No. 04, January 8, 1999

River Revival Bulletin

Produced by:
River Revival
A project of International Rivers
1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94703 USA

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Rani Derasary


  • Join International Day of Action festivities March 14, 1999
  • Rindge Dam removal feasibility study pending -- letters of support needed
  • Vermont Natural Resources Council on its way to another victory
  • Absentee ownership of dams fuels local control movement along the Connecticut River
  • Restoration of the Naugatuck well under way
  • Undam Hells Canyon!
  • Acid water lagoon breaks in Spain
  • "Dam Preservationist" groups forming
  • Hetch Hetchy video available
  • Living Rivers welcomes 3 new members


Join International Day of Action festivities March 14, 1999

Join International Rivers and hundreds of grassroots groups around the world for the second annual International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life.

The Day of Action was inspired by participants at the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams in Curitiba, Brazil. They declared, "We are strong, diverse, and united and our cause is just. To symbolize our growing unity, we declare that March 14th – the Brazilian Day of Struggles Against Dams – will from now on become the International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life."

In 1998, more than 50 actions took place in 24 countries, including Brazil, India, Thailand, Australia, Russia, Japan and the United States. Ten thousand people participated in demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns, river clean-ups, and canoe trips. This year more than 100,000 people are expected to join in. No event is too large or small.

Get active! Strengthen your local group by linking it to the global network of dam fighters and river protectors! Show the world that there is a diverse, international movement dedicated to the health of rivers and the people who depend on them. For information about actions now being planned in the US, or for help starting your own action, visit the International Rivers website at - click "Day of Action," or call: 510.848.1155 to speak with Day of Action Coordinator Elizabeth Brink).

**Rindge Dam, Malibu Creek, California**

Rindge Dam removal feasibility study pending -- letters of support needed

California's Southern Steelhead, the southernmost steelhead species in the world, is in imminent danger of extinction. Almost all the streams in Southern California that formerly comprised the steelhead's spawning habitat have been channelized, dammed, diverted, polluted or otherwise made inhospitable to the once plentiful native fishes. These fascinating fish swam wild and free in Malibu Creek near Los Angeles not so long ago. Yet less than a dozen have been there in recent years. The creek is no longer of much use for fish, because Rindge Dam has blocked the streambed three miles from the ocean. As a result, consensus is building that the aging dam should be removed to speed steelhead recovery efforts.

Environmentalists and government officials are discussing restoration options at regular meetings of the Steelhead Task Force, a group which brings together agency officials, representatives of environmental organizations, and other interested parties to discuss planning, funding, and decommissioning strategies. The group meets regularly and the public is invited to attend.

Entirely silted-in and non-functional, Ridge Dam is located within Malibu Creek State Park in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Growing public sentiment in favor of taking out this 100-year-old plug led the Army Corps of Engineers last summer to conduct a preliminary review of the engineering options. The Corps is now planning a feasibility study on removing Rindge Dam. This next step will be far more detailed and cost over $1 million. Federal rules require that costs be shared by the state and the Corps, so the state will have to come up with about $600,000 before the feasibility study can proceed.

The California State Department of Parks and Recreation is supporting the work of the Steelhead Task Force, and acting as a clearinghouse for securing the state's share of the funding. Letters written in support of the study will help encourage newly-elected Governor Gray Davis and the California Legislature to support it. Please send letters of support for removal of Rindge Dam, on your group's letterhead, to: California Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Angeles District, 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas, CA 91302, Attn: Ms. Suzanne Goode.

For further information on the Task Force, please contact Suzanne Goode (email:, phone: 818.880.0364). Two groups actively supporting the decommissioning efforts are California Trout (Jim Edmondson, 818.951.4015) and the Sierra Club's new Malibu Group (Marcia Hanscom, 310.457.0300).


**Peterson Dam, Lamoille River, Vermont**

Vermont Natural Resources Council on its way to another victory

The organization responsible for the successful demolition of the Newport No. 11 Dam on the Clyde River in Vermont, the Vermont Natural Resources Council, is now well under way to causing the removal of their second. The Peterson Dam at the mouth of the Lamoille River represents a major barrier to restoring salmon and endangered lake sturgeon habitat in the Lake Champlain Basin. Although this was once considered the best salmon spawning stream in Vermont, salmon reproduction is virtually nil in the

Lamoille and throughout the basin because of dams. The dam's reservoir also flooded a spectacular gorge containing several waterfalls, and its operation causes some 200 yards of the river below the dam to remain dry while the hydroelectric project is not operating. The Vermont Agency for Natural Resources is assessing the appropriateness of removing the dam to improve water quality and fish habitat. A public comment period for this review ends October 1999. The Vermont Natural Resources Council will submit a biological and hydrologic study as well as an economic analysis showing the benefits of dam removal. For more information, please contact Kim Kendall at the Vermont Natural Resources Council (email:, phone: 802.223.2328).

