No. 27, July 3, 2001

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak









Chinese Premier on Three Gorges Project construction quality

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji recently stressed that construction quality is of life-and-death importance to the Three Gorges Project. Zhu, also head of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee, added that the resettlement of local people from the area of China's largest hydro-power project to other provinces and cities should be further encouraged, while efforts should still be made to readjust the industrial structures of the enterprises removed from the dam area so as to realize coordinated development in the economic and social aspects as well as in ecological and environmental construction. The session fully confirmed the achievements and progress made since the project was launched in 1993, and concluded that the quality of the comprehensive construction of the project is well guaranteed. The main-frame earth and stone work totaling 146.76 million cubic meters, and 16.12 million cubic meters of concrete pouring work. So far, some 320,000 people living in the dam area have been resettled, and 18.19 million square meters of housing have been built for them. Some 690 enterprises have been either relocated elsewhere or closed down for various reasons, such as bankruptcy or failure to meet the state's required environmental standards.

(Business Daily Update, "Chinese Premier on Three Gorges Project construction quality," 4 June 2001.)


Pennsylvania and Wisconsin lead this year's river restoration season

Most people enjoying their July 4th cookout along the banks of a local river might be surprised to learn that the holiday marks the annual beginning of "river restoration season" -- several months of warm weather and low water needed to selectively remove some of the obsolete and unsafe dams that plug rivers across the country. Dams have a long history in America. In fact, since the nation declared its independence in 1776, it has built more than one dam per day to run mills, control floods, create water supplies, and to generate electricity. But as the author of the Declaration of Independence realized, damming rivers has unfortunate consequences and that sometimes removing them is the best thing to do. During a debate in 1816 over navigation in the infant nation, dam owner Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I am ready to cut my dam in any place, and at any moment requisite, so as to remove that impediment, if it be thought one, and to leave those interested to make the most of the natural circumstances of the place."

175 years after Jefferson's death on July 4th, 1826, dam removal is a river restoration tool that is picking up steam. Almost 40 dams in nine states are scheduled for removal in 2001. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have the largest number of removals planned for this summer and fall -- each state with more than 10 obsolete or unsafe dams coming out. California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Washington, will also remove one or more dams.

For more information, contact:

  • Elizabeth Maclin, Eric Eckl, 202-347-7550 both of American Rivers
    (or visit
  • Scott Carney of PA Fish and Boat Commission, 814-353-2225
  • Todd Ambs of River Alliance of Wisconsin, 608-257-2424
  • Brian Graber of Trout Unlimited, 608-255-0361

("PA and WI Lead This Year's River Restoration Season," U.S. Newswire, 29 June 2001.)


California considers softer solutions to beach protection

California is developing a new policy aimed at protecting the state's 1,100 miles of coastline by favoring beach replenishment over sea walls, breakwaters and other structures. The proposal also would make removal of obsolete dams a high priority. If adopted, the policy would add California to the roster of states that are discouraging structures that contribute to beach erosion by restricting the flow of sediment. The California Resource Agency's proposed revision of a 23-year-old shoreline policy is intended to counteract the erosion that afflicts an estimated 85% of the state's coastline. California's policy would be the latest in a series of state efforts. An annual ''State of the Beach'' report released late last month by Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, contends that ''most states are moving away from the use of hardened structures as the standard response to eroding shorelines.'' Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and South Carolina already discourage protective shoreline structures, Surfrider reports. But two years ago, Florida authorized them, notes Chad Nelsen, environmental director for San Clemente, California-based Surfrider. Beach replenishment, more common on the Atlantic coast than the Pacific, would be California's preferred alternative for erosion control. Because federal funds often are used for such projects, the agency wants to ''make it very clear that the state of California is interested in [beach] nourishment," Baird says.

(Engineering News-Record, "California considers softer solutions to beach protection," 4 June 2001.)

**Red Bluff Diversion Dam, Sacramento River, CA**
California considers softer solutions to beach protection

Representative Doug Ose Wednesday announced the appropriation of $2 million toward a solution to water supply and fish passage problems at the Tehama-Colusa Canal by the end of 2002. The issues arise from the conflicting need to allow fish to pass the outlets that deliver water to two canals that serve an estimated 300,000 acres of agriculture land. Canal authority general manager Art Bullock said there are three main alternatives one of which involves removing the Red Bluff Diversion Dam, eliminating Lake Red Bluff, and replacing them with a big pumping plant. Ose's press secretary, Yier Shi, said "everything is an option, but right now we are trying get water supply as well as get the best environmental option - that is what this funding is for." Bullock agreed the "elimination of the dam as a source of agricultural water supply is one of three main alternatives," but not "a preferred alternative" as it could have a significant economic impact on Red Bluff. "To us, this is important because it illustrates how we can balance the need for water supply in Northern California with the environmental needs of the area - that is what is significant," said Shi.

