No. 08, July 16, 1999

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Sarah Minick


  • River Revival in Russia
  • Dam removal ideas penetrate the Great Wall
  • River Alliance of Wisconsin, Twenty by 2000 Campaign
  • Revival on the Kennebec
  • Northeast Dam Busters gathering
  • Making the connection between faith and the environment
  • Multi-beam sonar helps scientists track salmon progress over dams
  • Federal and state agencies work together to remove two dams in Oregon
  • Removal of nuisance dam takes a step forward
  • Can Socorro County share its water with the Silvery Minnow?
  • Tennessee dam construction reversed in mid-stream
  • Patagonia leads charge on dam removal
  • Living Rivers now represented in Germany
  • One Year Anniversary
  • A Special Thanks


River Revival in Russia

The international movement for dam removal took a step forward in June when the Russian government officially accepted the need to review the operational viability of dams and examine their relationship with environmental degradation.

A resolution passed at Russia's first international conference on rivers, Great Rivers - 99, addressed the fact that dams are not permanent. The resolution acknowledged that as dams age, safety and other considerations must be taken into account in determining their future operations. Dam safety issues take on special significance in Russia, where sediment contained in many of its reservoirs is severely contaminated with heavy metals.

Great Rivers - 99 was a key event for rivers in Russia, representing the first time that the Russian Federation elevated river management to such importance. Russia's former Prime Minister, Victor Chernomyrdin, took a break from his Balkans diplomacy tour to open the four-day event, attended by some 700 officials and academics, including approximately 100 from outside Russia. The conference theme of ecological revitalization and sustainable development helped to reinforce a shift away from the legacy of devastation wreaked upon Russia's rivers over the past 50 years.

"This conference alone will not bring about significant changes, but it does demonstrate to officials and the public the importance of reviving our rivers,” said Elena Kolpakova, of Let's Help the River (Volga).

Let's Help the River organized a parallel conference during Great Rivers - 99 specifically for river advocates. Most activists were from the Volga basin. There, eleven hydropower stations have transformed Europe's largest river into a chain of reservoirs whose sediment deposits are dangerously contaminated with lead, mercury, cadmium, DDT and PCBs.

Let's Help the River's campaigns have successfully eliminated some of the pollution sources, and are now focusing on cleaning-up the sediment so that dams can be removed and the extensive fisheries that once thrived in the Volga can return.

For additional information contact: Elena Kolpakova, Let's Help the River, 7.8312.30.28.81,

Dam removal ideas penetrate the Great Wall

During China's first International Symposium on Rivers, the Berkeley-based International Rivers made a presentation on the growing role dam decommissioning is playing in river management strategies around the world. The presentation focused on the near collapse of the Glen Canyon Dam spillways in 1984 and described how such safety concerns are helping to drive the Glen Canyon Institute's campaign to drain Lake Powell. The restoration efforts and proposed dam breaches along the lower Snake River in Washington were also featured, as were images of exploding dams in the Loire Basin in France. Never before had Chinese scholars been exposed to such information in an official setting. The concept of dam removal in a country that continues to lead the world in dam construction is extremely controversial.

Unofficially however, China's engineers are not unaware of these new trends. Lu Youmei, lead engineer for the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, told a visiting team of engineers in October 1997 that his greatest internal public relations problem is that "In the United States, they are taking dams down." Hence the collective impact of dam removal efforts is penetrating far beyond individual rivers and watersheds.

For additional information contact: Doris Shen, China Program, International Rivers, (510) 848-1155,'.


River Alliance of Wisconsin, Twenty by 2000 Campaign

A campaign announced by the River Alliance of Wisconsin this spring will help restore 20 river segments around Wisconsin and will save at least $5.7 million for the citizens of the state. The goal of the Twenty By 2000 campaign is to work with communities and dam owners to get twenty dams removed or slated for removal by the end of the year 2000.

Prairie River (Lincoln Co.). In July the Administrative Law Judge will decide whether to grant a permit leading to the Ward Paper Mill Dam removal. The 118-acre impoundment could be drawn down in August, beginning the process of river restoration and returning the entire Prairie River to free-flowing for the first time in over 90 years. Repair estimate: $1.3 million (not including fish passage). Removal estimate: $90,000 - $200,000.

Deerskin River (Vilas Co.). The Deerskin Dam is a 9-foot high ownerless earthen dam. Its removal would restore 5 miles of trout stream and would make streams within a 41 sq. mi. area accessible to migrating fish and other species. The coldwater Deerskin River is a rarity in Vilas Co., which has one of the highest concentrations of freshwater lakes in the world. Environmental studies will be released in September that analyze the impact of dam repair or removal. Replacement estimate: $411,000. Removal estimate: $15,000.

Sheboygan River (Sheboygan Co.). The 148-year old Franklin Dam is a safety hazard and in need of repair. Owners recently voted unanimously to abandon the structure. Two boards on the dam broke in June and the impoundment is slowly draining. Removal would restore 10 miles of free-flowing river and improve smallmouth and northern pike habitat. The dam could be removed as early as this summer. Repair estimate: $350,000 - $400,000. Removal estimate: $80,000 - $90,000.

For more information on this campaign, check out the River Alliance web site at Or contact Stephanie Lindloff, Small Dams Program Coordinator, at 608-257-2424 or

**Edwards Dam, Kennebec River, ME**

Revival on the Kennebec

Big news came from a small dam in a small Northeastern US state on July 1, 1999. Three days before the nation celebrated its own independence, Maine's Kennebec river was freed from the confines of the 162-year old Edwards dam. Church bells pealed as a torrent of water rushed through a man-made gap in the 917-foot long structure. The event represents the culmination of a long struggle by national and local environmental groups who came together to form the Kennebec Coalition.

This occasion is historic not only because Edwards represents the longest dam breached to date, but because it stems from a precedent-setting 1997 decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the environmental and economic benefits of a free-flowing Kennebec are greater than the economic benefits of continued operation of the Edwards Dam hydroelectric project.

Once FERC, widely recognized as an advocate for dams, refused to relicense the dam, the owner, Edwards Manufacturing Co., stopped fighting the decision and turned its attention toward the expected $5 million price tag for removal. Though ordered to pay for removal and the restoration of the land surrounding the dam site, the company struck a deal that disturbs environmentalists. Bath Iron Works, a US Navy contractor 25 miles downriver, and upstream dam owners agreed to shoulder the cost, putting up more than $7 million. In exchange, BIW received the right to fill in wetlands downstream and dam owners got to delay construction of fish ladders that enable fish to get upstream.

Chris Zimmer, spokesman for the Seattle group Save Our Wild Salmon, commented that the Edwards story, "showed that (the proposal to remove dams) is not a bizarre or un-doable concept.'' In a growing number of communities across the United States, and around the world, people are discussing whether the benefits of removing specific dams might be greater than the benefits of leaving those dams in place.

For more information, contact Steve Brooke of the Kennebec Coalition, at, or visit the following web sites for detailed coverage of the Edwards Dam campaign:

Or investigate the following reference materials:

  • Adams, Glenn, "Dam's removal on July 1 will be history in the making," Associated Press, 26 July, 1999
  • Dan Hansen, "West eyes dam's demise: Maine breaching ends era of untouchable barriers, The Spokesman-Review, 2 July, 1999. Read this article at:
  • Hogan, Dave, "Dam's removal reshapes debate: A backhoe begins razing Maine's Edwards Dam, and advocates of breaching four Snake River dams take heart," The Oregonian, 2 July, 1999. Full text available at:
  • "The bells are ringing for free flow of water -- dam demolished", Lincoln Journal-Star, 2 July, 1999. Full article located at:
  • Yvonne Zipp, "With a dam's demise, hope for reviving rivers: Demolition begins of dam in Maine, signaling rise of environmental ethos," The Christian Science Monitor, 2 July, 1999.


Northeast Dam Busters gathering

The Vermont Natural Resources Council held a strategy workshop on dam removal for river advocates in the Northeastern US this past May. Some forty participants spent two days discussing the evolution of dam removal in the Northeast, dam removal success stories and political and technical strategies necessary to bring more dams down. For additional information and follow-up materials contact Kim Kendall, Vermont Natural Resources Council, 802-223-2328,


**Columbia River, WA**

Making the connection between faith and the environment

Catholic bishops in the Northwest have issued a 65 page document on the Internet urging people to view the Columbia River as a "sacred source of life and a symbol of our connection to the divine". The Internet publication is a precursor to a pastoral letter, a document which applies the teachings and beliefs of the church to a concrete issue. This pastoral letter, set to be finalized in 2000, will be the first written about a river.

Writing the letter was a collaborative process involving a committee of 20 authors, 25 resource consultants and the input of hundreds of people who have economic and cultural ties to the Columbia watershed. The letter puts forth 12 responsibilities that residents should keep in mind regarding the Columbia River. The responsibilities outlined are diverse, ranging from saving the salmon to honoring treaties with Native Americans.

Spokane Bishop William Skylstad points out that "The image of flowing water has strong significance in Scripture . . . But the symbolism of water in general is life-giving, cleansing and nourishing." Environmental planner Debrah Marriott sums up the positive effect that this unusual synergy of religion and environmentalism can have: "When you look at the teachings of lots of different religions, there is a lot for us to learn about caring for the environment. A lot of people will look at how this letter puts together environmentalism and theology and say, 'Wow, here's another reason why we should protect the environment.' "

**Bonneville Dam, Columbia River, OR**

Multi-beam sonar helps scientists track salmon progress over dams

The Columbia and Snake Rivers provide habitat for a wide variety of fish, including the endangered chinook and sockeye salmon. The dams along the Columbia and its tributaries pose a serious threat to the lives of the young salmon (called smolt) trying to make the trip down-river after hatching. To study the behavior of the salmon as they approach the dam opening and pass through the dam turbine, fisheries researchers have set up multi-beam sonar on a barge at Bonneville Dam in Oregon. The sonar track movement and location of the fish, and because there are multiple sonar, scientists can collect enough data to create 3-D representations of the fish routes.

The goal of the project is to reduce the mortality rate of young salmon moving down-river towards the Pacific. Many environmental groups suggest that the only way to achieve this is to remove the dams. However, some believe that using a system of screens, ladders, and pipelines, the dams and the fish can coexist successfully.

Blaine Ebbertz of the US Army Corps of Engineers said, "Ideally, we're looking for 85 percent non-turbine passage, and a 95 percent survival rate. This project will tell us how to do that better."

**Little Sandy Dam, Marmot Dam, Sandy River Basin, OR**

Federal and state agencies work together to remove two dams in Oregon

In the Sandy River Basin near Portland, Oregon, a collaborative effort involving Portland General Electric, the City of Portland, the State of Oregon, the National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies has produced a plan to remove two dams on the Sandy River. The $22 million project, funded by the state, the City of Portland, and PGE, is expected to take approximately two years to complete.

The removal of the dams is expected to provide valuable habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead in the Little Sandy and Sandy Rivers. When the main stem of the Sandy River is unobstructed, there will be a clear passage for fish from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Mount Hood. Approximately 22 miles of river is expected to return to almost natural conditions; water temperature will lower and stream flow will improve.

However, dam removal is not the only component of river restoration. Habitat restoration must be a part of the pre and post dam removal process. All agencies involved in the Sandy River project have indicated that they are dedicated to the ongoing process of habitat restoration.


**Matilija Dam, Ventura River, California**

Removal of nuisance dam takes a step forward

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has joined the effort to restore the Ventura River by adopting a resolution supporting the removal of Matilija Dam. The Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation is funding an appraisal level study on the removal of the dam, which will be conducted involving BuRec and Army Corps of Engineer personnel.

The Matilija Dam provides an interesting case in that support for removal is consensus-based and bi-partisan. Even the dam's owner, the Ventura County Flood Control District, has produced its own resolution of support for removal. Given the absence of controversy, the important issue becomes financing, as well as determining the best methodology for removal.

Ed Henke, a driving force behind the effort to remove the dam, reminds us that, "This is not merely a local issue, but a regional, state, and national one as well." Success in removing dams such as Matilija, which no-one is fighting to keep, will set crucial precedent extending even beyond national borders, where dam removal is also gaining recognition as a viable option for river restoration.

For more information, contact Ed Henke of Historical Research at 541-482-9578.


**Socorro County, New Mexico**

Can Socorro County share its water with the Silvery Minnow?

Pending federal protection of the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow has New Mexico farmers and ranchers worried about water supply. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act, agencies would be unable to take any action which would “adversely modify” the habitat. This means more water would have to be left in the river, leaving less water for farming and ranching.

In a move that has environmentalists fuming, rather than seeking a water management solution, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) is attempting to attach an amendment to an unrelated bill which would limit habitat designation, thereby suspending a part of the ESA.

Kieran Suckling of the Southwest Center of Biological Diversity in Tucson denounced Domenici’s approach to the issue. “In all my years of environmental activism, this is the most sickening and cynical political maneuver I’ve ever seen,” said Suckling. “For Domenici to put a rider on a bill for hurricane and war victims that is going to drive a species extinct, well, that is one of the most cynical things you could do as a politician.”

