No. 80, December 5, 2006

River Revival Bulletin

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

table of contents










Bosnian rafters say paradise under threat

A group of French peacekeepers rafting on a sunny October day through the spectacular gorge of the Neretva River are among the last of many tourists before the cold, rainy season. But aficionados of the rushing, emerald green river wedged between the rocky Dinaric mountains say it may lose its appeal if authorities proceed with controversial plans to build four hydropower plants on the Neretva’s upper stream. Rich in rivers, wooded mountains and breathtaking landscapes, Bosnia wants to develop both power generation and tourism to help it offset the loss of communist-era heavy industry and reform the economy after the 1992-95 war. Plans to build new power plants on rivers have already irked communities across Bosnia, but nowhere is the clash between the two visions more polarized than on the Neretva. Rafters, fishermen and trekkers say the project offers doubtful economic benefits and would harm tourism and endanger nature in one of Bosnia’s most attractive locations. "This is a precious gem we have here but they want to destroy it," said Amir Vari of the Zeleni-Neretva (Greens-Neretva) group, which is part of a growing activist movement opposed to the plan.

(B92 News, "Bosnian rafters say paradise under threat,", 22 November 2006.)


Construction of $17 billion dams postponed

According to an official at the Pakistani government, the construction of $17 billion three mega dams has been delayed because of the opposition by small provinces. The three projects, which were to include Kalabagh, Akhori and Diamer-Bhasha -- were put up before a meeting of the central development working party (CDWP) for concept clearance so that formal discussions could be started with lenders for foreign funding arrangements. The opposition came from the representatives of the Sindh government; which demanded that a comprehensive report covering six key aspects of the three dams be submitted before giving concept clearance. The committee was earlier required to cover five aspects: environment impact, land acquisition process, construction priority, funding and implementation strategy of the three dams, which are part of five dams President Musharraf plans to construct before 2016.

(MENAFN, "Construction of $17 billion dams postponed- Pakistan,", 29 November 2006.)


Villagers, activists protest dams

Thai villagers and anti-dam activists staged a protest in front of the World Bank offices in Bangkok on the eve of an international conference on dam building. The protesters, from as far as Mae Hong Son and Ubon Ratchathani, submitted a statement denouncing the merits of hydropower dams as "symbols of development". Nanthachote Chairat of the Assembly of the Poor said the protest was timed to coincide with the International Symposium on Water Resources and Renewable Energy Development in Asia, organized by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. The statement cited the failure of the World Bank funded Pak Mun Dam. The decommissioned Ubon Ratchathani project significantly disrupted the livelihoods of local people and the ecosystem of the Mun River. "We, the victims of dams nationwide, are calling on the World Bank to stop issuing loans to build more dams. It must also support the rebuilding of communities and resources that have been affected by past projects as a way to make amends for their past mistakes," said the statement. A series of dams is slated for the Salween River, on the Thai-Burmese border. Protester Tawatchai Amornfaichondaen, 35, said villagers in his Mae Hong Son community have been kept in the dark about the schemes, or threatened by local officials not to speak out against them.

(The Bangkok Post, "Villagers, activists protest dams,", 30 November 2006.)


Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA

Update: Klamath Summit delayed to allow parties to negotiate

Two governors on record as favoring removal of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, called in October for a state-federal-stakeholder meeting to resolve water allocation and other issues. "We’re committed to reaching a long-term settlement for the upper Klamath. Re-licensing or decommissioning these dams must be the first issue addressed," said Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski in a joint news release with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "It seems only appropriate that dam removal be explored as part of the discussion and quite frankly, as part of the eventual solution to restore Klamath River health," said Schwarzenegger. The meeting was tentatively scheduled for mid-December in Klamath Falls, but will now likely be in late January to give stakeholders time to negotiate. The groups contacted the governors, saying they were making progress. "We just need some more time," said Steve Rothert of American Rivers. The governors support the delay if it means a better chance of producing an agreement that can win the support of the federal government. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne wants to see solutions on the table before committing to attend the summit and to return to Washington, DC, to seek funding. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff recommends a trap-and-haul system to get around three dams located in California. Downstream American Indian tribes with treaty rights to fish want outright dam removal, and so do Schwarzenegger and Kulongoski.

(Jeff, Barnard, "Klamath Summit delayed to allow parties to negotiate," The Associated Press, 22 November 2006.)

(Moore, Tam, and Kadel, Steve, "Dam removal tops governor’s agenda," Capital Press,, 26 October 2006.)

