No. 78, September 29, 2006

River Revival Bulletin

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

table of contents







Mega-dams back on the World Bank agenda

The World Bank is showing renewed enthusiasm for funding new large dams, especially in Africa. According to a leading ecologist at an organization part-funded by the bank, this policy threatens to drive parts of the world back into poverty. Max Finlayson of the International Water Management Institute argues that many large dams exacerbate poverty by damaging the fisheries and wetlands on which the poorest people depend most. "A quarter of the world lives in river basins where the water is already fully or over-allocated," Finlayson adds. New developments in these areas "will only take water from some users and give it to others." He says investment should go instead into using water more efficiently. The World Bank was an enthusiastic funder of large dams until the 1990s, when under pressure from anti-dam campaigners it backed away from high-profile projects. Now the bank is being accused of going back to "business as usual."

(Pearce, Fred, "Mega-dams back on the agenda," New Scientist,, 13 September 2006.)


Update: Greens call for removing dam to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley

Environmentalists are calling the new campaign to remove Yosemite National Park’s O’Shaughnessy Dam and restore the majestic canyon of the Hetch Hetchy Valley "a piece of unfinished work that John Muir left to his heirs." The battle over whether to dam Hetch Hetchy for drinking water and hydropower a century ago transformed Muir’s Sierra Club into a political force to be reckoned with, even though dam proponents won out. Muir, who died a few years after the dam was constructed, had called the valley prior to its flooding "a grand landscape garden, one of Nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples." But these days, in the wake of some high-profile dam removals in Maine, Wisconsin and the Pacific Northwest, environmental groups such as Sierra Club and Environmental Defense have teamed up in an attempt to muster enough public sentiment and political will to bring down the O’Shaughnessy Dam once and for all. They admit it will be an uphill battle. Recent studies have indicated that draining the reservoir created by the dam and replacing water storage capacity with expanded reservoirs downstream would be "technically feasible," but cost $3 billion to $10 billion. But environmentalists remain optimistic that they will prevail in the long term, and are trying to keep the issue on California’s political front burner while they gather public support for the idea.

(Scheer, Roddy, "Greens Call for Removing Dam to Restore Hetch Hetchy Valley," E/The Environmental Magazine,, 15 August 2006.)

Update: PacifiCorp says Klamath dams negotiable

Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River is one of five dams PacifiCorp said it will discuss removing in ongoing negotiations with farmers, Native American tribes and fisherman. In the long complicated saga of the Klamath River, a new twist has been added with a statement from PacifiCorp Energy that says the company is willing to consider removing five dams as part of settlement negotiations to solve Native American, farm irrigator and fishing issues. The dams are currently undergoing a 50-year licensing renewal process with the federal government. "The company continues to believe that the settlement process is the right place to work on and resolve the complex issues in the Klamath Basin," the PacifiCorp statement says. "Thus, PacifiCorp does not oppose settlement opportunities, including dam removal, as long as any settlement safeguards the economic interests of our customers and respects the company’s ownership rights in the project facilities." Glenn Spain of the Pacific Coast Fisherman’s Association says, "It’s the first time anything has been heard in public that the dams are negotiable. Obviously, it solves the fish passage problem. If the dams were taken down, it would move the whole basin away from the brink of crises every year."

(Boerger, Paul, "PacifiCorp says Klamath dams negotiable," Mount Shasta Herald, 16 August 2006.)

Update: PacifiCorp ratepayers strongly support Klamath dam removal

Following a Portland protest by Klamath Basin Tribes urging PacifiCorp to remove controversial dams on the Klamath River, an independent poll shows that PacifiCorp ratepayers favor removing the dams - and they support modest rate increases in order to fund environmental restoration. "Governor Kulongoski of Oregon and the Schwarzenegger Administration in California support dam removal, the fishing industry supports dam removal, the Klamath tribes that depend on the river support dam removal, environmental organizations support removal, and now it’s clear that PacifiCorp ratepayers support dam removal as well," said Kelly Catlett, of Friends of the River. In fact, PacifiCorp ratepayers, who make up roughly one third of the Oregon electorate, support the idea of removing PacifiCorp’s dams on the Klamath even more strongly than the overall electorate, with 52% in favor of dam removal. The dams targeted for removal are located along the California-Oregon border and block access to over 350 miles of historic spawning habitat. In addition, the dams do not provide flood control or irrigation diversions and they produce very little power.

(Bacher, Dan, "Pacificorp ratepayers strongly support Klamath dam removal,", 23 August 2006.)

