No. 10, August 23, 1999

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Sarah Minick


  • Water regulation sparks controversy across Australia
  • Residents seek legal help to oppose Lang Ranch dam project
  • U.S. Department of Interior study may bring Matilija Dam a step closer to removal
  • Stakeholder meeting an important step for Yuba River
  • Carmel River facing old and new dangers
  • Alphonso Dam removed
  • Will Roslyn Lake be maintained even after dam removal?
  • Congress urges Clinton to keep all options open on the Snake
  • Senator Gorton advised to reassess his stand on the Snake
  • Arizona hopes Fossil Creek Dam will be the next to go
  • New Jersey dam in disrepair, lake drained
  • Politician champions Embrey Dam removal
  • Final blow to Edwards Dam celebrated by American Rivers' "Rivers Unplugged" campaign


**Mitchell River, Bairnsdale, Victoria**

Water regulation sparks controversy across Australia

At a water meeting in Bairnsdale in southeastern Australia in late July, discussion topics ran the gamut from water rights, to taxation, to irrigation efficiency. The meeting, attended by nearly 200 people, was called to discuss the possibility of damming the Mitchell River, the last significant wild river flowing into Gippsland Lakes. Not surprisingly, water is a hot topic in arid Australia, where rivers and reservoirs have been shrinking steadily due to three consecutive dry winters.

As farmers struggle to irrigate enough water to maintain their crops, tensions about how water should be distributed increase. Many rural property owners claim that they should have the final say about how water passing over their land is used, but this leads to conflicts with water agencies. The authorities maintain that all water, including water found on private property and rainwater, must be regulated so that distribution is fair to the population at large, especially downstream users, and to the environment.

With fish stocks decreasing, pollutant concentrations and erosion increasing, disruption of vegetation and animal migration on riparian corridors, and a host of other problems caused by reduced river flows, the government believes that water must be strictly regulated. Along with strict regulation, improved efficiency is the key to solving water shortage problems. Replacing the Mallee channel, which loses 60 percent of its water to evaporation and leaks, with a closed pipeline, is one project that exemplifies more efficient water distribution practices. Water authorities are hoping that with good management they will be able to rise to the challenge of balancing the demands of property owners and satisfy the needs of entire communities at the same time.


**Lang Ranch Project, Lang Creek, CA**

Residents seek legal help to oppose Lang Ranch dam project

The Lang Ranch dam project, proposed by the city of Thousand Oaks, the Ventura County Flood Control District, and developers, has met with strong opposition from local homeowners. The project is meant to provide flood protection for the Lang Ranch housing development, but opponents point out that the project will destroy a Chumash Indian cemetery, raze and old oak tree grove, and disturb local wildlife. Opponents also feel that residents will be forced to pay for the project though they were not properly informed of the proposal when they moved into the area. Residents have hired attorney Ed Masry to give their anti-dam efforts an extra boost. Masry is not only focusing on the environmental impacts of the Lang Creek project, but is also investigating the funding of the proposal’s tax-exempt bonds, called Mello-Roos taxes. He is concerned that the county may be withholding information from residents about the funding for the proposal. Masry and his clients say they are willing to take the matter to court to prevent the building of the dam.

**Matilija Dam, Matilija Creek, CA**

U.S. Department of Interior study may bring Matilija Dam a step closer to removal

U.S. Department of Interior, along with state officials and representatives from Ventura County, came together last month to plan and launch a study that will determine the cost and feasibility of removing Matilija Dam. The 51-year old dam has an estimated 6.1 million cubic yards of sediment accumulated behind it, making it unable to fulfill its intended function of flood control. Critical questions that the study will address include whether the dam should be completely removed, or just breached, how Matilija Creek should be diverted during the breaching process, and what should be done with the debris that will come from destroying the dam. Officials are most concerned about the cost and feasibility of removing the huge mass of sediment from behind the dam. The study, tentatively scheduled to be complete in September of 2000, will put a price tag on dam removal. An accurate estimate is something that has eluded previous studies, which have turned in numbers ranging from $3 million to $82 million.

