No. 09, August 2, 1999

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Sarah Minick


  • Restoration of San Joaquin River underway
  • The conflict continues on the Snake: To breach or not to breach
  • Environmental groups criticize Seattle watershed preservation plan as inadequate
  • Endangered Colorado pikeminnow stimulates restoration efforts
  • Is dam removal or repair better for endangered species on the San Marcos River?
  • Dam removal an alternative on the Fox River
  • Prairie River another huge step closer to recovery
  • Florida’s "Deadbeat" Dam
  • More concerns over "Green" Hydro


**San Joaquin Valley**

Restoration of San Joaquin River underway

On July 3, the Bureau of Reclamation released 800 cfs from the Friant Dam into the San Joaquin River in an effort to begin restoring the damaged riparian corridor. The 55 year-old Friant Dam was constructed to store and divert water for irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley. The dam drastically changed the San Joaquin ecosystem, leaving 24 miles of the river dry, altering the timing and amount of water flow, and wreaking havoc on the Chinook salmon population.

In an effort to restore the riparian corridor and make the San Joaquin salmon-friendly, farmers have agreed to release 35,000 acre-feet (1 acre-foot is 325, 900 gallons) of irrigation water into the river. The flow releases will continue through September as part of a pilot project to determine how flow increases affect the river. The decision to increase flow is the result of over ten years of negotiation and litigation between environmental and fisheries groups and the Friant Water Users Association. The project could mean the settlement of the 1988 lawsuit filed through the Natural Resources Defense Council by California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Trout, Trout Unlimited, and 11 other groups. The goal of the litigation was to force dam operators to maintain adequate fish habitat as required by state law.

For more information contact John Buettler at or Jim Edmondson at

  • Beuttler, John, "First Steps Taken to Restore the San Joaquin Valley," Fishery Restoration Network Advisory, July 1999
  • Grossi, Mark, "Dam spill assists river restoration," Fresno Bee, July 1999.


**Ice Harbor, the Lower Granite, the Little Goose, and Lower Monumental Dams, Snake River, WA**

Further developments on the Snake: To breach or not to breach

As conflict over removing the dams on the Lower Snake River in Washington continues to unfold, additional studies have been released and political lines drawn. Two recent studies, one by the Army Corps of Engineers and another by Trout Unlimited, examine the costs of dam removal and the decline of the Chinook salmon, respectively. In the political arena, presidential candidate George W. Bush stated his conviction that salmon and the dams can coexist. Meanwhile, the western division of the American Fisheries Society passed a resolution arguing that to save the fish, the dams must go.

Costs of dam removal

In mid-July the Army Corps of Engineers released three studies detailing the costs of breaching the dams on the Lower Snake. A transportation study concluded that the breaching of the four Snake River Dams would cause the cost of shipping wheat to increase by 28 percent. A second study on irrigation suggested that there is no practical way to supply water to the 37, 000 acres in question without the dams. Furthermore, the Corps found that the value of the farmland would be reduced by $194 million if the water supply were cut off. The Ice Harbor Dam, the only one of the four that provides irrigation, serves 13 large farms with hundreds of employees. A third study, which focused on the cost of electricity, predicted that homeowners would pay $1.50 to $5.30 more per month for electricity if the dams were breached. The studies are part of a $32 million dollar project launched by the Corps to explore alternatives to save salmon and steelhead runs in the Snake River.

Chinook salmon headed toward extinction

In a study sponsored by Trout Unlimited, private fisheries consultant Dr. Phillip Mundy found that within 18 years Chinook salmon on the Snake River will be extinct if current trends continue. Mundy based his conclusion on an extinction model, which uses spawner to spawner ratios to evaluate population fluctuation from one generation to the next. The number of salmon spawning in a given year is recorded and then compared to the number recorded for the parent generation. If the resulting ratio is less than one, the population is declining. Spawner ratio data is available from 30 years ago to the present, providing Mundy with a very credible data set. Mundy emphasized the urgency of the situation. "If we have any problems with the study, it’s that we’re too conservative," he said. "We could be too optimistic about the signs of extinction. It could be that we have slightly less time."

Mundy’s study doesn’t offer any solutions, but many people in the scientific community feel that breaching the dams is the only way to save the Chinook salmon. Over 200 scientists made this statement by sending a letter to the White House in March. PATH scientists as well as experts from various advocacy groups have come to the same conclusion. The western division of the American Fisheries Association has voiced its support for breaching the dams by passing a resolution stating that if the salmon are to be saved, the dams must be breached. It remains to be seen whether policy makers will opt for breaching or not, and Mundy says that there is no time to lose.

For more information, also see .

Bush takes a stand on the fate of the Snake

Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has stated that he would oppose breaching dams on the Lower Snake River to save endangered salmon. He believes that the fish can be protected without breaching dams, which he states are an integral part of the agrarian economy of Eastern Washington. Bush stopped in Spokane as part of his western campaign swing.

For more information contact Jim Camden at

Hastings’ dam resolution angers advocates

Doc Hastings (R-WA) pushed an anti-dam removal resolution through the House Resources Committee last Thursday. The resolution encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to drop dam removal as a possible means of saving endangered salmon on the Snake River. It offers a list of the benefits of the dams, highlighting jobs provided, low costs for electricity consumers, inexpensive and efficient transportation, flood control, and pollution reduction.

Salmon advocates argue that many of the benefits listed are not based on fact. More importantly, they resent the fact that the resolution is aiming at taking dam removal off the table before it has been thoroughly considered and offered up for public debate. Paul Johnston of the Corps’ northwest division explained the Corps’ perspective. "We have a study underway called the Lower Snake Study. It is looking at three options. One is essentially to do nothing, the second is to significantly improve the dams to make them more fish friendly and the third is breaching these dams," Johnston said. "These three options are still very much on the table."

For more information contact:

Chris Zimmer, Save Our Wild Salmon at 206.622-2904 x14
Bill Arthur, Sierra Club at 206.378.0114 x307
Jeff Curtis, Trout Unlimited at 503.827.5700 x11

**Seattle, WA**

Environmental groups criticize Seattle watershed preservation plan as inadequate

The Seattle, Washington, City Council voted Monday to ban commercial logging in the 90,500 acre Cedar River Watershed for the next 50 years. The unanimous vote marked a rare consensus between environmental and economic interests. Some aspects of the plan have created opposition from four environmental groups. Washington Trout, Friends of the Earth, and the Portland, Oregon based Native Fish Society and Wild Salmon Center have filed a joint administrative appeal challenging the scientific accuracy of the environmental impact statement on which the habitat conservation plan is based.

The groups say the salmon mitigation and river flow proposals in the plan fall far short of the preservation and restoration needs of wild salmon, particularly the Cedar River chinook, which will soon be listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The appeal cites concerns over fish mitigation measures including habitat protection and the sockeye hatchery, and whether the river flow allotted to fish is sufficient for their survival.

  • Lazaroff, Catherine, "Seattle votes to preserve watershed, but enviros want more," Environmental News Service, 16 July, 1999.


**Colorado River, CO**

Endangered Colorado pikeminnow stimulates restoration efforts

The endangered Colorado pikeminnow was pushed to the brink of extinction in the 1960s by Western dam-building and government efforts to poison and replace them with gamefish such as largemouth bass. Three decades later, federal officials are spending millions to help the rare fish swim around the river-blocking structures. The federal government built its first pikeminnow fish ladder in 1996 around the 8-foot Redlands Diversion Dam on the Gunnison River. One pikeminnow swam up the 300-foot-long ladder in 1996. Eighteen followed in 1997, and 23 more passed through last year. In addition to the endangered species, 27,000 other fish have used the passageway.

Sometime this fall, federal officials said they hope to start building another fish ladder, for $3.4 million, around the Highline Diversion Dam, known locally as the Roller Dam, on the Colorado upstream of Grand Junction. That ladder, combined with another $2 million federal plan to tear down an unused 10-foot structure called the Price-Stubb Dam, would open another 55 miles of river habitat to the migratory pikeminnow.

"If it reopens that habitat, it seems like money well spent,'' said Peter Evans, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which helps finance new dams in the state. "We'd like to see the fish benefit.'' Federal attempts to tear down the Price-Stubb Dam, which hasn't been used regularly by water users since the 1920s, have been complicated by a proposal to add a hydroelectric plant. That proposal remains unsettled. For more information on efforts to remove Price-Stubb Diversion Dam, contact Steve Glazer of the Sierra Club Colorado River Task Force at 970.349.6646.

**San Marcos River dam, TX**

Is dam removal or repair better for endangered species on the San Marcos River?

A group of environmentalists is calling for the removal of the dam on the San Marcos River that forms Spring Lake at Aquarena Center, claiming the dam serves no purpose and is a threat to endangered species. But Southwest Texas State University officials and state and federal authorities say the dam should be repaired, not demolished, to ensure the endangered species' survival.

The headwaters of the San Marcos River, where the dam is located, is habitat to endangered fountain darters, Texas wild rice, the San Marcos salamander, the Texas blind salamander and the Comal riffle beetle. The San Marcos gambusia, a small fish, also is listed as endangered, although it hasn't been found in the river for several years.

