing the building of the things releases alot of carbon. But I can't see it would be much different to building gas and coal plants.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Dug » Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:11 pm

All the large rivers in Scotland which produce good hydro power are already dammed as you mention, way before ww kayaking was popular. These big hydro systems are run below capacity to qualify for European grants(wtf?).
The point is that of this new generation of hydro are nearly all (or actually all) on a small scale on small rivers producing very very little power. I think I'm right in saying that the planned dam on the Braan will produce less power per year than one full size wind turbine (or there about). I'm not against hydro in principal and we do indeed enjoy big dam releases (though enjoy on trywern or however you spell it might be a bit strong...) but I'd rather have no release and a free running river.
Also of these schemes only the one planned for the Pattack is not a 'run of the river' system with no release. The plan is most certainly to dam nearly all rivers with any power potential so that 'King Alex' can look good compared to evil nuclear Brown (this is not party politics, I voted for the fat bas***d). Is destroying our nations rivers worth it for a bit of political posturing? I think not and I'd like to think others think likewise.
I'm certainly far less eloquent in text at arguing against hydro than either Dave or Neil (chip in your two pence guys) but my views on this are very strong, beyond just the fact that they are killing my sport. They are killing my country's natural areas too! I've been to Tryweryn and it's terrible, thats not a river its an artificial course where a river used to be and giving it as an example of pro hyrdo is not great.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Dug » Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:12 pm

Also large scale hydro releases huge amounts of CO2 through rotting vegitation.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Jim Pullen » Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:21 pm

Surely it all depends on the type of hydro?

From a purely selfish kayaking perspective, large-scale can be pretty good - as you say in the UK the Tryweryn, Morriston, Garry, Tummel, etc all provide guaranteed white water throughout the year. I remember being in Sort in the Pyrenees and knowing there would be a release at 10am each day. This saves a heck of a lot of driving around looking for non-existent water. Having said that I also remember on the same trip driving around looking at dry-river beds because the guidebook was published long before most of the hydros were put in place!

A lot of the issues facing us in Scotland seem to be more the run-of-the-river small-scale hydros which make a river permanently unpaddleable.
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Re: Hydro....

Post by TechnoEngineer » Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:59 pm

The Drowned Fish wrote:Nuclear is the only real carbon free* solution.....

* Though I'm guessing the building of the things releases alot of carbon. But I can't see it would be much different to building gas and coal plants.
Wrong. It's only the reaction that's CO2-free; the fuel used doesn't grow on-site on trees. This publication tells you all you need to know:

http://www.theleaneconomyconnection.net ... ml#Nuclear

As for Dug, the loss of some kayaking opportunities pales into insignifcance when compared against the possible (I'd say quite likely) collapse of industrial civilization as our supply of fossil fuels diminish. We need lots of all forms of renewable energy, and some.
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Re: Hydro....

Post by Jim » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:20 pm

It's so easy to argue for or against any one power source, but the problem is that none of them are entirely environmentally friendly.

Diverting watercourses? Altering flow regimes? Silting? Increase in evaporation area? Do we really understand what we are mucking about with? Much of what is understood is kept quiet because it wouldn't popular.

Small scale hydro would only make sense to me if it was to feed a locality which had altered it's pattern of power use to be able to be independantly supplied from it. It doesn't make sense to feed into the grid, and it doesn't make sense to me if the locale it supplies still needs to be hooked up to the grid. There are more efficient ways to make and transport power, but most of them don't have the green facade.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Notters » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:40 pm

[quote="Jim"]

Diverting watercourses? Altering flow regimes? Silting? Increase in evaporation area? Do we really understand what we are mucking about with? [quote]


You could of asked that question back when they thought of using nuclear for power generation and you still wouldnt get an answer to that today.
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Re: Hydro....

Post by Dug » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:57 pm

I'm quite surprised that the response is basically dam the lot of them....

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Re: Hydro....

Post by neilfarmer » Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:12 am

I'm not. More depressing reading!!! It is exactly the wall that we ran up against when we started the Braan campaign. When will paddlers get agitated, when the next scheme comes for the Orchy, the Dart, Hurley....? When there are almost no free flowing runs left in the UK? Can you imagine fishermen stating "oh well, we really do need the power, it would be rude to object....", no!
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Re: Hydro....

