No. 13, November 30, 1999

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Owen Lammers


  • Relicensing opportunities could help stem tide of extinction
  • Battle Creek Restoration Project an unsettling compromise
  • O'Shaughnessy Dam--Repair or Restore?
  • Progress on Elwha Dam removal
  • Unsafe Keechelus Dam to be rebuilt
  • Corps of Engineers embroiled in Snake River controversy
  • Huge victory for Fossil Creek
  • City of Arvada to inherit 90-year-old Leyden Dam
  • Electric cooperative wants to buy Orienta Dam
  • Rhinelander Dam relicensing
  • Babbitt calls in the Marines


Relicensing opportunities could help stem tide of extinction

Fresh water species are the most endangered in North America and are dying out five times faster than those on land, according to a new study published in the October issue of Conservation Biology. Warning that the US could lose most of its freshwater species in the next century if nothing is done, one of the authors, Anthony Ricciardi of Dalhousie University (Halifax), said, "A silent mass extinction is occurring in our lakes and rivers." The authors called their estimates "conservative," and said that freshwater animals may be dying out as fast as rainforest species, considered by many to be the most imperiled on Earth.

Since 1900, at least 123 freshwater animal species have been recorded as extinct in North America, from snails to amphibians to fish. Many considered at risk are expected to disappear within the next century. At risk species account for almost half of the remaining 262 mussel species, one-third of the 336 crayfish species, 26 percent of remaining amphibians species, and 21 percent of remaining freshwater fish. The scientists identified the most serious threats as dams, introduction of non-native species, and pollution. The authors say that the relicensing of US dams is an opportunity to reduce the threat of extinction and re-establish natural flows in many rivers.

  • Kirby, Alex, "Extinction warning for freshwater species," BBC News, 5 October 1999.
  • "Mass Extinction of Freshwater Creatures Forecast," Environmental News Service, 4 October, 1999.


**Various dams, Battle Creek, CA**

Battle Creek Restoration Project an unsettling compromise

A plan to remove five dams in an effort to restore 42 miles of Northern California's Battle Creek was unveiled this month by Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the US Department of the Interior. The CALFED process successfully brought together the owner of the dams, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E); local landowners; the National Marine Fisheries Service; US Fish & Wildlife Service; US Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Fish & Game. However, several nonprofit river advocacy groups were deliberately excluded in the official process. These groups continued to fight to be included, but the end result does not adequately represent many of their concerns.

A serious flaw in the final plan is that Eagle Canyon Dam is not slated for removal. Conservationists believe this dam may be key to successful recovery of rare Chinook salmon and steelhead. Instead, Eagle Canyon Dam will be fitted with $2 million worth of screens and fish ladders, measures that may not adequately prevent fish kills or facilitate access to crucial habitat. Also receiving ladders and screens are Inskip and North Battle Creek Feeder dams. These measures, along with removal of Wildcat, Coleman, South, Lower Ripley Creek, and Soap Creek dams, will primarily be paid for by taxpayers.

This is an especially dangerous precedent because it represents a potential disincentive for dam removal, says Steve Evans, Conservation Director for Friends of the River. "Often an owner opts to remove a dam because doing so is considerably cheaper than complying with environmental regulations," Evans explains. PG&E's only contribution to financing the restoration measures will be a loss of $20 million in revenues from electricity. The benefits of restoring Battle Creek are vast, and as Evans enthusiastically acknowledges, "this plan is a great first step." However, flaws in this agreement vividly illustrates the need for inclusionary planning and financing mechanisms that require dam owners to be held responsible for measures that prevent them from devastating river systems.

For more information contact Steve Evans, Conservation Director of Friends of the River, at 916.442.3155 ext. 221, or e-mail him at

Excellent project details are available on-line at

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

O'Shaughnessy Dam--Repair or Restore?

Economic arguments to restore the valley what John Muir called "more beautiful than Yosemite itself" got a boost last month when the city of San Francisco announced that it would cost $2.3 billion to properly repair and seismically retrofit the 76 year old dam and water transport system. San Francisco and several nearby communities receive water from the reservoir, and are in the process of determining how to finance these repairs. Restoration advocates are quick to point out that the Tuolumne River system already has more than enough water storage capacity in other reservoirs to meet existing water supply needs, thus the dam should be decommissioned.

The major barrier, however, is that unlike all other major cities in the country, San Francisco does not have water treatment facilities because of the high quality of water coming directly from Hetch Hetchy. Were water to come from other reservoirs along the Tuolumne, treatment plants would need to be built. Additionally, because San Francisco also receives approximately $30 million per year in revenues from electricity generated by the reservoir, it is reluctant to support restoration. However, this $2.3 billion estimate for repairs may be sufficient to cover the cost of treatment facilities and investments that could yield revenues equivalent to the electricity sales.