Update: The people v. FERC; Take the Klamath dams down

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held a hearing in mid-November on its draft environmental impact report for the proposed relicensing of PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams, now owned by billionaire Warren Buffett. The Klamath Hydroelectric Project’s 50-year license expired in March, and FERC is considering relicensing the project for another 30 to 50 years. There were Yurok, Karuk and Hupa people. There were non-Indians: Ocean fishers. River guides. Congress people, or their reps. There were college students, scientists, kids, conservationists, city people, river people and even a sympathetic farmer or two. But, just like the last time FERC came to town for a Klamath River meeting, the agency had underestimated the numbers that would show up. Even before the official start time arrived, the room was already packed to the gills -- 250 people, the maximum allowed, with another 150 outside. There were speeches, protest signs -- "Un-dam the Klamath!" -- and informational posters and a new video by the Klamath Salmon Media Collaborative called "Solving the Klamath Crisis: Keeping Farms and Fish Alive."

(Walters, Heidi, "The people v. FERC; Eureka hearing-goers tell agency to drop the dams," North Coast Journal, Inc., 23 November 2006.)

Algal toxins in Klamath reservoirs exceed WHO standards 4000 fold

Scientists from the Karuk Indian Tribe were surprised to discover huge blooms of the toxic blue green algae Microcystic aeruginosa in Klamath reservoirs last summer. The algae produce the toxic microcystin present in the reservoirs at dangerously high concentrations. "This year, in our second year of measuring algae, the Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs had the highest levels of the algal toxic microcystin ever measured in the United States," states Craig Tucker, representing the Karuk Tribe. "They exceeded the World Health Organizations guidelines for a moderate risk of exposure by 4,000 fold." WHO guidelines state that the presence of "visible scums"on the water’s surface constitutes a "high risk." Thick scums of algae are present in PacifCorp reservoirs from June through October. Neither the US or state governments have set their own standards. "We’re dealing with a potent liver toxin and known tumor promoter," said Regina Chichizola, executive director of the Klamath Riverkeeper. "We have known about this problem for over a year and there’s still not a plan to protect the public from this toxin." Besides being a risk to human health, the algae presents a great danger to the Klamath’s imperiled salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon and lamprey fisheries.

(Bacher,Dan, "Klamath Riverkeeper Leads 35 Groups in Battle to Clean the Watershed,", 31 October 2006.)

Coho, goodbye; pumping the Klamath dry

The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) announced in late October that it plans to give a hundred or so farmers and alfalfa ranchers in Siskiyou County just south of the Oregon border an exemption from the California Endangered Species Act. The Scott and Shasta Rivers are major Klamath tributaries. While salmon runs in these rivers have been depressed for many years, fisheries scientists and restorationists agree that the broad valleys and forested streams of the Scott and Shasta have the greatest potential among all Klamath tributaries to produce salmon. Furthermore, the Scott River in particular could be the key to recovery of Klamath River Coho salmon. While all Klamath Basin salmon stocks are "at risk of extinction" according to the American Fisheries Society, only Coho are listed as "threatened with extinction" under provision of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Ever since Klamath River Coho were listed as "threatened," Fish and Game officials have been meeting behind closed doors with Scott and Shasta River irrigation interests.

(Pace, Felice, "Coho, Goodbye; Pumping the Klamath Dry,", 7 November 2006.)

Friant Dam, San Joaquin River, CA

Update: Judge approves San Joaquin River Restoration Plan

A federal judge approved one of the largest river restoration projects in the western United States, capping an 18-year legal battle to return salmon to the San Joaquin River. US District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton approved the deal between environmental and fishing organizations, farmers and irrigation districts to return water to stretches of the river left dry by the Friant Dam. Karlton’s signature finalizes a settlement reached this summer, which will immediately take effect. The agreement allows water to be returned to roughly 60 miles of the San Joaquin River by 2009. While the construction of the Friant Dam in the 1940s transformed about a million acres in the Central Valley into fertile farmland, it dried up long sections of a river once thick with salmon. "This settlement will benefit millions of Californians and restore one of the major rivers of California while preserving a very important agricultural economy," said Hal Candee, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which sued the federal government for failing to protect salmon. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will reintroduce fall and spring runs of Chinook salmon by Dec. 31, 2012.

(KCRA 3, "Judge Approves San Joaquin River Restoration Plan; Decision Caps Effort Aimed At Restoring Salmon Population,", 24 October 2006.)

