No. 32, December 20, 2001

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak

table of contents








united nations

World's water storage capacity shrinking as dams silt up

The reservoirs of the world are losing their capacity to hold water as erosion brings silt down to settle in behind dams, the chief of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned. Speaking to the Bonn International Conference on Freshwater, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said that siltation is reducing the capacity of the world's reservoirs to hold water, a result that is hastened by the clearcutting of forests. Toepfer, a former German environment minister, counselled careful management of the world's stocks of fresh, drinkable water. "It would seem prudent and sensible for us to manage the existing stock in the most sustainable way possible. Otherwise we face increasing pressure on natural areas with water, such as wetlands and underground aquifers, with potentially devastating environmental consequences to wildlife and habitats," he said. In response, UNEP has launched a new Dams and Development Project (DDP), to address siltation and other serious environmental effects of dam development. Based in South Africa, the Dams and Development Project, known as the DDP Unit, is a follow up to the work of the World Commission on Dams, publisher of an in-depth report on the environmental impact of large dams in November 2000. In view of the "threat of global warming," Toepfer urged the planting of forests across the globe. "We must act to reduce the loss of forests and to re-afforest cleared areas as part of a comprehensive strategy of watershed management of the world's river systems," he said.

(Environmental News Service, "World's Water Storage Capacity Shrinking as Dams Silt Up," 4 December 2001.)


Beatty Dam, Grand River, Ontario
Beatty Dam won't be rebuilt

The Centre Wellington, Ontario council won't appeal a ruling by Canada's Ministry of Natural Resources that effectively sank the township's plan to remove and rebuild Beatty Dam. The ministry said the council's application to renovate the 167-year-old dam - and replace it with a wooden structure - would not be approved because it violates the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, which governs locations for dams. "In fact, permanent removal of a dam at this location would result in the creation of several hundred additional metres of trout spawning habitat," the provincial ministry's letter read. "Any negative environmental impacts normally associated with dams, such as water temperature increases, restrictions on movement of ... sediment, could be more pronounced if the structure was completely rebuilt." The idea has created controversy because upper-tier government agencies have lobbied for the dam to be destroyed. The timing of any action is crucial due to changing water levels and fish spawning seasons. Questionnaires in the community showed that most respondents wanted to repair and restore the historic structure. The Grand River Conservation Authority, which manages area watersheds, maintains that Fergus residents deserve to decide the future of the dam.

(Faulkner, Robert, "Beatty Dam a non-starter with province," Guelph Mercury Toronto Star, 21 November 2001.)

us - general

Dams undone

During the 2001 "river restoration season," nearly 40 aging dams were removed in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Washington. "Since the nation declared its independence in 1776, it has built more than one dam per day," according to American Rivers [ damremoval]. "By 2020, 85 percent of US dams will be more than 50 years old" and ready for retirement. A Stanford University study reported more than 1,000 dam failures in one recent two-year span.

(Earth Island Journal, "Dams Undone," December 2001.)

Groups provide $1 million to restore fish habitat

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA fisheries), an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the American Sportfishing Association announced nearly $1 million in funding for projects to help communities restore coastal and marine habitats this year. This is the first series of projects NOAA fisheries and the American Sportfishing Association's FishAmerica Foundation will fund under a new partnership agreement. These awards build upon work the two organizations have jointly conducted over the past three years. "Degradation and loss of habitat is one of the leading causes of declining fish stocks. NOAA's partnership with the American Sportfishing Association has witnessed a tremendous growth in dedicated funding for the improvement of fish habitat," said Scott Gudes, NOAA acting administrator. During their first three years working together, the groups co-funded 72 projects to benefit marine and anadromous fish resources across the nation, such as dam removals, fish passage improvements, sea-grass plantings, wetlands restoration, kelp bed restoration, streambank stabilization, coral reef and mangrove restoration and invasive-plant-removal projects. Projects include dam removals in New Hampshire and Maine, restoration of oyster reefs in South Carolina, creation of artificial reefs in Louisiana, restoration of wetlands in Florida and restoration of river habitats in Oregon and Alaska.

For more information on habitat restoration, see the NOAA Community-Based Restoration Program site, For more information on American Sportfishing Association's FishAmerica Foundation, visit

(PR Newswire, "NOAA Fisheries and American Sportfishing Association Provide $1 Million To Restore Fish Habitat; Alaska, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, New Hampshire and South Carolina Among States to Gain Funding for Local Habitat Restoration Efforts," 9 November 2001.)

Federal Agency Teams with Conservation Groups to Aid Coastal Fisheries

American Rivers and Trout Unlimited each have joined with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the next three years to stream funds towards conservation and restoration. American Rivers and NOAA will partner to match state, local, and private funding for voluntary dam removal and fish passage projects in California, the Northeast, and the Mid-Atlantic states. Formally known as the American Rivers/NOAA Community-based Restoration Program Partnership, the endeavor will focus on getting rid of obsolete and unsafe dams to restore free flowing river habitat historically used for fish spawning and rearing, said Scott Gudes, acting NOAA administrator.
More than 75,000 dams taller than six feet as well as tens of thousands of smaller dams have been built across the country. Many are no longer used for their original purposes or have been abandoned. They can block migratory fish from reaching their spawning grounds, upset a river's temperature and flow, and create a safety hazard. "By teaming our efforts with American Rivers, a proven leader in dam removal and fish passage, we will enhance anadromous fish habitats and help rebuild numerous fishery populations that much more quickly," Gudes said. NOAA will provide up to $2.5 million to remove dams or improve fish passage. As a matching grant award, the total value of the effort could exceed $5 million over the three-year life span of the partnership.

(Environmental News Newtwork, "Federal Agency Teams with Conservation Groups to Aid Coastal Fisheries," 31 October 2001.)

us - california

Time and tax money have yet to produce peace in California water wars

For $5.25 each, California taxpayers embarked on what seemed a remarkably savvy investment seven years ago: Their money would end the decades-long war over California's most tenuous resource - water. Californians would then have a plan to provide enough water for wildlife, while giving predictable supplies to farmers and the state's growing population. Seven years and millions of taxpayer dollars later, many of those intimate with the peacekeeping effort known as "CalFed" complain that key negotiators have given up and gone to court. Others are taking their complaints to voters. And still others have abandoned negotiating for political arm-twisting. Wendy Halverson Martin, CalFed's deputy director, said CalFed has significantly improved water quality and conservation, while studying the possibility of more groundwater storage banks. With the removal of dams and the construction of ladders to help fish get to spawning grounds, she said, California is seeing much healthier fish populations. "We are showing that if you invest, the fish will come back," Halverson Martin said. "That's a significant landmark for us." Yet disenchantment with the process appears widespread, and it is preventing Congress from planning future water supplies at a time when California has agreed to cut its use of Colorado River water, as this year's below-normal rainfall raises fears of drought and as the state's population continues to mushroom.

(Copley News Service, "Time and tax money have yet to produce peace in California water wars," 27 November 2001.)

Proposed Lang Ranch Dam, Lang Creek, CA
$5-million dam project one critic calls a boondoggle

The Ventura County Flood Control District enlisted Montalvo Boy Scout Troop 119 in a project, hoping to diffuse long-standing criticism over construction of the Lang Ranch Dam. Rather than hiring a company to replace oak trees with 2,000 saplings in the area, the agency offered the job to 14-year-old Scout Michael Houlberg of Ventura. The project will earn him his Eagle rank. But the critics aren't mollified. "I support the Boy Scouts 100%, and I think it's a great service project to grow saplings," said Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Linda Parks, who tried last year to move the dam to another location. "But it in no way mitigates the loss of this ancient grove." The $5-million dam project will include a 66 1/2-foot wall, a detention basin the length of four football fields and a debris basin. Flood control officials say it is needed to catch storm water from land paved over with thousands of homes and apartments and to protect the neighborhood in the event of a 100-year storm. Gerry Langer, a Lang Ranch homeowner who characterizes the dam project as a boondoggle, said "If this project goes forward, [the Boy Scouts will] be witnessing the desecration of a really vital resource."

