No. 06, March 16, 1999

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Rani Derasary


  • Green hydropower worries river activists
  • National Hydropower Association discusses dam decommissioning
  • Dam removal efforts under way in New York State
  • Mark your calendars for Edwards Dam removal!
  • Dam targeted for removal in Rio Grande
  • Surfers unite to bring down dams
  • Five California dams to be decommissioned for salmon restoration
  • Dam preservationists rise to defend Englebright Dam, but removal studies proceed
  • Hetch Hetchy Task Force offers tour of "The Other Yosemite"
  • Corps discusses options for John Day Dam
  • More public discussion on Snake River dams
  • Earth First! goes after dam in Texas
  • Dam failure concerns in Colorado
  • National attention to dam decommissioning heightens, Patagonia takes on dam removal
  • Living Rivers Welcomes 3 New Members

"Green" Hydropower and Decommissioning on Minds of Activists and Industry Alike

Green Hydropower worries river activists

Dam removal advocates are beginning to express increasing concern surrounding the promotion of hydroelectric dams as "green" or appropriate energy. The growing trend to deregulate energy markets across the country has enabled consumers in a number of states to choose the type of energy-generating facility, or mix of facilities, that supply their power. As a result, utility companies are appealing to the public's concern over fossil fuel emissions and the dangers of nuclear power, to offer "green" energy products. Depending on the company or state, both small and large hydroelectric dams are being included in the definition of "green" hydropower. Several third party organizations are working to develop criteria that could enable the certification of some hydroelectric facilities as "green."

A workshop titled, "How Green is Green Energy?" at Friends of the River's 19th Annual River Festival February 19-21, revealed that river activists are becoming very concerned about these developments. Citing the impacts that all dams pose on riverine ecology, especially to anadromous fish, Friends of the River (FOR) questioned whether any form of hydropower can truly be considered "green" energy. International Rivers pointed out that a growing number of dam removal advocates across the US are concerned that their efforts to remove a dam may be thwarted by local agencies, utilities and dam owners interested in marketing their dam as green. International Rivers also noted that many river activists outside the US are still fighting dams, and are thus concerned that their work will become more difficult as hydroelectricity in the US is being characterized in a more positive light.

Green energy advocates at the workshop from the Center for Energy Efficiency and Resource Technology (CEERT) and the Center for Resource Solutions' Green E Program suggested that consumers must buy power from somewhere, and argued that some dams may be better than many other sources of power. The best alternative, workshop participants agreed, is energy conservation. A handout from Rocky Mountain Institute described how the US could cut its energy supply infrastructure as much as 50 percent merely by implementing all available energy conservation technologies. Such practices could eliminate the need for all hydropower. For additional information contact: Steve Evans, FOR (phone: 916.442.3155 ext. 221, e-mail:; Owen Lammers, International Rivers (phone: 510.848.1155, e-mail:', web:; Keri Smith, CEERT (phone: 415.561.2120, web:, or Meredith Wingate, Green E Program (phone: 415.561.2100, e-mail:, web:

National Hydropower Association discusses dam decommissioning

The 1999 National Hydropower Conference, which took place March 1-4 in Washington, DC, focused much attention on dam decommissioning and hydropower relicensing. (Of the 28 workshops, 18 covered some element of these topics.) The industry is quite concerned with the growing momentum to remove dams. Many people sported buttons saying "Save our dams!" It was learned that a democratic senator from NY state is working to weaken relicensing efforts at the national level. (His state faces the most relicensings in the nation.) He is using the message that hydro is clean and renewable, and that a loss of hydro capacity will do more to harm the environment than to help it.

Amidst this sea of dam proponents, river advocacy groups were conveying a different message. Trout Unlimited Conservation Counsel Mona Janopaul told participants, "It's time to consider having a national dam decommissioning fund, in anticipation of the sales of projects, green power credits and the deregulation of the industry. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been supportive of individual project decommissioning funds, but not a national one."

Another theme of this year's conference was hydropower as "green energy." The industry is viewing hydro as the most important renewable energy available today. But the message conveyed to them by American Rivers was, "Water may be renewable, but rivers are not," and that most dams may have significant enough environmental impacts to disqualify them from being characterized as green. For additional information contact: David Tuft, National Hydropower Association (phone: 202.383.2537, e-mail:, web:


**Imperial Dam, Saranac River, New York**

Dam removal efforts under way in New York state

New York Rivers United, which has been involved in more than 40 hydro relicensing cases over the past few years, is now moving forward on assessing which of the state's more than 6,600 dams should be targeted for removal. One likely candidate is Imperial Dam on the Saranac River near the headwaters of Lake Champlain. Removal of this dam would eliminate the last major barrier to relatively unimpeded fish passage for a critical twelve-mile stretch of the river above the lake. Atlantic salmon, alewifes and herring are all found in this stretch of the river. Because of the costs associated with addressing fish passage issues at the dam, the dam owners had all but given up on attempting to restart hydroelectric generation. But a recent bond approval of $1.5 million by the state of New York for a fish ladder has breathed new life into the dam. New York Rivers United is questioning whether such a ladder will work, but more importantly asking why taxpayers should be subsidizing a private dam owner's hydroelectric generation, and is continuing to call for the dam's removal. For additional information contact: Mike Lopushinsky, New York Rivers United (phone: 315.339.2097, e-mail:

**Edwards Dam, Kennebec River, Maine**

Mark your calendars for Edwards Dam removal!

If things continue to stay on track, the controlled demolition of Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in Maine will occur sometime after July 1, 1999. The dam's turbines are now in the process of being removed and bids are being submitted for the actual demolition. The proposed timing for demolition will coincide with anticipated low flows and the conclusion of the spawning season. An actual date cannot be set as it will be dictated by these river conditions.

On the appointed date, a carefully controlled blast will be engineered to open a narrow breach to let the water behind the dam drain out. By breaching the dam at mid-river, two excavation crews will be able to work at the same time, proceeding backwards toward the banks during the remainder of the summer and fall. The goal of the project remains to have the entire dam removed from the riverbed by November 1999, again, weather and river conditions permitting. This will allow the fish returning in the spring of 2000 access to 17 miles of restored habitat. For additional information contact: Steve Brooke, Kennebec Coalition (phone: 207.724.3576, e-mail:


**San Acacia Dam, Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico**

Dam targeted for removal in Rio Grande

San Acacia Dam on the Middle Rio Grande in New Mexico was built a half century ago to divert water. It provides no power, flood control, or other benefits. Yet it is a major obstacle to fish migration, principally the silvery minnow. A coalition of groups are pushing the US Bureau of Reclamation and others to study the dam's removal and replacement with alternative diversion technologies as part of a larger Bureau-Army Corps of Engineers project to rehabilitate the levees and other facilities in the area. The Bureau has committed $25,000 to do a preliminary feasibility study of dam removal. While activists do not consider this amount adequate, they do consider this a positive step forward demonstrating that the dam's removal is being taken seriously.

A "Green Plan" for the Middle Rio Grande (between Cochiti and Elephant Butte Reservoirs including tributaries such as the Rio Chama), prepared by a broad coalition called the Alliance for the Rio Grande Heritage, was sent to agencies and other stakeholders this past June. This plan outlined specific actions to be taken and timelines for their completion. However, the agencies involved have not sufficiently responded. As a result, Defenders of Wildlife, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, Forest Guardians, and the Southwestern Environmental Center recently sent a letter to the Bureau and the Corps notifying them of a variety of concerns regarding the restoration plans, and indicating the groups' intent to sue if these concerns are not addressed. For additional information contact: Laird Lucas, Land and Water Fund (phone: 208.342.7024, e-mail:, Susan George, Defenders of Wildlife (phone: 505.255.5966 ext. 109, e-mail:, or Steve Harris, Rio Grande Restoration (phone: 505.751.1269, e-mail:


Surfers unite to bring down dams

One of the United States' most active campaigning organizations for sound coastal management, the Surfrider Foundation, recently adopted a resolution calling for the removal of dams in coastal watersheds. Stating that, "Beach erosion has become a serious problem threatening public and private properties, recreational values and the economies of coastal communities," and "Many dams have been rendered obsolete by heavy siltation, structural defects and development of alternative water supplies," the resolution calls for dams in coastal watersheds to be studied to consider the feasibility of their removal. "These studies should be conducted within the context of watershed-wide recovery planning that recognizes the importance of other actions to the continued survival of coastal ecosystems, as well as the potential effects of dam removal on upstream and downstream habitat," the resolution states.

Surfrider's main focus at this time is Matilija Dam in Southern California, where they are joining CalTrout, Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and a host of other organizations advocating for Matilija's removal. For additional information contact: Paul Jenkin, Surfrider Foundation, Ventura County Chapter (phone: 805.648.7255, e-mail:, web: and