River Partners put forests back on the banks

River Partners gives farmers another way to avoid flooding besides building levees, which can be very expensive. In less populated, agricultural areas it is often far less expensive to let go of orchard land and give it back to nature. The reason, River Partners argues, is that the cottonwoods, sycamores, oaks, wild rose, elderberries, ashes and brush it replants protect the land more effectively than an orchard can. The organization was founded to tackle two different, but related issues: how to control Sacramento River flooding and to save the shrinking riparian forest habitat. The trees adapt easily to the river because they learned to "evolve as river compatible plants" hundreds of years ago. The forest also gives a habitat to life such as bank swallows, rabbits, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, salmon and the least Bell’s vireo -- which was an endangered songbird not seen in the Central Valley for more than 50 years until recently.

(Fox, Abby, "River Partners put forests back on the banks,", 15 November 2006.)


Munroe Falls Dam, Cuyahoga River, OH

Update: Ceremony celebrates removal of dam on the Cuyahoga River

Summit County, Munroe Falls and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency celebrated the completion of a $1.7 million dam removal on the Cuyahoga River. The dam -- 144 feet wide and 11.5 feet high -- was largely gone by late 2005. The stagnant pool behind the dam disappeared. The narrow river now tumbles over a rocky ledge. Trees and grass are growing on the banks. Removing the Munroe Falls Dam and modifying another dam in Kent are expected to improve the Cuyahoga’s water quality. The EPA wanted the two dams changed to reduce stagnant pools, improve water flow and increase dissolved oxygen and fish and insect populations. The Kent dam was modified in 2004 so the river can flow around it. That change has already had a major impact on fish and insect populations, to the point that the river meets EPA standards. The river at Munroe Falls is expected to attract more fish and aquatic insects very soon. Summit County and Kent are the biggest beneficiaries of the dam removal projects, because their sewage plants discharge into the Cuyahoga River. They would have faced costly bills for sewer plant improvements if the dams had not been removed.

(Downing, Bob, "Ceremony celebrates removal of dam; $1.7 million project to improve Cuyahoga, Akron Beacon Journal,, 28 October 2006.)


Truckee River restoration gives trout a boost

State wildlife biologists say fish populations are flourishing in a stretch of the Truckee River where crews have been restoring the riverbanks and bottoms to a more natural setting as part of an eight million-dollar project the Nature Conservancy started three years ago.. A recent population count shows the efforts are paying off at the historic McCarran Ranch. Kim Tisdale of the Nevada Department of Wildlife says trout are now plentiful where carp and suckerfish used to dominate before a sluggish section of the river was altered into a fish-friendly environment. The key appears to be the construction of a series of riffles, where shallow areas of rock-strewn whitewater spills into deeper pools. The natural variation of riffles and pools is beneficial to fish, insects and other wildlife.

(WorldNow, "Truckee River restoration give trout a boost east of Reno,", 2006.)


Housatonic River restoration proposals sought

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection wants conservationists to return the Housatonic River to what it might have been before decades of pollution from the General Electric Co. complex in the Berkshires. The DEP has published a request for proposals to rehabilitate sections of the river and its habitat under the Housatonic River Basin Natural Resources Restoration Plan. Winning ideas would be eligible for part of a $9 million fund paid for by GE as part of a six-year-old federal settlement and a $250 million cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls along a mile-and-a-half stretch of the river in Massachusetts. Potential contractors have until January to make their pitches on how to use the money. While GE has been paying to remove contaminated sediment downstream from its property, the Connecticut stretch -- where fishermen are told not to eat their catch -- has subtler needs, according to Michael Powers, the DEP’s project administrator. "Conservation-oriented organizations may have proposals," he said. "Educational institutions, the University of Connecticut, or any state or private university could be interested." The project’s trustees will be looking for a variety of innovative ideas, stressing river and floodplain restoration to improve the aquatic balance in the scenic-but-troubled river.

(Dixon, Ken, "Housatonic River proposals sought," Connecticut Post Online, 15 November 2006.)


