Damming the Columbia River solved a number of problems. It reduced seasonal flooding, allowed agriculture to prosper, generated hydroelectric power, and was a catalyst for local communities to prosper. It also created problems. The dams altered the ecosystem and hydrology of a major watershed, it introduced crops that might not have propsered, obstructed salmon and sturgeon from returning to their breeding grounds without human intervention, and generated inexpensive electricity which delayed investments in other forms of sustainable energy.
Some would classify the Columbia River Dams as one of the great engineering and economic successes of the Twentieth Century in the United States. Others might define the complex as one of the most significant environmental disasters created by humankind. Politicians, citizens, environmental groups, and government agencies are still debating the merits and fate of the dams.
I might be helpful to frame our problem-solving with the mindset that we are both solving and creating in the same act. We should not stop aspiring to be a force for good but we might benefit from recognizing our solution will be somebody else’s obstacle.