Update: Dam removal surfaces in blue-green algae issue

When high levels of a blue-green algae species known as microcystis aeruginosa were found in samples taken from Copco Lake and Irongate Reservoir earlier this summer, a flurry of activity followed. State and local agencies, Indian tribes, and community groups voiced their concerns. In addition to possible health risks associated with the algae, the conversation about this embattled subject grew to include dam relicensing, testing protocol and media coverage issues. "It’s time to ask after 50 years: do these dams provide a net benefit or does the cost, economical and environmental, outweigh the benefits?" Karuk Tribe Klamath campaign coordinator Craig Tucker has said. "We think the cost outweighs the benefit."

(Clayton, Deborra and Rios, Tim, "Dam removal surfaces in blue-green algae issue," Siskiyou Daily News, 20 September 2006.)


Ducktrap Coalition to celebrate success

The Ducktrap Coalition is an association of diverse organizations, including municipal, state and federal agencies, citizens’ groups, non-profit conservation organizations, and environmental education programs. The Coalition works cooperatively with landowners to protect and restore the natural and scenic features of the Ducktrap River and its watershed. Prominent among these natural features are the Ducktrap River Atlantic salmon, a genetically unique population that is one of very few remaining wild Atlantic salmon stocks in the United States. Since 1995, the Coalition has worked successfully to fulfill its mission through permanently conserving all undeveloped riparian lands of the Ducktrap River and tributaries with Atlantic salmon habitat in order to protect environmental conditions for the river’s population of Atlantic salmon. To date, 83% of the riparian land along the river and 48% of the land along its three principal tributaries has been permanently conserved. The Coalition continues to work with the few owners of the remaining undeveloped riparian lands to complete this aspect of securing the river.

(Ducktrap Coalition, "Ducktrap Coalition to celebrate success!,", 13 September 2006.)

Critics harsh on salmon hatcheries

Not everyone believes that the solution to North America’s salmon problem lies in producing more fish from hatcheries, even with the best of science. Critics of hatchery programs seize upon the high costs and low returns in campaigns to lessen dependence on artificial propagation and focus more on habitat restoration and dam removal. Conservative estimates indicate local, state and federal organizations spent more than $5 million combined in the past year to net salmon returns of about 1,100 in the Penobscot and nine other Maine rivers. A 2001 report by World Wildlife Fund said released salmon compete for food with wild fish. And although hatchery fish have poorer survival rates than wild stocks, released salmon are generally larger than wild fish and therefore may have a competitive advantage. This can result in "substantial impacts" to wild stocks, especially when hatchery fish are released in large numbers. More often, however, salmon hatcheries are regarded as a necessary evil. Andrew Goode, vice president of US operations for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, one of the world’s largest salmon conservation groups, said there is no question in his mind that hatchery fish are having negative impacts on the wild populations.

(Miller, Kevin, "Critics harsh on salmon hatcheries," Bangor Daily News,, 18 September 2006.)

Update: Ceremony hails Sandy River dam removal

Eloquent though some of the speakers were, the tranquil yet powerful sound of the Sandy River outshined them. For 100 feet or more, the restored falls on the other side of the river flowed over rocks, creating little rivulets and pools on its way to the Kennebec River a mile or so below. The sound of the falls hadn’t been heard since 1893, when one of the first dams built in Maine specifically to produce electricity silenced it. In its place came the whir of the dam’s turbine. Rep. Michael H. Michaud, D-2nd District, and others whose work made the breaching of the Sandy River dam possible, celebrated the return of the river’s original sound, and all that it means. Two weeks since workers began breaching the north side of the dam, the natural falls took over. No water spills over the large portion of the dam that remains. The impoundment, which stretched four miles upstream, is gone. Conservationists, no doubt, are happy with that, but they are most pleased that the dam’s removal will mean restoration of Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fishes to the Kennebec River’s best habitat for salmonids. Already, the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission has stocked the upper reaches of the river with 125,000 salmon fry and 69,000 eggs.

(Grard, Larry, "Ceremony hails Sandy River dam removal," The Kennebec Journal, 12 August 2006.)


Rock Creek Dam removal will make way for fish

Nobody seems to know exactly when the diversion dam on Rock Creek was built. Some people say it was the 1930s, others say decades later than that. But what people didn’t notice, the salmon did. An impediment to even adult salmon at high water flow periods, at low periods it was impassable. Juvenile salmon had no chance no matter what the flows. Nearly three years ago, videotape of the salmon showed even large salmon crashing into the dam and falling back into the water. Assisting what would eventually be a joint effort between the Salmon Drift Creek Watershed Council, City of Lincoln City, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Mayor Lori Hollingsworth and others would eventually find a way to take the dam down so the salmon could go up. But if it wasn’t quite the question of life and death as it was for the salmon, the removal of the dam was a pretty big moment for humans as well. "This project showed unprecedented cooperation among a huge number of organizations that wanted it to happen and made it happen."

(Howe, Barton Grover, "Rock Creek Dam removal will make way for fish," Newport News-Times, 20 September 2006.)

Update: Savage Rapids Dam’s days are numbered

Slayden Construction Group Inc, Salem-based construction firm with Rogue Valley crews received the first part of its $28 million federal contract from the Bureau of Reclamation to remove Savage Rapids Dam. Stayton was contracted in August to remove the dam by late 2009 to make the Rogue River friendlier to salmon. After feuding through much of the 1990s about the merits of dam removal and the need for salmon protection, irrigators and salmon activists alike toasted this landmark moment. "It’s kind of a relief that, after all these years, we’re able to see the top of the hill," Grants Pass Irrigation District Assistant Manager Julie Webster said.. "Even though it has a long, adversarial history, it finally got to a point where the parties began working well together," said WaterWatch attorney Bob Hunter, who was once vilified by GPID patrons for his years of working toward removing the dam. GPID, state water resource officials, biologists and salmon advocates have worked to replace the aged dam since the 1980s, after a federal report determined it was the river’s single largest impediment to native salmon and steelhead.

(Freeman, Mark, "Savage Rapids Dam’s days are numbered," Mail Tribune, 10 August 2006.)

Seven paper companies to remove toxics from Wisconsin’s Fox River

Next spring and summer, a parade of trucks will carry toxic waste away from the Fox River on a nearly round-the-clock basis. The project is the latest phase in the $400 million Fox River cleanup of PCB pollution. Sonoco-US Paper Mills will work with NCR to dredge the most concentrated part of the pollution from near the De Pere Dam. Seven paper companies along the river were tabbed for the cleanup in 2002. The companies agreed to participate voluntarily to avoid being forced formally into a federal Superfund program. The De Pere hot spot includes concentrations of PCBs up to 3,000 parts per million; such material is considered toxic waste above 50ppm. Disposal sites in Michigan and Wisconsin have been considered, said Tim Davis, president of US Paper Mills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the chemical pollution probably causes cancer in humans as well as reduced ability to fight infections, low birth weights and learning problems. With more than 7 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments identified, it’s been called the largest river cleanup ever attempted in North America. Officials with the Department of Natural Resources and EPA estimate the cleanup could take 10 years.

(Zarling, Patti, and Brinkmann,Paul, "Crews set the stage for removing PCB hot spot," Green Bay Press-Gazette,, 19 September 2006.)

Update: With dam removal, river flowing free again near Batavia

The South Batavia Dam was built in the mid-1900s for an industrial coal-burning power plant. It cost $1.1 million to remove tons of concrete and gravel, as well as wreckage of steel and iron that was used as concrete reinforcement for the technology of the times. Drew Ullberg, director of Natural Resources for the Kane County Forest Preserve District, said removal of the dam was "a good case study" on a project requiring the involvement of several entities for successful completion. "With the water pushing through faster, it will clean sediment from the gravel bars, and the submerged areas will hopefully support mussels in the future. It’s a thing of beauty." The Forest Preserve District inherited the dam in the early 1990s in a plan to purchase narrow slivers of land for the Fox River bicycle trail system. With the dam in disrepair, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources told Kane County officials they had a choice to repair it, replace it or remove it entirely. Funding for the removal project came from riverboat funds earmarked for river restoration. "This is what the Fox River should look like. We should see gravel bars and mud flats and not a body of water that resembles a lake."

(Girardi, Linda, "With dam removal, river flowing free again near Batavia," The Beacon News Online,, 17 August 2006.)


Texas Governor Perry promises to return Trinity River to its more "pristine past"

Rick Perry pledged more than $500,000 in state money to help clean up Texas’ Trinity River, which provides water to 40 percent of the state’s population but has a long history of problems, including wastewater spills, power interruptions that have diminished drinking water, decreased levels in its lakes from the ongoing drought and low-flowing water that brought in contamination. The Trinity River Basin Environmental Restoration project will try to improve the river system’s water quality through storm water control, irrigation and education. "If Texans all along the Trinity River band together to fully protect its water quality and restore the river to its more pristine past, it will have a dramatic impact on birds and wildlife, ecotourism," Perry said. Perry, a Republican governor seeking re-election against four opponents, has been criticized for allowing fast-tracking of new coal plants, and failing to enact stronger clean air laws or set higher goals for use of renewable energy. Federal, private and state contributions could help Texas raise up to $30 million in the next three to five years. The money would fund hydrology, wetland restoration, reforestation and wildlife habitat efforts, along with a comprehensive water-flow model with the Army Corps of Engineers.

(Garay, Anabelle, "Perry promises funds to return Trinity River to its ‘pristine past’," The Daily Texan 06 September 2006.)