(Bardwell, Sarah, "$2 million may find options to removal of Red Bluff dam," Chico Enterprise-Record, 5 June 2001.)

**Matilija Dam, Matilija Creek, CA**
Agreement may be the beginning of the end for Matilija Dam

A pact between the county and Army engineers covers a study on the obsolete Matilija Creek structure. The push to tear down Matilija Dam took a step forward with the announcement of a cost-sharing agreement between Ventura County officials and the Army Corps of Engineers. The pact covers a $4.2-million study that will help determine whether the federal government moves forward with a proposal to remove the obsolete dam, which is filled with silt and blocks endangered steelhead trout from their spawning grounds. If approved by the Board of Supervisors, the county would agree to bear 50% of the study's costs, with the other half coming from federal sources. A $1.6-million grant from the California Coastal Conservancy will cover much of the county's share, with the remainder flowing from the county's Flood Control District. The two-year review will look at a variety of issues, including how best to remove the estimated 6 million cubic yards of sediment trapped behind the dam. So much dirt has settled behind the dam that it serves no useful purpose, starves the beach of sand and blocks the county's once-plentiful supply of steelhead trout from making their upstream journey. Engineers will look at technical aspects of removing a 190-foot-tall concrete wall and the possible effects on residents and ecosystems along the Ventura River. Another important consideration will be cost. Estimates for removal range between $25 million and $200 million. The study is expected to provide a more precise figure.

(Saillant, Catherine, "Agreement May Be Beginning of the End for Matilija Dam," Los Angeles Times Ventura County Edition, 1 June, 2001.)

CalFed would build more dams, destroy others under new plan

Federal lawmakers proposed busting old dams, expanding existing ones and building new reservoirs in May as part of a bipartisan approach to increase water for fish, farms and drinking. Framing the new legislation as an attempt to avert a water crisis as dire as the state's energy shortage, California's Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Representative Ken Calvert outlined $3 billion in improvements to the state's complex water system. Both bills would reauthorize the California Federal Bay-Delta Program, which is funded by federal, state and local agencies to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and provide a reliable supply of water to farmers, nature and municipal water users. The program, known as CalFed, currently lacks funding because Congress did not reauthorize it last year. Environmentalists were dismayed over plans to create new water supplies.

Barry Nelson, an analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Calvert's bill would allow dam projects, such as the construction of the Sites Reservoir in west Sacramento County, to bypass a level of congressional approval. "It seems to undermine environmental protections and the CalFed plan to promote boondoggle water projects," Nelson said. He said the bill would benefit agriculture and provide a huge subsidy for water that farmers can't afford. He said an analysis of the Sites project estimated it would cost taxpayers $100 million a year. Senator Barbara Boxer expressed reservations over legislative shortcuts to authorize enlarging Shasta Dam, expanding the Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County and building storage for water in the Bay-Delta area. Boxer said in a statement, "I strongly support moving forward with feasibility studies of these three projects. But I cannot support taxpayer funds being authorized in advance of the completion of these studies." While Feinstein's bill tilts more in favor of ecological improvements, such as removing obsolete dams and restoring streams and rivers, Calvert's leans more toward increasing water supplies.

For more information see:

(Melley, Brian, "CalFed would build more dams, destroy others under new plan," Associated Press, 25 May 2001.)


**Elwha & Glines Canyon dams, Elwha River, WA**
Elwha dams' removal part of project approved by Congress

Despite concerns from the Bush administration, the effort to remove two dams on the Olympic Peninsula's Elwha River would receive almost $26 million in funding under a bill approved in June by a congressional subcommittee. Under the current plan, the first of the two dams on the Elwha River could be removed in 2004 and restoration work on the river, which flows out of Olympic National Park, could begin to help restore what was once one of the healthiest salmon runs in the region. The $26 million in the bill would be used to help build a new water system for Port Angeles, which draws its water from the Elwha. Dicks said the administration had taken a close look at any projects with large price tags, such as the Elwha project, and also had questions about dam removals that had been championed by the interior secretary in the Clinton administration, Bruce Babbitt. The congressman said he raised the Elwha issue in two conversations with Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "There were serious questions about whether the administration would support it," Dicks said. "This was a critical first step in getting their support."

(Blumenthal, Les, "$95 million for state in funding bill; DAMS OUT: Elwha dams' removal part of forest, land projects House panel Oks," The News Tribune, 8 June 2001.)

**Hemlock Dam (Trout Creek Dam), Trout Creek, WA**
Dam may face doom so fish can avoid it

Behind the bulging arch frame of Hemlock Dam sits a pile of silt 18 feet deep. It's that bulging pile, and the blockage the dam represents to a threatened run of wild steelhead, that's prompted the U.S. Forest Service to consider removing the 20-foot-tall dam and draining a reservoir that's entertained area residents for more than six decades. "The thing we have to do, that we absolutely have to do, is remedy the fish passage issue," district Ranger Greg Cox told a Forest Service citizens advisory committee last week. The agency has proposed removing the dam as the cheapest and most effective way to help fish. The 16-acre lake has become choked with silt. It's been years since the Forest Service dredged the lake to remove sediment that builds up against the 66-year-old dam, and sand bars have accumulated in the lake. So much silt has jammed up against the back of the 20-foot-tall dam that the water now is only 2 feet deep on the upstream side.

While Forest Service officials say they're willing to listen to local residents, they made it clear that the 1998 Endangered Species Act listing of steelhead makes it imperative that fish be better accommodated. The Forest Service has already spent $275,000 modifying Hemlock Dam to funnel fish toward a small fish ladder and hundreds of thousands more improving habitat upstream, with less than successful results. In 1999, biologists estimated only 50 steelhead adults made it past the primitive fish ladder, compared to more than 1,000 believed to have spawned in the upper reaches of Trout Creek before the dam was constructed. The agency estimates the cost of removing the dam at $1.8 million, which is considerably less than a pair of other conceptual options the Forest Service has proposed. The first, carving a 7-foot-deep notch out of the top of the dam, constructing a new channel behind it and equipping it with a new, modern fish ladder, would cost $3.7 million. The other option would entail reconstruction of the fish ladder and dredging a portion of the lake behind the dam, at a cost estimated by WSU at $4.3 million.

(Robinson, Erik, "Dam may face doom so fish can avoid it," The Columbian, 3 June 2001.)

Spilling postponed on Columbia River

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has postponed its previously planned spillage of water at Columbia River hydro dams by a few weeks. The spillage was to facilitate the downstream migration of juvenile salmon in the river.
BPA, a US federal agency, cited the prevailing severe drought in the northwest and concerns over power supplies as the reason for the change. BPA said that the water saved by not spilling is enough to generate 1000MW. The National Marine and Fisheries Service (NMFS) estimates that halting the spill programme will decrease survival rates by anything from 0-15% on the Columbia river, and by about 0-2% on the Snake river. In order to minimise the effect on the fish the NMFS, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and US Bureau of Reclamation are planning to haul thousands more young salmon downstream in trucks and barges this year. The fish will be removed from the river at federal dams in Washington and Oregon and dropped below the Bonneville dam, a distance of 466km. Officials have expressed concern that the record low rainfall in the region has left the Columbia and Snake rivers shallow, warm and sluggish - unfriendly conditions for migrating juvenile salmon. The Corps, which owns and operates eight federal dams on the lower Columbia and Snake rivers, has been transporting fish in trucks and barges since 1968.

(Union Leader Correspondent, "Spilling postponed on Columbia River," 31 May 2001.)

**Goldsborough Creek dam, Goldsborough Creek, WA**
Channel change helps fish

As a first step toward removing an aging wooden barrier to fish passage on Washington's Goldsborough Creek, a construction crew will channel the 100-foot wide creek into a corrugated metal pipe, 5 feet in diameter and 1,700 feet long. State Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Simpson Timber Company are partners in the $4.8 million dam removal project. A team of biologists and volunteers will be on hand to rescue any fish that get stranded in shallow pools when the stream is dewatered this week. Rescued fish will be transported in a tanker truck to nearby tributary Coffee Creek. In the future, the project is expected to be a major boon for fish, opening up 14 miles of ideal spawning and rearing habitat. Estimates indicate the creek will support thousands more coho, chum, steelhead and cutthroat trout once the dam is removed. Built in 1921 to supply hydroelectric power to the City of Shelton, the dam later was used to supply water to mills on the city's waterfront, but has not been in service since 1996. While the dam is only 14 feet high, water flowing over it eroded the streambed, creating a 32-foot drop that made the fishway inadequate.