**Connecticut River, Vermont**

Absentee ownership of dams fuels local control movement along the Connecticut River

The upper two-thirds of the Connecticut River has long been a regional source of hydropower generated for export. Today, Vermont is the largest exporter of power in New England. Over the past ninety years most of the northern 270 miles of this 400-mile river have been transformed into reservoirs. Operated as peaking stations, these hydroelectric plants have seriously disrupted fish passage and riparian habitat throughout the

watershed so as to provide a stronger revenue base for its previous owner. As these dams age, and their ownership and operations begin to shift to a transnational company outside the region, citizens, environmentalists and political leaders are beginning to question who should control and benefit from the use of this public resource. The Brattleboro, Vermont-based Northeast Center for Social Issue Studies is now examining strategies for the potential local control of these facilities. The system of 14 dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers was never intended to serve the communities in the watershed, and has been the cause of massive environmental impacts and economic loss to the region.

A key concern is how an absentee company like the California-based Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) might, under deregulation, further exploit these public waters to generate profit at the expense of the regional environment and economy. The region from which the water flows does not have access to the electricity which their rivers generate, but must instead import above-market-price power from Hydro Quebec. PG&E and other transnationals which are buying up New England's hydro resources have little incentive to address local environmental or economic development concerns, and if the proposed legislation surrounding the Multilateral Agreement on Investment moves forward, such companies would be virtually exempt from local and even federal oversight. The Northeast Center is likely the first organization in the US to seriously address the issue of absentee ownership of local watersheds, and how it might further influence the pace of decommissioning across the country. For additional information contact: Hervey Scudder at the Northeast Center for Social Issues Studies (email:, phone: 802.254.3645).

**Naugatuck River, Connecticut**

Restoration of the Naugatuck well under way

Dammed since colonial times and so badly polluted that it was at one time known as Connecticut's dirtiest river, the Naugatuck may again flow pure thanks to a partnership between Trout Unlimited, the Leever Foundation and MacDermid Inc., operators of a major industrial facility on the river, and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. The plan is to restore 32 miles of the Naugatuck to a naturally flowing river. This includes removal or modification of eleven dams, followed by restoration of fish habitat and comprehensive revegetation of the river corridor. An additional eight miles are being considered for similar treatment in 2001.

The inauguration of the full-scale restoration program has been described as a testament to the dedication and vision of Trout Unlimited volunteers, who have pursued a restoration plan for nearly 20 years, and it is hoped that the Naugatuck example will serve as an inspiration to other groups around the country. The Trout Unlimited chapter responsible for this accomplishment is the Naugatuck Valley Chapter in Southbury Connecticut. They meet on the second Tuesday of each month, and each Saturday organize a river clean-up, fish stocking, or restoration event. To get involved, call the hotline (phone/fax): 203.264.1976. For more information, e-mail the Chapter (, or contact their Naugatuck River Steward, Jon Ploski, (203.881.5015).

*Please note: This story from the Record contains a number of factual errors. Any conflicting information presented in River Revival Bulletin has been verified as correct.


**Hells Canyon, Snake River, Oregon/Idaho**

Undam Hells Canyon!

The Hells Canyon Preservation Council (HCPC), led by Executive Director Ric Bailey, is calling for the decommissioning of three dams on the Snake River above Hells Canyon along the Oregon-Idaho border north of Boise. The Oxbow, Brownlee and Hells Canyon hydroelectric dams destroyed many miles of free-flowing river in one of the most spectacular scenic river stretches in the West. (Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in North America.)

The dams are under review for possible relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. HCPC supports "restoring salmon to vast areas of habitat blocked by the dams, restoring Native American sites, bringing back some of the best whitewater in the country and some of the most spectacular stretches of the now-flooded Snake River Gorge." The group has asked that decommissioning all three dams be considered as an alternative in the environmental review of the relicensing application.

