No. 28, August 13, 2001

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak









A dam project and an assassination

Since July 4 campesinos from the municipality of Gualaco (department of Olancho) have been camped in front of the National Congress of Honduras, in Tegucigalpa, trying to have justice done for the assassination of community leader Carlos Roberto Flores (killed June 30) and to have work on the Babilonia River Hydro-electric project suspended indefinitely. On July 18, the Gualaco community was joined by a contingent of 1000 campesinos from COPINH, in western Honduras. The people of COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) are supporting Gualaco, and have their own list of long-overdue demands with the government. The demonstrators had been camped beneath the Capitol building to protest legal irregularities and brutality on the part of the private energy company Energisa (with substantial funding from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration) that is attempting to build a 4.4-megawatt dam in the buffer zone of Sierra de Agalta National Park. The protesters demand the removal of Energisa from the municipality of Gualaco. They also demand a thorough investigation into the assassination of Flores, 29, by six Energisa security guards. Flores was shot in front of his family, while at home, for his involvement in efforts to stop Energisa's Babilonia Hydroelectric Project. On July 18, COPINH (the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras is an active grassroots organization from western Honduras) joined the Gualaco protesters in support of their demands, and because in the western region of Honduras, COPINH is confronting the possible construction of the 'El Tigre' dam (with extensive international 'development' funding), along the Salvadoran-Honduran border. If built, this project will forcibly remove as many as 20,000 people from homes and communities.

To provide tax-deductible donations in the US for the work of COPINH and the food, water and medical needs of the Gualaco community, make checks payable to 'Rights Action' and mail to: Rights Action, 1830 Connecticut Av, NW, Washington DC 20009. For more information, visit


Dam proposal on Kauai's Wailua River

An Idaho company that specializes in running hydroelectric power plants has applied for a federal permit to explore the possibility of building a dam on the Wailua River. The Wailua River proposal calls for a 28-foot-high dam creating a 37-acre reservoir above the falls. The twin Wailua Falls are a Kauai tourism icon. Kauai is the only Hawaiian Island with navigable waterways, and the Wailua is its largest river. 'Oh, this should be really interesting,' said Kauai Planning Director Dee Crowell. The last attempt to build a hydroelectric plant on the Wailua was in the late 1980s by a Utah-based company called Island Power Inc. The project was protested at every step in the lengthy permitting process by environmentalists concerned about the affect on the river. Robeson said many people on Kauai favor hydroelectric power in theory, but when it comes to diverting the flow in any particular river, they are opposed. Similar proposals involving the Hanalei River and Lumahai Stream also met opposition in the late 1980s, and both died. Kauai has only two small hydroelectric plants, both built in the 1920s. Every new plant proposed since then has been killed somewhere in the permitting process. 'All of those hydroelectric permit applications were what got me into politics,' said State Representative Mina Morita, who also was a member of the Kauai Planning Commission at that time. Although she is a champion of renewable energy, she is opposed to hydroelectric power.

(Sommer, Anthony, 'Kauai river studied for dam project: A hydroelectric dam may be in the works on the Wailua River,' Star Bulletin, 6 July 2001. Text at:


As California thirsts, dam proposals make comeback

At a photo opportunity three years ago, the Clinton administration's interior secretary, Bruce Babbitt, took a sledge hammer to the soon-to-be-dismantled McPherrin Dam in California's Central Valley and affirmed that the era of great dam building in the West was over. Environmentalists had long argued that many dams did more harm than good, and after years of battling, the government agreed. Told of that declaration recently, Curtis Knight chuckled bitterly. Mr. Knight, the northern regional manager for California Trout, was strolling on a pristine stretch of the lower McCloud River and explaining how it would be inundated by a proposed enlargement of the nearby 602-foot Shasta Dam. In scale at least, the Shasta project, which would raise the dam between 6 feet and 200 feet, harks back to days that many thought were over, when the demand for power and irrigation water led engineers to build colossal dams across rivers throughout the West. But this new proposal is part of one of the most ambitious water-management programs in history, one that involves raising the heights of several dams in California and building new ones, in the first federally financed dam construction of this type in years. The focus of the program is one of the largest and most overtaxed systems of natural and man-made plumbing in the world, the 700- square mile Bay Delta. It is where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers meet the eastern reaches of the San Francisco Bay in a maze of channels, aqueducts, oxbows, dams, islands and wetlands. The agreement contains gains and sacrifices for just about everyone. Farmers would get less water than at times in the past, but the deliveries would be more reliable. Urban areas would get cleaner water, but less of it. Environmentalists would see areas like the lower McCloud inundated, but the tradeoff would be more clean water flushing through the lower delta, helping revive endangered species. There would also be better flood control, more water for use in droughts and new money for water conservation and recycling.

