No. 22, November 29, 2000

River Revival Bulletin
No. 22, November 29, 2000

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

Editors :Anne Baker, Elizabeth Brink, Wil Dvorak & Ethan Winter











Group to identify dams for decommissioning

The Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia (ORC), leaders of the Save the Theodosia Coalition, responsible for convincing the provincial government to decommission 292-foot-high Theodosia Dam in an effort to improve salmon habitat, is identifying more dams around the province that could be dismantled. The ORC hopes to target for decommissioning dams that are no longer useful or provide only marginal benefits and will, by their absence, improve habitat by returning waterways to their natural state. To accomplish this goal, the ORC plans to enlist the 120, 000 members it represents in the review project by collating information at a local level throughout the province. An ORC website will allow the public to give feedback about dams in their communities. The ORC expects to issue its first Dam Review Project report next June, possibly listing the first candidates for decommissioning.

For more information visit the ORC Web site at, or contact Mark Angelo, Rivers Chair of the ORC at 604.737.3058, or e-mail him at

(Judd, Neville, "Canadian group wants more dams dismantled," 7 November, 2000. Text available online at:

Fertilizers increase salmon survival rates

Salmon and steelhead species have been declining in numbers in southern coastal areas of Vancouver, B.C. since European settlement. The past decade was the worst in terms of salmon survival; for example, 100,000 pink salmon have been known to migrate up the Keogh River on Vancouver Island in a single season, whereas last year only 900 returned to the river. To address this issue, fisheries researchers decided, four years ago, to make habitat improvements and reparations along the Keogh River. In addition, they began an innovative project, which involves dumping nitrogen rich fertilizer pellets in different spots along the river. Once dissolved, the stream bottom turns green with algae, increasing the insect population that lives off the algae and thus providing an abundant food resource for young salmon. Previous studies have shown that salmon carcasses, also rich in nitrogen, normally provide the necessary nutrients to encourage algae growth; however, too few salmon now return to the river to perform this function. The researchers have reported that since the fertilizers were first introduced to the river, young steelhead survival rates have increased fivefold, while coho salmon survival rates are up 60% and are expected to continue increasing. The researchers conclude that once these populations recover, they will no longer treat the stream and will instead let the salmon fertilize the river themselves.

(Simpson, Scott, "How a 'magic bullet' is saving the Keogh River: B.C. project creates a buzz in fishery circles," Vancouver Sun, 16 October, 2000.)


Iceland locked in national dam dispute

Iceland's national power company wants to dam 11 rivers and tributaries to create a 57-kilometer reservoir that portends disaster for wildlife and habitat. Environmentalists envision the usual consequences of dams: flooding in the valleys around the K?rahn?kar plain, the exodus of reindeer and geese, and the burial of waterfalls and vegetation blanketing the accompanying plain. The controversial project has become the focus for a burgeoning new movement of non-governmental organizations in Iceland. And these NGOs already have made an impression. The reservoir would serve a giant hydroelectric power station. With turbines producing 700 megawatts of electricity, the facility would be the biggest hydro plant in Iceland and one of the largest in Europe. None of the electricity would go to homes, however. A giant aluminium smelter, planned on the coast, is due to absorb the entire output of the station. Sources at the national power company say the station will only be built if the smelter goes ahead. Norsk Hydro and the Icelandic power company are conducting the EIAs, which they plan to present to the Ministry of Environment before the end of March 2001.

(Snape, Tony, "Iceland locked in national dam dispute," World Wide Fund for Nature, 14 November, 2000. Article found at:


Saga of PG&E's hydroelectric system continues with release of new report from PUC

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a draft environmental impact report (EIR) in late November 2000, stating that auctioning off Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s network of dams and power plants would lessen air quality, harm fish and other wildlife, lower water quality, hamper recreation and interfere with farming. The report, which studied 16 alternatives to an auction, said the best option would be to have PG&E keep its hydroelectric system and run it as part of the utility's rate-regulated operations. In addition, it said, auctioning off watershed lands could open them to more logging and other development, increasing air pollution and damaging wildlife habitat. In a related action, PG&E withdrew its request that the PUC give it permission to sell its vast hydroelectric system to an unregulated sister company for $2.8 billion. PG&E still hopes to auction the system. The draft EIR, which is being circulated for comments, will only be one of the factors the PUC considers in determining whether an auction should be permitted. Regulators can block the sale if they conclude it would not be in the public interest. The PUC has scheduled 13 hearings around the state on the report beginning in late January 2001.