Post by Dug » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:34 am

It's pretty shocking really, I guess though that 90% of the people on this board are Hurley/Dart boys from down south. We're just a one holiday destination for them, don't seem to grasp that this is the English access issue times 100! You can't access somthing thats not there!
I probably come a lot further down the 'dodgy geezer' scaler than the average paddler but I was expecting more response to direct action, let alone people actually wanting them dammed! I for one would be prepaired to stand in front of the bulldozers if the Braan dam goes ahead and tell them where to go, eco warrior style.....

I won't what the reaction to the Dart being dammed would be?

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Jim » Sat Feb 20, 2010 4:51 pm

The government brainwashing is working then?

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Re: Hydro....

Post by edhunter » Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:52 pm

As i understand it any large damn requires more energy to build and maintain it than it will gain back in its lifetime. this surely cant be green in any way shape or form. another points that solar is just as bad however if we keep investing moeny the production fo solar pannels will get more effianct. i personaly am an advocator of neuclear. also wind turbines seem th answer untill you realise that if the wind speed drops by a half the potential energy to gain drops to 1/8. its a tricky situation but im not happy with propsed damns. i just wish i knew more so i could put my arguments into better words to actualy lobby sombody.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Dave Manby » Sat Feb 20, 2010 7:26 pm

30% of the CO2 emissions in the UK are from Domestic houses so do something about your house. The government has signed up to reduce the UK CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 so they have to do something about the CO2 emitted by generating power and reducing our energy consumption. Having just finished working an one eco house and about to start on another the 1st thing you should look at is air tightness seal up gaps in windows doors the trap door to your loft then start insulating. The next house I am working on we will be putting in 300mm of insulation in the loft and on the outside of the rear wall (we can't do the front walls externally). If everyone did their bit on house energy efficiency we would reduce the requirement of the domestic market and we could reduce the need to dam rivers.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Jim » Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:14 am

Dave Manby wrote:30% of the CO2 emissions in the UK are from Domestic houses so do something about your house. The government has signed up to reduce the UK CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 so they have to do something about the CO2 emitted by generating power and reducing our energy consumption. Having just finished working an one eco house and about to start on another the 1st thing you should look at is air tightness seal up gaps in windows doors the trap door to your loft then start insulating. The next house I am working on we will be putting in 300mm of insulation in the loft and on the outside of the rear wall (we can't do the front walls externally). If everyone did their bit on house energy efficiency we would reduce the requirement of the domestic market and we could reduce the need to dam rivers.
But don't forget to include the necessary ventilation when sealing everything up.
I need to check out if I need the permanent wall vents in my house, or if they are made redundant by the trickle ventilators in the modern window frames. Insulated cavity with permanently open vents right through - doesn't make sense to me!
I will be adding insulation as I renovate the house, probably not to 300mm all round though, it's not big enough to lose that much real estate.

I think the biggest barrier for most people is initial cost - insulation is still pretty expensive and people move house more frequently these days, I'll bet a lot of people do the maths and decide it's cheaper just to to waste a bit of energy because they don't expect to stay long enough to recoup the initial costs. Mind you, one of my colleagues has been filing space between floors with bubble wrap from parcels, don't know haw effective it is or if it's safe to use around cables or pipes but it is free.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by jam bo » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:33 am

Dug wrote:I won't what the reaction to the Dart being dammed would be?
There already is englands largest hydro-power station on the tavy. No one seems to mind much....

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Agent Nomad » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:14 pm

I work in the industry and recently had a presentation on the UK’s power needs
About 2012 to 2016 most of the coalers need to come off the grid as they are deemed as dirty coal and no longer going to be allowed to run the 3 coalers in the Yorkshire area are capable of producing 8000MW/hr and the existing Nuclear plants will be turned off as well.
The proposed Nuclear stations that are planned to be built by the big six are 1600MW/hr there is plans to build 7 Nuclear Stations each with two reactors 3200MW/hr each but these are to run base load ie all day every day for 18 months then refuel
The morning and evening peak needs to be supplied by plants that can react to this that means plants that can run up in less than 80 minuets
Hydro plants open a penstock valve the water flows then turbine runs and generates power
The Nuclear plant build programme is planned to produce power in 2017 so get some candles in ready for 2016 onwards as the nuclear plant will be late and the coalers falling apart due to lack to maintenance due to immanent closure
When questioned about the time line between the switch in power source the answer was there needs to be a compromise/smudge in the carbon emission licences.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Dug » Mon Feb 22, 2010 10:12 am

jam bo wrote:
Dug wrote:I won't what the reaction to the Dart being dammed would be?
There already is englands largest hydro-power station on the tavy. No one seems to mind much....
Whats the Tavy?...

I guess what it comes down to is understanding of the problems facing paddling in Scotland and caring about it. Neither of which any respondants here show much of (appart from Neil). I'm not against hydro, the Tummel dam is worthwhile as it is a big enough river to be worth daming! All the 'proper' rivers in Scotland and no doubt England and Wales too were dammed back in the 50s/60s. These new ones are just posturing from the government to look 'green'.
I guess this is pretty much a dead topic on here as there is zero support on UKRGB forum for any anti hydro movement.
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Re: Hydro....

Post by Barny P » Mon Feb 22, 2010 10:41 am

I thought most rivers suitable for HEP in the UK had already been used?
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Re: Hydro....

Post by _Rheanna » Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:21 am

Barny P wrote:I thought most rivers suitable for HEP in the UK had already been used?
That's what A level Geography had told me...

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Re: Hydro....

Post by jaq » Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:35 am

I'm doing a project on this at the moment, for uni and as a competition to npower.

There is the potential of several GW of small scale hydro in the UK, about 1GW which is 'financially advantageous' according to some government council. Small scale run of river hydro is incredibly cheap (per kWh) given it's life time and much more economically viable than solar (in this country). No it's not going to solve all of the countries energy problems, but it has a place just like everything else. We need a mix of renewables and hydro is an important part of that.

Nuclear is pretty much the solution to base load, it's just convincing people of it. If people minded less and we had several billion pounds to invest then in theory waste can potentially be reduced to a minor problem with a storage requirement of hundreds of years (rather than millions), one of the biggest issues nuclear faces is convincing people it's a good idea and that modern nuclear power isn't the nuclear power of the 70's and 80's they've got the image of in their head. There's a reason France have I think 1/3rd lower emissions per head than the UK - cos they use nuclear. What's Norway's? They use almost entirely hydro.

Hydro is popular for a reason, if it was all about image they'd put solar panels everywhere because public opinion seems to be that they would solve all our problems (clue: they won't, in fact they'd be better off giving people pedal powered generators plugged into their mains, that would be more economically viable and do more good than solar).

It's the electricity companies, not the government, who builds and funds these schemes and they aren't interested in it if it doesn't make them money.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Dave McCraw » Mon Feb 22, 2010 1:49 pm

Ultimately the problem is one of consumption.

In Edinburgh they recently announced that they would be making hundreds of new city centre parking places, theoretically to make it easier to park in town. However, all that will actually happen is that a proportion of people who take the bus (like us) will drive instead, until the hassle of parking reaches equilibrium with the alternatives again.

Energy use is exactly the same. Within reason it simply doesn't matter whether we build more power generation capacity or not, because if there wasn't power for our office to simultaneously run central heating to keep us warm, and a giant air conditioning plant to keep the servers cool, we wouldn't - hot air could easily be vented from one room to the other, after all.

With reduced supply, energy would be more expensive making efficiency measures like insulation far more competitive. To parallel again - there's just no reason for me to pay to get the bus to work, when I can drive for three or four days for the same (direct) cost. The problem is that individual car use kicks society in the nuts, just as building unnecessary power plants (of whatever form) all over the country does.