Bryan Anderson, a member of Earth First! and a signer of the letter to the EPA, noted SWT's efforts to transform Aquarena from a theme park to an educational facility. "By removing the dam, you would restore the river to its natural state," Anderson said. "They should at least study what the impact of removing the dam would be before they dismiss the idea."

  • Croteau, Roger, "Debate rages over demolition of dam," Express-News, 19 July, 1999.


**Yorkville dam, Fox River, IL**

Dam removal an alternative on the Fox River

The Fox River pours smoothly over the lip of the 5-foot-high concrete dam at Yorkville, but deadly currents there have drowned 13 people in the last 30 years. Circular currents, commonly called "rollers" or "keepers," swirl around the downstream side of dams with enough force to drown anyone caught there. In spite of the danger, a number of Yorkville residents and officials remain devoted to the 530-foot-long dam.

State officials are studying whether the Yorkville dam should be demolished and may make a decision early next year. A new Fox River management plan released last month by the Fox River Ecosystem Partnership, a quasi-governmental body, calls for reviewing all 15 dams on the waterway to determine which can be removed or at least modified to make them less dangerous and environmentally harmful.

Unlike states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Illinois has yet to remove any of its aging or obsolete dams, yet is beginning to take the first steps. A dam on Waubonsee Creek in Oswego is scheduled to be demolished this summer by the park district that owns it. "It's really a new thing for Illinois," said Steve Pescitelli, a streams biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which owns the Fox River dams.

**Ward Paper Mill Dam, Prairie River, WI**

Prairie River another huge step closer to recovery

On July 26, 1999, Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey D. Boldt granted the permit for the owner to abandon and remove the Ward Paper Mill Dam from the Prairie River in Merrill. Experts believe that removing the dam would restore the Prairie River and eliminate a safety hazard and a financial burden.

"The River Alliance is very pleased that Judge Boldt has approved the abandonment petition. The decision once again underscores that removal of the Ward Dam would improve the health of the river, create new wildlife habitat and restore the river to its natural state," said Stephanie Lindloff, Small Dams Program Coordinator for the River Alliance of Wisconsin. Local citizens have also expressed their desire to see the river restored.

"I'm hoping to see the dam removed, in order to restore the Prairie River to its free-flowing state. It should provide a significant improvement to the area as wildlife habitat, without diminishing its recreational value, and will remain an aesthetically beautiful feature for Merrill's north side," said Jeff Moore, City of Merrill resident.

For more information on this dam or river, or on small dam removal in Wisconsin, please contact Stephanie Lindloff of River Alliance of Wisconsin at, or call 608.257.2424.


**Rodman Dam, Ocklawaha River, FL**

Florida’s "deadbeat" dam

North Florida's Ocklawaha River is the largest tributary of the state's longest river, the St. Johns. Largely tree-canopied, the 78-mile-long Ocklawaha has long been regarded as one of Florida’s most beautiful waterways; providing valuable wildlife habitat, excellent fishing, and abundant recreation.

In 1968, the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Ocklawaha while constructing the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Rodman Dam flooded 16 miles of river, destroying 9,000 acres of the river and its floodplain forest. Rodman is truly a "deadbeat dam" having never served its purpose of moving barges across the state. It has virtually eliminated species like striped bass, shad, mullet and American eels from the river by blocking migratory paths. Presently, there is federal interest in Rodman Dam because part of it lies on US Forest Service land (the Ocala National Forest) and the structures have resulted in the death of endangered manatees.

Restoration of the Ocklawaha has been recommended in several scientific and economic studies and supported by most state and federal resource agencies. Restoration would recover 7,500 acres of floodplain forest habitat, a biologically rich but rapidly disappearing ecosystem. Taxpayers would save because maintaining Rodman's structures presently costs about $500,000 per year, and costs will increase with age. The engineered restoration plan is calculated at $9.4 to 12.4 million. So, with restoration, the taxpayer breaks even in about 20 years and the restored river would maintain itself at basically no cost.

For more information, or if you are interested in helping in the effort to save the Ocklawaha River, contact Florida Defenders of the Environment at or phone 352.378.8465.


More concerns over "Green" Hydro

Marketing of all hydroelectric power as "green" ignores the harmful environmental impact of dams on rivers, according to a recently released report by Public Citizen, one of the nation’s leading grassroots advocacy organizations promoting sound energy policy. The eight-page report, "Dammed Deregulation - How Deregulation of the Electric Power Industry Could Affect the Nation's Rivers"’ recommends that hydro power not be designated as renewable energy and that electricity retailers like Green should be prohibited from selling hydro power as "green" electricity.

Copies of the report can be found at:, or contact Charlie Higley at Public Citizen, 202.588.1000.