(Sterngold, James, 'As California Thirsts, Once-Scorned Dams Make Comeback,' New York Times, 8 July 2001. Full text at:'searchpv=day04)

**Matilija & San Clemente dams, Ventura and Carmel rivers, CA**
Bureaucracy blocks temporary solution to beach erosion problem

Ventura County's beaches are eroding away. It's not the ocean's fault--there just isn't enough sand getting to the beach, thanks to man-made barriers such as Matilija and San Clemente dams. To combat the problem, environmentalists came up with what seems to be an obvious solution: bringing in truckloads of sand from winter landslides to shore up the damaged beaches. But getting approval to use sand to fight beach erosion can be a bureaucratic nightmare, activists say. To use the sand, cities are required to get permits proving that it is appropriate for a particular beach, but that takes as much as nine months, too long to be worthwhile. 'It's a huge problem. There are some beaches that used to have a 100-yard white beach, and now waves crash right into the riprap,' says Kevin Ready, executive director of Beacon, an anti-erosion organization that represents five coastal cities, and Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Most environmentalists think of this kind of tactic as a stop-gap solution, short of stemming the problem entirely by removing sea walls and dams such as Matilija. But 'it's a step in the right direction,' said Chris Webb, a coastal scientist working on the project. However, he added, 'to solve the problem, there's a much larger-scale program that must be done.' San Clemente is several steps behind in a similar process. The major concern is that the dirt from inland areas not have any adverse effects, either environmentally or to tourism.

(Matt Surman, 'Red Tape Mires Sandy Solution to Beach Erosion,' Los Angeles Times, 6 July 2001.)


Bill to remove Snake River dams introduced

A bill to allow the federal government to remove four Snake River dams if other efforts to restore salmon fail was introduced yesterday by U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle. McDermott's bill asks the General Accounting Office to study the economic and environmental effects of breaching the dams and the consequences of the extinction of salmon and steelhead species. A report is due by Dec. 31, 2003. The bill would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to breach the dams if that were deemed necessary to restore Snake River salmon, meet Indian-treaty obligations or meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. 'Since the four federal dams on the lower Snake River were constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, salmon and steelhead populations have plummeted,' McDermott said. The four dams ' Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite were built starting in the 1960s and are between the Tri-Cities and Lewiston, Idaho. They provide electricity, irrigation water and navigation for barges. The 1,250 MW of power they produce are enough for a city the size of Seattle. Environmentalists blame the dams for blocking the migration of salmon to the Pacific, leaving the native populations either extinct or listed as endangered. Business groups and Republican lawmakers have been critical of proposals to breach the dams, and President Bush declared during last year's campaign that he opposed their removal.

(Geranios, Nicholas K., 'Bill to remove dams introduced,' The Associated Press, 20 July 2001. Found on-line at:'slug=dams20m&date=20010720)

Johnson Creek restoration aims high

Work is beginning on Portland's largest and costliest effort to restore Johnson Creek and its flood plain. The Alsop-Brownwood restoration project will dramatically alter 60 acres in an effort to restore the area to its natural state. In the early 1930s, the Works Progress Administration rerouted 15 miles of the 25-mile-long creek, hoping to control flooding. Later generations built urban neighborhoods up to the creek's banks and filled in wetlands that probably ran the length of the creek. The city hopes to move the creek on the Alsop-Brownwood site to a channel that imitates the original meandering channel and wetlands. The restoration project will cost an estimated $11.5 million. The city has almost $7 million for the project budgeted, and it is seeking another $4.5 million from the state. There is some risk that moving the creek channel will make the situation worse. In this case, said Janine Castro, a geomorphologist in the Portland office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the chances to make the creek function better outweigh the risks because the current channel is neither good for fish nor helpful in reducing floods. 'This is one of our preferred methods of restoration,' said Bianca Steif, who works with Castro. 'It's more expensive and it's more complicated to design. But it restores the physical functioning, and it lays the ground work for the return of wildlife.' Projects like this are under discussion throughout the United States, but they are rare in urban areas because of the cost. Portland is interested because of strong lobbying by the environmentally conscious Johnson Creek Watershed Council and support from the other cities along the creek. State and federal agencies are interested in urban projects because they demonstrate to city dwellers the importance of their support for similar projects in distant rural parts of the state.

(Briggs, Kara, 'Johnson Creek restoration aims high,' The Oregonian, 9 August 2001. Article on-line at:'/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl'/base/metro_east_news/9969282143013384.xml)

**Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams, Columbia River, WA**
Yakamas pursue takeover of dams

For decades, Indian tribes in Washington have battled dams. But in a turnabout, the Yakama Nation is proposing to team up with investor-owned utility PacifiCorp to run two major dams on the Columbia River. The Yakamas have joined with PacifiCorp in a preliminary agreement to submit a license application to run the Priest Rapids project. The proposal is in direct competition with the Grant County Public Utility District, which owns and operates the Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams. Together the dams produce 825 MW, or enough power to light 600,000 homes. The license to run the dams is issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and expires in 2005. It's unusual for the FERC to remove a license from a utility. The dams are on the ceded lands of the Yakama Nation in Central Washington. The treaty guarantees the tribe a role in managing the fish and wildlife in the ceded territory. The tribe took exception last spring to dam operations it said unnecessarily stranded tens of thousands of out-migrating young salmon in the Hanford Reach. Portland General Electric, another investor-owned utility, has entered into an agreement to run an Eastern Oregon dam with the Warm Springs Nation.

(Mapes, Lynda V., 'Yakamas pursue takeover of dams, Seattle Times, 7 August 2001.)

Debate heats up over FERC hydropower dam relicensing

An agreement to relicense an eight-dam hydroelectric project on the North Umpqua River was unveiled in May. The delicate compromise allows PacifiCorp to keep Soda Springs Dam, which the U.S. Forest Service once wanted to remove. In return, PacifiCorp would spend $15 million on fish passage, along with millions more for dozens of fish and watershed enhancements in future years. Since starting the North Umpqua licensing process 10 years ago, PacifiCorp has spent more than $41 million on the project, much of it for environmental studies, and faces another three to four years of processing time while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that grants hydropower licenses, conducts its own environmental review. PacifiCorp's experience is one that industry officials are flaunting as they press Congress for an overhaul of the process. The emerging debate over hydropower licensing reform could have a large impact on the health of the nation's rivers for decades. FERC grants licenses for 30- or 50-year increments, and in the next decade 218 hydro projects in more than 30 states are up for renewal.

The relicensing process represents a chance to push for decommissioning or require screens, ladders, water releases and other fish- or habitat-friendly enhancements that weren't required when the projects won original licenses decades ago. Environmental groups argue that the proposed reforms are unneeded and would undermine the ability of state and federal agencies to correct decades of environmental neglect. 'We don't want to spend any more money on process than anyone else does,' says Andrew Fahlund, hydro director for American Rivers. 'We'd much prefer to see the (utilities') money spent on restoring the environment that's been damaged or destroyed for the last 50 years.' A recent FERC report blames relicensing delays and expense on other agencies' power to condition licenses. Environmentalists dismiss many of the report's findings, arguing that the FERC has a history of rejecting or modifying fish and wildlife decisions and has long been unwilling to cede its authority to other agencies.

