No. 66, April 4, 2005

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Wil Dvorak

table of contents  






us – general  

Congress endorses major clean water legislation

A bipartisan group of 127 members of the U.S. House of Representatives took action to ensure that the nation’s streams, wetlands, natural ponds and other waters remain protected by the federal Clean Water Act. The lawmakers reintroduced the "Clean Water Authority Restoration Act," a bill aimed at protecting the thousands of miles of rivers and streams and millions of acres of wetlands that are currently threatened with pollution and destruction from a Bush administration policy that seeks to prevent enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The reintroduction of the act and its bipartisan leadership drew support from the nation’s leading environmental and conservation organizations. Since January 2003, federal regulators have been instructed to withhold protection from entire categories of waters, jeopardizing the future of as many as 60 percent of the nation’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands. "This bill reaffirms what Congress knew when it passed the Clean Water Act in 1972," said Clean Water Action National Program Coordinator Paul Schwartz, "that Americans want all of our waters protected."

(News Release, "127 Members of Congress Endorse Major Clean Water Legislation; Bill Would Reaffirm Protections for the Nation’s Streams, Wetlands, Rivers, and Lakes,", 23 March 2005.)

Erosion control industry embraces new river restoration tool

Muddy water can mean hot water for those working in and around streams and rivers. A new tool, built to enable rapid, accurate river and stream reconnaissance, inventory, assessment, and monitoring, debuted to enthusiastic reviews at a recent soil and water event. RiverWorks Rapid Assessment System (RRAS) combines a waterproof, rugged, handheld computer, digital camera and GPS receiver with a software package for the efficient, collection, analysis, reporting and sharing of scientifically–valid stream data. Developed and tested in environments as diverse as the Yellowstone River and the Mississippi Delta., RRAS is currently in use by governments, non–profits, private industry and universities. "This $9.6 billion industry is poised to make great strides by leveraging the latest and best tools and technologies to tackle complex problems such as sediment control, water quality monitoring, and restoration planning and design."

(Press release, "Erosion Control Industry Embraces New River Restoration Tool,", 3 March 2005.)


Tribes want Schwarzenegger’s support for Klamath dam removals

Tribes gathered in Sacramento, U.S., for the eighth Journée Internationale D’action Pour Les Rivières and a rally to push the removal of the Klamath River dams and restore the river’s salmon fisheries. Representatives of the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa and Klamath tribes marched and rallied at California’s capital to urge Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators to approve the removal of the six–dam Klamath complex, which is undergoing a relicensing process by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. At one time the Klamath was the third most productive salmon river in the U.S., producing over 1 million adult salmon per year. Today, the figure is about a tenth of that. The demonstration was attended by hundreds of fishermen, human rights advocates and conservationists. Groups involved in the protest include Friends of the River, International Rivers and the Pacific Federation of Fishermen and Associates.

(News, "Tribes want Schwarzenegger’s support," International Water Power and Dam Construction, 14 March 2005.)

Wild, scenic status for Cache Creek supported

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted to support former colleague Assemblywoman Lois Wolk’s wild and scenic rivers bill. The vote was 4–1 with the newest supervisor voting no. Said Wolk, D–Davis, after the vote. "I have more work cut out for me," as the board made clear its approval was conditional. The conditions are not simple. The board wants to make sure that local control over the creek is not lost, that the existing water rights are protected, that no dams will be built on Cache Creek, and that invasive weeds can be removed and mercury monitored without interference. But as long as those conditions are addressed in the coming months, the board agreed to support her efforts. AB 1328 would preserve and protect for public benefit 30 free–flowing miles of Cache. Several Davis residents spoke in favor of the wild and scenic designation, including Bob Schneider, president of Cache Creek Wild, Robin Souza and Andrew Fulks, chairman of the Yolo County’s Parks, Recreation and Wildlife Advisory Committee. "Cache Creek is a remnant," Fulks said. "We need to preserve the last little bit of our wild heritage."

(Sherwin, Elisabeth, "Wild, scenic status for Cache Creek supported,", 16 March 2005.)

Agreement could signal end of PG&E dam

Various companies, state organizations and environmental agencies in the U.S. announced an agreement that could lead to the decommissioning of the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) owned Kilarc–Cow Creek hydroelectric project. If decommissioned, all water rights associated with the project will be used to provide additional habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. PG&E are joined in the collaborative agreement by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, the National Park Service, California State Water Resources Control Board, NOAA Fisheries, Trout Unlimited and Friends of the River. As part of the agreement PG&E will not seek a new federal operating license for the Killarc–Cow Creek project in Shasta County, east of Redding, California. The agreement also identifies the necessary actions for decommissioning, including long term treatment or removal of project facilities and the return of stream flows now diverted from South Cow and Old Cow creek. Although PG&E began working with stakeholders and resource agencies in 2001 in an effort to renew the project’s operating license, the company decided that the provisions it would have to make to obtain the license would result in the project no longer being an economic source of power for its customers. The signed agreement will now be forwarded to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for review and action.

