Environmental & Energy Management Newsletter

The George Washington University
Engineering Management & Systems Engineering Department (EMSE)
Environmental & Energy Management Program (E&EM)
Spring 2009 (Volume 9, Number 2)














Grad Students Interview Subject Matter Experts on Environmental Implications of World’s Largest Dam

Graduate students in the fall semester Environmental Management course had the opportunity to interview seven leading experts in dams for a course project entitled “The Three Gorges Dam: Implementation, Impacts, and Management.” Students Ethan Balis, Giuliana Canessa, and Christin Kjelland searched out the experts in order to gain first-hand understanding of the positive and negative impacts of large dams, and the best management practices available once a dam is built.

Ethan Balis
Guliana Canessa
Chrisie Kjelland

The students interviewed a wide range of experts including environmental activists, hydraulic engineers, and federal regulators. Experts interviewed were Ronald A. Corso, Mead & Hunt; Lloyd A. Duscha, Army Corps of Engineers; Andrew Fahlund, American Rivers; Samuel Lin, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Thomas LoVullo, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Daniel J. Mahoney, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Jerry W. Webb, Army Corp of Engineers.

From the interviews the students gained not only technical understanding of how dams operate and different management techniques, but also valuable knowledge of the different opinions surrounding the environmental implications of dams, and the need to weigh positives and negatives of dam construction both short- and long-term. Several of the interviewees had first-hand knowledge of the engineering and politics behind the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, which is the world’s largest dam. This allowed the students to examine unique qualities of the dam that allow it to serve as both a boon to flood control and a reliable power source – two benefits that are usually conflicting.

Among the interviewees was a wide range of opinions about the Three Gorges Dam and dams in general. There is always debate on whether the environmental and social negatives caused by a dam, such as massive habitat destruction and population relocation, outweighs the possible environmental benefits of reduced destruction from floods, a non-fossil-fuel-burning source of power, and ease of more fuel-efficient transport. As discussed throughout the Environmental Management course, environmental issues are complicated and there is often no perfect solution. However, informed public and responsible decision-makers can help to determine that the best decisions are made with the most limited negative impacts.






Jonathan P. Deason, Ph.D., Lead Professor