Instead, environmentalists say utilities are often to blame for delays, due to automatic annual extensions granted upon expiration of the original license, making it easier for utilities to put off potentially costly enhancements. 'The only party that's aggrieved by timing or delay in licensing is the environment,' Fahlund said. In one case, PacifiCorp and environmental groups have been waiting more than a year for the agency to sign off on removal of the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Washington. After a decade of trying to relicense, PacifiCorp decided it was cheaper to spend $17 million to decommission Condit than to install costly fish ladders. The utility agreed with environmentalists on a plan in September 1999, but the request to remove the dam in 2006 and surrender the license has the FERC stumped. 'They're used to licensing operating hydro projects, and this is a decommissioning,' Kvamme said. 'It's sort of new territory for them.'

(Detzel, Tom, 'Relicensing hydropower dams costs, delays drive discussion to fix system,' The Oregonian, 5 July 2001.)

Wet side meets dry side to ease dam feud

Seattle City Council members took a boat ride up the Snake River to mop up a mess created by their resolution calling for removal of four Eastern Washington dams. For a council that last year embarrassed itself and the city by passing the measure, last Friday's boat trip amounted to a serious peacemaking effort. The resolution to help save salmon harmed relations between Eastern and Western Washington. The council's arrogant insensitivity to the economic needs of communities east of the mountains was breathtaking. It brought tension between the two Washingtons to a modern-era high. Nearly a dozen outraged Eastern Washington communities passed resolutions or sent letters in response. Some quipped Seattle should remove its own Ballard Locks. The council members who toured the Snake were Heidi Wills, Jan Drago, Margaret Pageler and Richard Conlin, sponsor of the ill-considered resolution. After the trip, Conlin said the council made a big political mistake approving the resolution. He has that right. Council President Pageler said the council had considered the science of breaching dams, but not the economic impacts on local communities. That made the meddling even worse. As council members rode a huge tugboat up the Snake River on a sunny summer day, it's not clear that minds were really changed about the science of dams. It was clear the council learned a lesson about the political ramifications of needlessly butting into other communities' affairs. Conlin and the rest of the group were wise to make the trip - wise, too, to try to patch things up. Next time, council members should look much more carefully before they leap.

(Editorial, 'Wet side meets dry side to ease dam feud,' 5 July 2001, Seattle Times. Found on the Web at:'slug=damsed05&date=20010705)

**Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia River, WA**
Scientists use strobe lights to save fish

Scientists trying to keep trout and salmon out of the deadly turbines of the Grand Coulee Dam are trying a trick from the days of disco: strobe lights. Three high-powered strobes now flash from the bottom of a barge near the dam, creating a curtain of illumination that scientists hope will scare away rainbow trout and landlocked sockeye salmon called kokanee. The goal is to keep them in Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind the dam. Whether the strobes will work or not remains to be seen. The 1930s construction of Grand Coulee Dam, the largest U.S. hydropower producer, brought an end to oceangoing fish runs on the Upper Columbia River, which forms the southeast boundary of the Colville Indian Reservation. To compensate for the loss of the fish runs, the Bonneville Power Administration pays for two hatcheries that dump more than 1 million kokanee and 500,000 trout into the 130-mile-long Lake Roosevelt each year. However, thousands of those fish head downstream annually, and an estimated 402,000 enter one of the 24 turbines at the dam. Bob Johnson, a senior research scientist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said similar strobe lights had been used to keep kokanee away from the Dworshak Dam at Orofino, Idaho. 'They've shown a remarkable deterring effect on kokanee at Dworshak,' Johnson said.

(Associated Press, 'Scientists use strobe lights to save fish,' 11 July 2001. Text found at:


Crews to repair Texas dams, remove sediment

The Blue Lakes hold a lot of memories for Bill Griffin, even though they look different than they did 40 years ago. 'The Blue Lakes were really blue,' Mr. Griffin said. 'My boy used to swim out here, but no more.' The three small reservoirs in north central Texas are no longer the 'beauties' that attracted the retired Dallas schoolteacher in 1964. 'I'd like to sell my house,' he said. The city is coming to the rescue with a planned $500,000 in cleanup and repairs to the three-tiered lakes. The Blue Lakes were constructed as three agricultural ponds. Concrete dams were built on a creek when a subdivision was built in 1959 and 1960. The dam between the first and second lakes, which is on Mr. Griffin's property, is full of holes. Weeds and trees try to grow from the top of the crumbling concrete. The concrete wall holding the steep opposite bank is cracked and sliding into the lake. The water is thick and green, and the algae will get much worse this summer. Neighbors around the lakes will benefit as crews repair the dams and remove the accumulated sediment. The rehabilitation project should be finished next summer, including repair of the existing dams and the removal of silt to restore the lakes to a depth ranging from 8 to 15 feet. The project does not include shoreline improvements, storm water treatment devices or continued maintenance.

