No. 24, March 19, 2001

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak









Fourth Annual Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life

The International Day of Action was a great success this year. Over 60 actions happened in 30 countries on six continents! The strength of the movement grows every day. International Rivers again served as coordinator for the events, and will continue to work with amazing peoples? movements around the world to demonstrate our power against irresponsible dam financiers, planners, and builders and for protecting human rights and the environment. Please visit our website ( .

To learn more about the actions that happened on 14 March 2001, including the heroism of 1500 dam-affected people in Brazil that occupied the Ministry of Mines and Energy demanding alternatives to large dams visit. To let us know about your event, e-mail the Day of Action coordinators at', or call 510.848.1155.


Energy crisis used by industry in push for more dams

Hydroelectric dam proponents say a partial solution to California's energy crisis lies pooled behind dams across the state. They argue that California could squeeze out enough power to light 2.5 million homes by upgrading existing hydroelectric plants or adding power plants to flood control or irrigation dams, according to the National Hydropower Association. The amount would equal 2,500 megawatts -- a significant boost to the 14,117 megawatts already generated by California's 386 hydroelectric dams. No matter how persistent the hydro supporters, major changes to the state's river system are unlikely, said Susanne Garfield, a spokeswoman for the California Energy Commission. ?Most of California's rivers are pretty much tapped out -- and we've maximized every large hydroelectric facility we've got,? she said. The same is true nationwide. The federal Energy Information Administration forecasts that the country's hydroelectric capacity will increase just 0.6 percent by 2004.

As dam operators drain reservoirs to sate California's gargantuan energy appetite, environmentalists are sounding the alarm that hard-won protections for fish and wildlife will suffer in all three West Coast states. The latest reason for concern is a decision by the State Water Resources Control Board, which voted to reduce its own recommendations for flows down the Yuba River, a tributary of the Sacramento River that flows out of the northern Sierra Nevada. The plan will allow the Yuba's two hydropower plants to produce greater amounts of electricity than otherwise would have been possible. But the decision could sacrifice the river's premier salmon run. ?What we're worried about is that terms for the renewals could be made in an atmosphere of short-term crisis,? explains Steve Wald, of the California Hydropower Reform Coalition. ?The environment would be sure to suffer if that's the case.?

(Bridges, Andrew, ?Crisis adds power to push for more dams,? Associated Press, 10 February 2001.)
(?Putting power before fish: Increasing hydroelectric output could reduce salmon runs,? San Francisco Chronicle, 8 March 2001.)

Long awaited Trinity River decision could be in danger

Last December, in perhaps its last major environmental act, the Clinton administration settled on a plan to right what officials call a historic mistake. The plan would return much of the Trinity's flow to its original course, in the hope of restoring badly depleted populations of salmon. At the same time, it would take back water bestowed on farmers and power users in the Central Valley since 1963. As for diversions to the Central Valley, the plan would reduce that flow by about one-third, a significant decrease in a stream that flows through tunnels and then into the Sacramento River, ending up hundreds of miles to the south in the irrigation projects. Under federal law, the incoming Bush administration would not be able to reverse the Clinton administration's decision on the Trinity, which represents the end of 19 years of federal study and is a product of long negotiations with Indian tribes.

However, the power to freeze the action does lie in the hands of the federal courts, which are being asked by water and power users to block the remapping. In fact, a hearing in a case brought against the federal government by the giant Westlands Water District has been put off for a month, and it is rumored that the Interior Department is interested in settling the case. Hoopa Tribal Chairman Duane Sherman has said that, in any case, settlement is not an option. Westlands is asking the presiding federal judge to issue an injunction on the Trinity River restoration project, which is based on two decades of study showing that migrating salmon in the river need more water. The irrigation district claims that the west Fresno County economy will suffer the loss of more than $40 million in crop production under the plan.

For background information, updates and ways you can help, visit the Friends of the Trinity River on the web at, or e-mail them at

(Driscoll, John, ?Trinity River decision could be in danger,? Eureka Times-Standard, 10 February 2001.)
(Jehl, Douglas, ?Plan to Restore River Causes California Furor,? New York Times, 20 December 2000.)

Conservation groups will sue to keep Klamath River water in the river

As the Klamath Basin prepares for a dry summer, seven conservation organizations put the federal government on notice that they will sue to be sure endangered fish and threatened bald eagles get their share of water. At issue are maintaining enough water in Upper Klamath Lake to support endangered shortnosed suckers and Lost River suckers, as well as providing enough water in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges to support waterfowl that are eaten by the largest winter concentration of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. The Klamath Project distributes water flowing out of Upper Klamath Lake to farmers and wildlife refuges within the Klamath Basin, which straddles the Oregon-California border. Due to a lack of mountain snowpack and rainfall, the area is heading into the summer with about half the water it has in most years, forcing hard choices between providing water for hay and potato farmers and habitat for fish and wildlife. ?We are especially concerned that the Klamath Falls office of the Bureau of Reclamation is continuing a strategy of stall and delay,? said attorney Jan Erik Hassleman of the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. The groups intending to sue are the Oregon Natural Resources Council, the Klamath Forest Alliance, Northcoast Environmental Center, Golden Gate Audubon Society, WaterWatch, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.

(Associated Press, ?Environmentalists prepare to sue over endangered suckers and bald eagles,? 8 March 2001.)


**Elk Creek Dam, Rogue River, OR**
Report confirms necessity of breaching Elk Creek Dam

First authorized in 1962 as part of a three-dam, flood-control project on the Rogue River, the Elk Creek Dam was stopped by a federal court injunction in 1987 for the US Army Corps of Engineers? failure to assess the dam's impact on Rogue River fish. In 1995, the Corps abandoned the project after spending $100 million, and two years later it proposed partial demolition to enhance fish passage. Since 1987, crews have been trapping salmon and steelhead at the base of the dam, hauling them in trucks upstream and releasing them to reach spawning habitat. In an endangered species act biological opinion issued last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service told the Corps that continuing to trap and haul fish around the 83-foot-tall dam -- even with a new $8 million trap-haul system --also would destroy habitat critical to the threatened coho and degrade habitat essential to chinook salmon. Attempting to improve fish passage at Elk Creek Dam by any means other than breaching the half-completed dam puts some endangered Rogue River coho salmon in danger of extinction, federal fisheries officials say.

Access the full report on the NMFS website ( at the following address: For more information about the Rogue River restoration campaign, visit WaterWatch of Oregon at

(Quinn, Beth, ?Opinion adds ammo to dam's foes: A report says breaching the Elk Creek Dam is vital to threatened coho in the Rogue River tributary,? The Oregonian, 1 February 2001. Text online at:

**Various dams, Ship Creek, AK**
Restoration of Anchorage?s much-loved Ship Creek

?Ship Creek Unplugged? is how the Anchorage Waterways Council has billed the idea of removing three lower dams that obstruct migrating salmon and alter the character of the stream. The council has made a mission of restoring and protecting the city's creeks. It hopes people will like its idea of dam-free city stream, an idea it expresses this way: ?Imagine Ship Creek flowing through Anchorage unobstructed, healthy fish runs enjoying their natural habitat and a community that loves this creek.? It wants the creek's three lower dams removed: the one with the footbridge next to the old Knik Arm Power Plant, plus two small ones on Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson. The creek's fourth dam, a 50-foot-high concrete plug that creates the city water reservoir near Arctic Valley, would stay. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game supports it. Lance Trasky, regional supervisor for habitat and restoration, estimates Ship Creek could support tens of thousands more fish if the creek's three lower dams were removed, and there could be more fishing opportunities. With more spawning habitat, the creek would also raise more wild salmon instead of hatchery fish.

(Manning, Elizabeth, ?Watershed Council says removing dams would be big boon to salmon runs,? Anchorage Daily News, 30 January, 2001. Text:,2360,234554,00.html)

Protecting the Copper River Delta

Home to wolves, wolverines, lynx, sea lions, otter, mink and some of the world's greatest salmon runs, Alaska's Copper River Delta is the largest wetlands complex on the Pacific Coast of North America. Stretching across 700,000 acres at the confluence of the Copper River and the Gulf of Alaska, the delta also provides an annual resting and refueling stop for 16 million migratory birds, including the endangered western sandpipers and dusky Canada geese. As an ecosystem of unparalleled productivity, it is considered to be the most important shorebird staging area in the Western Hemisphere. While the plan by the Chugach Alaska logging corporation is legal, conservation groups say the proposed road would indelibly scar the landscape and pave the way for logging and coal mining. Last spring, the U.S. Forest Service recommended wilderness status for the eastern half of the Copper River Delta in the first draft of its ?preferred alternative? for the long-term management of the Chugach National Forest, which has not been revised since 1984. The service then changed its mind and came out with a recommendation for a much smaller wilderness area in the northeastern section of the Delta. The agency has been flooded with more than 30,000 public comments that support a broader wilderness designation.

(Higgins, Margot, ?Protecting the Copper River Delta,? December 2000. Article retrieved at:


Sustainable Water Project Tour Highlights Opportunity for Colorado River Delta Restoration

Environmental and community groups across the Southwestern United States and Northwest Mexico are calling for restoration of the Colorado River's delta. Ending their route in Los Angeles on March 14 (the Fourth Annual International Day of Action Against Dams), environmental organizations rallied to welcome the ?Sustainable Water Project Tour? on the tenth day of a journey across the Southwest. Representing more than 120 advocacy groups and twelve million people in the U.S. and Mexico, the tour brought a water tanker truck to the headquarters of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), symbolically seeking donations of water for the Colorado River's dying delta. Led by Glen Canyon Action Network (GCAN) of Moab, Utah, and Living Rivers, of Phoenix, Arizona, the tour sought donations of Colorado River water to restore flows to the dried-up delta just south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Rallies underscored the timeliness of the delta restoration effort, and provided water users an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and responsibility for repairing the damage caused by diversions so extensive that the river no longer reaches the ocean. ?This is the first broad-based organizing effort among the basin's environmental and social justice communities, of the need to transform this vast plumbing system back to an ecosystem,? said John Weisheit, President of GCAN.

For more information, including numerous press advisories, visit GCAN?s web-based coverage of their event at:


** Fairbanks, Hofmann and Armitage Avenue dams, Des Plaines River, IL**
Des Plaines dams may come out this year

A dammed section of the Des Plaines River might become a free-flowing river again as early as the end of the year. A feasibility study will examine whether to remove, notch or leave untouched the Fairbanks, Hofmann and Armitage Avenue dams in the near western suburbs. ?It could be possible to get it to the construction phase this year,? said Bob Smalley, a plan formulator in the Chicago office of the Army Corps of Engineers. In the case of Hofmann Dam, the conclusion is likely to mean dam removal. ?It is really good news,? said Steve Pescitelli, a stream biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. ?We are assuming this thing will go through.?

?Five years of working on this,? said Jason Gorski, the Chicago policeman who founded the Hofmann Dam River Rats. ?This is the biggest hurdle. Then, boom, do it. This is a big, big breakthrough.? The River Rats perform annual river cleanups. Through club efforts, the Illinois DNR began successful reintroduction of various fish species in the mid-1990s. Dam removal would enhance the viability of the ecosystem by improving river flow and oxygen levels. ?It is really not a question of whether it improves the river,? Pescitelli said. ?We know that (it will) based on the removal of [over] 400 dams throughout the country. It is just a matter of some things they need to address and potential problems. We will get some public input on the whole thing. This is not a done deal.?

(Bowman, Dale, ?Dam removal on Des Plaines possible,? Chicago Sun-Times, 10 January 2001.)

**Various dams and diversions, Platte River, NE**
Cooperative efforts to restore the Platte River

A new study by the Interior Department reported Nebraska's Platte River has lost 80 percent to 90 percent of its wildlife habitat because of dam diversions. The report by two top scientists for the Platte River Recovery Program also says the river's channel is narrowing because of reduced water flow and reduced sediments. A suggested solution involves levelling some islands back into river channels, restoring roosting and nesting habitat areas. Historically, the Platte's main channel was wide, shallow and much less vegetated. Pioneers called the river a mile wide and an inch deep. But federal officials are concerned that the river is getting smaller and smaller. The recovery program is a cooperative effort by Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado water users, environmental groups and the Interior Department. The groups plan to develop a basinwide program to address habitat needs for the whooping crane, piping plover, least tern and pallid sturgeon - all endangered or threatened species. A 14-year, $45 million legal battle out of court about protecting the natural resources of the Platte River was recently resolved. Dave Sands, executive director of Audubon Nebraska, also described a settlement reached on 14 March as an important step toward the cooperative agreement that can protect wildlife habitat. ?This lawsuit represented a ticking time bomb that had the capacity to blow up that agreement.?

(Hovey, Art, ?Johanns: Deal was the best for state,? Lincoln Journal Star, 16 March 2001. Full story at:
(Laukaitis, Al J., ?Study: Fauna suffering as Platte River narrows,? Lincoln Journal Star, 6 February 2001.)


Tale of Neuse River's restoration

Tearing down the Quaker Neck Dam in Goldsboro, NC, yielded some immediate results: The unclogging of the Neuse River opened more than 900 miles of blocked spawning grounds to once-ousted Atlantic ambassadors like shad, striped bass, and even sturgeon. ?I like it with the [Quaker Neck] dam gone,? says Todd Fite, who rents canoes and sells bait out of Jay's. ?There's more bigger fish, a lot more variety, and people aren't afraid to eat 'em.? Once huge spawning schools shook their way up these lazy rivers all the way into the Blue Ridge Mountains, where winter-weary settlers welcomed them with open frying pans. Today on the Neuse, for the first time in 50 years, they can come all the way to Raleigh, a full 70 miles upstream from Goldsboro. Although many of the nation's 76,000 dams still make power or provide flood control, more and more they are just plain unnecessary, river watchers say. And as local towns worry about the liability of orphaned dams, the idea of knocking them down is taking hold from Kennebec, Maine, to Spartansburg, S.C. Already, nearly 500 dams have been knocked over or dynamited in the past 15 years.

(Jonsson, Patrik, ?The Unsung Tale of a River's Restoration,? The Christian Science Monitor, 30 January 2001. Text at: