No. 2, November 20, 1998

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Rani Derasary


  • Action alert! Help required to restore the Eel River
  • California dams for sale
  • Activists call for Matilija Dam to fall
  • Dissent and controversy reign in Snake River dam removal fight
  • Responses to scientific dam-breaching study
  • Another small dam to come down in Oregon
  • Irrigation District punished for failing to work to remove Savage Rapids Dam
  • Maisons-Rouges Dam demolished in France
  • Salmon return to the Elbe Rive
  • Major Magazines Profile Dam Decommissioning
  • Living Rivers Welcomes 5 New Members


**Potter Valley Project, Eel River**

Action alert! Help required to restore the Eel River

On October 10, the United States Department of Interior recommended that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) immediately increase the amount of water released into the Eel River at Pacific Gas and Electric's (PG&E's) Potter Valley Project (PVP). For years, the majority of the Eel's water has been diverted into the Russian River at PVP, creating a critical situation for native fisheries.

Friends of the Eel River is urging concerned citizens to write FERC and request emergency flow increases and the eventual decommissioning of the diversionary dams at the PG&E Potter Valley Project. Letters must be addressed as follows: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Attn: Secretary David P. Boergers, 888 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20426, Re: Project #77-110. (Letters which are not addressed to Mr. Boergers, or which lack the project number, will not be recorded.)

  • "Department of Interior Wants Water Returned to Eel River," Press Release, 27 October 1998. Contact: Friends of the Eel River, 707.923.2146; e-mail:

**Pacific Gas & Electric 94-Dam System**

California dams for sale

The world's largest privately held hydropower asset may soon be put up for sale. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on November 16 that Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has begun attempts to transfer its 94-dam system to new hands. Viewed as the "jewel" of private power generation in the West, the system is currently responsible for 15 percent of California's energy generation. Hydropower's peaking capabilities, combined with a growing public willingness to pay a premium for what it believes to be "clean" energy, is causing hydropower facilities to fetch 3-4 times the price per installed kilowatt of their fossil fuel-burning counterparts.

**Matilija Dam, Matilija Creek**

Activists call for Matilija Dam to fall

On October 31, the Los Angeles Times reported on the growing movement to decommission the obsolete and dangerous Matilija Dam which plugs a tributary of the Ventura River. Activists are calling on the Ventura County supervisors to tear down this dam, which has been identified by the National Marine Fisheries Service as an impediment to the recovery of the severely endangered Southern Steelhead fishery. The dam has been plagued with near failures over the decades of its existence, and currently serves no functional beneficial purpose. It's clearly time for the structure to be torn down and the stream restored.

Mr. Ed Henke, a historical researcher and Ventura native, is leading the Matilija Dam decommissioning campaign. For further information on how to become involved please phone him at: 541.482.9578. California Trout (415.392.8887), Friends of the Ventura River, and Friends of the Santa Clara River (805.498.4323) are also supporting this proposal.

  • "Pressure is Rising to Remove Matilija Dam," Los Angeles Times, 31 October 1998.


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

Dissent and controversy reign in Snake River dam removal fight

Leaders of industries and labor unions whose livelihoods are tied to the Snake River told the US Army Corps of Engineers on November 9 that they flatly oppose breaching dams to help endangered salmon. 300 people packed the hotel conference room where the Corps held its most comprehensive discussion yet about dam removal in Lewiston, Idaho.

At the same time, a coalition of groups who want the four dams breached to restore salmon runs is circulating petitions and claims to have gathered as many as 4,800 signatures. The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition hopes to collect 15,000 signatures by next spring. In the recent November 3 election, they had the support of 29 candidates in Idaho. Meanwhile, opponents of dam breaching are circulating petitions of their own. US Representative George Nethercutt, a Washington Republican, is among those who have signed. Retiring Governor Phil Batt and his likely successor, Republican Senator Dirk Kempthorne, oppose breaching, as do the other three members of the state's congressional delegation.

Responses to scientific dam-breaching study

As reported in the last edition of River Revival, a study released by the Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC), a Portland-based conservation group, concluded that breaching the lower Snake River dams would result in a net economic benefit to the region of $86.7 million. Since that time, a panel of eight independent economists reported to the Northwest Power Planning Council that the study underestimated the cost of replacing the lost hydropower. According to the ONRC study, $164 million in annual costs for salmon recovery could be avoided if the dams were breached; the economists called this is a mistaken assumption, and stated that while some money would be saved, the amount would not be that high.

University of Washington economist Daniel Huppert commented that both sides in the dam-breaching debate should wait for a long-anticipated study by the Army Corps of Engineers, to be released next year which may prove more comprehensive and accurate than any conducted so far. According to Huppert, Philip Lansing, who did the economic analysis for ONRC's study, not only allegedly underestimated the cost of replacing electricity generated at the Snake River dams, he also did not take into account the "social costs'' in terms of pollution and illnesses that could result if fuel-burning power plants replace the dams. Huppert added that there may be economic benefits of dam removal that aren't addressed in Lansing's study. For instance, Lansing did not put a value on the salmon that may return to the river if the dams are removed. Nor did Lansing try to weigh the value of current recreation on the river against the recreation that might be drawn to a free-flowing river with healthy salmon runs. Lansing, who also spoke before the Council, defended his study and noted that Huppert did not attack his conclusion "that the dams are major money losers.''

