No. 25, April 30, 2001

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak









**Quebec Dam, Richelieu River, Canada**
St. Ours Dam to gain a fish ladder

Officials in Quebec announced on July 14 plans to build a $1.7 million fish ladder for the St. Ours dam on the Richelieu River. The endangered copper redhorse, found only in the Richelieu and St. Lawrence Rivers, is expected to increase in numbers, as they will once again have access to their preferred spawning grounds upstream, which has been denied to them for over thirty years. In addition, due to the structure of the ladder, it is expected that the ladder will be used by and will benefit many other species of fish. Such fish populations have declined by 90 percent since their access to the upper river was denied.

(Klotz, Hattie, "Endangered fish to be reunited with spawning grounds after 33 years: $1.7-million ladder will create path around Quebec dam," The Ottawa Citizen, 15 July 2000. Text available at:

Canadian dams shortlisted for decommissioning

In an exciting initiative for Canada's rivers, two British Columbia organizations have produced a shortlist of dams ripe for decommissioning or dismantling. The shortlist appears in "River Recovery - Restoring Rivers Through Dam Decommissioning," a report published by the Outdoor Recreation Council (ORC) of BC and the BC Institute of Technology (BCIT). With its powerful rivers and steep sided narrow valleys, BC is a dam builders dream come true. After World War II, most people in the western Canadian province regarded dam construction as a positive step toward economic prosperity. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the provincial government pursued an aggressive program of large-scale dam construction for hydroelectric power production. This was for both domestic and export use. But as today's report notes, attitudes changed in the 1970s as the public began to witness the serious environmental and social costs of dams. "The decline of fish stocks and the permanent drowning of productive farmland, valley bottom forest, scenic canyons, and [in some cases] entire towns, fueled a growing public opposition to new dams," said the report. "There are many dams in the province that have outlived their usefulness or provide only marginal benefit," said ORC chairman Mark Angelo, who added this may apply to as many as 10 percent of BC's dams. "The decommissioning of some of these structures would create some wonderful habitat restoration opportunities."

For more information visit the River Recovery web site at:, or contact Mark Angelo at

(Environmental News Service (ENS), "Canadian Dams Shortlisted For Decommissioning," 9 April 2001. Story on-line at:


**Matilija Dam, Matilija Creek (Ventura River), CA**
Sad saga of silt-clogged Matilija Dam

The history of Matilija Dam has been well documented, both in an evaluation prepared for Ventura County in 1999 and by Ventura native and river advocate Ed Henke. Both show that experts in the field--including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers--were united against the dam from the start. California's Department of Fish and Game feared that the dam would imperil the thousands of steelhead trout that once surged up the river each spring, so thick that Supervisor John Flynn recalls them bumping against his legs as he waded in the water as a boy. The dam's design did not include a fish ladder, and attempts to add one failed; local steelhead are now endangered species. The California Division of Water Resources doubted that the dam would, as promoted, produce much water for Ojai residents and farmers. In fact the dam holds less than half the 1,900 acre-feet that advocates estimated it would. Because of rapid sedimentation from steep Matilija Creek, in a few years it will provide no water at all. The 1944 bond proposal estimated it would cost $682,000 to construct Matilija Dam; 20 years later, after cost overruns, lawsuits, fines and an emergency surgery to reduce the risk of catastrophic failure, an engineering journal estimated the total cost of the dam at $4 million. After the county's insurance was canceled, officials asked how much it would cost to remove the flawed edifice: $300,000 to $350,000, said Bechtel. Take away Matilija Dam and eroding beaches can replenish naturally with sand from upstream, and the fish are likely to return to the river. Ventura County environmentalists are worried that budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration signal enthusiasm for the removal of Matilija Dam may be waning in Washington. At least for now, the Matilija project is progressing. The Army Corps of Engineers is committed to a $3.5-million study--with funding from a variety of sources--to investigate options for tearing down the dam.

For more information on the campaign to remove this dam, visit the Matilija Coalition web site at: Ed Henke's Historical Research can be reached at 541.482.9578.

(Stolz, Kit, "It's Time to End the Sad Saga of Silt-Clogged Matilija Dam," 15 April 2001, Los Angeles Times.)
(Surman, Matt, "Supporters of Dam Removal Fear Interest Is Waning: Some say Bush's proposed budget cuts could affect hopes of tearing down Matilija, which is blocking the local supply of steelhead trout." 12 April 2001, Los Angeles Times)

Seasonal dams along the Russian River

Seasonal dams along the Russian River have played a role in forming the summertime memories of many North Coast natives. The county District Attorney's Office has recently made it clear that it will be cracking down on illegal summer dams as a way of protecting steelhead and salmon populations under the Endangered Species Act. Under California law, it's a crime to erect a summer dam without the permission of the state Department of Fish and Game and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Removal of the large dams may be necessary for the protection of the fish, but regulators will need the help of science to convince citizens of this and avoid drawn-out public battles. Regulators also will need to explain why alternative measures short of complete removal wouldn't work. The campaign to restore salmon and steelhead populations has cost millions in taxpayer funds and forced hundreds of changes on private business and public agencies, all in the name of a good cause. But the reality is for many, none of it will be considered so great a sacrifice as the removal of a single swimming hole

(Editorial: "Summer dams - Campaign to protect salmon hits county residents where they swim,"
17 April 2001, Santa Rosa Press Democrat.)