(International Water Power and Dam Construction, "Agreement could signal end of dam," 29 March 2005.)

us – northwest  

Tribe works to give fish second chance

Railroad workers weren’t thinking about the salmon when they rerouted a stretch of Moose Creek nearly 80 years ago to make way for a railroad spur to a coal mine. The work, which straightened the river, made good sense for rail line construction and for getting to the coal, then a main source of power for Anchorage. But it was bad news for the fish, which found their path to miles of key spawning habitat blocked by a new, faster–flowing stream. Now decades after the last coal was shoveled out of mines on the creek, the Chickaloon tribe wants to give the salmon another chance. This summer, the tribe and the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council hope to start work on a federally funded project to return the creek to its natural course. The work would cost an estimated $460,000, including $300,000 for construction, and entail dredging more than 2,000 feet of new channel about three miles upstream from the creek mouth. It would be one of the biggest stream restoration projects in the state, according to officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has provided funding for much of the work. "Anytime you restore a river back to its original site, it can only, I guess, really be a good thing," said Dave Rutz, a state fisheries biologist who oversees the Matanuska–Susitna area.

(Komarnitsky, S. J., "Tribe works to give fish 2nd chance," Anchorage Daily News, 9 March 2005.)

Fines paid by shipping companies will go to river restoration

A $1.2 million fine paid by shipping companies penalized for dumping waste oil in the Columbia River will be used for wildlife habitat restoration along the river and nearby coasts. The money comes from a court–ordered settlement last year that created the Columbia River Estuarine Coastal Fund, one of the largest community service payments made for conservation and environmental restoration in the Northwest. Federal prosecutors and the National Wildlife Foundation have just announced the first round of grants, with awards ranging from $5,000 to $160,000. Matching funds from recipients bring the total spending to $4.5 million. The Columbia Land Trust in Vancouver received two grants totaling $240,000 to help buy 155 acres of riparian habitat along Germany Creek, and 105 acres of former floodplain habitat along the Wallooskee River. The first round of money comes from three polluters: MMS Co. Ltd., a Japanese corporation; Hoegh Fleet Services of Norway; and Marmaras Navigation Ltd., the Greek operator of the Agia Eirini. In addition to fines, and in some cases prison sentences for crew members, the legal settlements included payments to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for conservation and restoration projects in the damaged areas. Since then, two more shipping companies caught polluting have added $745,000 to the Columbia River Estuarine Coastal Fund this year.

(The Associated Press, "Money paid by shipping companies will go to river restoration,", 20 March 2005.)

Update: Groups ask court to toss salmon plan

A coalition of salmon advocacy groups has asked a federal judge to find that the Bush administration’s $6 billion salmon recovery plan violates the federal Endangered Species Act. The coalition – which includes Idaho Rivers United and Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited, fishermen, Indian tribes and businessmen – filed for an injunction with U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland. In 2003, Redden rejected the government’s previous plan for restoring the fish and sent it back to the Bush administration for a rewrite. The coalition argues that the new plan, released in November, does less for salmon recovery than the old proposal. They say the fallacy is saying dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers are part of the "natural river’’ environment. "No single factor has done as much damage to Idaho salmon runs as dams on the lower Snake River,’’ said Bert Bowler, a retired Idaho Department Fish and Game biologist. The coalition asks that if Redden rejects the latest plan, stipulations be put in place before the government comes up with a different proposal. The stipulations would seek more water to augment the streamflows as young salmon try to get past the dams’ turbines and reservoirs. Fish experts say the changes would increase the young fish’s chance of survival.

(Associated Press, "Groups ask court to toss salmon plan,", 22 March 2005.)