But, turkeys don't vote for xmas - who here would volunteer to pay £3 a litre at the pumps to incentivise responsible transportation? Who's willing to have electricity so expensive you put on your down jacket before the central heating? Assuming society isn't willing to suffer, the other end of the equation has to be balanced up, which is why we've been busy bombing wedding parties in the gulf for the last few years, and why we will have short-sighted power generation choices too.

Myself, I wonder why we haven't already moved beyond the 'climate change prevention' debate, accepted it is inevitable (I mean, the third runway has just been approved!) and started a dialogue about mitigation instead. If the city is already aflame, you'd be as well to discuss fiddle tuning.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Jim » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:57 pm

Dug wrote: I guess what it comes down to is understanding of the problems facing paddling in Scotland and caring about it. Neither of which any respondants here show much of (appart from Neil).
I think you have misunderstood my perspective.... but never mind.

Agent Nomad - good argument there about needing plants that can react quickly to demand - this is where traditional HEP wins, and also pumped storage like Cruachan and Dinorwig, unfortunately most (all?) of the new HEP is 'run of river' in that it does not create a storage facility upstream. These plants can't react if the river is running low - the fact is that it is the middle of winter in Scotland, temperatures have been below zero C for much of the year so far and most of the water in the highlands is frozen solid, it is not in the rivers, it cannot be used for power generation in the period where we have most need for heating.... So the argument is great for the existing schemes (assuming someone has worked out how to deal with the silting issues and concentrations of pollutants (naturally occurring minerals concentrated in silt can be hazardous)) but is completely irrelevant for the new phase of hydro schemes.

Jaq - Don't believe everything npower tell you. I found their sales agents to be dishonest in the past, but that pales into insignificance compared to the conclusions they drew from the flow data on the Braan in support of their proposed hydro scheme for it. The SCA were fortunate to have a stats postgrad on our membership who tore the figures to pieces, ran every possible method of analysis on the same data and couldn't get anywhere near the results they were presenting. Did they make a mistake or simply make up the conclusions? We will never know that for sure. Following public enquiry and independant reports all results suggested that the scheme should be rejected, as far as I know (Dug or Neil will probably know the current status) the issue is still ongoing, it hasn't been defeated outright for political reasons.... Political reasons which don't agree with the scientific conclusions or public opinion.

The idea that the power companies wouldn't be investing in these schemes if they were not commercially viable is the single biggest problem. The schemes are generally only commercial viable because the government (through the EU presumably) is guaranteeing to keep wholesale prices high enough for long enough for the schemes to be commercially viable, in order to present the pseudo green credentials they require under misguided european legislation.

The solution is not to continue expanding our generating capacity at a massive rate, it is to reduce our consumption. This is something that everyone can understand. Since the '70's (or before?) we have been aware that the earths natural resources are finite and that we will need to move away from coal and oil as a power source and the wise people have been saying all along that we need to reduce our dependance on power rather than simply finding new ways to generate it. No one generating solution is entirely without impact. All arguments for each type of generating solution are basedon the premise that we don't want to reduce our overall energy consumption - I would suggest that this is a lie perpetrated by the people who make money from our energy consumption and that actually if you ask the average 'man on the street' he would be quite happy to reduce his energy consumption if suitable products were available at a competive price. I think low energy light bulbs support my case - who doesn't use them now?

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Re: Hydro....

Post by steve.oxtoby » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:10 pm

Dug wrote: I won't what the reaction to the Dart being dammed would be?
Actually there is a small scale HEP plant on the Dart at the River Dart Country Park. It takes about 1 cumec and drops it through an archimedes screw pump run in reverse and generates up to 60 kW. So not massive and only enough to power a few houses. (up to 120 if you take average consumption but its not that simple). Other than the weir where the leat comes off being a bit sharp edged and so unrunnable in anything other than a playboat or similar it doesn't really interfere with paddling enjoyment, well at any flow that would be paddleable. If the weir were better no problem.

Of course if there were 20 of them from Newbridge to Holne it would be a different story. So perhaps the answer is that small HEP can be OK as long as it isn't excessively exploited.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Dug » Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:18 pm

I think the 'being reasonable' stance as taken by many here will get us exactly as far as the 'being reasonable' stance has taken the access problem down south, not very far for the reasonable side....