Proponents of dam removal believe that one of the most important benefits of allowing the Matilija to flow freely is the habitat it would provide for the endangered steelhead trout. Furthermore, a return to natural flow rates would allow sediments to reach beaches, thereby acting as a buffer against erosion while at the same time benefiting tourism by replenishing beach sand. Though proponents of dam removal see this study as a step in the right direction, they realize that it doesn’t indicate that dam removal will be the chosen solution. When the study is complete and the cost is clear, the question will remain – how can the removal of the Matilija dam be funded?

For more information contact Ed Henke of Historical Research at 541.482.9578.

**Englebright Dam, Yuba River, CA**

Stakeholder meeting an important step for Yuba River

The potential removal of Englebright Dam on the South Fork of the Yuba River is progressing steadily. CALFED, a state-federal agency focusing on the restoration and water management of the Bay-Delta System, began a stakeholder collaborative process this May, which will determine the fate of Englebright Dam and the South Fork of the Yuba River. The Yuba River is a major watercourse flowing into the Bay-Delta System.

The three stakeholder groups interested in the future of Englebright Dam include: state/federal natural resource agencies, environmental/angler groups, and land/business owners around Englebright reservoir along with residents of downstream communities. These groups met with CALFED to propose a list of studies that will determine the impacts and feasibility of introducing Chinook salmon and steelhead to the upper Yuba River above Englebright Dam. The studies will most likely focus on the following: quality of upstream habitat and its potential to support the Chinook salmon and Steelhead, flood control issues, mercury stored behind the dam, power generation, recreation, property values, impacts to the local economy and coastal fishing industry, and water supply.

Friends of the River and the South Yuba River Citizen’s League (SYRCL), along with other environmental groups, support the lowering or removal of Englebright dam because it would open up miles of habitat for Steelhead and Chinook salmon. In fact, the amount of potential fish habitat above and below Englebright dam is greater than any other river in the state. Therefore, the modification or removal of Englebright dam is an incredible opportunity to restore critical habitat for fish species rapidly moving toward extinction.

For more information, please contact:

**San Clemente Dam, Carmel River, CA**

Carmel River facing old and new dangers

The Carmel River is severely threatened by dams and sprawl provoked by burgeoning local communities and their demand for scarce water resources. The San Clemente Dam, built to store as much as 2000 cubic feet of water, currently provides less than one-tenth of its original storage capacity. Migrating fish, such as the threatened steelhead, have trouble climbing the highest fish ladder in California, at 85-feet tall.

A $13 million plan has been developed for the owner, the California American Water Company (Cal-Am), to "earthquake retrofit" the dam, identified as vulnerable to earthquake damage by the California Division of Safety of Dams. The National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as local organizations and individuals, oppose the retrofit and support removing the dam instead. Dam removal may improve steelhead access to spawning grounds, help replenish downstream sediment, and improve streamside ecosystems, as well as avoid risks of dam failure in an earthquake.

Cal-Am also proposes the building of a new dam, widely opposed by local voters, which would further jeopardize the health of this endangered river. For the past four years, Citizens for Alternative Water Solutions (CAWS) has been galvanizing a coalition of groups, including the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters and a number of local civic and political leaders. CAWS wants a comprehensive water management plan for the area that takes into consideration all possible alternatives to the dam--water supply options that would be both user-friendly and environmentally responsible.

For more information on the San Clemente Dam contact George Boehlert at 831.648.8447, or e-mail him at To discuss the proposed Carmel River dam, contact Citizens for Alternative Water Solutions at 831.659.8108. You can also visit American Rivers 10 Most Endangered Rivers of 1999, and their discussion of the threats to the Carmel River at


**Alphonso Dam, Evans Creek, OR**

Alphonso Dam removed

Removal of the 10-foot-high Alphonso Dam from the east fork of Evans Creek has opened 12 miles of spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead and native cutthroat trout as well as coho, said U.S. Bureau of Land Management biologist Jayne LeFors. Homesteaders built the dam in the 1890s to provide water for their fields, but over the years the concrete of the structure crumbled and the pool behind it filled with rocks and silt.