Update: Prominent Idaho Rancher and ex–senator calls for removal of Lower Snake dam

One of Idaho’s life–long ranchers and long–time politicians said this week that arguments pervading Idaho’s salmon and water debates are missing their mark. "Farmers are supporting policy that’s going to put them out of business, this flushing of water," said former Idaho Sen. John Peavey, a Carey sheep rancher. "It will devastate the economy of Southern Idaho." The debate needs to center again on removal of the four dams on the Lower Snake River, Peavey said. "As far as Idaho’s salmon are concerned, the four Washington state dams are the problem," he wrote in a letter distributed to Idaho newspapers. "History will not judge us kindly if we lose our farmers and our small towns, ruin the state’s economy and lose the salmon, too. But I am afraid that is where we are headed." Specifically, Peavey is concerned about an ongoing proposal to use Idaho water to help flush migrating salmon smolts through the slack water of reservoirs on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers. It is one of a myriad of methods the Bush administration called on in a new salmon recovery plan, released last fall. "The solution to the salmon problem and our water woes is obvious – take the Lower Snake dams down.

(Stahl, Greg, "Rancher calls for Snake dam removal; Agriculture community could suffer because of salmon flow augmentation," Idaho Mountain Express, 25 March 2005.)

us – midwest  

Nature Conservancy joins with feds and corporations in wetland restoration

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) bought 7,775 acres from Wilder Corporation in 2000 for $18.45 million. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has since purchased 712 of those acres from the conservancy. The Fish and Wildlife Service owns 2,200 acres adjacent to the conservancy’s holdings. This purchase known as "Emiquon" is one of the largest wetland restoration projects in the United States. "When the area was leveed 80 years ago it became productive farmland. Through the partnership with NRCS we have an opportunity to make Emiquon more productive for fish, birds and all forms of wildlife, as well as hikers, fishers, bird watchers, hunters, photographers, historians, scientists and students," according to spokespersons. Caterpillar Corp. has given TNC $12 million for the Emiquon project. Prior to this grant, Caterpillar had given TNC around $800,000 in total giving over 25 years. Among those monetarily supporting the river recovery work of the Conservancy is the Ameren Corporation Charitable Trust, making a donation of $225,000. The Wilder Farm, formerly known as Norris Farms, will now become a wetland. TNC has signed a 30–year Wetlands Reserve Program and will receive yearly payments based on the agricultural value of land (value as it was when farmed) now made into wetlands.

(Morrison, Joyce, "Non–Profit or Big Business,", 02 March 2005.)

Ottawa Hills to discuss removal of dam

The possible removal of the dam on the Ottawa River in Ottawa Hills will be the subject of a public hearing set for March 22 at 7:30 p.m. in village council chambers. Removal of the structure has been under consideration since 2001 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggested it as a means of returning the waterway to its natural flow. Officials said the dam’s removal could allow more fish to move upstream, create nurseries for small fish and establish more vegetation for birds and small animals. Village residents voiced concern about the potential aftermath of a dam removal, including flooding, the possibility of contaminants being released, and a possibly altered watercourse. A study undertaken with a $40,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has reported that those problems are unlikely. The dam, which was constructed in 1928, may have not been designed to control flood waters, but to create a pond in the village. The pond is gone and likely filled in with sediment over time.

(Jones, Mike, "Ottawa Hills to discuss removal of dam," toledoblade,com, 10 March 2005.)

Federal help needed for dam removal

The Lyons Dam and similar structures around Michigan have fallen into disrepair and have become safety hazards due to the lack of proper funding to rehabilitate or remove them. Those were a portion of the findings from the 2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure that was released by the American Society of Civil Engineers. James R. Hegarty of the Prein & Newhof Engineering Firm provided a summary of the report card during a press conference at the Lyons Dam. "Overall, the dams got a grade of D," said Hegarty. "And the Lyons Dam is a prime example of the plight of many of Michigan’s dams and dam owners." The Lyons Dam dates back to 1857 and was rebuilt in 1870. Consumers Power purchased the dam from Lyons in 1931 and sold it back to the village in 1970. A 1982 dam safety report found that the west abutment had collapsed and separated from the rest of the dam. Since then, the village has sought funding to either repair the dam or remove it from the Grand River. Hegarty noted that there are 2,654 dams on record in Michigan. Of those dams, 163 are considered "significant hazard" dams that may cause property damage and injury to individuals if those dams fail. Another 133 dams are listed as "high hazard" dams, which have the potential to cause significant damage and possible loss of life if the dam would fail.

(Thelen, Tom, "Federal help needed for dam removal," Portland Review and Observer, 13 March 2005.)

us – northeast  

Pennsylvania leads nation in dam removal; Brother, can you spare a dam?

