No. 77, August 4, 2006

River Revival Bulletin

Produced by: River Revival, International Rivers
Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Wil Dvorak

table of contents









Mendocino river restoration projects celebrated

The Mendocino County Resource Conservation District (MCRCD) hosted the Navarro and Russian River Watersheds Restoration Projects Landowner Recognition and Tour in late June. The tour, organized in recognition of the partnerships between private landowners and agencies that made the projects possible, highlighted five restoration projects that have been put in place over the last few years - three in the Navarro River watershed and two in the Russian River watershed - as well as the Navarro River Resource Center, which offers information to local landowners and citizens. The MCRCD has been actively involved in restoration projects since the early ‘80s, according to Executive Director Janet Olave. It offers technical and financial support for projects to improve erosion control, water quality and fishery habitat restoration.

(Mintz, Katie, "River restoration projects celebrated," Ukiah Daily Journal, 24 June 2006.)

River Partners takes new approach to saving rivers

Bernard Flynn began the restoration of riverbanks by chance in the early 1990s after he sold 500 acres of flood-prone farmland south of Redding to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which bought the property for habitat conservation. The agency needed trees planted to create habitat for migrating birds while at the same time stabilizing the riverbank against erosion, so it paid Flynn to do the job. It. Flynn created a computerized database that organized large-scale restoration planting. After the project, Flynn co-founded River Partners in 1998 with John Carlon, who now heads the group as its president. The group’s core mission is creating wildlife habitat, working with state and federal wildlife agencies to plant trees and shrubs along the Central Valley’s riverbanks. River Partners also helps farmers protect their cropland by creating buffers between their fields and the rivers that border them. In so doing, the tree planting restoration work has other benefits, such as providing habitat for wildlife, helping to hold levees in place and improving water and air quality.

For more information, visit River Partners at

(Young, Samantha, "Group takes new approach to save river,", 19 July 2006.)

Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA

Update: Klamath River closer to revival

Investor Warren Buffet intends to work with the Gates Foundation to donate billons of dollars to charity, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, on the Klamath River, dams that are owned by a subsidiary of Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. continue to kill salmon, host toxic algae blooms, and put Tribal and non-native fishermen out of work. The Karuk Tribe is currently working with neighboring Tribes, conservation organizations, and commercial fishermen to get four of the six Klamath River dams removed. The dams are owned and operated by Portland, Oregon based PacifiCorp, which was recently bought by the Buffet-owned company after the previous owner, Scottish Power, was targeted by the Tribes’ campaign. However, on August 2, the Tribes moved one step closer to dam removal when PacificCorp stated "We have heard the Tribes’ concerns. We are not opposed to dam removal or other settlement opportunities as long as our customers are not harmed and our property rights are respected." Many details remain to reach a final removal plan, not the least of which is the need for funding and equitable compensation for PacifiCorp. Tribal leaders hope the state can provide PacifiCorp with incentives such as tax credits for developing renewable power sources such as wind and biomass.

For more information, visit the Karuk Tribe website at, or contact Karuk Tribe spokesman Craig Tucker at 916-207-8294 or Jeff Riggs, Yurok Tribe Public Relations at 707-482-1350 x 306.

(Bacher, Dan, "Billionaire Buffet gives to charity while his dams kill salmon and compromise tribal cultures; Karuk Tribe appeals to Buffet: Remove your dams, save our salmon,", 26 June 2006.)

(Barnard, Jeff, "PacifiCorp says it could agree to removal of Klamath dams,", 2 August 2006.)

(Klamath, Karuk and Yurok Tribes, "One Step Closer to Dam Removal: PacifiCorp Willing to give up the lower four Klamath River Dams if Customers Protected," Press Release, 2 August 2006.)