For more information contact Ron Good, Chair of the Sierra Club's Hetch Hetchy Restoration Task Force, P.O. Box 289, Yosemite, CA 95389; 209.372.8785; e-mail:


**Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, Elwha River, Washington**

Progress on Elwha Dam removal

The federal government is expected to purchase two dams on the Elwha River by the end of February and immediately begin planning how to demolish them under an agreement reached between the Clinton administration and congressional negotiators. Three key political players -- Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt -- have agreed to a plan that clears the way for removal of at least one of the Olympic Peninsula dams. The two Elwha River dams are owned by James River Inc. and supply electrical power to a Daishowa America paper mill in Port Angeles that, with 300 employees, is the largest employer in Clallam County. Dam removal was authorized by Congress in 1992 in an effort to restore diminished salmon runs on the Elwha River, but the project has been stymied by a host of political and financing problems.

While Shawn Cantrell of the environmental group Friends of the Earth noted that, "this is a significant breakthrough after a lot of frustrating years,"still unresolved is whether just the lower Elwha Dam will come out, as Gorton wants, or both the Elwha and the Glines Canyon Dam, as Dicks and Babbitt want. And Congress has yet to come up with the money for removal, which could run as high as $110 million for both dams. "This has been going on for so long, it's hard to believe anything anybody says," said Russell Hepfer, chairman of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, which traces its creation to the river. "When the law first came out from Congress, everybody was excited, but it's been seven years. Now we've got to wait and see if it happens."

**Keechelus Dam, Yakima River, WA**

Unsafe Keechelus Dam to be rebuilt

Building a new dam downstream to replace decaying Keechelus Dam on the Yakima River would cost $52 million, but the US Bureau of Reclamation says it has a new, less-costly alternative that it will study for the next three months. The alternative calls for rebuilding at the site of the existing dam and could cost $10 million less. Most of the savings would come from using less fill material and reusing the existing water release tunnel and gatehouse.

The earthen Keechelus Dam, completed in 1917, was found last year to have more than 40 voids -- or soft spots -- believed to be the result of rotting construction timbers that were left inside the structure. Since the voids were discovered, the Bureau has considered building a new dam downstream, rebuilding on the existing site, or making no structural changes at the dam and cutting back further on water storage. The initial rebuilding options would have damaged wetlands and trees. The new alternative wouldn't do that kind of damage, which would save money in mitigation costs, said Jim Mumford, the regional program manager for the Bureau's dam safety program in Boise, Idaho.

The federal government would pay 85 percent of the repair costs, with basin irrigation districts responsible for the remaining 15 percent. None of the alternatives proposed by the agencies would include construction of fish ladders. The existing dam includes no way for salmon or steelhead to migrate upstream.

  • "Building alternative examined for dam: Keechelus proposal may save $10 million," Associated Press, 19 November, 1999.

**Lower Snake River dams, WA**

Corps of Engineers embroiled in Snake River controversy

The US Army Corps of Engineers, who's logo was improperly used in an advertisement opposing breaching of the four Lower Snake River dams, now says an early draft of a $20 million study it's conducting won't include a recommendation, as had been expected. The corps' environmental impact statement looks at three options for operating the four dams in Washington: making no changes; making major changes; or breaching the dams as a salmon-saving strategy. A draft of the study is scheduled for release next month. At hearings throughout the Inland Northwest last year, Corps officials repeatedly said the draft would recommend one of the three options. That would give area residents plenty to talk about during hearings scheduled for early next year. The hearings are still planned, but the Corps of Engineers won't recommend a course of action until they're over, said Col. Eric Mogren, the agency's regional deputy director.

The Corps' delay is drawing fire from people on both sides of the debate. Some say it smacks of politics -- a suspicion fed by the fact that Westphal is a political appointee who was nominated by President Clinton. Michelle DeHart, director of the Fish Passage Center, contends the bulk of the scientific evidence supports breaching or equally radical solutions like strict restrictions on grazing, logging, and irrigation. That's something politicians wouldn't want to hear before the November 2000 elections, she said. "What's missing here is not biology, it's courage," said DeHart, whose agency is comprised of biologists from Northwest states and tribes with treaty fishing rights. "It's all about standing around, looking for someone else to take the lead."


**Childs and Irving dams, Fossil Creek, AZ**

Huge victory for Fossil Creek

APS (Arizona Public Service Company) and several environmental groups have reached an agreement to close and decommission the company's Childs-Irving hydroelectric plant in central Arizona and restore full flow to Fossil Creek. Under the terms of the agreement, the stream's full flows will be returned to the creek by December 31, 2004. Restoration work may take another five years to complete and will include removal of some or all the structures, stabilizing and rehabilitating disturbed areas and restoration of affected riparian communities. The parties will reach a final agreement on the scope of the restoration work by July 1, 2000. The agreement will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), where a renewal application for the plant's 30-year-old operating license has been pending since 1991.

Robin Silver, Conservation Chair of the Center for Biological Diversity, said, "This is a historic agreement for Arizona. In the foreseeable future, Fossil Creek will provide the only year-round water in the entire Verde River drainage. We are grateful that APS has joined forces with the environmental community to return full flows to Fossil Creek." APS was also motivated to "join forces" with conservationists to avoid potential negative publicity associated with a demonstration organized by the Center for Biological Diversity that was scheduled for November 18, 1999. The joint press release announcing the breakthrough deal was presented on November 17, 1999.


