No. 21, October 17, 2000

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editor: Elizabeth Brink & Ethan Winter











Taiwan's activists pushing for more regulation of river polluters

After two decades of building one of Asia's richest economies, Taiwan is casting a wary eye on its legacy of rapid development. This nation of 22 million has been less fortunate in eluding the fallout from breakneck development. Once regarded as the Ilha Formosa, or "Beautiful Island," it is now plagued by polluted rivers. As more pollution surfaces, environmental groups and an increasingly vocal middle class are pressuring for more regulatory enforcement and watching the new government of President Chen Shui Bian.

"For the last 20 or 30 years, there has been more serious contamination," said George Cheng, director of the Taiwan Watch Institute, an environmental think tank. "But they (Taiwan residents) take pollution for granted because we need money and economic development." Those days may be over. Last month, a lobby composed of 750 scholars from the southern town of Meinung successfully stopped the construction of a nearby dam, arguing that it would have flooded a valley that is home to one of the highest concentrations of butterflies in the world. "We used both will and knowledge to resist the proposed dam," said Wu Chi Tsung, the group's leader. "Now it is time to shift our focus to other injustices."

(Clendenin, Mike, "Taiwan's Murky Waters: After years of unbridled growth, island is struggling to clean its rivers," San Francisco Chronicle, 5 September, 2000. Full text retrieved at:


Restoration plan for Snowy River may not be enough

The legendary Snowy River is set to flow again after the conclusion of a historic $300 million deal to save one of Australia's greatest natural icons. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and New South Wales Premier Bob Carr announced a 10-year plan to restore large volumes of water to the ailing river. It is believed the plan falls short of what is needed to fully restore the river's ecological health, and that it could still face further political obstacles. But it has been hailed by conservation campaigners as a breakthrough. "The Snowy River is bound up in Australian history ... it was an icon in our poetry then an icon in post-World War II development," said Jeff Angel, director of the Total Environment Centre. "With this decision the Snowy River will be on the road to recovery." The once-great river currently is little more than a weed-infested canal, its biodiversity ravaged by the diversion of most of its flow into the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme and the Murray-Murrumbidgee irrigation network. The current plan restores 21 per cent of the river's average annual flow over the next decade. The river now receives just 1 per cent from the Jindabyne dam and, according to scientists, needs a 28 per cent flow to restore its ecological health.

(Miller, Claire, "Snowy set to flow again," The Age, 6 October, 2000. Full article found at:

**Rocklands Dam, Glenelg River, Australia**
Water diversions exacerbating effects of four-year drought in Western Victoria

A four-year drought has severely depleted the Glenelg River in western Victoria and crucial summer flows are under threat. The drought means the Rocklands Reservoir in the Glenelg's headwaters is at just 5 per cent of capacity. The shortage, which is damaging aquatic life and the tourist trade, is compounded by water transfers to storages the Wimmera River. The transfer is provoking fear among residents along the Glenelg that there may not be any water left over for a flow to keep their waterway alive. Locals call the Glenelg the Snowy of the West because, like the Snowy, it is suffering a slow ecological death for lack of water from the dam collecting its headwaters. They say matters improved when an environmental flow was released in 1997. Residents are now demanding another release rather than transferring water from Rocklands to storages north of the Grampians for sale to farms, as is now happening.

(Miller, Claire, "Fears for a dying river," 30 September, 2000. Text found at:


Dam burst releases copper mine waste into Arctic watershed

The Swedish-Canadian mining group Boliden Ltd., after being closed due to a dam burst, resumed production at its open-pit Aitik copper mine in northern Sweden, releasing waste water from Europe's largest copper mine into the surrounding Arctic watershed. The company claimed the release of one million cubic meters of water contaminated with six kilograms (13 pounds) of copper would not damage the environment. This marks the second incident in two years involving a burst waste reservoir operated by Boliden in Europe. In 1998, part of a waste reservoir at the company's Los Frailes zinc mine in southern Spain gave way, spilling nearly seven million cubic meters of toxic waste into the environment near Donana National Park, Europe's largest nature reserve. That vast spill was Spain's worst ecological disaster, cutting a 30-kilometre (20-mile) path that choked fields and streams, ruined crops and orchards and killed wildlife.

In a statement Monday, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the incident showed the European Union needed legislation to improve the quality of dams built to contain metal-contaminated mining waste. "It is lucky that on this occasion the amount of toxic substances involved was very low," said WWF European water policy officer Eva Royo Gelabert. WWF said more devastating incidents in Spain and Romania in the last two years showed that mining waste ponds pose a major threat to the environment. "It is just a matter of time before there is another more serious accident involving mining waste," Royo Gelabert said.

("Boliden restarts Aitik mine after spill," Reuters, 11 September, 2000. Full text found at:


Saeltzer Dam removal and Matilija demonstration project

Following up on his 1998 "sledgehammer tour" across the US, Department of the Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt struck the first blow to the 90-year-old Saeltzer Dam on Clear Creek in Northern California. The Saeltzer Dam has diverted water from the creek into the 7-mile-long Townsend Flat Ditch for 93 years. It is being removed as part of the Saeltzer Dam Fish Passage and Flow Protection Project intended to improve spring-run salmon and steelhead passage in the middle reach of Clear Creek, protect instream flows, and maintain the water supply to the shareholders of the Townsend Flat Water Ditch Company.

The Secretary then joined state and local officials on October 12 to demonstrate a possible way of tearing down Matilija Dam. Environmentalists argue that Matilija is useless due to sedimentation, depriving coastal beaches of sand and preventing endangered steelhead trout from reaching spawning grounds upstream on the Ventura River. A 90-foot chunk of the 53-year-old dam was removed, while Babbitt, California Resources Agency Secretary Mary Nichols, Representative Elton Gallegly; and other local officials looked on. Matilija stands 198 feet high and spans more than 600 feet, making it the largest potential dam removal project in California. Total removal could cost between $22 million and $200 million and take 10 to 40 years, according to a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study. Ventura County doesn't have that kind of money, said Supervisor John Flynn. The presence of Gallegly and high-profile federal and state political appointees was intended to raise awareness of the county's need for enough money to complete the job.

For more information about the campaign to remove Matilija Dam, visit them on the Web at:, e-mail, or call 805.648.4005.

(Department of the Interior Press Release, "Secretary of the Interior Babbitt Hosts California Dam Removal Events," US Newswire, 6 October, 2000. Article available on-line at:
(Howard, John, "Dam-busting comes to Northern California," Associated Press, 7 October, 2000.)
(Levin, Charles, "Officials to view removal project at Matilija Dam: High-profile audience for demonstration might help garner funding," Ventura County Star, 20 September, 2000.)

**O'Shaughnessy Dam, Tuolumne River, CA**
Group advocates restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley by 2013

Hetch Hetchy Valley disappeared beneath the impounded waters of the Tuolumne River with the completion of 430-foot-tall O'Shaughnessy Dam in 1923. But many have never been reconciled to the loss of the valley that was the virtual twin to Yosemite and its rival in beauty. "Our belief is that we can retool it in a way to provide water to San Francisco and the other areas it serves," said attorney Harold Wood. Wood is a director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, a nonprofit organization created last January to seek the demolition of the dam by 2013, nearly a century after its dedication. Ron Good, chair of the new group, suggests that New Don Pedro Reservoir, which the water district owns jointly with the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, could be operated in a way to compensate for the loss of storage that demolition of the dam would entail. "The City of San Francisco has used Hetch Hetchy for nearly a hundred years, and it's time to give it back to the nation," Wood said.

For more information, visit Restore Hetch Hetchy on-line at:, e-mail them at, or call 209.379.9334.

(Brazil, Eric, "The quest to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley," San Francisco Examiner, 12 October, 2000. Text on the Web at:
(Grossi, Mark, "Activists target Yosemite reservoir: San Francisco is unlikely to give up its pristine water source," Fresno Bee, 9 October, 2000.)