  • "Dam-breaching debate is a signature event: Both sides push for support as hearing dates approach," The Spokesman-Review, 28 October 1998.
  • "Fish finish 2nd to jobs in Lewiston: Breaching dams criticized at federal hearing," The Spokesman-Review, 10 November 1998.
  • "Lewiston's port aghast at proposal to kill dams: Unions, the port and farmers say the human cost of the corps' plan -- 1,720 jobs and a lost way of life -- is just unthinkable," The Oregonian, 10 November 1998.
  • "Panel raps dam-breaching study: Economists say conservationists underestimated the cost of replacing hydropower," The Oregonian, 6 November 1998.
  • "Pro-breaching study flawed, economists say. Panel advises waiting for study by corps," The Spokesman-Review, 10 November 1998.
  • Visit the following URL to register your comments on the story:

**Little Sandy Dam, Little Sandy River, Oregon**

Another small dam to come down in Oregon

The city of Portland and Portland General Electric are working on an agreement to remove a 92-year-old dam on the Little Sandy River to help steelhead habitat. Steelhead were declared a threatened species in the lower Columbia watershed in March. Officials hope to see the dam demolished within the next 18 months. This would be the second dam to come down in Oregon, as demolition on a small dam on Bear Creek in Medford began in July.

**Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, Oregon**

Irrigation District punished for failing to work to remove Savage Rapids Dam

On November 6, the Oregon Water Resource Commission canceled a water rights permit for the Grants Pass Irrigation District for not pursuing due diligence in removing the Savage Rapids Dam as specified in their previous permit. According to Bob Hunter of WaterWatch of Oregon, this represents the first time the State of Oregon has canceled such a permit for non-compliance, and represents a positive step in the campaign to get the dam removed. Activists want to see the dam removed to restore salmon and steelhead runs.

For more information contact: WaterWatch of Oregon, 503.295.4039, e-mail:


** Maisons-Rouges Dam, Vienne River, France**

Maisons-Rouges Dam demolished in France

The Vienne River, the second most important tributary of the Loire River, is flowing freely again in the area where it was, until recently, blocked by the Maisons-Rouges Dam. The demolition of this 3.8-meter-high, 60-meter-long dam is almost complete and the Vienne has regained its 1923 pre-dam level. The demolition of both Maisons-Rouges Dam and Saint-Etienne-du-Vigan Dam (taken down in June 1998), the construction of an efficient fish ladder on the Vichy Dam, and other efforts undertaken to improve small obstacles to salmon migration, all indicate that "The Plan Loire Grandeur Nature," a program inspired by the Loire Vivante network to save the Loire and Allier salmon, is clearly under way.

**Elbe River, Germany/Czech Republic**

Salmon return to the Elbe River

Fifty-one years after the last salmon disappeared from the Elbe River, about 30 salmon measuring between 60 and 70 centimeters were seen on a tributary of the river, located between Dresden and the Czech frontier, in the Saxonian state. After examination of four specimens, it was confirmed that they were indeed salmon that had been released in the Elbe since 1996, as part of the "Elbe-Salmon 2000" program. This first success demonstrates, if necessary, that little is needed for salmon to return: no or few dams and a fairly clean river!

The goals are now to continue improving water quality and reintroduce salmon in other tributaries of the Elbe in Germany and in the Czech Republic. The question will then be the decommissioning of small or medium-sized dams, which keep salmon from migrating up many streams and sterilize hundreds of hectares of spawning grounds. Following the example of the demolition of the Saint-Etienne-du-Vigan and Maisons-Rouges dams on the Loire basin in France, the Saxonian state's Agency for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Living Elbe coalition have already asked that some dams be dismantled to open up their ancient spawning grounds to salmon.


Major Magazines Profile Dam Decommissioning

Smithsonian Magazine

The November 1998 issue of Smithsonian discusses "The Battle of the Dams," including mention of fights throughout the Pacific Northwest, the Ocklawaha in Florida and Lake Powell in Arizona. The full story (brief) is available at the following URL:

Audubon Magazine

Audubon's September-October issue featured a more extensive piece, "Coming Undammed," by Marc Reisner. The story begins with the enticing image, "Since 1925, thousands of dams have been flung across rivers in an explosion of concrete," and goes on to focus on fishery issues throughout the US. Dams mentioned include Glines Canyon, Glen Canyon, and the Snake River dams.

International Water Power & Dam Construction

The hydropower industry's leading journal, International Water Power and Dam Construction, recently reported on the establishment Living Rivers: The International Coalition for the Restoration of Rivers and Communities Affected by Dams. Includes brief excerpts from the coalition's founding statement, the Walker Creek Declaration. (September 1998 issue)

Living Rivers update!

Living Rivers Welcomes 5 New Members

Five organizations recently signed on to the Walker Creek Declaration, joining Living Rivers:

  • Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria
  • High Country Citizens' Alliance, USA (Colorado)
  • Protect Biodiversity in Public Forests Network, USA (Ohio)
  • Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, USA (Connecticut)
  • Wildlands Center for Preventing Roads, USA (Montana)

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 at'