(Margaret, Talev, "Boy Scouts Drawn Into Oak Tree Controversy; Thousand Oaks: They gather acorns from grove slated for razing to make way for a dam, a $5-million project one critic calls a boondoggle." Los Angeles Times, 13 November 2001.)

Northern California Water District sponsoring program to remove dams

The Metropolitan Water District is sponsoring a program to remove dams from Northern California creeks and rivers. It hopes the investment will stabilize water supplies for the southland, as well as restore the fish population on the rivers. The investment by the giant district, which serves 17 million customers in Southern California, stems from the belief that healthier rivers in Northern California would lead to more stable water supplies for the south, which imports most of its water hundreds of miles. In the process, the water district has begun to change its ruthless reputation in Northern California, where it long has been known as the "800-pound gorilla" for its wealth and political influence. Overall, the district has put $30 million toward environmental restoration projects, including $4 million that covered about one-third of the cost of the Butte Creek restoration. Metropolitan's interest in Butte Creek is not altruistic. In 1999, spring-run chinook salmon were listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act, one of the nation's most powerful environmental laws. And so when too many of the young salmon are impinged on their way downstream at the pumps that ship water south, the pumps must be shut down. On Battle Creek five dams are proposed to be torn down in the next several years. The ultimate goal, he said, is to restore the abundance of salmon, Delta smelt, splittail and other native fish so they can be removed from the endangered species list.

(Vogel, Nancy, "Salmon Runs a Sign of Healthier Delta," Los Angeles Times, 6 November 2001.)

Farmers argue coho listing unneeded

Siskiyou County farmers tried to convince the state Fish and Game Commission in November that their habitat restoration efforts have made it unnecessary for the state to list coho salmon as endangered or threatened. Farmers and ranchers said they're putting in enough fish screens, livestock fencing, bank stabilization and other measures to avoid the need for a state listing they said would devastate the county's $350-million-a-year agriculture industry. Commission President Mike Chrisman said the state can't consider social or economic issues when deciding whether to list a species as threatened or endangered. But the commission can consider voluntary efforts to preserve habitat, he said. The fish are already federally listed as threatened. The Klamath River region once produced an estimated 660,000 to 1.1 million adult salmon annually, but today a modest recovery goal aims to return 97,500 fish to the system each year, according to the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

(Hearden, Tim, "Farmers argue coho listing unneeded," Scripps Howard News Service, 2 November 2001.)

us - northwest

Proposed Honeyville and Amalga Barrens dams, Bear River, UT
Legislator wants two dams off list

A Utah lawmaker wants to make sure the state removes two controversial dams from the priority list of developments on the Bear River. Senator Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, plans to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would pull the proposed Honeyville dam and another one near Amalga Barrens off the list of possible dam sites that would provide future water to the Salt Lake Valley. "Natural Resources is not considering it any more," Waddoups said. "To call their bluff, if it is a bluff, we are just taking it off the statute." Larry Anderson, director of the Division of Water Resources, said there are no plans to build dams in Box Elder and Cache counties. "We're not considering Honeyville and Barrens," Anderson said. "We don't feel they are necessary today and we're not pushing for them." Yet a solution eventually will be necessary to serve northern Utah's water needs through the 21st century. The state Division of Water Resources, a division under the Department of Natural Resources, contends that more dams are needed to comply with the Legislature's 1991 Bear River Development Act, which calls for storing 200,000 more acre-feet of water from the Bear River.

(Kemp, Donna, "Legislator wants 2 dams off list," The Deseret News, 23 November 2001.)

Bush administration backpedals on decade of salmon protection

By going along with a court-ordered removal of Oregon coastal coho from the endangered species list, the Bush administration has reversed course from the past decade of increasing federal protection for Northwest salmon. National Marine Fisheries Service officials announced on November 10 they would not appeal US District Judge Michael Hogan's ruling that their 1998 listing was unlawful because it protected only wild, naturally spawning fish. Hogan said the agency was "arbitrary and capricious" in excluding hatchery fish although it found they were part of the same evolutionary population segment. The ruling was a victory for industry groups and has far-reaching consequences throughout Pacific salmon country. Based on the judge's decision, a group of farmers filed petitions with NMFS to remove seven other Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead runs from the endangered species list and, thereby, lift tough government restrictions on further stream and watershed degradation. Ten months after President George W. Bush took office, his administration's response to the legal case and the petitions is telling. It provides the first outlines of his approach to Northwest salmon recovery. Up to now, he has been largely missing in action. Now, it appears his policy will be "hands off."

(Swisher, Larry, "Bush administration backpedals on decade of salmon protection," Lewiston Morning Tribune, 18 November 2001.)

Land trust's efforts exemplify the need to preserve fish habitat

Over the last decade, as politicians, policymakers and lobbyists grappled over how to rescue salmon, the Columbia Land Trust saved more than 2,500 acres of our region's prime wildlife habitat from development. Already, that remarkable achievement has begun to seem comparatively modest. In just the last few months, the Vancouver-based nonprofit group has closed deals on another 790 acres; now it is seeking funds to protect a still largely pristine stretch of the Kalama River, known to local anglers as the Holy Waters. Let's hope the latter effort, too, is a success, and that it is followed by more of the same. The trust's work deserves to be cheered by all, regardless of where they might stand in the environmental debate. By purchasing or accepting donation of development rights or the land itself from willing property owners, the organization is preserving sensitive and scenic lands without invoking the specter of regulation or confiscation. The trust's recent acquisitions demonstrate just how effective that approach can be. The group has gained title to almost 600 acres along the Klickitat River and the entire 210-acre Lord Island in the Columbia River. Stream rehabilitation has allowed the return of spawning salmon to the Klickitat tributary Dillacort Creek; Lord Island likewise provides spawning and feeding habitat for migratory fish.

(Columbian editorial writers, "Holy waters, Give locally," The Columbian, 15 November 2001.)

Dam removal opens salmon spawning habitat

More than 100 years after salmon runs on Goldsborough Creek were blocked by a dam to impound water for a sawmill, the last of a series of dams has been removed. About 75 people gathered on the banks of the stream outside of town to celebrate the near-completion of the $4.8 million project, which opens 14 miles of upstream habitat for coho and chum salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout. "This is a great day, a good day for fish," said Steve Keller, state Department of Fish and Wildlife regional director. At the urging of the Squaxin Island tribe, Simpson Timber Co. agreed in 1996 to remove the 32-foot-high dam, which stored water for the company's mills in Shelton. The Army Corps of Engineers and the state also contributed to the cost of removing the dam, the last of a series dating from 1885, and rehabilitating the upstream habitat. In a 1,700-foot stretch above and below the dam, 37 concrete weirs were built to slow the water and create currents and pools, and dozens of tree root wads were placed in the stream bed to provide places for fish to rest and hide. Already a few chinook salmon and native chum salmon have been spotted in the area since streamflows were diverted from a pipe and returned to the creek bed in early October, and thousands of adult chum should return in the coming weeks, Keller said.

(Associated Press, "Dam removal opens salmon spawning habitat," 12 November 2001.)

Enviros sue feds over salmon slaughter

A coalition of environmental groups sued the Bonneville Power Administration for making energy a higher priority than salmon in the Columbia River basin. The Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center represent the Sierra Club, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and Idaho Rivers United in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lawsuit arguing BPA violated the Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Act's mandate requiring federal agencies to provide salmon "equitable treatment" with energy production. A 1997 court precedent required BPA to have a program demonstrating BPA is providing equitable treatment for wildlife and power, according to the Sierra Club's Bill Arthur. While the lawsuit is based on the power law, it was triggered by the Biological Opinion (BiOp) released by the National Marine Fisheries Service and other federal agencies, including BPA, in December 2000. The agencies drafted the BiOp to comply not only with the Endangered Species Act, which requires a BiOp and recovery plan, but also with the power law, according to Arthur. Unfortunately, he said, the BiOp "simply makes assertions" about how it will implement both laws. "There is no evidence of how they intend to do it, and the evidence of the past, such as this year, shows how they have no intention of doing it," Arthur said. "We don't believe they've even come close" to meeting the equitable treatment standard.

(Henry, Natalie M, "Salmon: Enviros sue feds over 'salmon slaughter," Greenwire, 6 November 2001.)

Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, OR
Congress funds Oregon energy and water projects

The $31.5 million approved by Congress for water and energy projects in Oregon includes funding to screen endangered fish out of Klamath Basin irrigation canals and money to design a pumping system to replace the Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River. The funding was contained in the Energy and Water Development Act, which is awaiting President Bush's signature after gaining the approval of Congress this week. The Klamath Reclamation Project, serving 200,000 acres of farmland outside Klamath Falls and Tulelake, Calif., will receive $15 million for operations in the coming fiscal year, including $5 million to install screens to keep endangered suckers out of irrigation canals. The screens have been demanded for several years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but funding did not come until after farmers were denied water last summer to maintain water quality for the suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, as well as threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River. The bill appropriated $500,000 to cover the design pumps to draw water out of the Rogue River for the Grants Pass Irrigation District, opening the way to remove Savage Rapids Dam to improve conditions for salmon.

(Associated Press, "Congress funds Oregon energy and water projects," 2 November 2001.)

Tribes claim fish runs blocked by dams

The Tulalip Tribes say dams built on the Sultan River have blocked salmon and steelhead trout from reaching traditional tribal fishing areas, wiping out decades of potential fish runs. About $36 million worth of fish runs. That's how much the Tulalip Tribes have suffered in economic losses because of dams built and operated on the river before June 16, 1961, according to lawyers representing the tribes. The lawyers say they've notified the city of Everett, the Snohomish County Public Utility District and Snohomish County of their claim - a precursor to a lawsuit. However, tribal officials indicated "a willingness to meet to resolve the claims" to avoid resorting to a suit. But the issue originated much earlier - in 1916, when, the tribes' attorneys say, the city of Everett started building a dam on the Sultan, a tributary of the Skykomish River. They contend the dam, completed in 1918, and a replacement dam finished in 1930, did not allow passageways for migrating fish to reach spawning and rearing habitats in areas where the tribe has fishing rights dating to 1855, under a treaty that also established the Tulalip Reservation.

(Burkitt, Janet, "Tribes claim fish runs blocked," SeattleTimes, 27 November 2001. Article available on the web at:

us - midwest

Waubeka Dam, Milwaukee River, WI
Demolition of Waubeka Dam to go ahead as planned

An Ozaukee County judge refused to block the demolition of part of the 76-year-old Waubeka Dam on the Milwaukee River. The state Department of Natural Resources' plan to breach the center of the dam would drain the artificial lake upstream of the structure and severely limit recreational use of the river there, Town of Fredonia resident Ronald S. Stadler said in a complaint filed in Circuit Court. Stadler, an attorney and resident of River Road, asked Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Tom Wolfgram to restrain the DNR's contractor because the work would cause irreparable harm to the impoundment, which is known locally as Lake Cigrand. "Breaching the Waubeka Dam will cause Lake Cigrand to be drawn down to a point where it will become dry land and destroy its character as a lake," his complaint says. "Breaching the Waubeka Dam will impair the public's enjoyment of hunting, fishing and navigation on Lake Cigrand and the Milwaukee River." In an interview, Stadler explained that the basis of the lawsuit was the belief that the public had a right to use the existing waterway in its present form. "But the DNR in court stressed the potential failure of the dam was a public safety issue, and the judge found that to be persuasive," Stadler said.

(Behm, Don, "Demolition of dam gets OK to go on as planned; Judge refuses to block breaching in Waubeka," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 21 November 2001.)

us - northeast

Winterport Dam, Marsh Stream, ME
DEP rejects great pond argument on Winterport Dam

The Department of Environmental Protection has rejected the argument that the West Winterport Dam on Marsh Stream should remain intact because it forms a great pond. Dam owner, Facilitators Improving Salmonid Habitat, wants to remove the dam to improve the chances for sea-run fish to return to the stream and its tributaries. Residents of Winterport and Frankfort oppose the dam's removal because the impoundment has long served the communities for fire protection and flood control. They also contend that the loss would be detrimental to recreational uses along the stream. Charles Gilbert, the lawyer fighting the dam's removal on half of the towns, contends that all great ponds are owned by the people of Maine. He argued that common law dating back to 1691 has protected the public's right to ponds that cover an area greater than 10 acres. In a letter sent to Gilbert last week, DEP dam and hydro supervisor Dana Murch wrote that the owner is free to remove the dam because it was licensed for hydroelectric purposes. Murch also said that while it is unlawful to drain a great pond, the 50-acre one at West Winterport was created by "artificial" means. "There is no state ownership of the land under artificial great ponds," Murch said. "In fact, in its natural condition, Marsh Stream was just that - a stream and not a great pond."

(Associated Press, "DEP rejects great pond argument," 26 November 2001.)

Utility says Clyde River protections could force dams' removal

The electric company that owns two hydropower stations on northern Vermont's Clyde River says conditions the state wants to place on a license renewal would force their removal. At issue is how much water should be left in the river when some is removed and sent through a big tube, or penstock, to turn three power-generating turbines at a Citizens Utilities power station. The company currently is trying to get a license renewal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would last 40 years. Environmentalists have seen the renewal process as an opportunity to push for restoration to the river of a historic population of landlocked salmon. The company agreed with a FERC recommendation that it send most of the river's water through the penstock but leave enough to maintain a flow of five cubic feet of water per second in the river's main channel. But the water quality division of the state Department of Environmental Conservation has been pushing for a higher flow of water along the riverbed and less through the penstock. That division plays a crucial role, because it must issue a water quality certificate before FERC can grant a new license for the dams.

(Gram, David, "Utility says Clyde River protections could force dam's removal," Associated Press, 21 November 2001.)

In-stream habitat restoration project moves ahead

Remnants of old dams are a familiar sight in New Hampshire rivers and streams. While hundreds still remain, at one time, virtually every stream or river that carried water was dammed. While pollution has been addressed and dams are being removed, river and stream restoration efforts in New Hampshire have been non-existent. It seems ironic that many states settled long after New Hampshire are far ahead of us in restoration efforts. At the International Trout Stream Habitat Workshop held in New Hampshire in September of 2000, in-stream habitat restoration was a key item for Granite State participants. After the coalition visited several rivers and streams, they chose the Cold River in Cheshire County as a good candidate for restoration. A 2000-foot section of the river was altered as a result of gravel operations years ago. The current owner of the property is amenable to restoration. Over the past six months representatives from New Hampshire Fish and Game, Coldwater Fisheries Coalition and Trout Unlimited have been working on developing data necessary on a permit application for the restoration. The goal is to develop a pilot program that can be used for other stream restoration projects.

(Norton Jim, "In-stream habitat restoration project moves ahead," The Union Leader, 2 November 2001.)