I was pleasantly surprised to find the rush of water tucked away between the baseball fields and the campus border. Before class on Wednesday I was unaware that this was one of the two streams that flow into Westhampton Lake.
My ignorance rattled me. I had been living at UR for nearly one and half years, yet I had no idea this small stream existed. Moreover, if I was not taking geography of the James, I would have most likely remained ignorant of the stream.
With the knowledge that I was at a spot on campus unbeknownst to most I took a moment to really look at my surroundings. The stream’s starting point lay across the road, out of sight. It entered the campus boundaries unceremoniously, flowing beneath a stone bridge. Water flowed at a steady pace on the left side, sliding effortlessly over the slabs of rock. Contrastingly, water pulled to the right moved at a slower pace, inching up to the drop as if to prolong the plunge, rather than take the leap. As the stream neared the right shore the trickle was reduced to a drip, and dark green moss took up residence in the resultant cool moist area. Tree roots also extended down the bank, gripping the stone slabs like gnarly fingers, as if wood and stone were locked in a deadly embrace.
It was evident that plant life had adapted to the bridge, yet I was curious to know what it had been like prior to human interference. I also questioned the effects dredging has on this ecosystem, and how it would be different if nature could run its natural course.
Dredging refers to removing sediments on the lake or river floor, and is carried out for various reasons including to keep waterways navigable, and to maintain the holding capacity of lakes. However, it can also have substantial impacts on aquatic ecosystems, such as releasing toxic chemicals from bottom sediments into the water column, and increasing water turbidity which can interfere with many marine species’ metabolisms.
This small stream along with Westhampton Lake are dredged every summer to maintain the flow of water and the lake’s carrying capacity. The control humans have over this aspect of nature is daunting. They literally have the power to mold the world to their needs with little regard to what nature has in store. Is this justifiable? Do people ever go too far? When do they try to harness power that isn’t mean to be contained?
More info about dredging along with pics are in the link below