**Multiple diversion dams, Battle Creek, California (Wildcat, Coleman, South, Lower Ripley Creek, and Soap Creek)**

Five California dams to be decommissioned for salmon restoration

Restoration of 42 miles of salmon and steelhead habitat along Northern California's Battle Creek will soon be under way thanks to a collaborative approach by a major California utility, several government resource agencies, and other stakeholders. After several years of investigation and collaboration, and months of negotiations, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Bureau of Reclamation, and California Department of Fish and Game have agreed in principle to pursue an extensive restoration project in the Battle Creek watershed. This project has enormous potential for restoring chinook salmon and steelhead already listed or proposed for Endangered Species Act protection. Located in Shasta and Tehama counties, Battle Creek is a cold, spring-fed stream with exceptionally high flows, making it the only Sacramento River tributary resistant to droughts. Its remote, deep-shaded gorges are similar to the once-productive salmon streams now blocked by Shasta Dam. The restoration proposal includes: 1) increasing the minimum instream flows; 2) decommissioning five diversion dams and transferring their water rights to instream uses (Wildcat, Coleman, South, Lower Ripley Creek, and Soap Creek diversion dams); 3) screening and enlarging ladders at three diversion dams (Inskip, Eagle Canyon, and North Battle Creek Feeder diversion dams), and 4) constructing new infrastructure (tailrace connectors) that eliminates mixing of North and South Fork waters and significantly reduces redundant screening requirements. For additional information contact: Steve Evans, Friends of the River (phone: 916.442.3155 ext. 221, e-mail:

**Englebright Dam, Yuba River, California**

Dam preservationists rise to defend Englebright Dam, but removal studies proceed

Last year there was much discussion along the Yuba River and throughout Northern California about the possibility of demolishing Englebright Dam. But over the past year, local residents who utilize the dam's reservoir for recreation have mobilized to challenge this effort. With signs and slogans to "Save Englebright Lake" dozens of protesters brought their campaign to the Friends of the River Festival on February 21, where river activists from throughout the state had gathered to discuss dam decommissioning and other issues affecting California rivers. Recently, the Yuba City council adopted a resolution to both oppose the dam's removal, and Wild and Scenic status for the South Yuba.

Englebright Dam has been proposed as one of the projects to be studied for removal in the state and federal collaborative effort (CalFed) to reverse environmental declines occurring in the San Francisco Bay-Delta. The dam's removal would allow Chinook salmon and steelhead access to historical spawning and rearing habitats. Concerns over economic losses to the community, were the reservoir to be drained, recently caused CalFed to form a "consensus committee." This committee, to be comprised of ten members from both the restoration side and the dam preservation side, will recommend how CalFed should allocate up to $300,000 for studies concerning Englebright Dam. In addition, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) will be supporting supplemental studies to ensure all issues pertaining to the removal of Englebright Dam are thoroughly addressed.

For additional information contact: Shawn Garvey, SYRCL (phone: 530.265.5961, e-mail:, web:, or visit LAKE's (Lakes Are Kind to the Environment) Save Englebright Lake web page (

**O'Shaughnessy Dam, Tuolumne River, California**

Hetch Hetchy Task Force offers tour of "The Other Yosemite"

If you really want to see and learn what the campaign to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and restore this world-renowned canyon is all about, the leader of the campaign will be hosting an eight-day trip this July. This national Sierra Club outing from Tuolumne Meadows to Hetch Hetchy Valley will take place from July 11-18, 1999. It will be led by two long-time Sierra Club leaders, Cal and Letty French. As a "send-off," Lee Stetson, the actor who has portrayed John Muir in Yosemite Valley for 15 years, will do a special presentation of his "Conversation with a Tramp" program on Hetch Hetchy. On two other evenings (at Tuolumne Meadows and at Hetch Hetchy) plans call for National Park Service interpretive rangers to conduct programs on the geology of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River (including Hetch Hetchy) and the history of O'Shaughnessy Dam. Cost is $350, which includes all food. For additional information contact: Ron Good, Sierra Club Hetch Hetchy Restoration Task Force (phone: 209.372.8785, e-mail:, web:


**John Day Dam, Columbia River, Washington/Oregon**

Corps discusses options for John Day Dam

The US Army Corps of Engineers is holding a series of meetings about potential changes to John Day Dam, meetings attended by both proponents of modifications, as well as opponents such as farmers and port officials. A John Day study was ordered by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is responsible for rebuilding fish runs. Options in the study include leaving the dam as is, dramatically lowering the reservoir behind the dam, and letting the Columbia River run free. By the end of the year, the agency plans to tell Congress whether a study more comprehensive than the current $3 million exploratory effort (Phase 1) would be appropriate. Even if the Corps recommends further studies, Phase 2 won't happen unless Congress provides the money. Opened in 1968, John Day was the final Columbia River dam constructed in the United States. It stilled the last of the rapids between the Pacific Ocean and Pasco, Washington.

For more information visit the Columbia and Snake Rivers Campaign web page: (, or phone the campaign in Seattle at: 1.800.SOS.SALMON (767.7256), or in Portland at: 503.243.3814.