Push for more water supply development by Association of California Water Agencies

"Unless we invest in expanding the capacity of our water infrastructure, California will fall victim to another totally foreseeable crisis, for no other reason than its refusal to plan," Steve Hall, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies told the House Water and Power Subcommittee. Hall said ACWA and its members support legislation now being developed by Congressman Ken Calvert (R-Riverside) to develop additional water supplies and restore ecosystems in California through the CalFed Bay-Delta Program. California has built two reservoirs in the past 11 years, Hall said, while the state's population grew by 8 million people and millions of acre-feet of water were diverted to help save native fish. Officials are focusing on funding for building reservoirs to increase storage capacity for dry periods. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is planning legislation that would finance CalFed by perhaps $2.7 billion over seven years -- close to triple the current funding by Congress. The Bush administration has yet to nominate anyone to oversee the Interior Department's water and science programs, the Fish and Wildlife Service or the Bureau of Reclamation.

(Association of California Water Agencies, "Federal Investment in California Water System Necessary To Avert Looming Water Supply Crisis," 3 April 2001.)


**Various dams, Icicle Creek, WA**
A dam busting Bullitt

Harriet Bullitt grew up and made her fortune in Seattle broadcasting, then returned to Leavenworth in the 1980s to enjoy the alpine surroundings and manage a conference center. Now Bullitt, a former board member of the Audubon Society and a founder of the Icicle Creek Watershed Council, wants the US Fish and Wildlife Service to restore Icicle Creek's natural flow, which she believes will bring wild Chinook salmon back. The old dams are now listed as historic landmarks, and the old stream course has become a wetland with its own guidelines. However, Bullitt's group uncovered an old law that forbids diverting the main stem of a river, and they persuaded Fish and Wildlife to open a diversion gate, sending some water down the old Icicle streambed. "That was very dramatic," says Bullitt. "Suddenly, the flow of the river went right back to the original streambed." Still, Fish and Wildlife says doing more will take time--and $4.5 million. "There's a huge sediment load in the creek to deal with, plus issues involving tribal fisheries," says Daniel Diggs, assistant regional director of fisheries for the agency. "There's no magic bullet." Which leaves Bullitt puzzled. "How can this government get anything done for salmon," she asks, "if it can't get some old junk out of a minor river?"

(Gantenbein, Douglas, "A Dam-Busting Bullitt," Audubon, April 2001.)

**North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project, North Umpqua River, OR**
PacifiCorp gets relicensing victory with waiver on aiding migratory fish

PacifiCorp will not have to modify five hydroelectric dams on the North Umpqua River to aid the passage of salmon, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission decided in March. Renewal of the "memorandum of understanding" between the commission and PacifiCorp is a victory for the Portland-based utility, which is seeking to renew its license to operate the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project, a five-dam complex. "We're really pleased," said PacifiCorp spokeswoman Terry Flores. "It's a very important step toward resolving some of the issues debated in the relicensing process." PacifiCorp's operating license for the project expired in 1997, and the commission has waived protections for migratory fish. PacifiCorp is seeking a new 30-year license. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide whether to renew the license. Final approval might not come for another couple of years, Flores said. The company, owned by ScottishPower, took a big step toward securing the latest waiver in January, when it pledged $5 million for state programs to help salmon. Environmentalists still are pushing for the removal of Soda Springs Dam, the lowest in a series of eight dams on the river, to protect a fish habitat above the dam.

("PacifiCorp gets relicensing victory with waiver on aiding migratory fish," 24 March 2001. Text on-line at:

The water/power ties that bind the region

Deep in a limestone cavern in a remote corner of Washington State, Seattle city employees are scrambling. Operators learned the dam had been knocked off line by an equipment failure at a BPA switchyard south of Colville. Even in this low-water year, water is flowing in these early weeks of the runoff season. When that water is not used to create energy, it fills the pool behind the dam, and there is only so much room there. "We were only an hour away from having to spill water," Baird told me the next day, explaining his view that water spilled is energy wasted. "That would be a crime this season," he said. Back in Seattle, Mike Sinowitz, director of power marketing for City Light, had to act fast. "To lose a full plant is very unusual," he said. The first hour, he was able to transfer the load to other hydro projects in the system, Ross and Diablo dams. For the second hour, he bought 135 megawatts on the spot market at $350 a megawatt, or $47,000 for one hour of electricity. That's a lot of money, but Sinowitz said power would be even more expensive in August. Water left in a reservoir today means less energy bought on the spot market when things really get tough.