For more information, contact Kieran Suckling of the Southwest Center of Biological Diversity at or visit their web site at


**Columbia Dam, Duck River, Tennessee**

Tennessee dam construction reversed in mid-stream

The dismantling of the partially constructed Columbia Dam on the Duck River in central Tennessee is currently under way. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) first proposed building the dam as part of the Duck River Project in 1968, and decided that the project could not continue almost three decades later in 1995. The Fish and Wildlife Service halted construction of the dam in 1983 because of the potential to jeopardize the continued existence of several endangered mussel species within the Duck River. TVA's efforts to transplant mussels to other stream reaches failed, clinching the inviability of the project.

At the time construction ceased, the concrete portion of the dam was about 90 percent complete and the earth-filled section was about 60 percent complete. TVA declared its intention to prepare an EIS on alternatives for use of lands acquired for the Columbia Project in 1995. The EIS presented three options: maintaining the current status of the dam structures, stabilizing the existing flood profile, or restoring original conditions.

The public and interested agencies were invited to submit written comments. Most comments offering suggestions about the dam structure preferred the option of stabilizing the existing flood profile, which was the eventual option selected. The structure is being dismantled, with the base remaining in place to provide some flood control, and the top portion being used to stabilize the riverbanks. TVA employee Linda Oxendine states that, through these actions, her agency will "establish a protective river corridor," and that this portion of the project should be completed by the end of the summer.

For further information contact: Linda B. Oxendine, Senior NEPA Specialist, Environmental Management, Tennessee Valley Authority, 400 West Summit Hill Drive, WT 8C, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902-1499; telephone 423-632-3440 or e-mail

  • "Columbia Dam To Be Dismantled," TVA Today: Daily news for employees, 26 May, 1999.
  • Tennessee Valley Authority, "Stabilization of Unfinished Dam Structure of The Columbia Dam and Reservoir Project," Federal Register, Volume 64, Number 102, 27 May, 1999.


Patagonia leads charge on dam removal

Patagonia, the world's leading designer of quality outdoor clothing, and pioneer in instilling environmental consciousness into corporate business practices, has become a major voice for river restoration through dam removal. Patagonia is working hard to promote this new concept and support the grassroots campaigns that are making it happen. The clothing company is showing their support by providing financial and technical support to specific dam removal campaigns, profiling dam removal efforts in their catalogs and other promotional materials, and featuring dam removal displays in their stores.

Earlier this month, Patagonia hosted a booth at the Edwards Dam removal festivities. There they circulated information about a variety of dam removal efforts underway across the country. "Edwards is a great victory, but it's not just about one river or one dam, it's about supporting all elements of this growing grassroots movement for dam removal that is becoming a major force for environmental restoration worldwide", said John Sterling of Patagonia's Environmental Programs Department.

Beginning in August 1999, Patagonia stores in the US will be displaying information about dam removal and how people can get involved in specific dam removal efforts. Some stores may also host public presentations about specific efforts that are underway in their areas. Dam removal advocacy groups that are interested in making presentations about their campaigns can contact the stores directly. A list of the stores is available at


Living Rivers now represented in Germany

WRE Consult recently signed on to the Walker Creek Declaration, joining the international Living Rivers coalition for the restoration of rivers and communities affected by dams. They are a small consulting company in Germany dealing with water resources and environmental management. Their work includes evaluating activities surrounding river basin management.

We thank them for their support. If you would like contact information for WRE Consult or any of the other members of Living Rivers, and/or if you know of other organizations interested in endorsing the declaration and joining Living Rivers, please contact us at'.

One Year Anniversary

July 25 marks the first year anniversary of the Walker Creek Deceleration, the Founding Statement of LIVING RIVERS, The International Coalition for the Restoration of Rivers and Communities Affected by Dams. There are now 49 members from 10 countries!


A Special Thanks

The River Revival team would like to give special thanks to Rani Derasary, who played a major role in founding the dam decommissioning program at International Rivers, and its River Revival project. Rani is now taking a well-deserved break, and we wish her much rest and relaxation and look forward to seeing her back fighting for rivers as soon as possible.

Other changes in the team composition include Elizabeth Brink coming on board full-time as Associate Coordinator of River Revival, and the addition of project intern Sarah Minick. They are both enthusiastic about helping to build a stronger river restoration and dam decommissioning movement throughout the world.