(Peyton, Carrie, "San Francisco-Based Utility Plan to Auction Off Dams Called Threat to Fish," The Sacramento Bee, 22 November, 2000. Text retrieved on-line at:

Petaluma City Council wants to leave unused water in Russian River

The city of Petaluma is floating a proposal to leave its surplus water in the Russian River instead of allowing it to be sold to other users. Council members said they want to make sure that water going unused on off-peak days supports habitat and fisheries instead of encouraging regional growth by freeing up water supplies. Sonoma County Water Agency officials expressed immediate opposition to the proposal, saying other cities already rely on that water. But Petaluma Councilman Matt Maguire said he wants to see if other cities using water from the regional system of pipelines and reservoirs will approve of the idea or even follow Petaluma's lead. The council voted 5-2 for the proposal late Monday, with Mayor Clark Thompson and Councilman Mike Healy opposed. Councilwoman Pamela Torliatt said she wants mandatory conservation to be imposed before expansion allows more water to be drawn from the river because the extra water would spark new growth.

(Young, Tobias, "City Council wants to leave unused water in Russian River: County Water Agency says other cities depend on Petaluma's excess allocation," Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 22 November 2000.)

**Englebright Dam, Yuba River, CA**
Controversy over removal of Englebright Dam

Government officials, poised to spend $6.8 million to study ways of getting salmon and steelhead into the upper Yuba River, are considering removing the Englebright Dam. Before initiating the study, however, environmentalists, government officials, and Lake Englebright supporters have been privately meeting to determine what fish passage options should be studied. Three opponents of Englebright Dam removal have resigned from the Upper Yuba River Studies Program, urging that the meetings be open to the public and the media because of a public outcry that occurred when talk of removing the dam began.

For more information, visit the South Yuba River Citizen's League at

(Omarzu, Tim, "Residents want to be heard on dam issue," Grass Valley Union, 14 October, 2000.)

Take action to restore flows to the Trinity River

The Final Trinity River Mainstem Fishery Restoration Environmental Impact Statement/Report (EIS/EIR) has been released to the public, and the Preferred Alternative still allows most of the Trinity's water to be diverted. It recommends expensive "mechanical restoration" techniques to make up for the rest. Since Trinity Dam was completed in 1963, up to 90 percent of the Trinity River's water has been diverted for agriculture, principally to the western San Joaquin Valley. As a result of decreased flows, fish populations declined by more than 90 percent by the early 1990s. The law that authorized Trinity Dam specifically mandated that construction of the dam must not harm fish and wildlife, and the Interior Secretary was directed to carry out that mandate. Science clearly demonstrates that the way to restore fisheries is to increase water flows. Now it is up to Secretary Babbitt to determine how much the flows will be increased. We must make certain that he takes this opportunity to adopt the Maximum Flow Alternative outlined in the EIS/EIR, and that the federal government follows the law. Now is the time to write to Secretary Babbitt urging him to increase flows in the river!

Take action now! Call Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt at 202 208 7351, or e-mail him at Visit Friends of the Trinity River at to learn more.

("Letting the River Flow," San Francisco Chronicle, 27 November, 2000. Text retrieved at:


Low-tech device reduces flood damage from beaver dams

In his quest for better ways to prevent beaver ponds from flooding public roads, Snohomish County watershed steward Jake Jacobson stumbled upon a device called the Clemson Beaver Pond Leveler. It's a variation of what the industry calls a "trickle tube," which is essentially a perforated pipe that moves excess pond water through a road culvert. The area's first test contraption was built this summer for about $800, and has successfully lowered the beaver pond by about one foot. Inventor Gene Wood estimated that 10,000 of his pipes have been built since then all over North America, including Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska. The only drawback, Jacobson said, is spawning salmon might have trouble getting through the device, even though its bars are 12 inches apart. With too many dams along Panther Creek, Panther Lake backs up and floods people's lawns. Lorna Smith, a county public-works supervisor, remembered the day about 14 years ago when somebody used dynamite to blow up a beaver dam along the creek. Her son, then 8, was playing along the creek when a wall of water rushed downstream; a cousin pulled him to safety just in time.

(Brooks, Diane, "Low-tech device reduces damage from beaver dams," The Seattle Times, 13 November, 2000. Text at:

Unreleased federal plan calls for dam breaching on the Lower Snake River

The Northwest's most contested environmental issue seemed resolved when a White House official announced in July that the U.S. government would not order the removal of gigantic dams on the lower Snake River as a measure to save salmon. It isn't. George Frampton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, on July 27, 2000, said that instead of removing the dams, the federal government would pursue other salmon-saving steps, such as restoring streams and cutting fishing. Only if those steps failed, he said, would the government consider stronger actions, including consideration of removing the dams. A document obtained by The Oregonian shows that just two months before Frampton's announcement, the National Marine Fisheries Service -- the top federal salmon agency and final word on salmon policy -- fashioned an opposite plan that called for dam breaching. In that document, meant for distribution only among federal agencies, the fisheries service said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should immediately prepare to breach dams and in 2006 request congressional authorization for breaching. That request should only be derailed, the fisheries service said, if salmon were to measurably rebound.