** Soda Springs Dam, North Umpqua River, OR**
Environmental groups may quit negotiations, file lawsuits on Soda Springs relicensing

Dam owner PacifiCorp and state and federal agencies agreed to extend talks over relicensing a hydroelectric project that affects salmon and steelhead in the North Umpqua River, but five environmental groups might drop out. The negotiations, which began two years ago, were extended to December 15 in hopes an agreement can be reached among the 15 negotiating parties involved. The eight dams on the North Umpqua River east of Roseburg supply a half-million Oregonians with electricity through the Portland-based company, a unit of Glasgow's Scottish Power PLC. Environmental advocates want PacifiCorp to remove the Soda Springs Dam, the farthest downstream of the string of dams. That would allow salmon and steelhead to reach eight more miles of spawning habitat on the North Umpqua, as well as the tributary Fish Creek. Besides blocking fish, the dam violates federal water quality standards for acidity, dissolved oxygen and temperature. But PacifiCorp counters that the dam is necessary to make the project operate efficiently. Environmental groups aren't sure they want to continue with negotiations, said mediator Alice Shoretts, with the Seattle-based firm Triangle Associates. "There's the potential" for a lawsuit, Shoretts said. "They are considering the alternatives."

For more information, visit WaterWatch of Oregon on the Web at:, e-mail them at, or call 503.295.4039.

(Flaccus, Gillian, "PacifiCorp relicensing talks extended amid qualms," Associated Press, 5 October, 2000. Text recovered at:
(Meehan, Brian T., "Umpqua clash a portent of future: Fate of Soda Springs Dam hangs on debate about protecting fish vs. generating electricity, The Oregonian, 8 October, 2000. Full text retrieved at:

**Electron Dam, Puyallup River, OR**
Million-dollar fish ladder may allow salmon to pass Electron Dam

Salmon haven't spawned in the upper reaches of the Puyallup River in nearly a century. But that could change this fall, when a new $1 million fish ladder gives them a way to bypass 96-year-old Electron Dam in the foothills of Mount Rainier. "The fish are beating their heads on the base of the dam right now," said Russ Ladley, resource protection manager for the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. The project is a joint effort by the tribe and Puget Sound Energy, which runs the hydropower project. The tribe oversees salmon restoration and the utility pays for it. The effort is also supported by IP Pacific Timberlands, which owns surrounding forests.

("Going home after 96 years: New fish ladder should allow salmon back into the upper reaches of the Puyallup River," Associated Press, 2 October, 2000. Full article available on-line at:

**Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, Elwha River, WA**
Removal of Elwha dams will release sediment

Experts on the Elwha are proceeding with efforts to predict the effects of imminent dam removal. A recently released US Geological Survey report suggests that removing the two Elwha River dams would increase downstream siltation and erosion of deltas created by the upstream impoundments. The study does not, however, address what would actually happen to the released sediment or forecast the effects of dam removal on salmon restoration objectives. Opponents of Elwha River dam decommissioning fear sediment released during dam removal would raise river levels downstream and flood private property, an outcome not verified by USGS.

On the other hand, the study hints at just how much sediment has accumulated behind the two aging dams, which were acquired by the US government earlier this year for $29.5 million in preparation for eventual removal. About 300,000 cubic yards were released when Lake Mills, created by the 270-foot-high Glines Canyon Dam, was dropped 18 feet during a weeklong experiment six years ago. Under the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act of 1992, which authorizes full restoration of the river's ecosystem and native fisheries, experts continue to evaluate concerns about the transportability of nearly a century's worth of sediment. Federal officials and decommissioning proponents advocate tearing out the dams to permit salmon to reach the river's upper spawning grounds.

("Erosion expected if Elwha dams removed," Associated Press, 12 September, 2000. Full text at:

**Cowlitz River Project (Mayfield and Mossyrock dams), Cowlitz River, WA**
Stakeholders agree to a $60 million plan to restore the Cowlitz River

Nearly five years of study and negotiations between Tacoma Power, state and federal resource agencies, conservation groups, and the Yakima Nation finally yielded an historic $60-million agreement to enhance Cowlitz River salmon restoration efforts and meet relicensing obligations. Plans for the 462-MW, 50-year-old Cowlitz River Project call for habitat and hatchery improvements and assured minimum flows at both Mayfield and Mossyrock dams in the hope that federally endangered salmon and steelhead runs may be recovered. A cultural resources plan to preserve Native American elements of the Cowlitz will also be included. Tacoma Power ratepayers will foot the bill for the salmon plan, which will be spread out over the life of the new license.

The Yakima Indian Nation, the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation and American Rivers have endorsed the new project. Other groups in support of the agreement include: the National Marine Fisheries Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Washington Department of Ecology, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Washington Council of Trout Unlimited. The US Forest Service, Lewis County and BPA all participated in the negotiations and are expected to sign in the next few days.

(Francisco, Lynn, "Tacoma power hopes salmon plan will speed Cowlitz relicense," Northwest Fishletter, 23 September, 2000. Full text available at:

**Dworshak Dam, North Fork Clearwater River, ID**
Lowering of Dworshak Reservoir for salmon and steelhead

To help settle the issue of when and how to use Dworshak Reservoir water to benefit salmon and steelhead, federal fish managers, along with Oregon and Washington resource agencies, have asked that it be drawn down an additional 20 feet in the summer. If that happens, cold-water releases at the dam on the Clearwater River would continue, and the reservoir would reach a level of 100 feet below full. The request came at an August meeting of state, federal and tribal salmon managers in Portland. Idaho, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission favor reserving some of the water for September when some juvenile fall chinook are still migrating and adult fall chinook and steelhead are returning. The downriver states and federal biologists believe the cool water should be used in late summer when the bulk of the juvenile fall chinook are headed seaward and river temperatures are rising.

("Dworshak reservoir could be lowered another 20 feet," Associated Press, 27 August, 2000. Text on-line at:

**Lower Snake River dams, WA**
Snake River dam breaching gets high-level support, Army Corps manipulates economic data

In perhaps the most direct acknowledgement from the Clinton administration of the possibility of breaching the four controversial Lower Snake River dams, George Frampton, Chairman of the President's Council of Environmental Quality, said decommissioning the dams would be "the single most important thing we can do" for endangered salmon. Frampton warned if no progress was made in five years dam breaching might be the only alternative. Frampton's statements before the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee drew predictably hostile response from dam breaching's most vehement opponents, Republican senators Slade Gorton of Washington, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and Larry Craig of Idaho.

Sen. Gorton and his pro-dam colleagues continue to threaten funding for further analysis of the dam breaching issue even as experts question the validity of a recently released study supporting a "middle value" of dam breaching benefits - $82 million. Authors of the Army Corps of Engineers study contend that political maneuvering and pressure on the agency's top brass to "get the numbers down" skewed data and vastly underestimated the true costs of leaving the dams in place.

John Loomis, a chief economist for the study, claims the Corps biased its analysis against dam breaching from the beginning through a series of questionable economic assumptions. Existence values, for example, were left out. Non-use values of restored salmon and a free-flowing Snake River, which Loomis considered as key benefits of dam removal, ranged anywhere from $52 million to $2.9 billion. "Gorton didn't want us to find out anything that might hurt his cause, and the generals didn't want to say no to him," Loomis said. "I guess they were afraid he'd cut their budget."

(Blumenthal, Les, "Dam breaching gets support: Clinton official's opinion met with hostility," Scripps-McClatchy Western Service, 13 September, 2000. Article available at:
(Grunwald, Michael, "Snake River Dams: A Battle Over Values," Washington Post, 12 September, 2000. Full text at:


Michigan eager to remove at least 30 dams

In a reversal of fortune for Michigan's rivers, state environmental officials in 24 counties statewide are investigating the removal of at least 30 old dams found to be public safety hazards, harmful to fish or dilapidated beyond repair. Until now, removal efforts have been weakened by a lack of public interest, funding and an antiquated state dam policy. Aging dams combined with growing awareness of their potential safety risks are changing public perception in Michigan. In 1986 massive flooding destroyed 19 dams and severely damaged 18 others in a natural disaster that submerged a swath of central Michigan, killing five people. According to a 1996 Detroit News inquiry, inspectors rated 20 dams statewide as "high or significant hazards" that could cause serious losses of life and property if breached.

The June removal of a Muskegon River dam may be a harbinger of things to come down. Big Rapids and Mecosta County officials answered pleas from area residents by taking out a 17-foot-tall dam owned by the city. Built in 1912, the deactivated dam had languished for four decades and was considered a significant safety hazard after three recent drownings below the structure. "Our dam was dangerous and we knew it [the case for removal] was that simple," said Steve Stilwell, Big Rapids' city manager. Contactors bid for $1.5 million in state and federal funds before commencing removal work. "We had a very, very dangerous situation on our hands," said state Sen. Joanne Emmons, thankfully. "Now, we have a clearer, cleaner and free-flowing river."

(Pearce, Jeremy, "Michigan eager to raze 30 dams: Structures could crumble, hurt fish, and don't have any productive purpose," The Detroit News, 18 September, 2000. Full text found online at:

**Kent, Munroe Falls, and Lake Rockwell dams, Cuyahoga River, OH**
Cuyahoga River restoration proposals

The Kent Dam Water Quality Improvement Project has been spurred by a state proposal to modify both the Kent and Munroe Falls dams on the Cuyahoga River to improve water flow and quality throughout the Middle Cuyahoga. The plan has troubled some citizens who feel the Kent dam has historical significance and should not be altered. The options on the table range from a $2 million river diversion and backfill project that would turn the pool of water into green space near the dam, to a $10 million to $15 million project that would divert the river, but maintain the natural pool behind the dam. "We've identified three or four different alternatives," said Kent City Manager Lewis Steinbrecher. The state's plan, which includes lowering the dam in Munroe Falls, modifying the dam in Kent and getting Akron to release more water into the river from its Lake Rockwell dam in Portage County, is before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

(Dyer, Stephen, "Proposed changes to Kent Dam will be subject of public forum: City to offer options about historical site" Beacon Journal, 6
September, 2000. Full story found on the web at:

**Unnamed earthen dam, Hocking River, OH**
Company to remove illegal earthen dam

An earthen dam built by the Lancaster, Ohio-based Ricketts Excavating Company to abate erosion along its Hocking River frontage threatens fish and wildlife habitat and is in violation of US Army Corps regulations. Martin Hammar of Friends of the Hocking River argued that the new project was illegal. The earthen dam jeopardizes the "remarkable recovery" the Hocking River has made in terms of fish species, aesthetics, and renewed local appreciation of the river, according to Hammer. The Army Corps of Engineers determined in September that the company violated the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act by adding soil and other fill to the river without a permit. The corps told Ricketts Excavating of Lancaster that the dam must be dismantled. Company owner Harry Ricketts has pledged to remove the dam and restore the river to its previous condition as soon as possible, possibly with the help of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

("Activists say company's earthen dam threatens wildlife," The Beacon Journal, 13 September, 2000. Article available at:
("Company to remove illegal Hocking River dam," 25 September, 2000. Article available on the web at:


New Jersey must crack down on unsafe dams

In the wake of two devastating storms that hammered New Jersey in the past two years, state dam safety officials said Monday that they plan to get tough with the owners of New Jersey's 1,400 dams. Officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection said during an Assembly hearing that dam owners must hire an engineer to do a required safety inspection and fix any problems. Otherwise, the state would impose fines or force the dam owners to drain their lakes. State officials conceded that the nine state dam safety officials spend most of their time monitoring the state's 187 significant-hazard dams, where a failure could cause loss of life. But an additional 382 high-hazard dams, where a failure could cause property damage, are not extensively monitored, even when owners fail to submit required engineering reports every two years or fail to make repairs indicated in the reports. Officials said the state's remaining dams are considered low hazard and owners are required to submit engineering reports once every four years. They also receive little monitoring when owners refuse to comply.

(Diamond, Randy, "State promises to crack down on unsafe dams," The Bergen Record, 12 September, 2000. Text located at:


Georgia negligent on dam safety

Georgia has neglected its duty to protect the public from catastrophic dam failures, says a new state audit by the Environmental Protection Division. The Safe Dams Program has a backlog of 267 dams, mostly earthen structures, which have been identified as "high-hazard," but it hasn't done the necessary computer modeling and paperwork to reclassify the structures in that category. Most of the dams are located in North Georgia. The report also said the EPD is aware of 103 dams in 35 counties "that probably pose a threat to human life" but are not regulated since they do not meet the existing height or capacity requirements for classification as a regulated dam. The report did not identify those structures. The Legislature created the Safe Dams Program in 1978 following the failure of the earthen Kelly Barnes Dam in November 1977, killing 39 people and injuring 60. The breached dam sent a sweeping, 30-foot-high wall of water downstream, ripping apart college dormitories, classroom buildings, houses and mobile homes. Since then, no lives in Georgia have been lost to failed high-hazard dams, the audit said. There have been, however, hundreds of dam failures since 1978, most of them during tropical storm Alberto in 1994.

(Seabrook, Charles, "Audit: Dam safety program lags," Access Atlanta, 9 October, 2000. Full text at: )