The Rogue Flyfishers club built a fish ladder over the dam in the 1970s, but there was often too little water flowing through the ladder or too much water flowing over the dam, said LeFors. BLM spent three years working with other state and federal agencies preparing for the removal and spending $55,000 on the job, and is now working with another property owner to remove a small diversion dam on a tributary of Evans Creek. Although it is on private property, federal law allows public funds to be spent on the project if it will benefit public lands.

**Marmot and Little Sandy Dams, Sandy River, OR**

Will Roslyn Lake be maintained even after dam removal?

Roslyn Lake has been a destination for anglers, boaters, swimmers, and picnickers for over 90 years, and small businesses have grown up around its hatchery and fish sorting facility. The lake is fed by water diverted from the Little Sandy River by two dams; the Marmot and the Little Sandy. When PG&E announced in May that the dams would be removed, supporters of Roslyn Lake began to weigh their options. Surprisingly, they do not appear to be fighting dam removal. Instead, they are seeking solutions based on the idea that the dam will definitely be removed. Some believe that even without water diverted from the dams, it would be feasible to maintain a smaller, deeper lake using water from natural springs and from a pump in the Bull River. This option would shrink the lake, which currently covers 160 acres, down to about 50 acres. Anglers and recreationalists feel that a 50-acre lake is small enough to be easily maintained, but large enough to sustain the type of recreation that Roslyn Lake is famous for.

Along with the question of the fate of the lake, there comes a conflict between wild fish advocates, who would like to see the hatchery and fish sorting facility shut down, and sport anglers, who are pushing for maintaining the program.

The city of Sandy sees the change as an opportunity to provide outdoor recreation for its citizens. When PG&E relinquishes ownership, members of the Sandy City Council hope to see the area turned into a park which would serve the entire region.

For more information, contact Harry Esteve at 503.294.5972 or send an email to

  • Esteve, Harry. "Supporters rally to preserve lake, fishing: PG&E's plans to remove two dams is inspiring efforts to save Roslyn Lake and a hatchery program that stocks the Sandy River", The Oregonian, 2 August 1999. Read the complete article at:

**Snake River, WA**

Congress urges Clinton to keep all options open on the Snake

Conflict over the four dams on the Lower Snake River continues as the Army Corps of Engineers nears completion of its five-year, $20 million study exploring three options to protect endangered salmon in the Snake River. The options are to do nothing, to restructure the dams to facilitate fish passage, or the remove the dams. Congress showed its support for considering all options explored by the Army Corps of Engineers study on the Snake River, including dam removal. Their support, expressed in a letter signed by more than 100 members of Congress, was a response to a resolution passed by the House Resources Committee that opposed considering dam removal as an option to restore endangered salmon in the Snake River ecosystem.

Senator Gorton advised to reassess his stand on the Snake

The August 9, 1999 Seattle Times editorial echoed views held by Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) that the proposal to breach four dams on the Snake River has little chance of success due to its potential for harming the economy of the northwest, its lack of political support, and its doubtful scientific basis. The feasibility of dam breaching aside, the fact remains that the salmon population on the Snake is in rapid decline, and northwesterners have a strong economic and emotional tie to this valued regional resource. With this in mind, the Times writer points out that Gorton’s adamant refusal to consider dam breaching, and his preclusion of other options represents a political misstep. Gorton would be wise, the Times says, to turn his attention to other options to address the safety of salmon in the Snake.


**Childs-Irving Hydroelectric Project, Fossil Creek, AZ**

Arizona hopes Fossil Creek Dam will be the next to go

The dismantling of the Edwards Dam on Maine’s Kennebec River earlier this month is an encouraging precedent for dam removal proponents nation-wide. In Arizona, the Childs-Irving Hydroelectric Project on Fossil Creek is up for reauthorization. Many hope that the dam, which diverts 95 percent of Fossil Creek’s spring water out of the creek, will not be relicensed.

For more information, contact Shane Jimerfield at the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity at 520.623.5252, or visit their web page at

  • The Arizona Daily Star, August 1999


**Yorkville dam, West Milford, NJ**

New Jersey dam in disrepair, lake drained

The state of New Jersey has been draining West Milford Lake since April because its earthen dam might not be able to withstand a heavy rainfall and the lake's owner, the West Milford Lake Country Club, can't afford the needed repairs. About 275 bass, catfish, sunfish, crappies, perch, and other fish were relocated to Green Turtle Lake in the Wanaque Wildlife Management Area on July 27. A subsequent effort brought the total to nearly 1000 fish rescued, reports Robert Papson, a regional biologist heading the project for the New Jersey Department of Fish, Game, and Wildlife.

The state had pressured the club since 1980 to enlarge the lake's spillway to better handle runoff from heavy rainfalls. But the Country Club's membership has dwindled, and no one has stepped forward to assume responsibility for the estimated $500,000 worth of repairs. A Superior Court judge in November ordered the lake drained if the repairs were not done by April. Once 11 acres, the lake now covers only a few acres; the rest is mud and dirt. And where it once was 12 feet deep, the water is no more than four feet deep and continues to drop. Still, a small group of community residents is working to raise money for the needed repairs, with the understanding that the lake could be refilled.

  • Lovett Kenneth, "Fish are rescued as lake is drained," Bergen Record, 28 July 1999.

**Embrey Dam, Rappahannock River, Virginia**

Politician champions Embrey Dam removal

With the help of American Rivers' legislative expertise, John Tippett of Virginia's Friends of the Rappahannock was able to unearth a dam removal opportunity buried in the second phase of an Army Corps of Engineers' 4-phase study. The Corps of Engineers was mired in the feasibility portion of an examination of Rappahannock River Basin restoration, and facing a 7-year estimated timeline for completion.

Luckily, Senator John Warner (R-VA) decided to adopt Embrey Dam removal as a cause to champion after fishing with Tippett below the dam. The senator was able to attach stipulations for Embrey Dam removal to the 1999 version of the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes new projects and sets policy for the Corps of Engineers. WRDA 1999, which passed at the beginning of August 1999, stipulates the removal of Embrey Dam at full federal expense, authorizing $10 million, and demands that the Corps use existing studies to the extent possible to streamline the process.

"We are thrilled that Senator Warner has shortened the timeline for the removal of the Embrey Dam. It is wonderful news for the Rappahannock," states Margaret Bowman, Senior Director of Dam Programs for American Rivers. This development illustrates that dam removal is not a partisan issue, but rather an opportunity to make common sense decisions to restore our rivers.

For more information contact John Tippett of the Friends of the Rappahannock at 540.373.3448, or e-mail him at

**Edwards Dam, Kennebec River, ME**

Final blow to Edwards Dam celebrated by American Rivers' "Rivers Unplugged" campaign

Work on the removal of Edwards Dam is continuing smoothly, reports Steve Brooke of the Kennebec Coalition. On the morning of August 12th, a new 200-foot breach was opened at the east end of the dam. This was a major step in the removal process and was accomplished on schedule. The east side of the Kennebec, where the Edwards Dam once stood, is now in its final configuration. The shore along the historic navigational lock, which was part of the original 1837 construction of the Edwards Dam, is protected with stone from the dam. The new opening on the east side of the river created what may well be the final drawdown of the Edwards impoundment.

In the days leading up to the removal of Edwards Dam, American Rivers and Trout Unlimited released a draft of a joint report entitled "Dam Removal Success Stories: Restoring Rivers through Selective Removal of Dams that Don’t Make Sense." The report, whose final release is this fall, provides numerous examples of dams that have been successfully removed, demonstrating that dam removal is a cost-effective way to restore rivers and revitalize local communities.

The "Dam Removal Success Stories" report is just one piece of American Rivers’ ongoing "Rivers Unplugged" campaign, which focuses on identifying and removing dams that don’t make sense. In addition to communicating the benefits of dam removal with vehicles like this success stories report, American Rivers is also engaging in individual and regional dam removal campaigns, providing hands-on assistance to governmental and non-governmental organizations, promoting dam removal financing and other policy reforms, and developing and distributing resource materials.

For more information on American Rivers’ Rivers Unplugged campaign, and to view the Success Stories report, visit or contact Matt Sicchio at 202-347-7550, or by e-mail at