Nisqually River estuary restoration

Nisqually tribe members danced, drummed and sang as the water rose and flooded the land -- and started a celebration of the continuing restoration of the Nisqually River estuary. The water that slowly flooded 100 acres of former cow pasture is another big step toward restoring the Nisqually Estuary -- a vital link in restoring Puget Sound and struggling salmon runs, said Billy Frank Jr., a Nisqually tribe member, longtime salmon advocate and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission chairman. The US Fish and Wildlife Service plans to remove more dikes on the other side of the Nisqually River and restore 700 acres of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to saltwater estuary. When the restoration is complete, 840 acres will be added to the Nisqually estuary. It will increase the amount of estuary land by 56 percent in South Sound. Estuaries are vital rearing grounds for young salmon, birds and other Puget Sound creatures. Thousands of species of aquatic plants, fish, invertebrates and other animals find food and shelter in estuaries, and restoring them is a priority for restoring Puget Sound. About 70 percent of Puget Sound’s major river estuaries have been lost to development.

For more information, visit the Nisqually River Council at:

(Allen, Chester, "Nisqually reaching back into its former territory: Estuary is ‘coming to life again, right in front of our eyes’," The Olympian, 01 November 2006.)

Condit Dam, White Salmon River, WA

Update: Federal fisheries agency says, "Do away with Condit Dam"

The National Marine Fisheries Service has concluded that removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River would greatly improve conditions for threatened chinook salmon and steelhead runs despite negative short-term impacts. Failure to take out the 125-foot-tall dam would result in long-term decline of the fish stocks and could even drive runs to extinction. Taking out the dam would open 33 miles of native steelhead habitat above the dam and 14 miles of habitat for spring chinook salmon, restore natural river processes, such as the transport of spawning gravel and large woody debris, and lower the water temperature downstream from the dam. If the dam remains, it will continue to block the formation of pools and riffles and the deposit of gravel, depriving adult fish of important resting and spawning habitat and reducing rearing habitat for juvenile fish migrating downstream. If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits the dam’s destruction, Condit would become the tallest dam ever dismantled in the US. The findings are good news for dam owner PacifiCorp, the Portland-based utility that hopes to remove the dam in October 2008 at a cost of $20 million. Environmental groups that were parties to a settlement agreement supporting the dam removal plan welcomed the federal opinion.

(Durbin, Kathie, "Federal fisheries: Do away with Condit Dam," Columbian, 20 October 2006.)

Snake River dams, Snake River, WA

Update: New offensive against lower Snake dams expected

Bolstered by new statistics and new leadership in the US Congress, an alliance of groups is preparing for another offensive against four hydroelectric dams on the Lower Snake River. The aim will be the removal of all, or at least some, of the dams so the Snake will flow more freely and help the entire Pacific Northwest salmon population recover to the bountiful levels of decades ago. "At one time, 50 percent of the entire Columbia Basin salmon production came out of the Snake River Basin," said Trey Carskadan of the Northwest Sportfishing Association. "And we certainly know we are not seeing that production now." Proponents of dam removal say it’s a clear choice between the dams and the fish, and a new study (see below) contends that advances in the development of energy efficiency and wind generation, plus the potential of a revved-up fishing industry stretching from the mountains of Idaho to the Pacific Coast, means no one will particularly miss those dams. With the impending changeover in Washington to a Democratic-led Congress and the possibility of a Democrat in the White House in two years, the lobbying campaign is set to begin.

(Anderson, Hil, "Analysis: Wind strong enough to doom dams?", 20 November 2006.)

Update: Lower Snake dam removal will save taxpayers billions of dollars

Removing the four lower Snake River dams will save US taxpayers and Northwest electricity consumers billions of dollars, according to a study released by a coalition of taxpayer, business and conservation groups. The study, entitled Revenue Stream, examines the economic impact of dam removal and salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest, and finds in addition to taxpayer savings of up to $5 billion, increased tourism, new outdoor recreation, and improved sport and commercial fishing opportunities could generate more than $20 billion in revenue for the region. "The bottom line is clear," said David Jenkins, government affairs director for Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP). "The financial cost of maintaining and operating these dams far outweighs their benefits. It will be cheaper for taxpayers and better for utility ratepayers to remove these dams and replace their current benefits than to continue funding the status quo." Revenue Stream presents a side-by-side comparison of the federal expenses of maintaining and operating the dams versus the costs of removing the dams and replacing their benefits. The conclusion: With a bottom-line savings of up to $5 billion, removing the four lower Snake River dams will return significant dividends to the nation and the Northwest.

Revenue Stream is available from Save Our Wild Salmon, at:

(US Newswire, "Lower Snake Dam Removal Will Save Taxpayers Billions of Dollars and Boost Regional Economy,", 15 November 2006.)