(Brinckman. Jonathan, "Unreleased federal plan calls for dam breaching," Oregonian, 18 November, 2000. Text at:

**Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, OR**
Bill proposes removal of Savage Rapids Dam

Seventy-nine years ago, Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River was built with the intent of providing water for the irrigation of agricultural lands. Today, however, much of the water irrigates lawns and hobby farms, while the dam itself is a major obstacle in the upstream migration of adult salmon and steelhead, as well as a killer of young salmon and steelhead migrating downstream. As a result, a bill has been introduced in Congress to provide $22.2 million to remove Savage Rapids Dam and replace it with pumps to supply water to the Grants Pass Irrigation District. Supporters of the bill believe it will move through Congress rapidly, as it is jointly sponsored by two senators, one a Democrat and the other a Republican. If the bill passes, it is projected that the pumps will be installed and the dam removed by 2004 or 2005.

For more information, visit the campaign of Oregon's WaterWatch at

("Rogue River dam may be removed," Associated Press, 25 October, 2000. Text available at:


Temporary resolution for exposure of Native American graves

Due to a summer drought, a South Dakota reservoir on the Missouri River has reached record-low levels, exposing American Indian graves and artifacts. Tribal leaders, upset by an apparently failed promise by the federal government to move the graves before building the dam decades ago, are seeking a permanent freeze on the lake's current level. A federal court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers temporarily maintain the current water level, thus forcing the agency to reallocate water along the upper Missouri's dam and reservoir system to make up for power-generation losses, as the reservoir in dispute is a major source of hydroelectric power. The Army Corps of Engineers suggested that moving the graves would be the best solution for all concerned, as power-generation could continue unaffected.

(Jehl, Douglas, "Protection for Sioux graves: Court interferes with water flows on Missouri to prevent erosion," San Francisco Chronicle, 9 November, 2000. Full text online at:

**Proposed "Lake Wanahoo" dam, Sand Creek, NE**
Congress approves lake project funds

Construction of a new Nebraska dam, forming "Lake" Wanahoo reservoir could begin in 2002 now that Congress has approved a bill containing $17 million for the project, local officials announced in early November 2000. This year's Water Resources Development Act includes $17 million for the Lake Wanahoo project. Two other Nebraska projects were included in the federal legislation: $23 million for the Antelope Valley project in Lincoln and $9.5 million for the Western Sarpy/Clear Creek Levee project along the Platte River. The local Natural Resources District wants to build Lake Wanahoo, a 637-acre reservoir about one mile north of Wahoo, as part of a larger project called Sand Creek. The latter project involves seven smaller upstream dams on Sand and Duck creeks in Saunders County. Wetlands and wildlife habitat around the lakes will provide environmental restoration. Total cost of the project is $29.8 million. Construction of Lake Wanahoo and the seven upstream dams is slated to begin in 2002, with completion of the Wanahoo recreational facilities in 2003.

(Laukaitis, Al J., "Congress approves lake project funds," Lincoln Journal Star, 8 November, 2000. Full text on the Web at:

**Chair Factory Dam, Milwaukee River, WI**
Chair Factory Dam demolition set to start

A Madison engineering company will begin demolishing the historic Chair Factory Dam on the Milwaukee River in early December, a state official said. The DNR had declared the 8-foot-tall dam to be a significant safety hazard in a report released in June. The east end of its face, or spillway, has broken off the main structure, and there are no gates for controlling water levels during flooding, the report says. Last month, the state Building Commission approved spending $225,000 to remove the dam and millrace. Unused funds must be spent on restoring the stream bank at the site. Restoring a natural flow to this 2,000-foot section of the river will improve habitat for smallmouth bass and other sport fish, mussels, aquatic insects and three rare fish species, the greater redhorse, banded killifish and striped shiner.

For more information about this or other dam removal efforts in Wisconsin, contact Stephanie Lindloff, Small Dams Program Manager of the River Alliance of Wisconsin, at 608.257.2424, or e-mail them at

(Behm, Don, "Dam demolition set to start: Madison firm will begin by clearing large stones, allowing pond to drain Milwaukee," Journal Sentinel, 15 November, 2000. Article on-line at:

**Guilford Lake Dam, Little Beaver Creek, OH**
Federal money pays for dam improvements

Under a pilot federal project, dams built with federal funds can be improved with federal money paying most of the cost. Improving the 55-foot-high Guilford Lake Dam is expected to cost about $350,000. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service will pay 65 percent, with the remainder of the cost to be shared by two local Watershed Conservancy and County Park districts. The dam repairs are required because the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has upgraded the hazard classification for the dam because of increased residential development downstream near Seville and Rittman. The 20-year-old flood protection dam must be renovated and upgraded because of that new state classification. During the work, the water level of the lake behind the dam will be lowered and the 18-acre lake will be dredged of sediment.

(Downing, Bob, "Federal project will help fund repairs to Guilford Twp. Dam: Improving structure to cost about $350,000," Beacon Journal, 29 November, 2000. Text available on-line at:


Eastern Kentucky Coal sludge disaster

At the mouth of the Big Sandy River, 250 million gallons of coal sludge is slowly oozing into the Ohio River and toward Cincinnati. Government officials expect it will take the mass a week to travel the 148 miles downstream to the urban "Tristate" area. They hope the spill - about the consistency of wet cement and at some points several feet thick - will dilute in the Ohio River to levels that won't threaten local water supplies. The likes of this spill, which U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials have called the worst environmental disaster ever in the southeastern United States, has never been seen on the Ohio River before. At least 45 dams in Southern West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and in Virginia have a "high" potential to break into nearby underground mines, according to the data. The dam that caused the spill in Kentucky was rated a "moderate" risk. Since the Oct. 11 incident, towns along the Tug Fork from Kermit to Kenova have been forced to turn off their drinking water intakes.

Water supplies that serve about 15,000 people were threatened by the spill, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ecologists say it's far too early to tell what the long-term effects of the spill will be on water quality and aquatic life. Coal companies pour slurry into huge impoundments built behind dams made of bigger chunks of preparation plant waste. Over time, solids in the slurry settle to the bottom. The dam cleanses slurry water as it filters through into nearby streams. In 1972, a slurry dam operated by Pittston Coal on Buffalo Creek in Logan County collapsed. Flooding killed 125 people and destroyed 500 homes. Public outcry over Buffalo Creek led Congress to pass the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to police mining's environmental and public safety hazards. Coal slurry is a thick mix of water, coal waste particles and rock removed from coal during processing. Coal companies pour slurry into huge impoundments built behind dams made of bigger chunks of preparation plant waste. Over time, solids in the slurry settle to the bottom. The dam cleanses slurry water as it filters through into nearby streams. It's impossible to tell when the cleanup will end or how much it will cost. The state plans to bill Martin County Coal for whatever it spends responding to the spill.

(Kaufman, Ben L., "Workers race the weather; Heavy rain could push mass of slurry over dam; Impact still a big unknown," The Cincinnati Enquirer, 26 October, 2000.)
(Hannah, Jim, "Eastern Kentucky disaster spreads; Spill heads down Ohio; Officials prepare for unknown," The Cincinnati Enquirer, 20 October, 2000)
(Ward, Ken Jr., "45 Appalachia-Area Coal Dams Have High Potential for Collapse, Data Shows," "Congress Looks to Study Safety of Coal Waste Dams," "West Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Says Coal Dams Should Not Be an Issue," The Charleston Gazette, 20-22 October, 2000.)


Bill proposes dam reparation funds

In New Jersey last August, severe rains destroyed roads and bridges, collapsed four dams, and strained to the breaking point 1,500 others. In response, a bill has been introduced to Congress that sets aside $135 million over five years to allow cities and private homeowners associations to repair dams and dredge lakes and streams. The bill would also require the state to hire nine inspectors to monitor dams regularly, as the state acknowledged it did not employ enough before the flood, even though 187 dams pose a threat to lives if they break.

(Westfeldt, Amy, "Owners of weak dams can't fix them," The Associated Press, 4 November, 2000. Full text available online at:


Final report recommends modernizing dam reviews, periodic assessments

On November 16, 2000, two years after it began investigating the social, environmental, and economic costs of large dams around the world, the WCD released its final report. The report, the first global review of the effects of large dams, recommends better project planning and more accurate appraisals of the impacts of large dams on rivers, fish, and displaced peoples. The findings of the commission, while weak on dam decommissioning as a whole, support dam critics' claims that many dams fail to change with the social needs and environmental analyses of the times. A core report recommendation calls for thorough periodic reevaluation of the facilities, operations, and performance of dams every 5-10 years. In the US, more than 1,900 federally owned large dams elude periodic review, though most privately-owned dams are required to conduct reevaluations. Assessments would help reveal many dams, including rarely evaluated federal projects, which are no longer worth their social or environmental costs. Such dams could be considered for possible decommissioning and removal.

Dozens of US river conservation groups sent a letter to the new administration and Congress, urging them to follow the WCD report recommendations and periodically evaluate federally-owned US dams. For more information, visit American Rivers' Web site at

The WCD report "Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision Making", November 2000, available in HTML or PDF format at