Update: L.A. River restoration set to begin

Taking an important step toward the dream of restoring the concrete-lined Los Angeles River, city officials announced in June the five sites where they intend to build a series of parks, pathways and pedestrian bridges to lure residents to the forsaken waterway. "We’re no longer just talking about this," said City Councilman Ed Reyes, the chair of the council’s river panel. "People don’t realize how far we’ve gotten." Beginning in the 1930s and ‘40s, after a series of devastating floods struck the city during massive winter rains, the US Army Corp of Engineers and local agencies lined most of the 51-mile-long river channel with concrete. That was a common flood-control practice across the US at the time, but it soon prompted calls from environmentalists to restore some natural functions to the tarnished rivers. Restorations already have happened in several cities, including Denver, Chicago, San Jose and Chattanooga, Tenn. With some irony, one of the major agencies involved is the corps, which in recent years has increasingly become involved in environmental restoration.

(Hymon, Steve, "L.A. River Restoration Set to Begin: Officials say work will begin soon on recreation areas along the neglected channel," L.A. Times, 24 June 2006.)

Friant Dam, San Joaquin River, CA

Update: Settlement reached over salmon restoration in the San Joaquin

A settlement has been reached in a court battle over how much water should be allowed to flow from Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River to restore the salmon population. Terms of the settlement won’t be released, and the agreement won’t take effect, until all parties - environmental and fishing organizations, farming interests and irrigation districts, federal agencies and the court - approve it. When the 314-foot Friant Dam began operating in 1949, it transformed San Joaquin Valley’s main artery from a river thick with salmon into an irrigation powerhouse and dried up long stretches of the river below the dam. In 2004, US District Judge Lawrence Karlton agreed with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which claimed the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that built and maintains Friant Dam, had broken the law by not letting enough water flow down the river to sustain the salmon. Since then, the feuding parties had been trying to reach a settlement and avoid a court-ordered solution. Among the sticking points in negotiations were how much water should be sent down the river, and how to finance and carry out what will likely be one of the most ambitious and expensive river restoration projects in the country.

(Barbassa, Juliana, "Settlement Reached Over Salmon Restoration," Los Angeles Times,, 01 July 2006.)


49 dams slated for removal in 2006

American Rivers released its 2006 list of 49 dams in 11 states around the country slated for removal, noting the growing concern for public safety that is fueling the push to take out scores of obsolete and dangerous dams. "Heavy rains in New England and the Mid-Atlantic this year exposed the dangerous myth that all dams somehow protect people from flooding; often the exact opposite is true," said Serena McClain of American Rivers. "Many of the dams that will come out this year will leave people safer, upstream and downstream." Heavy rains can cause flooding upstream and, if the dam breaches or fails under pressure, catastrophic damage and loss of life can result downstream. Even at normal river levels, many small dams create a deadly recirculating wave immediately downstream, accurately named the "drowning machine." Dam removal is often the safest, most cost-effective way to eliminate these threats. Dam removal can also improve recreational opportunities and fish habitat. "Removing a dam that has outlived its usefulness is just common sense, and it’s fantastic to see communities around the country waking up to the tremendous asset they stand to gain by restoring a free-flowing river," McClain said.

For more information, visit American Rivers at

(American Rivers, "49 Dams Slated for Removal in 2006,", 26 July 2006. Full text at

US Senate passes $11.7 billion waterways bill

The US Senate approved an $11.7 billion waterways bill authorizing restoration of wetlands, coastlines and construction of mammoth new locks on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers to speed barges hauling grain, petroleum and other commodities. The Water Resources Development Act, passed by a voice vote, also stiffens oversight of the US Army Corps of Engineers after deficiencies in corps-built levees contributed to the flooding of New Orleans last year. The omnibus bill authorizes hundreds of Army Corps of Engineers projects, including restoration work on the Florida Everglades and the hurricane-devastated Louisiana coastline. It clears the way for the largest-ever US inland waterway project, the $1.8 billion construction of seven new, 1,200-foot-long locks on the upper Mississippi and lower Illinois rivers, along with $1.6 billion in environmental restoration work associated with these facilities.

(Lawder, David, "US Senate passes $11.7 billion waterways bill,", 19 July 2006.)


Blackberry Creek Dam, Blackberry Creek, IL

Federal officials study effects of dam removal

Federal officials are considering ripping out the Blackberry Creek Dam in order to improve fish habitats in the creek and the Fox River. In a study expected to be done by fall, the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has some jurisdiction over local waterways, will examine the possibility of either removing or renovating the 10-foot-high, 90-foot-wide structure. Scrapping the dam or building a fish bypass chute would allow for fish to swim up and down the river, said the Corps’ Jodi Staebell. The Blackberry Creek Dam does not pose a safety hazard, Staebell said, and plans to remove it are unrelated to three recent drowning deaths at Yorkville’s Glen Palmer Dam. A total of 16 people have died at that dam in a rolling current that traps victims beneath the water’s surface, and several organizations have called for the dam’s removal. The corps and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are studying the project as part of a drive to protect wildlife in tributaries of the Fox River.

(Gillers, Heather, "Federal officials study effects of dam removal," Sun-Times News Group, 25 June 2006.)


Embrey Dam, Rappahannock River, VA

Update: Good news on the Rappahannock

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) biologist John Odenkirk has good news concerning the upper Rappahannock. First, the 2004 year-class of smallmouths was epic in its abundance and the biologist expresses great optimism for a major improvement in the fishery in the near future. Second, the elimination of Embrey Dam several years ago should continue to be a major plus. "The removal of Embrey could not have come at a more opportune time," Odenkirk said. "We have not directly monitored post-dam removal growth rates yet. We have a nice pre-data set but want to wait for several years before fully assessing the impacts of the dam’s demise." Peter Pfotenhauer, a public school teacher and angler from Fredericksburg, agrees with Odenkirk about the positive effects of Embrey’s demise. "Removing Embrey Dam returned the Rappahannock to its natural free-flowing state," he said. "What used to be two rivers in a biological sense is now one, as species such as hickory shad, American shad, herring and striped bass now can return to their historical spawning areas.

(Ingram, Bruce, "Great Ideas For Family Fishing In Virginia,", June 2006.)

Update: Penobscot River restoration is cause for celebration

Community members have learned that what’s so exciting about the Penobscot River Restoration Project is the discovery that it is possible to revitalize economic and cultural traditions in communities along the river through restoration of the fisheries within the Penobscot River watershed, while retaining the economic benefits of hydropower generation on the river. Business leaders and community members up and down the river are now acknowledging that the Penobscot River has many values, and that these values are not mutually exclusive. All uses of the river contribute to the economy through money spent on equipment and supplies, lodging and the many amenities that visitors to the region seek.

(Leonard, Sandra, "Penobscot River restoration is cause for celebration," Letter to the Editor, Bangor Daily News, 07 July 2006.)

Update: Bronx River restoration highlighted by NOAA

The 10th anniversary celebration of the NOAA Community-based Restoration Program, held on June 27 at the US Capitol highlighted the restoration and revitalization of the Bronx River in New York City, which in less than a decade went from a debris-filled junkyard to a central part of the community. "Ten years ago, there were more cars than fish [in the river]," said Linda Cox, executive director of the Bronx River Alliance. "Today it is a resource thanks to the financial and technical support of NOAA." In 2001, efforts began to restore estuary and river fishery habitats in the Bronx River, in a partnership between NOAA and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Last March, hundreds of alewives were released into the river, introducing that species to the waterway for the first time in 350 years. The Bronx River restoration "has become more than just a river project," Representative Jose Serrano said. It has become a symbol for residents "not to give up hope, not to leave."

For more information, visit the Bronx River Alliance at

(NOAA Magazine, "Bronx River restoration highlighted at NOAA 10th Anniversary Celebration,", 14 July 2006.)


Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT

Update: First step in Milltown Dam removal comes with push of a button

The first step in Milltown Reservoir’s Superfund cleanup came shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday, June 29. But you wouldn’t have wanted to blink - or you might have missed it. NorthWestern Energy’s Mike Haenke touched off the nearly $100 million project by pushing the green "raise" button on the wall inside the now-quiet Milltown Dam powerhouse. Outside, on the inside edge of the dam’s spillway, a 42.5-foot-wide radial gate edged up a couple of inches before Haenke pushed the red button moments later freezing it in place. With that, the permanent drawdown of the reservoir officially began. Through August, the gate will inch up a bit more each day until the reservoir drops by as much as 10 feet. As the pond drains, sediments contaminated with century-old mine and smelter tailings will be exposed - and then, removed. Eventually, the drawdown will lead to the removal of Milltown Dam itself and restoration of the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers. "This is the trigger that starts it all. To us technical people, this event is bigger than the consent decree," said Russ Forba, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Milltown project manager. "It marks the start of the actual mitigation."

(Backus, Perry, "First step in Milltown Dam removal comes with push of a button," Missoulian, 29 June 2006.)


Dillsboro Dam, Tuckasegee River, NC

Update: Report favors Dillsboro Dam removal

Federal officials have endorsed Duke Power’s plan to remove the Dillsboro Dam, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must provide a final assessment. The agency released a 402-page draft environmental assessment for re-licensing Duke hydroelectric projects on the Tuckasegee and Oconaluftee rivers in Western North Carolina. Duke wants to remove the Dillsboro Dam to mitigate environmental effects of its hydroelectric projects, part of the effort to get those projects relicensed. "It (dam removal) adds 10 miles of unimpeded Tuckasegee for various species to move up and down, and also will allow boating," said Fred Alexander, customer relations manager for Duke. Opponents of the dam removal reacted differently. "This environmental assessment is a disgrace," said T.J. Walker, owner of the Dillsboro Inn near the dam. Built in 1912, the Dillsboro Dam generates less than 1 percent of the hydroelectric power in the Nantahala area. But some residents have said it is a symbol of Dillsboro. Removal of the structure raised concerns about the buildup of sediment behind the dam and the impact on the river. The draft environmental assessment requires Duke to restore the river to its "pre-dam bank-to-bank width" and relocate a population of Appalachian elktoe, an endangered freshwater mussel, from below the dam.

(Ball, Julie, "Report favors dam removal,", 27 May 2006.)


Town of Mesa to decide on project for restoring ecosystem

The cash-strapped city of Mesa, Arizona must decide whether to commit $625,000 over the next four years for the design phase of a 14-mile ecosystem restoration project for the Salt River. The Va Shly’ay Akimel (Salt River) Ecosystem Restoration Project would add almost 1,500 acres of habitat, including hundreds of acres of cottonwood and willow trees, and create several miles of trails and rest stops. It is a partnership between the Army Corps of Engineers, Mesa and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The ambitious project is among six ecosystem restoration sites under some form of construction or planning in metropolitan Phoenix. The $139 million project would be paid mainly with federal funds, with local costs being split mostly between the city and the Salt River community. In the past six years, Mesa’s investment in the project has been more than $1.2 million, while the Corps has kicked in nearly $2.5 million.

(Juozapavicius, Justin, "Mesa to decide on project for restoring ecosystem; Program would cost $625,000, add almost 1,500 acres of habitat," The Arizona Republic, 12 July 2006.)

Update: Ranch purchase to aid Truckee River restoration

The federal government has acquired part of an historic ranch in a deal that conservationists say will aid restoration work on the lower Truckee River. The Bureau of Land Management has purchased 128 acres in a 500,000 deal funded through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. Michael Cameron with The Nature Conservancy says the acquisition is a key component to river restoration efforts. Cameron says work along a 2-mile stretch of river will begin by the end of the decade. The 12 million dollar project will include returning the river to a natural, meandering state and replacing vegetation. River restoration is scheduled to begin this summer at the McCarran Ranch, which was purchased three years ago by The Nature Conservancy. Similar work is should begin in 2008 at Mustang Ranch, site of the former bordello.

(The Associated Press, "Ranch Purchase to Aid Truckee River Restoration,", 18 July 2006.)