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Jim » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:13 am

There are some interesting and important points here.

Hydro power is one of the earliest forms of power that man invented. Dartmoor is covered in old, perhaps even ancient hydro power schemes - not ones that generated electricity, but ones that directly drove machinery. Weirs are dams, they were built to control the water whether simply as a fish pond, as a reservoir for collecting drinking or irrigation water, or as a header for the power plant of an early industrial site. There are a great many existing weirs on rivers all over Britain - even in Scotland. Most of these are effectively obsolete, some have been regenerated by re-opening inlet cuts and installing small scale generators where once there would have been a mill wheel or something. The problem is that these cannot generally be demolished, they are so old as to have formed established habitats, the header pool upstream will have silted to some degree, possibly concentrating heavy metals - these structures are generally here to stay whether being maintained or gradually eroding away. It does make sense to use them if possible, but we don't need any new ones.

Part of the problem you are up against Dug, is that there are a great many existing weirs and dams that were built in times before outdoor sports became widespread, in a time before the general public became free to explore the hills and mountains, in a time where land owners really did have all the power and could pretty much do whatever they liked. These structures were present before the birth of white water kayaking, or were built so early on that no-one had even gotten round to acknowledging the existence of many of the rivers, never mind considering them as important white water runs. People are used to seeing acres of Victorian concrete with a pretty reservoir on one side and picturesque stream on the other, they have no idea how pretty the stream under the reservoir once was and how good the paddling may have been. In a handful of places there are regular releases, even scheduled releases that make the rivers downstream worth paddling - I challenge one of the dam fans to find out just how many dams there are in the UK, and how many of them have a release level that makes a section paddleable?

NIMBY pretty much sums it up, most folk would be up in arms if it was their local river under threat, but as long as it's not in their back yard, they don't give a toss.
But don't be too hard on the folks - when I was younger and more naive I thought dams were not a bad idea, but I have learned otherwise. The amount of hype that is being put into renewables at the moment is hard to ignore in search of the truth, but it is important to remember that whatever out own personal reasons, there is a lot more at stake than kayaking.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by SwamP » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:17 am

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. We as paddlers will achieve very little on our own. It would take someone with a calm and calculated temperament to work in conjunction with a whole host of other sports and past times to jointly put in protective legislation.

Thankfully our sport north of the border has someone like this.

Plenty gets mentioned on this site about it and plenty of efforts are made to do something about it…this is true. But efforts will always be over shadowed by those who are frustrated but voice their frustrations internally thus achieving nothing…been there done that, now doing something about it externally.

And that would be my only advice; if you’re pissed off with something don’t moan, act!
Lets not try to understand each other. Thanks.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Dug » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:28 am

Ryan P wrote:I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. We as paddlers will achieve very little on our own. It would take someone with a calm and calculated temperament to work in conjunction with a whole host of other sports and past times to jointly put in protective legislation.

Thankfully our sport north of the border has someone like this.

Plenty gets mentioned on this site about it and plenty of efforts are made to do something about it…this is true. But efforts will always be over shadowed by those who are frustrated but voice their frustrations internally thus achieving nothing…been there done that, now doing something about it externally.

And that would be my only advice; if you’re pissed off with something don’t moan, act!
That’s the point Ryan, I want to act! I've written letters about the whole Braan thing and I have little doubt that the 'consultation' or whatever it is will come down on the side of the developers. I'm prepared to go up there (100 miles from my back yard Jim) and give them the old we shall not be moved when they start building! Seems nobody else is!
I think we do need a national organisation to protect our rivers for sporting purposes, like a believe they have in America? I'm certainly not the person to lead something like this, as has been proved on here I'm not the worlds best debater ( well done for trying to shoot me down in flames there 'Team kayak' anything to score a few points..., what are you doing Ryan? ).
Personally if I did not have a career and job to worry about I would take it a LOT further than 'we shall not be moved' but there we go that’s life.

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Re: Hydro....

Post by Jim » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:37 am

Dug wrote:(100 miles from my back yard Jim)
Well obviously I wasn't including you in the NIMBY group....

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