Lisa Force, Center for Biological Diversity, 602.246.6498

Jim McDonald, APS, 602.250.3704
Craig Nesbit, APS, 602.250.2896
Mindy Schlimgen-Wilson, American Rivers, 602.234.3946
Christine Conte, The Nature Conservancy: Arizona Chapter 520.622.3861
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter, 602.253.8633
Frank Brandt, Northern Arizona Audubon Society, 520.779.3855

Visit American Rivers' Web site for extensive information on Fossil Creek ( including the Agreement in Principle (

**Leyden Dam, Leyden Creek, CO**

City of Arvada to inherit 90-year-old Leyden Dam

A deal to transfer ownership of the Leyden Dam and Reservoir to the city of Arvada is near. The dam and reservoir are owned by Westminster, Arvada, Thornton, Coors Brewing Co., Black Hawk, and Central City through shares they hold in Farmer's Highline Canal and Reservoir Co. Under the terms of the deal, which still is pending, Westminster would purchase the dam and reservoir from the Farmer's Highline group, then transfer ownership of the property to Arvada. Arvada and Urban Drainage flood-control district would lower the dam to a safe level, a level that also would qualify for an exemption from state review. Two additional concerns remain to be resolved: indemnification for Arvada should flooding or construction problems occur during the renovation of the dam; and possible cost-overruns that might occur during the project, said Craig Kocian, Arvada city manager.

Westminster, which owns 49 percent of the canal company, has tentatively agreed to purchase the property from its partners for about $900,000 and contribute another $200,000 to the cost of repairing the dam, estimated at $1.2 million. Arvada would contribute about $400,000 to the dam-repair project and Urban Drainage would contribute about $600,000. The county said there no longer is a viable natural stream bed below the dam and that years of silt accumulated behind the dam could rush downstream during a flash flood, threatening property, lives, and streets. Homes, roads, and a school have been built in the flood plain since the reservoir was built in 1909.


Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference in Chicago

The 61st Annual Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference will be held in Chicago on December 5-8. The program includes an extensive dam removal and fish passage symposium coordinated by Paul Kanehl. The Conference is being hosted by the following parties: Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Illinois Chapter of the The Wildlife Society, University of Illinois, Western Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, and the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. This will be a tremendous opportunity for academic, advocacy, and agency professionals to share their information and experiences.

Visit the Conference home page at:

To view the details of the dam removal and fish passage symposium, visit:

**Orienta Dam, Iron River, Wisconsin**

Electric cooperative wants to buy Orienta Dam

An electric cooperative is negotiating with Northern States Power Co. to obtain the Orienta Dam on Wisconsin's Iron River, which is slated for demolition next summer. The Bayfield Electric Cooperative Board of Directors voted last week to approach the Minneapolis-based utility about purchasing the dam, which produced up to 800 kilowatts of power for NSP until a 1985 storm damaged the earthen part of the dam.

The Save Iron River Association alleges that "The main reason for keeping the dam is to save the river system from being overwhelmed by exotics,'' said association member Mike Gellerman of Port Wing. Bayfield Cooperative will contact the Department of Natural Resources to see what would it require for the cooperative to take over the dam. DNR water program supervisor Ted Smith said the department does not have an agenda to get all dams removed.

"But if they're not being productively used we would like to see them come out,'' Smith said. Trout and salmon numbers in Wisconsin's waters of Lake Superior could increase 29 percent if those fish could spawn in the Iron River, a DNR report says. If the Iron River dam is removed, a barrier to prevent fish from swimming upstream would be installed on the river, Smith said.

**Rhinelander Dam, Wisconsin River, WI**

Rhinelander Dam relicensing

Decisions being made regarding the future of the Rhinelander Mills Hydroelectric Dam must be made with all of the facts and not based on the disinformation currently being put forth by the Wausau - Mosinee Paper Corporation. Currently, the company is seeking to relicense the Rhinelander Dam, which is on the Wisconsin River in Rhinelander. The River Alliance is concerned about several inflammatory statements the company has made, including the assertions that the notion of removing Rhinelander Dam is absurd, the economics don't support it, and that the dam is in good repair. "We feel confident that a negotiated settlement can be reached that will improve the health of the river," said Todd Ambs, Executive Director of the River Alliance. "That can only happen though, if the company will sit down and talk in good faith."

For more information contact Stephanie Lindloff with the River Alliance of Wisconsin at 608.257.2424.

  • "Facts needed in Rhinelander Dam relicensing case," River Alliance of Wisconsin Press Release, 11 November, 1999.


**Rains Mill Dam, Little River, NC**

Babbitt calls in the Marines

On December 1, on the Little River (a tributary to Neuse River that flows into Pimlico Sound), Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will light a fuse, then count down the final seconds before the Rains Mill Dam is reduced to rubble by explosives carefully set by munitions experts of the U.S. Marines. Removal of the dam will restore access to at least 49 miles of migratory fish spawning habitat, improve water quality by restoring natural flow to the river, and restore habitat for two endangered mussels - the dwarf wedge mussel and tar spiny mussel.

Video footage with sound will be made available on the Dept. of the Interior Web site after the event: