No. 38, July 10, 2002

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









Small dams across Asia at risk

In a special report from New Delhi, Peter O'Neill highlights growing concern about the potential for small dam failures across Asia. Large numbers of people could be at risk from the failure of small dams, safety experts told a seminar of dam and irrigation engineers in New Delhi, India. Swiss engineer Martin Wieland and French engineer F. Lemperiere explained that these small dams are usually built with insufficient engineering knowledge and are mostly earth-filled. At a seminar at India's Central Board of Irrigation and Power in early 2002, the engineers suggested that dam failure could be sudden and disastrous: where there was no warning they could drown 50% of the people hit by released water. Wieland said that there are now large numbers of such small community dams around the world, not just in India. The two specialists were reporting on studies of risks and failures associated with all types of dams, with a focus on Asia. They said monitoring and safety plans need to be put in place for every kind of dam, large and small, because many older dams' construction and design parameters for earthquakes were not only outdated but obsolete.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'Embankment dams; small dams at high risk'' 30 April 2002.)


Gomal Zam Dam, Gomal River, Pakistan
Gomal Zam Dam should not be constructed

A seminar entitled, 'Gomal Zam Dam Project' arranged by Peshawar Press Club in collaboration with SUNGI Development Foundation was held in April 2002. One of the findings of the seminar was that the benefits of Gomal Zam Dam are less than the disadvantages therefore the government should remove the demerits prior to starting work on the project. However if the drawbacks will not be removed, the project would create problems of different nature. The proposed dam is located in a Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and is supposed to irrigate a command area of 163086 acres, costing 206 million US Dollars. Completion was expected in six years, costing 44 million Rupees (nearly one million $US) in operation and maintenance thereafter. Construction and development of Afghanistan was revealed as a main hurdle in the construction of the dam as the Gomal River comes from Afghanistan. The survey report suggested at that time that Afghanistan would come on the path towards development and reconstruction. Because of this Pakistan should reconsider the feasibility of this project. The seminar also revealed that the dam was also not technically feasible and it would only benefit the upper class and it would add to the grievances to the poor people.

Visit SUNGI on the web at:

(Pakistan Newswire, 'Gomal Zam dam should not be constructed,' 26 April 2002.)

new zealand

Hydro dams not the only erosion cause, says Mighty River Power

The impact of Mighty River Power's hydro dams is not the only cause of the Waikato River bed erosion, says its generation manager Mike Kedian. He also believes the river bed has hardened and is no longer eroding to the level claimed. Mr. Kedian was responding to a submission to Environment Waikato which warned that the river bed was dropping about 35mm a year, lowering the water level and increasing the risk of 'catastrophic slips.' The submission said Mighty River Power's eight hydro dams stopped 280,000 tons of sediment per year from reaching the downstream section of the river. EW plans to spend about $180,000 a year on work to try to fix the river as part of Project Watershed. The city council said that as the cause of the problems, Mighty River Power should pay all of this cost instead of 20 percent, as EW is proposing. Kedian said that the dams had contributed to the problem, but claims there were many other factors involved, including floods, removal of vegetation, and boat swells. Kedian said Mighty River Power is prepared to pay its 'fair share' of the cost of restoration.

Visit Environment Waikato's 'Project Watershed' at:

(Waikato Times, 'Hydro dams defended as not the only erosion cause,' 6 May 2002.)

us - california

Daguerre Point Dam, Yuba River, CA
Take action to remove Daguerre Point Dam

California state and US federal agencies are inviting public comments concerning the scope of issues to be addressed in a joint environmental impact statement/report (EIS/R) to resolve fish passage issues at the Daguerre Point Dam on the lower Yuba River. Constructed in 1906 to capture mining debris, the 24 foot-high dam currently blocks the migration of more than 60% of the Yuba River's salmon and steelhead population. The joint federal/state restoration program CALFED proposes to resolve fish passage problems caused by the dam. The proposed EIS/R will analyze several alternatives, including removing the dam, notching the dam, constructing a 'natural river channel bypass' around the dam, and constructing 'state of the art' fish ladders. Since the dam is no longer needed to capture mining debris and no fish ladder is 100% effective, conservation groups support removal of the dam to fully restore the lower Yuba River's fishery and aquatic ecosystem. One potential hurdle is that local water agencies utilize the small pool created by the dam to divert irrigation water from the river. Dam removal would require replacement diversion facilities that would avoid additional impacts on fish.

For more information, contact Maureen Rose at Friends of the River, 510.644.2900 (ext. 119), e-mail: Written scoping comments should be mailed to Ted Frink, Department of Water Resources, P.O. Box 942836, Sacramento, CA 95236-0001. Comments may also be e-mailed to They must be received by 5pm, July 25.

Auburn Dam (proposed), American River, CA
Final nail in the coffin of Auburn Dam'

Thirty-five years after federal engineers drained all the water from a scenic stretch of the American River to construct a 700-foot-tall dam, an astounding moment in dam-building history is about to occur. They plan to return. Yet this time, they'll turn back the clock, taking the river out of a 35-foot-wide pipe where it has flowed since 1967. They'll put its clear, cold waters, its fish and plants back into the abandoned river bed -- without a dam ever having been built. In an event with little precedent during its 100-year history of taming Western rivers, the federal Bureau of Reclamation is finishing a plan to flood the construction zone for what would have been one of the largest dams in the United States, Auburn Dam. The project will open seven miles of river for whitewater rafting by 2004, restoring habitat for fish and other species. Politically, it virtually guarantees that Auburn Dam -- once slated by President Lyndon Johnson's administration to be taller than the Washington Monument but halted over earthquake concerns in the 1970s -- will be impossible to resurrect or build. Environmentalists, taxpayer groups and lawmakers have battled over the dam for more than 20 years. 'This is one more nail in the coffin for Auburn dam,' said Ron Stork, senior policy analyst with Friends of the River, a Sacramento environmental group. 'It is clearly going to be a problem for the dam builders if they ever try to take this away from people once they taste it.'

Take action by attending a public meeting on Thursday July 11, 2002 at 7pm at 175 Fulweiler Street, Auburn. If you can't make it in person, please send your opinion via fax, email or phone before 5pm, July 11. Direct your input to PCWA at: fax: 530.823.4960, e-mail:, phone: 530.823.4848. Learn more about Friends of the River's position, the meeting and the historic fights over Auburn Dam at

(Rogers, Paul, 'U.S. project could doom Auburn dam, revive river,' San Jose Mercury News, 2 July 2002.)

us - northwest

Dispute rages over salmon quotas in Columbia River

Salmon once returned to the Columbia River system in the millions. By the 1990s, only a few hundred were finding their way back to some streams. Now the federal government says it would like to see 146,450 return to spawn in the river system each year, give or take a few. If those numbers can be achieved, the National Marine Fisheries Service would consider removing Columbia River salmon and steelhead from endangered species protection. The 'productivity targets,' released in April 2002 after years of studies, have left a lot of people unhappy. Environmental groups say more wild salmon and steelhead are needed to ensure survival of the species. Business interests argue that the targets are too high to be achieved. Before dam construction 10 million to 16 million salmon migrated up the Columbia and Snake rivers each year. But numbers declined sharply following the construction of large hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River system from the 1930s to the 1970s. By the 1990s some rivers and streams had fewer than 100 salmon returning to spawn each year. While there are many reasons for the declines, including overfishing in the oceans, disease and climate change, much of the recovery attention has focused on modifying or removing four big dams on the Snake River.

Visit the Columbia and Snake Rivers Campaign at:
Visit the National Marine Fisheries Service at:

(Geranios, Nicholas K., 'Dispute Rages Over Salmon Quotas,' AP Online, 4 May 2002.)

Lower Snake River dams, Snake River, WA
Kitzhaber says breaching Snake River dams a viable option once again

Governor of Oregon John Kitzhaber says the federal government has not taken most of the steps it promised when it decided against breaching the four lower Snake River dams, and that will undermine Northwest salmon recovery. And as the runs continue to be threatened, Kitzhaber said the federal failure on other fronts makes dam breaching back a viable option once again. The governor's statements marked the first time a state or federal political leader has publicly criticized the federal government for not taking actions it had promised after deciding not to breach the dams. Speaking to the Sustainable Fisheries Foundation, Kitzhaber called it reasonable to reconsider breaching the eastern Washington dams - removing their earthen portions to allow the river to flow unimpeded. 'Breaching emerges as a responsible and cost-effective option,' Kitzhaber said. 'It is not the only option, but it is a responsible one that should not be disregarded out of hand.' The current federal plan says breaching should again be considered if specific goals are not met by 2003, 2005 and 2008.

(Associated Press, 'Kitzhabers says U.S. failing salmon,' 1 May 2002.)
(Brinckman, Jonathan, 'Kitzhaber: U.S. isn't fulfilling dam plan,' Oregonian, 1 May 2002.)

us - midwest

Tuttle Creek Dam, Tuttle Creek, KA
Tuttle Creek Dam vulnerable to earthquake threat

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to spend $146 million to make Tuttle Creek Dam better able to withstand a high-magnitude earthquake. The dam near Manhattan, Kansas is just 12 miles from the Humboldt fault, which produces major quakes once every 2,000 years. And the corps has become concerned that a major quake could destroy the dam and flood much of Manhattan, endangering 14,000 people and 6,800 homes. Officials also worry that if the dam fails levies downstream in Topeka and Kansas City could also break. The corps began studying Tuttle Creek and other dams built on sand foundations after the San Fernando Valley dam in California nearly collapsed during a quake in the 1970s. The corps later learned the dam's sand foundation had liquefied, turning to quicksand. Although the corps has identified a preferred solution, it's also considering alternatives, including doing nothing, replacing the dam, completely removing it and enlarging it.

(Associated Press, 'Corps of Engineers seeks comment on plan to strengthen Tuttle Creek Dam,' 3 May 2002.)

Dowagiac River project hopes to bring back original meander

Officials of the Meeting Ecological and Agricultural Needs within the Dowagiac River System (MEANDRS) conservancy group may be turning to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help restore a quarter-mile stretch of the Dowagiac River to its original, pristine state, and possibly expand the project to other parts of the river. While changing the waterway from a twisting, turning natural stream into a deep, straight ditch may have seemed like good news for farmers at the beginning of the 20th century, it was decidedly bad news for the native stream life. Armed with a $260,000 grant administered by the U.S. EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the group hired a consulting firm to conduct an engineering study of the project. The group had budgeted only $82,000 (less than half the money needed) for the construction phase of the project, which involved sediment and dam removal, and sculpting the streambed to create a natural habitat for aquatic life. Luckily, group officials became aware of Section 206 of the federal Water Resources Development Act of 1996. That's the act that gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authority to undertake restoration projects in aquatic environments, with the federal government picking up 65 percent of the bill and local sources the remaining 35 percent.

To learn more, visit MEANDRS at:

(Jackson, Adam, 'Rebuilding plans; Dowagiac River project hopes to bring back original meander,' South Bend Tribune, 30 April 2002.)

Ohio EPA proposes destroying 4 more dams on the Cuyahoga River

Big Falls disappeared 90 years ago. The scenic, three-tiered falls is entombed under Gorge Dam in Cuyahoga Falls, which was built in 1912 to generate electricity for the Akron area. But now there's hope that Big Falls will reappear - and that Gorge Dam will disappear. The dam is one of four between Cuyahoga Falls and Cleveland that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency wants removed to improve water quality on the Cuyahoga River. Three of the dams are in Cuyahoga Falls and the other is in Brecksville. Dams cause water to stagnate, which removes oxygen from the river. Removing them will add oxygen and eliminate barriers that now block fish from moving up and down the river. Removing them would also create recreational opportunities. Some of the river's best rapids are above and below Gorge Dam. But removing them also could create problems. It would allow Lake Erie's unwanted invasive creatures to spread into territory where they currently don't exist. The Ohio 82 Dam in Brecksville, the first barrier on the Cuyahoga River, stops non-native aquatic life such as zebra mussels and gobies from moving farther up the river.

(Kuehner, John C., 'Dam river debate rises anew; Ohio EPA proposes destroying 4 more,' The Plain Dealer, 23 April 2002.)

Restoration opportunity on Green and Barren rivers

The Army Corps of Engineers wants to decommission five decaying dams on the Green and Barren rivers that haven't been used for navigation for at least 20 years. The corps studied the dams for years and recommended leaving four intact - three on the Green River near Glenmore, Woodbury and Rochester, and one on the Barren River at Greencastle. Only No. 6 on Green River would be dismantled. Local leaders say doing so will also dismantle the operation of ferries that shuttle vehicles across the river and a tour boat that offers scenic, seven-mile cruises in nearby Mammoth Cave National Park. Mammoth Cave National Park, which operates the ferries at a cost of $200,000 a year, plans to keep them by dredging the river and rebuilding the ferry ramps for low-water operation, said spokesman Jim Carroll. With the ferries taken care of, the corps saw no compelling reason to leave No. 6, Ruhl said. The dam creates a 17-mile backlog of slow-moving warm water that's great for fishing, but bad for some rare wildlife. Restoring a free-flowing river could help the park's seven endangered mussel species, said Mark DePoy, Mammoth Cave's chief of science and resource management.

(Associated Press, 'Locals oppose decision to destroy dam,' 22 April 2002.)

us - northeast

Drought and budget cutting threaten northeast rivers

Watershed advocates already worried an extended drought could damage river and waterway habitats this summer said state river protection funds also may be drying up. The biological effects of drought and proposed cuts in state river restoration and protection programs were hot topics at the fifth annual 'River Visions 2002' conference held by the SuAsCo Watershed Community Council this week. The Sudbury-Assabet-Concord (SuAsCo) Watershed encompasses a large network of tributaries, which ultimately contribute to the Merrimack River Watershed in the northeastern part of Maine. The council brings together municipal, business and watershed representatives from the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord river basins. 'This summer, if flows get as low as some people think they might, it will be heartbreaking for those people who are trying to preserve these rivers,' said Nancy A. Bryant, SuAsCo executive director. In some rivers, such as the Assabet, she said, up to 90 percent of the flow in some portions is sewer plant discharge water, and during a drought, waterways have less ability to dilute harmful contaminants. Meanwhile, Secretary of Environmental Affairs Robert A. Durand urged people to contact their state representatives to support restoring funding for several key environmental programs.

(Monahan, John J., 'Budget cutting worries council; Rivers' needs cause concern,' Telegram & Gazette, 4 May 2002.)

Main Street Dam (Guilford Dam), Sebasticook River, Maine
Main Street Dam scheduled for removal

Town Manager James Ricker reported to the board that proposals have been issued for removal of the Main Street Dam on the Sebasticook River, and, once the contracts have been awarded, the dam should be breached by August 15, 2002. Meanwhile, the manager said, the town's Riverwalk Committee will be reactivated to determine what the community wants to see along the river for grasses, trees and other plantings.

(Mack, Sharon Kiley, 'Former milk plant raises concerns; Newport officials may begin legal action if building owner doesn't act,' Bangor Daily News, 2 May 2002.)

Fort Halifax Dam, Sebasticook River, ME
Governor King to meet with all factions on Fort Halifax Dam

Maine governor Angus S. King Jr. wants an open discussion about the fate of Fort Halifax Dam on the Sebasticook River. Dam owner FPL Energy recently informed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it plans to surrender its dam license rather than spend the estimated $3 million to $4 million needed to build a fish lift. That fish lift is mandated by the Kennebec Hydro Developers Group agreement reached in 1998 in order to meet the goals of the state's fish restoration plan for the Sebasticook River water shed - sea-run fish, primarily alewife, are the species targeted. FPL Energy has said that the fish lift simply is too expensive to make economic sense for the energy company. The Kennebec Coalition, the lead environmental group involved, claims that FPL Energy has been deceptive about its intentions and now is trying to negotiate the terms of the hydro power group agreement for its economic benefit. FPL Energy, Kennebec Coalition and the save Sebasticook group are involved in the discussions.

Learn more about the Kennebec Coalition at:

(Hickey, Colin, 'King to meet today with all factions on dam,' Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 30 April 2002.)

Smelt Hill Dam, Presumpscot River, ME
Dam removal awaits permits, federal funding

A plan to remove the Smelt Hill Dam on the Presumpscot River is moving forward on several fronts. In March 2002, using funds from the Coastal Conservation Association, the state purchased the dam from Central Maine Power. The title of the property is now held by the Department of Marine Resources. The state Department of Environmental Protection is helping the DMR prepare and file the required permit applications with the town of Falmouth. FERC is processing the state's application for surrender of the hydropower project exemption, a necessary step for dam removal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports that the specifications for the dam removal are essentially complete. Approval of federal funding for the project was expected in Spring 2002. The dam's removal will restore cold-water fish habitat on seven miles of the river.

(Portland Press Herald, 'Dam removal awaits permits, federal funding,' 20 April 2002.)

Shad resurgence going swimmingly

One of the broken links in the Chesapeake Bay's chain of life is being mended in the coffee-brown water of the upper Patuxent River. The bay's once-huge spring shad runs were nearly driven to extinction in the 1970s, forcing state officials to shut down the commercial fishery. But more than two decades later, the fish are slowly returning to at least three local rivers, with the help of state fishery managers who are stocking the waterways with as many as 23 million juvenile fish each year. State biologists say the bay's two main varieties, hickory shad and American shad, are breeding naturally in the Patuxent and the Choptank, where the reintroduction of hatchery-bred fish began in the mid-1990s. And this year, for the first time, hickory shad released as youngsters in the Nanticoke River in 1999 are returning there to spawn. 'We're seeing more and more natural reproduction every year, which is a very good sign,' said Steven Minkkinen, hatcheries manager for the Department of Natural Resources, as he and three co-workers traveled by motor- boat to one. So many migrating shad were caught in fishermen's nets or blocked by dams from the spawning grounds that by 1980, the state had imposed moratoriums on commercial fishing for both species. There is a catch-and-release recreational fishery. The bay states are removing dams or building migration routes around them on 18 rivers.

(Dewar, Heather, 'Shad resurgence going swimmingly; Rivers: Fish released by the state years ago are returning to spawn on their own.' Baltimore Sun, 25 April 2002.)