The HCPC proposal is highly significant in light of the possibility of breaching the four dams on the lower Snake in Washington near the confluence with the Columbia River. For further information, visit the

Council's website (, or contact them by phone (541.963.3950) or email (


Acid water lagoon breaks in Spain

On the eve of 1999, a dam broke in southern Spain near the city of Huelva, spilling thousands of cubic meters of toxic acid into the sea, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The spill occurred 50 kilometers west of the Coto Donana nature reserve, where the Rio Tinto meets the Atlantic and borders an important industrial area. Two Spanish companies in the region, Fertiberia and Foret, produce artificial fertilizer -- and daily wastes consisting of 10,000 cubic meters acid effluent, including sulphuric acid, fluorine, iron, cadmium and arsenic. The acid water lagoon which is situated near the ocean was apparently eroded by large storm waves. WWF believes the breach was a result of the failure of local environmental controls and European Union laws and referred to is as preventable. The Andalucian government had promoted the development of this new, large storage lagoon as an environmental solution to the previous problem of these toxics leaching into the river system. A local environment group, Ecologistas en Accion, had advised several times on the risks of the lagoon. Now, while official sources are reporting 50,000 cubic meters of acid flowing into the ocean, Ecologistas en Accion assesses the number to be more than 500,000 cubic meters. The effects of the acid and heavy metals on fish remain to be seen. For more information, contact Ecologistas en Accion (+34.91.531.2739), or Guido Schmidt at WWF (+34.308.23.09).


"Dam Preservationist" groups forming

Did you know that most salmon problems have been solved, dams are not a problem, and only environmentalists and the commercial fishing industry stand in the way of full salmon recovery? Neither did River Revival, but a new movement of "dam preservationists" would have you believe it! It was just a matter of time. As the dam-decommissioning movement has begun gathering momentum, those who profit from dams have begun organizing save-the-dams campaigns. These dam defenders are fighting for concrete, advocating for dam preservation.

An industry coalition based in Portland, Oregon, the Columbia River Alliance, represents electric power utilities, big agribusiness, logging companies, and other interest groups. Their website ( provides a host of reasons why dams should remain standing.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Washington State, wheat farmer Tom Flint is leading a campaign to save the dams on the lower Snake River. Flint recently announced an internet petition drive (, after entering click on "environment"). Speaking out in the Capital Press Agriculture Weekly (Salem, Oregon), Flint says of his organizing work that "it's been like a match to a tank of gasoline." The petition is necessary, he explains, " save our dams and stop this tide of dam breaching."

Back in Oregon, attorney James Buchal of Portland is preaching dam preservation in speeches, in print and on the internet ( Buchal wrote "The Great Salmon Hoax," a book which alleges the dam-breaching movement is driven by pseudo-science and political manipulation. Buchal reassures us that there is no need to take out dams, because salmon are doing better than they have in years! Hatchery fish are, to Buchal, really no different from wild fish.

As dam decommissioning campaigns grow and replicate themselves around the US, we can expect to hear from more James Buchals. For now, however, it appears he enjoys the distinction of being the only published author representing the dam preservation movement.

Organized efforts to stop decommissioning work aren't limited to the Northwest. In Page, Arizona, the Friends of Lake Powell (FLP) are working to save Glen Canyon Dam. (Visit their extensive website at: FLP is defending the nation's second largest reservoir from Salt Lake City-based Glen Canyon Institute, which seeks to restore Glen Canyon by draining Lake Powell. FLP fears that this would result in the dramatic loss of tourism dollars currently coming from jetskiers and houseboaters.

Friends of Lake Powell and the Columbia River Alliance represent an emerging branch of the so-called wise-use movement devoted to defending dams. We'll likely see more dam preservationist groups springing up in the future, but for now they are still playing catch up. Let's keep it that way. Please tell us about any other dam-saving groups that you hear of. We'll publish information about them in future issues of River Revival Bulletin.


Hetch Hetchy video available

The Sierra Club's Hetch Hetchy Restoration Task Force recently released a brief video versio of the 1955 film made by then-Executive Director David Brower, titled "Two Yosemites." This is perhaps the first, if not one of the first, films ever made documenting the environmental devastation caused by a dam. While this was one of the Sierra Club's first film productions, it evinces surprising sophistication and sensitivity for such a short piece. For copies, contact Task Force Chair Ron Good in Yosemite Valley (email:, phone: 209.372.8785).


Living Rivers Welcomes 3 New Members

Three organizations recently signed on to the Walker Creek Declaration, joining Living Rivers:

  • Center for Environmental Law and Policy (Washington State, USA)
  • EarthCulture (North Carolina, USA)
  • Martin Luther King Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (India)

We thank them for their support. If you would like contact information for any of these groups, and/or know of other organizations which would be interested in endorsing the declaration and joining Living Rivers, please let us know.