(Cameron, Mindy, "The water/power ties that bind the region," Seattle Times editorial, 25 March 2001. Full article recovered on the web at:

Oregon lawmakers toy with idea of buying BPA

Some Oregon lawmakers are thinking big these days: they want to buy out the Bonneville Power Administration, one of the largest high-voltage electrical transmission systems in the world. Why shouldn't the Northwest control the power-marketing agency that supplies about 45 percent of the region's power, they ask? But Washington Governor Gary Locke and others from his state see it differently. They think they have to "protect Bonneville" at all cost as the region faces a power crunch, not try to encourage the federal government to put it up for sale. "We in the Northwest have to keep BPA as a regional resource, a regional asset to ensure low cost affordable energy for our businesses and our citizens," Locke said. However, BPA doesn't actually own the 29 hydropower dams, just the power they generate and the transmission lines. Instead, the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation own and operate the dams. Bonneville was founded in 1937 as a federal agency to market the power produced at the Bonneville Dam. Today, the agency has expanded into a power wholesaler harvesting energy from the Columbia River Basin, as well as nuclear power plants.

(Pfleger, Katherine, "Oregon lawmakers toy with idea of buying BPA," Associated Press, 24 March 2001. Text found on the web at:

Dam nation! America's rivers in crisis - book review

A new book, "Inside Passage," travels beyond the boundaries of traditional environmental non-fiction. In an essay called "Dam Nation," author Richard Manning journeys to the Columbia River, where millions of adult salmon once roiled the waters on their way from the Pacific Ocean to the streams of their birth in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Manning tells us how overfishing, logging, grazing and - most importantly - federal dam-building decimated the wild runs to the point where today most of us wouldn't know a wild fish if it swam into our bathtub. At most restaurants, we sink our teeth into salmon raised on fish farms. Manning also gives the sad salmon saga some important context. The drive to tame the Columbia, as with so many other rivers in this country, was not fueled by large industrialists bent on making money, though they certainly made out in the end. Rather, the thrust came from progressives, such as Franklin Roosevelt and singer Woody Guthrie, who erroneously saw the construction of dams as a way to pull the country's working class out of the economic doldrums and to create a just and orderly society.

(Larmer, Paul, "Dam nation! America's rivers in crisis," Christian Science Monitor, 5 April 2001. Full book review available at:


Rio Dam seen as cheap drinking-water proposal

Albuquerque's plan to tap the Rio Grande for drinking water is beginning to take shape. By 2005, the city plans to embark on a massive project that would divert some water from the Rio Grande, treat it at a state-of-the-art plant and deliver it to customers. The project proposes to cut the city's reliance on groundwater and avoid depleting the aquifer. The city is studying three options for how to divert water from the Rio Grande. The proposed options are: 1) An adjustable-height dam, which would be about three-feet high when fully raised and could be lowered to lie flat against the river bottom. 2) A set of pipes beneath the river bed that would collect water and transport it to a treatment plant. 3) Withdrawing water at the Angostura Dam. A canal and drain would carry the water to a treatment plant. Brian Gifford, a water associate with the New Mexico Public Interest Research Group, said he likes none of the diversion methods. "All of the current proposed alternatives take too much water out of the river, which will harm the river ecosystem," Gifford said. Steve Harris of Rio Grande Restoration has similar concerns.

Visit Rio Grande Restoration on-line at:

(McKay, Dan, "Rio Dam cheapest drinking-water proposal," Albuquerque Journal, 26 March 2001. Text retrieved at:


Fox Creek restoration should start soon

"You cannot project what a stream should be without knowing what it was," says Robert Praeger, a founder of Intuitions and Logic, an engineering firm invited to submit a plan for restoring a portion of Missouri's Fox Creek. Established seven years ago, Intuitions and Logic has undertaken such assignments as getting radionucleii out of pools at Weldon Spring and restoring Phoenix's Salt River, currently concrete-encased, to a real river. For the latter project, they studied desert streams to make recommendations to change a flat-bottomed channel to a natural river channel appropriate to the region. In the river-engineering think tank he founded, Praeger, who has a degree in civil engineering and a master's in science, specializes in fluvial geomorphology, how flowing water changes the earth, calculating what species are needed to restore habitat and function to the stream. The company also employs plant life engineers, hydrologists and geophysicists in the pursuit of river restoration.

(Shinkle, Florence, "Fox Creek restoration should start soon," The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 22 March 2001.)


Bill may protect dam many want destroyed

Over the objections of environmental groups, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill in late March to designate the Central Florida reservoir a state recreation area and preserve it. The bill would put the state at cross-purposes with three federal agencies that want the dam destroyed, according to a letter federal officials sent the governor this year. The dam and reservoir partly occupy federal land that once was part of the Ocala National Forest. "Accordingly, we have a deep concern over any legislation that would establish by law the continued existence of the Rodman Reservoir," regional directors for the U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Protection Agency wrote. Such legislation "would create a conflict between state law and the federal code of regulations." A legislative staff report estimates that the dam needs up to $2.5-million in repairs if it is to remain in place, and that operating it each year costs about $500,000. If the state were to keep the dam, it also would have to pay people whose land was flooded by it years ago. The estimated cost of those payments is at least $9.4-million. A 1995 report on restoring the river estimated that tearing down the dam could cost between $5 million and $23.4 million.

(Pittman, Craig, "Bill may protect dam many want destroyed: A House committee has approved a bill that would protect the Rodman Reservoir, halting the dam's destruction," St. Petersburg Times, 27 March 2001. Text at: