About a year ago, I was kayaking down the Llano River, about 80 miles west of Austin, Texas. It’s spring-fed and runs through the countryside, representative of the state’s beauty. I was paddling a usually serene route when I noticed the water becoming shallow and the bottom of my kayak scraping the riverbed. Straight ahead I could see why: Several large excavating machines atop crude dams in the middle of the river had altered the water flow.

I got out and lifted the kayak onto my shoulder, resigned to portaging my boat the length of what seemed like three football fields. As I walked along the shallow shoreline, huge dump trucks and dredging machines towered overhead. There was a cacophony of beeping and clanging as the trucks were loaded with many tons of sand and rock. The machinery lumbered across the river from the town of Llano, which was also subjected to what the building industry calls “harvesting.”

Read more from Stephen E. Lindemann with Grist – Fix: Solutions Lab here.