(Yuasa, Mark, "Channel change helps fish," The Seattle Times, 27 May 2001.)

Debate rages about effect of barging fish around dams

Indian tribes, environmentalists and fishing groups say barging is a failed experiment. They want more water dedicated to fish and less reserved for power production, irrigation and commercial uses. Some groups are suing to press the issue. The $3 million annual effort is still unproven, 33 years after the first salmon was loaded into a barge. Scientists, politicians and activists argue over whether barging works; studies are inconclusive. The issue is particularly contentious in this year of drought. The government has decided to barge as many fish as possible so it can use as much water as possible for producing power rather than whisking young fish downstream. Although the fish run is far from over, there are early indications that this year's crop is failing, with as few as 10 percent of the expected fish showing up at some locations. A substantial loss would ripple through generations, and move protected runs of fish closer to extinction. Federal agencies say power production must be the first priority, to avoid blackouts and economic crises. And since low water will likely leave the Snake and Columbia inhospitable, they contend barging is the best way to save as many fish as possible. The plan to limit spill and rely heavily on barging runs counter to the federal salmon-recovery strategy released last year by the National Marine Fisheries Service. But the NMFS mandate allowed the BPA to forgo spills by declaring an energy emergency. The combined impact of skyrocketing electricity rates and the second-worst drought on record has made this such a year. Trout Unlimited and 12 other groups filed a federal lawsuit to force more aggressive salmon-saving efforts, arguing the government isn't complying with the Endangered Species Act.

(Hansen, Dan, "Debate rages about effect of barging fish around dams," The Idaho Spokesman-Review 23 May 2001.)


**Waubeka Dam, Milwaukee River, WI**
Waubeka Dam's fate is sealed

The artificial lake held back by the Waubeka Dam on the Milwaukee River will be drained to prevent a collapse of the 76-year-old structure, state environmental officials said. Breaching the dam "will reduce the threat to public health and safety" posed by the disintegrating wall of concrete, said Mike Bruch, water regulation engineer for the state Department of Natural Resources. A final decision on the fate of the historic mill dam will come later in the year, Bruch said. "The department believes that there are two options for the dam: complete reconstruction or removal," Bruch said. Opening a section of the dam next month is a safety precaution, and that action will not affect a decision on whether to replace it, according to Bruch. Governor Scott McCallum will not block partial demolition of the dam, a spokesman for the governor announced, setting the stage for likely protests in which local residents vow to stare down equipment operators hired by the Department of Natural Resources. "I intend to stand in front of the equipment," said Chuck Fry, chairman of the Waubeka Dam Preservation Council. He described the structure as the heart of the village. The protesters were hopeful that Representative Glenn Grothman would be able to persuade the governor to stop the work when he met with McCallum's policy advisers and representatives of the state Department of Natural Resources in an 11th-hour attempt to preserve the 76-year-old structure. The governor's advisers have accepted a DNR recommendation that the breaching should be done to protect public safety and prevent a collapse of the dam.

(Behm, Don, "Waubeka dam's fate is sealed; Governor won't block breach of 1925 wall, spurring talk of protests from preservationists," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 12, 2001.)
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lake may be drained to avoid dam collapse," 27 May 2001.)

Two top biologists look to dismantle a few Iowa dams

Gary Siegwarth day dreams of free-flowing rivers. Rivers where walleyes and catfish swim unimpeded. Rivers where canoeists paddle past scenic northern Iowa towns avoiding dams. "I get so excited about it that I can't fall asleep," said the Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist. He and DNR fisheries biologist Bill Kalishek - two of the state's top river biologists - are leading an effort to restore selected rivers to natural, pre-dam conditions. Both argue that the dams block upstream fish migration from the Mississippi River and the silted-in impoundment are of little benefit to aquatic life or recreationists. Siegwarth's pet project is the Turkey River. If un-dammed, it would join the Yellow River as the only other free-flowing river in Iowa. He envisions riverfront parks, paths, canoe ports to boost tourism that could reconnect residents to the waterway. But Elkader's citizens like their historic dam, built in 1844, said Ed Olson, executive director of the Elkader Development Corp. Some people will bristle when you say you're going to take the dam out," he said. "They like to stand on the bridge and watch the water go over the dam. But once they understand the benefits, I think they will get behind the idea."

(Associated Press, "Two top biologists look to dismantle a few Iowa dams," 31 May 2001.)


**Fort Halifax Dam, Sebasticook River, ME**
Council opposes efforts to raze dam

Town Manager Edward A. Gagnon told councilors he received a call in June from an employee of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, notifying him the NRC is pushing for removal of the Fort Halifax Dam. The NRC has been visiting landowners along the Sebasticook River and touting the benefits of dam removal, according to Gagnon, who said he questions whether it would bring anything but a lot of low water. 'This issue is going to be a major issue,' he said. Gagnon said he has been contacted by residents along the river who want the Town Council to draw up a resolution opposing removal of the dam, which would ultimately lower the water level. Council Chairman Roland L. Mic had said he would support such a resolution, as he is against removal. He and his family have boated on the river for several years, he said. Gerald Saint Amand, councilor-at-large, agreed. He said he has lived along the river all his life, and it is a nice place to fish. The dam is owned by Florida Power & Light and is licensed by the federal government, according to town officials.

(Calder, Amy, "Council opposes efforts to raze dam," Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 12 June 2001.)

**West Henniker Dam, Contoocook River, NH**
Henniker takes first step in removing obsolete dam

A committee formed in June to study removal of the obsolete West Henniker Dam on the Contoocook River and reclamation of the site. The committee will gather environmental, recreational and financial information concerning the potential benefits of removing the dam. The panel is expected to present its findings to selectment with a recommendation. The town must devise a reclamation plan for the state Department of Environmental Services concerning contaminated earth at the site where a paper mill once stood. The West Henniker Dam, constructed in 1936, provided power to the Contoocook Valley Paper Co. The property, now abandoned by the mill, has become an environmental burden to Henniker. Town Administrator Peter Flynn, with the assistance of state and federal agencies, said he has learned that many New England communities are removing obsolete and damaged dams, reclaiming the land and restoring environmental habitats that once flourished. John Warner, of the U.S. Forest and Wildlife Service, said as many as 500 obsolete dams have been removed across the country. "There is a renewed interest in restoring rivers around this state and the country to improve the river's habitat," said Warner. "Safety, financial constraints and liability issues prompt communities to remove obsolete dams and restore the sites." According to Jim Gallegher of the DES, more than 1,600 dams are in ruin across the state.

(Butt Dunham, Sherry, "Henniker takes first step in removing obsolete dam," Union Leader, 31 May 2001.)

**Rexmont dams, Hammer Creek, PA**
Draining is likely at one Rexmont dam

Formal studies are under way to repair the two Rexmont dams just north of the Lancaster-Lebanon line and turn them into a public park. But the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which owns the lakes, says it most likely will have to drain the popular lower lake before any changeover takes place. "As far as draining and breaching the lower dam, that will happen regardless because it is an existing safety hazard. To do otherwise would be negligent," said Mike Stover, the Game Commission's engineering and contract management chief. The Game Commission has been told by the state that both dams are unsafe. The agency announced plans last year to breach both dams. A groundswell of opposition quickly formed to save the scenic lakes in the Furnace Hills, built shortly after the Civil War for a water supply. The spring-fed lakes, one about eight acres and one seven acres, have long been local landmarks used for fishing, walking and picnicking. A citizens group, Friends of Rexmont Dams, is leading efforts to save the reservoirs, located just outside Cornwall Borough. The group includes residents of Lancaster County. Lebanon County Commissioners have put up money and pledged to try to make one or both lakes a county park.

(Crable, Ad, "Park is eyed at lakes in Lebanon; But draining is likely at one Rexmont dam," Lancaster New Era, 7 June 2001.)

River restoration in eastern Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania State Fish and Boat Commission has released 570,000 small fry - baby American shad - into the Schuylkill River. The state is hoping to reintroduce the fish to its rivers. The Shad was once the most abundant fish in the Schuylkill and other rivers in the state. The fish was washed out by polluted water for more than a century, then kept out by the dams. The fish have an internal clock that will lead them to the Atlantic Ocean, where they will reach maturity. Four years later, they will come back to the place where they were hatched to spawn. In order for that to happen, however, dams that have kept the shad out will have to be removed, or a fish ladder built around them, officials said. Mike Hendricks, the biologist who released the shad, hopes that will happen by the time the small fry come back as adults.

For more information, contact Scott Carney of the PA Fish and Boat Commission, 814-353-2225.

(Associated Press, "News in brief from eastern Pennsylvania," 6 June 2001.)