Increasingly, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission reports, the answer is yes. Eleven times last year and about 75 times in the past decade, owners have said yes to the commission’s offer of help in bringing down their unwanted dams, making Pennsylvania the nation’s leader in dam demolition. Commission chief of dams R. Scott Carney has overseen taking dams out and putting in fishways to improve more than 500 miles of stream habitat at a cost of $5 million since 1994, the agency estimates. The agency last fall added a biologist to the project staff and is pressing to pick up the pace this year. Carney credits Pennsylvania’s relatively quick process of granting approval – six months, on average – for its rate of dam removal. County, state and federal authorities must sign off before a dam is destroyed. The process in Massachusetts, by contrast, requires as many as 18 steps and takes years, he said. Still, there is plenty for dam–busters to do in the Keystone State: Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Rathbun puts the number of dams with DEP permits at 3,100, and Carney estimates there are just as many others that lack permits. He calls them "artifacts of the Industrial Revolution." It was the chance to make money – through grinding grain or making paper or lumber – that gave rise to many dams. It is the risk of losing money – through the liability that comes with owning a dam – that has brought down many of them.

(Dohne, Doug, "State leads nation in dam removal; Brother, can you spare a dam?" The Patriot–News, 22 February 2005.)

Potomac Watershed Cleanup Day

Literally tons of trash end up in the Potomac River every year from area watersheds. The litter is not only an eyesore, but it also degrades the environment. A Potomac Watershed Cleanup Day is held each year to help keep the debris under control. On April 2, the 17th annual cleanup took place from 9 a.m. to noon at various Reston sites. This year’s theme, "Take Pride in Our Potomac: It Starts in Your Backyard," emphasizes that the Potomac’s health depends not only on what is done along the shores, but also on what is done throughout the watershed—in yards, parks, playgrounds, streets, parking lots and anywhere that water drains into the river. Since the cleanup effort began in 1989, more than 2 million tons of trash have been removed from the Potomac River Watershed. Last year, more than 220 organizations sent volunteers to help. The multi–state effort has become one of the largest restoration projects in the region, according to Wende Pearson, with the nonprofit Alice Ferguson Foundation, a partner in the statewide effort. The cleanup is also conducted in cooperation with federal, state, county and city governments, as well as environmental and civic organizations and Scout and school groups. In 2004, more than 3,500 people participated regionwide.

(Staff, "Reston participates in Potomac Watershed Cleanup April 2,", 23 March 2005.)

Update: Dam still slated for removal

Representative Kenneth C. Fletcher, and his Save Our Sebasticook group are still fighting to save Fort Halifax Dam from removal, but victory appears increasingly less likely. The Board of Environmental Protection affirmed the Department of Environmental Protection’s approval to proceed and denied SOS’s request for a public hearing. SOS, which had appealed the department’s decision, still has a lawsuit in Kennebec Superior Court and an appeal in the federal courts, but Fletcher said that his group cannot afford to continue the fight indefinitely. "We can’t go on forever," he said, "because we don’t have unlimited resources." Fletcher, a landowner on the Fort Halifax Dam impoundment, has worked to prevent the breaching of the hydroelectric dam on the Sebasticook River for several years. Dam owner FPL Energy chose to surrender its dam license and seek permission to remove the dam after the energy company concluded that building a fish lift – estimated to cost $3 million to $4 million – was economically unfeasible. FPL Energy was forced to choose between constructing a fish lift or removing the dam, because of a stipulation placed in a 1998 agreement involving dam developers, state agencies and several state and federal conservation and fisheries organizations. The energy company must provide fish passage for sea–run species – alewives, American shad, Atlantic salmon – at Fort Halifax Dam, as mandated by a state fish restoration initiative.

(Hickey, Colin, "Dam still slated for removal," Kennebec Journal online, 25 February 2005.)

Update: Embrey breach one year ago already pays off

We have reached the one–year anniversary of the blast that demolished Embrey Dam, a day that will be remembered for its expectant, party atmosphere and noble purpose. A crowd of 5,000, including politicians, environmentalists, a folk singer – but mostly ordinary people – lined up to watch and hear the biggest explosions in Fredericksburg since the Civil War. CNN beamed the spectacle around the globe. "The removal of this dam was and remains one of the most significant things that could have been done for this river," said John Tippett, executive director of the Friends of the Rappahannock, whose organization began laying the groundwork for the project a decade ago. "The benefits are just now beginning to be seen," he said. Herring and shad are making their way up the Rappahannock from the Chesapeake Bay, headed to their spawning grounds above the fall line. By late March and early April, vast numbers of fish will be here. Last year, some were able to make it through the breach, becoming the first of their species in modern times not to be blocked by a 22–foot–high wall of concrete. Embrey Dam had a fish ladder, but it was ineffective. This year, many more fish will make the journey, says Alan Weaver, fish–passage coordinator of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

(Dennen, Rusty, "Embrey breach one year ago already pays off,", 22 February 2005.)