(Post, Sarah, 'City to invest $500,000 in Blue Lakes restoration: Richardson crews to repair dams, remove sediment,' The Dallas Morning News, 24 June 2001.)


**Union Gas Dam, Messalonskee Stream, ME**
Several solutions possible in dealing with partially collapsed dam

Portions of the Union Gas Station dam on Maine's Messalonskee Stream gave way on June 23, forcing officials to drain the dam's head pond. The lower portion of the granite wall gave way, causing the upper section to crash 20 feet to the stream below. Options for replacing the aging granite structure include rebuilding the dam with poured concrete, or replacing the heavy granite blocks of the 77-year-old structure. The cost of reconstructing the dam will be calculated in part against the amount of power generated by the single-turbine powerhouse (1.5MW per hour), reports G. Douglas Whittier, production manager for Northern Hydro. Power company officials claim that recent legislation mandating fish ladders for tributaries of the Kennebec River does not affect the Messalonskee dam. As part of a restoration process, the nearby Fort Halifax Dam - also owned by FPL Energy - must have fish ladders by 2003. Whittier and FPL Energy General Manager Christopher R. Shaw agreed that there are no such plans in place for this dam, saying that for now restoration is limited to such rivers as the Kennebec, the Sebasticook and the Saco River in southern Maine. The dam is inspected every two years, and its federal license expires in 2036. Whittier said there appears to have been no negative environmental impact from the partial collapse. The site is posted with a security guard and yellow police tape. The pond was drained to eliminate pressure on the upstream side of the structure and to reduce public risk.

(Harlow, Doug, 'Engineers assess damage, seek solutions for dam,' Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 26 June 2001.)

**McGoldrick Dam, Asheulot River, NH**
Dam removal in New Hampshire picking up steam

Earlier this year New Hampshire established a coalition of government agencies and conservation groups called the River Restoration Task Force, which is cataloging the state's dams and identifying those that are obsolete and should be removed to improve habitat for fish and other wildlife. Scott Decker, a fish habitat biologist from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and a member of the task force, says of the 4,800 dam sites previously documented by the state, 'We're looking at a 1,000 that are designated inactive and serve no useful purpose.' Of those, he says, 12 have the potential for removal in the next few years. The state hopes to remove three dams from the Ashuelot River watershed in the next couple of years. The Homestead Dam, the Winchester Dam, and the (former) McGoldrick Dam are among some 50 that block the Ashuelot watershed. Removing the Homestead Dam alone would open up about 30 miles (48 kilometers) of river, Decker says. In late June, the Fish and Game Commission approved $33,000 from the Fish Habitat and Conservation Fund for the removal of the Winchester Dam.

The McGoldrick Dam - removed from the Ashuelot River in mid-July 2001- was the first dam removed in New Hampshire for ecological reasons. Built in 1828, the McGoldrick Dam and its associated canal - which was 6 feet tall by 150 feet wide - initially provided power for various businesses and transformed the town from an agricultural to a manufacturing community. But by the time of its removal, the dam was obsolete and deteriorated and was no longer economical or safe. As a result, McGoldrick was identified as the first dam suitable for removal in New Hampshire. The dam owner, McGoldrick Paper Company, agreed to remove the dam as part of a collaborative river restoration effort. The removal of McGoldrick Dam is expected to help restore migratory fish such as American shad, blueback herring and Atlantic salmon to the Ashuelot River system.

For more information visit or contact Stephanie Lindloff, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services at 603.271.3406,, or Scott Decker, New Hampshire Fish & Game Department at (603) 271-2501,

('More dams razed, many more to go,' Gulf of Maine Times, Winter 2000. Full text available on the Web at:
(Tracy, Paula, 'Fish and Game's Barry Camp may close,' The Union Leader, 25 June, 2001. On-line at:'article=3522.)