**Snake River Dams, Washington (Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite)**

More public discussion on Snake River dams

Stakeholders clashed in Olympia on February 16 over legislation intended to slow any federal plans to breach four Snake River dams to help restore wild salmon runs. The hearing focused on two measures -- HB1920 and HJM4010. The former would set up several hurdles before the federal government could breach the dams, including a requirement for extensive environmental and economic impact studies. The latter is simply a resolution asking the government to abandon consideration of breaching the dams. Opponents said loss of the dams between Pasco and Lewiston would be a disaster for farmers who rely on barges to haul wheat and other farm products, and for power consumers who rely on electricity generated by the dams. Proponents argued any economic disruption would be comparatively mild and worthwhile to save salmon runs listed, or about to be, as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

For an update on nationwide efforts to remove the lower Snake dams, contact the Columbia and Snake Rivers Campaign (phone: 1.800.767.7256 or 503.243.3814, web: You can easily sign on to one of two petitions to remove the dams as follows: (for organizations, businesses and scientists) or (for citizens).

  • "Dam advocates launch bills to stop breaching: Two sides disagree on facts of plan to restore salmon runs," Associated Press, 17 February 1999.


**San Marcos River, Texas**

Earth First! goes after dam in Texas

Floods in south Texas last October damaged a small dam at the headwaters of the San Marcos River. Now, Earth First! activists are calling on Southwest Texas State University, which owns the dam, to have it completely removed.

"San Marcos survived for 1,500 years without that dam," Earth First! leader Jodi Kilgore told the San Antonio Express News recently. "The endangered species were there long before the dam. They should just remove it now and let the river return to its natural state. We believe the species will thrive in larger numbers." The river's headwaters are home to endangered fountain darters, gambusia, salamanders and Texas wild rice. Undaunted, University officials want to have the dam repaired by May.

  • "Dam Stirs Protest at University," San Antonio Express-News, 26 February 1999.

**Cherry Creek Dam, Cherry Creek, Colorado**

Dam failure concerns in Colorado

Opposition to the Army Corps of Engineers' alternatives for fixing the Cherry Creek Dam in Parker, Colorado, which a 1993 study found would fail in the event of a catastrophic flood, was voiced loud and clear at a public meeting held by the Corps in early March. Three hundred people who live in the 85-square-mile Cherry Creek watershed questioned the Corps' process of estimating the "Probable Maximum Precipitation'' figure and the logic of its risk assessment.

Corps officials have said there is a one-in-a-million chance that more than 2 feet of rain could fall in three days. But if Cherry Creek Dam, built in 1946, were to fail, the results would be devastating. Corps spokesman Bill Miller said a dam failure would threaten 10,000 lives and cause $15 billion in damage.

The Corps has spent more than $1 million in search of ways to prevent the dam's failure. Several alternatives, costing $10-500 million, are being considered in addition to the option of doing nothing. The most controversial of the Corps options is the construction of upstream dry dams, which hold water only during flooding.

Essentially, the weather service found that the original method used to design the Cherry Creek Dam was inadequate. New techniques incorporating humidity and dew points as well as extreme rainfall led weather experts in 1993 to determine that the Cherry Creek Dam could fail in an extraordinary storm.

Local residents are calling for an independent peer review of the weather service's analysis. They have been joined by Senator Wayne Allard and Representative Joel Hefley, both Colorado Republicans, as well as the Douglas County Board of Commissioners in their call for a peer review.

  • "Crowd assails dam proposals," Denver Post, 11 March 1999.


**National Attention to Dam Decommissioning Heightens**

Patagonia takes on dam removal

As reported in previous Bulletin stories, Smithsonian, Audubon, Sierra and Outside are among the national magazines that in recent months have run articles about removing dams in general, and the four lower Snake dams in particular. Newsweek and Field & Stream were ahead of the game, publishing their stories about the Eastern Washington dams more than a year ago. Now, consumers who open the latest Patagonia catalog to find fleece pants or surfers' trunks will also be able to read about the issue Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt calls "the next big test for river restoration." The topic of dam removal was even expected to find its way into Robert Kennedy Jr.'s recent speech on Hudson River restoration at Eastern Washington University. Kennedy, who is familiar with lower Snake dam removal efforts, told the Spokesman Review he expected to be asked why he thinks the dams should come out. Such dams represent "a huge public giveaway to heavily subsidized industries" at the expense of wildlife, he said.


Living Rivers Welcomes 3 New Members

Three organizations recently signed on to the Walker Creek Declaration, joining the international Living Rivers coalition for the restoration of rivers and communities affected by dams:

  • GrassRoots Environmental Effectiveness Network (Washington DC, USA)
  • Raymond Proffitt Foundation (Pennsylvania, USA)
  • Sawmill River Watershed Alliance (Massachusetts, USA)

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.