No. 65, February 24, 2005

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Wil Dvorak

table of contents  










Take action for rivers on March 14

March 14, 2005 marks the eighth annual International Day of Action for Rivers. This is a time to join in solidarity to protest destructive river development schemes and celebrate successes over the last year. It is also a time to fight for social justice and the rights of communities over their resources and lives. This year’s focus is on affected peoples and reparations for past damages. The development of dams in marginalized peoples’ territories has been almost universally a story of broken promises, damaged livelihoods, drowned cultural sites and spiritual losses. But a new story is unfolding, one where affected peoples facing seemingly impossible odds are prevailing, with river restoration taking place and efforts to repair past damages are beginning. In Guatemala, after a thousand Mayan villagers displaced by the Chixoy Dam occupied the dam’s hydroelectric facility, the government agreed to reparations talks. And in the US, the Hoopa Valley and Yurok tribes in California celebrated a long awaited victory in their effort to restore the Trinity River and their ancestral fisheries when a federal appeals court ordered implementation of the 2000 Trinity River restoration plan, which would increase the flow to the river through existing dams.

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Financing dams in India: risks and challenges

In 2003, the Government of India proposed to double the current electricity generation in the country, proposing 162 new Hydroelectric Projects. The government endowed India’s National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) with the largest number of projects. This new briefing paper informs about the risks of doing business with NHPC. NHPC has repeatedly violated national and international standards and regulations for dam building. This has resulted in cost and time overruns, social and environmental negligence, security concerns, widespread public opposition, human rights violations, court cases and the suspension of projects in the pipeline or even during construction. The Indira Sagar Project in the state of Madhya Pradesh exemplifies NHPC’s mode of operating. This 92–meter–high dam will displace over 200,000 farmers, tribals and fisherpeople and will impound more land than any other hydro project in India. Instead of fulfilling its contractual obligations to provide land–based resettlement, NHPC quickly became notorious for its use of intimidation, threats and Special Armed Forces against people in the project area. Villagers were forced to accept small amounts of cash instead of the land–based compensation they are legally entitled to. Those who tried to complain were told that this would result in a loss of their right to any compensation.

(International Rivers, Financing Dams in India: Risks and Challenges, 27 January 2005.)


Death toll mounts in Pakistan after second dam burst

Pakistani rescue teams battled against multiple disasters in February as the death toll from a week of blizzards and torrential rainfall climbed to more than 360. A second dam ruptured in Baluchistan province, killing seven people, after at least 135 died and up to 1,500 were still missing when the Shadikor Dam burst over several coastal towns on. Many more casualties were reported over the weekend after avalanches and landslides in North–West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Himalayan region of Kashmir as the region’s worst winter weather for many years continued. President Pervez Musharraf flew to Baluchistan to survey the flood damage and announced financial compensation for victims. Relief operations in the poor south–western province were hampered because floodwaters from the Shadikor dam swept away large sections of a new coastal highway, making some areas accessible only by helicopter. More than 18,000 homes had been damaged, an army spokesman said last night. Huge tracts of land beside the Arabian Sea coast of Baluchistan remain submerged. Rain and snow also triggered avalanches and landslides in Afghanistan and Indian–controlled Kashmir.

(Walsh, Declan, "Death toll mounts in Pakistan after second dam burst," Guardian, 14 February 2005.)


Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA

Klamath Tribes want upstream salmon back

A new license for Klamath River dams should help get salmon upstream, the Klamath Tribes say. "It’s a huge gap in the Upper Basin’s fauna," said tribal biologist Larry Dunsmoor. Restoring chinook salmon is the major goal of the Tribes, and they made their case in a meeting with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Tribal leaders haven’t taken a stance on how to do so, said Torina Case, Tribes’ Council secretary. Ways of getting the fish back up to the basin include adding fish ladders to the dams, trucking the fish around the dams or removing the dams completely. "All these options are on the table," Case said. Officials held a three–hour meeting to learn about what is at stake for the Tribes in the 2006 relicensing process. "The fish just need to be able to move when they need to move," Dunsmoor said. Currently, the project has six hydroelectric and one flow–control dam. PacifiCorp didn’t include a return of salmon to the basin in its application, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be done as part of the final relicensing.

(Darling, Dylan, "Klamath Tribes want upstream salmon back,", 12 January 2005.)

Klamath dams killing Indians, Karuks plead

Centuries before federal nutritional guidelines told Americans how to eat healthfully, the Karuk Indians had figured it out. They ate wild salmon at every meal –– about 1.2 pounds of fish per person per day. Isolated here in the Klamath River valley in the rugged mountains of northwest California, the Karuk stuck with their low–carb, low–cholesterol, salmon–centered diet longer than perhaps any Indians in the Pacific Northwest. It was not until the late 1960s and the 1970s, when dams and irrigation ruined one of the world’s great salmon fisheries, that fish mostly disappeared from their diet. Salmon are now too scarce to catch and too expensive to buy. The tribe caught 100 chinook salmon last fall, a record low. Eating mostly processed food, including federal food aid, many Karuks are obese, with unusually high rates of heart disease and diabetes. To reclaim their salmon, and their health, the Karuks are using these issues as a lever in a dam relicensing pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In what legal experts say is an unprecedented use of the regulatory process, the tribe is trying to shame a major utility company and the federal government into agreeing that at least three dams on the Klamath River should be removed. The dams are quite literally killing Indians, according to a tribe– commissioned report that was written by Kari Marie Norgaard, a sociologist from UC Davis. The report links the disappearance of salmon to increases in poverty, unemployment, suicide and social dissolution.

(Harden, Blaine, "Klamath dams killing Indians, Karuks plead lack of salmon tied to obesity, poverty, suicide, social decay," Washington Post, 6 February 2005.)

O’Shaughnessy Dam, Tuolumne River, CA

Update: It’s time that San Francisco let go of Hetch Hetchy

San Francisco, tear down that dam. But the hometown of the Sierra Club dithers over the fate of Hetch Hetchy, the main holding tank for city water in Yosemite National Park, while a Republican governor takes the lead by default. The city’s fearless leader, Mayor Gavin Newsom, is a study in equivocation, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, confusing dams with rivers, makes ludicrous statements about the "destruction" of the source of the city’s water. Imagine Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a real–life action–adventure drama, tearing down O’Shaughnessy Dam high in the Sierra while Bay Area leaders gape from the sidelines. Far–fetched? Well, it took Richard Nixon, not exactly one of the great nature lovers of all time, to get the Endangered Species Act passed. Already a business alliance, the Bay Area Council, has emerged with a save–the–dam effort; it is clearly alarmed by the growing momentum of the take–down–the–dam campaign. The inevitable removal of O’Shaughnessy Dam may take decades if you allow the supporters of the status quo to dictate your position. But you will discover, sooner or later, that you have no more right to flood a valley in Yosemite than farmers do to drain rivers and destroy fisheries. There is a bull’s–eye on O’Shaughnessy that is growing by the day.

(Holt, Tim, "Dam shame; It’s time that San Francisco let go of Hetch Hetchy," 16 January 2005. Article on–line at:

Matilija Dam, Matilija Creek, CA

Update: Funding uncertain for Matilija Dam demolition

County supervisors considered the final version of an environmental study for tearing down Matilija Dam in December as several Ojai Valley water agencies had lifted their opposition to the plan. Meanwhile, funding for the project is now uncertain after a Congressional bill authorizing up to $130 million for the dam’s removal died last month, officials said. "We’re not sure what’s going to happen. All of our legislators have spoken positively about this. (But) we’re staying on schedule," said Jeff Pratt, director of the Ventura County Watershed Protection District. The dam is obsolete, choked by roughly 6 million cubic yards of sediment in its reservoir. Demolition would hasten the return of southern steelhead trout, restoring the Ventura River ecosystem, while replenishing eroding beaches with sand, proponents say. At 168 feet, Matilija Dam is the largest proposed demolition in United States history. The environmental report also requires approval by the Army Corps of Engineers. Demolition plans involve building a 7–mile slurry pipeline to carry away 2.1 million cubic yards of fine sediment. The rest would be jettisoned from the dam in periodic releases. A facility downstream would send clean water to Lake Casitas while diverting water with heavier silt and cobble to the river mouth at the ocean.

(Levin, Charles, "County officials to consider dam study: Water agencies lift opposition, but funding appears uncertain," Ventura County Star, 12 December 2004. Full text found at:


Milltown Dam, Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers, MT

Update: Milltown Dam removal plan finalized

Twenty–three years after a Missoula County sanitarian found arsenic in Milltown’s tap water, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a final plan for excavating the sediments that brought the poison to town and taking Milltown Dam out of the river so it doesn’t happen again. "A lot of people thought this would never happen in their lifetimes," said Chuck Erickson, president of Friends of Two Rivers, a group of Milltown and Bonner residents who lobbied for removal of the dam and millions of cubic yards of tainted reservoir sediments. "It’s been such a long road to get here," said Peter Nielsen, an environmental health supervisor at the Missoula City–County Health Department. "But it’s final now. It is going to happen." Work at Milltown Reservoir will begin this winter, with removal of the dam as early as January 2006. Then will come the excavation of 2.6 million cubic yards of contaminated reservoir sediments, a two–year job. Within seven years, the cleanup will be complete and the free–flowing confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers –– blocked by Milltown Dam since 1908 –– will be restored. "When we started talking about this idea, people thought it was nuts," said Tracy Stone–Manning, executive director of the Clark Fork Coalition, a river watchdog group. "It just goes to show that when citizens speak with one voice, really great things can happen."

(Devlin, Sherry, "Milltown Dam removal plan finalized,", 21 December 2004.)

Columbia River dams, Columbia River

Update: Oregon’s Governor threatens Bush administration with suit over salmon

Governor Ted Kulongoski, on the heels of a fiery speech at the statehouse in which he criticized federal environmental policies, told the Bush administration he would sue unless federal agencies make hydropower dam operations less destructive to salmon. Kulongoski’s action adds considerable weight to the side of fishing and conservation groups, which are challenging the administration’s recent conclusion that federal dams in the Columbia Basin pose no threat of driving endangered salmon to extinction. The federal government’s 10–year plan for dams is supposed to balance the needs of threatened and endangered salmon against the demand for electricity, irrigation water and barge transportation provided by a system of 14 federal dams sprawled across Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It comes in response to a federal judge, who last year rejected the government’s previous blueprint for protecting salmon as lacking certainty. Environmental groups and some Northwest tribes have long argued the most effective way to return fish to self–sustaining numbers is to remove four dams on the lower Snake River, where salmon and steelhead runs have dwindled despite efforts to restore habitat and minimize the threat from dams.

(Rojas–Burke, Joe, "Governor threatens suit over salmon; Oregon’s chief executive tells the Bush administration dams must be made less destructive to fish," Oregonian, 15 January 2005.)


Army Corps creating Missouri River sandbar habitat

US Army Corps of Engineers officials expect a good–sized turnout for a meeting about to help the recovery of two species of birds. The corps’ plan calls for artificially creating 25 acres of sandbar habitat per mile between Garrison Dam and the Heart River by this year and 50 acres per mile by 2015. That would put the corps in compliance with a 2003 amended biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees endangered species. The sandbars would serve as nesting habitat for the endangered interior least tern and the threatened piping plover, two river–dwelling birds that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Kelly Crane, the manager for the sandbar project, said proposals for creating the habitat are in the evaluation process. The corps has been evaluating comments it has received so far from groups and citizens. What the corps officials won’t address is alternatives to artificially creating sandbars. One common opinion is that the corps should create sandbars through natural means. "When (the corps creates sandbars mechanically), we can put them in certain spots. We know how far they are from boat ramps, municipal water intakes, power intakes, parks, bald eagle nests and prime duck–hunting habitat."

(Hinton Richard, "Corps seeks input on sandbars," Bismarck Tribune, 19 January 2005.)

Boardman River dams, Boardman River, MI

Dams will stay put until federal dollars flow again

A study of three dams on the Boardman River and the possibility of removing them is in financial limbo. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources did a preliminary study because there was no money left in a federal program, and that may not change in 2005, officials said. Without funding, the project stops. "We can’t even look at a project if there’s no funding for it," said Gary O’Keefe, chief of planning in the Detroit district office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The preliminary report recommends leaving the Union Street Dam in place, but says the Sabin, Boardman, and Brown Bridge dams should be removed for environmental and economic reasons. The Boardman, Sabin, and Brown Bridge dams are all hydroelectric dams. Two operate at a loss and the one that doesn’t, Brown Bridge, needs a new spillway that would take 100 years to pay off, according to the report. Removal of the dams will also eliminate Sabin, Brown Bridge and Boardman –– also known as Keystone –– ponds. The water would drop 30 to 40 feet in a relatively short distance at the dam sites, creating areas of rapids similar to rapids near Beitner Road, DNR biologist and study author Todd Kalish said.

(McGillivary, Brian, "Dams will stay put until federal dollars flow again," www.record–, 27 December 2004.)

Hersey Dam, Hersey River, MI

Dam removal and watershed restoration on the Muskegon River

One of the worst dams in the Muskegon River system could be headed for removal as state agencies and an advocacy group step up efforts to restore one of Michigan’s most altered waterways. The Muskegon River Watershed Assembly has received $10,000 in grants to pay for engineering studies that could lead to the removal of Hersey Dam. The obsolete dam on the Hersey River, north of Big Rapids, is in danger of collapsing. The Hersey Dam is one of 94 dams in the Muskegon River and its tributaries. Studies have found that dams break the sprawling Muskegon River system into a series of shorter, ecologically dysfunctional units by disrupting the natural flow of water, increasing water temperatures, decreasing oxygen concentrations and restricting the movement of fish, sediment and nutrients. The Muskegon River is the focus of an intense river management effort. Private foundations and government agencies have contributed more than $7 million for research aimed at restoring the Muskegon and preserving its greatest natural features in the face of increasing land development. The Hersey Dam study is one of several river–related projects scheduled to begin this spring. The watershed assembly recently received $200,000 in grants to reduce harmful storm water runoff from farm fields and parking lots. The watershed assembly and GVSU will ask farmers willing to install filter strips to sign permanent easements that would keep the protective vegetation in place forever.

(Alexander, Jeff, "Money flowing in to address Muskegon River dam problem," Muskegon Chronicle, 26 January 2005.)

South Batavia Dam, Fox River, IL

Update: Officials to review South Batavia Dam removal plan

The deteriorating South Batavia Dam, built nearly a century ago, could be gone from the Fox River by year’s end under a removal plan recommended by the Kane County Forest Preserve Commission’s executive committee. The full commission may review a proposal to complete the last of $350,000 in engineering studies required to estimate the cost of removing the failed dam. It spans the Fox River at the northern tip of the Glenwood Forest Preserve. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources wants the dam removed, said commission President John Hoscheit. The latest cost estimate for removal is between $800,000 and $1 million.

(Chicago Tribune, "Officials to review dam removal plan," 5 February 2005.)


Fort Halifax Dam, Sebasticook River, ME

Judge to decide lawsuit in dam case

A Superior Court judge continues to weigh testimony charging that the state failed to inform the public about a meeting that played a critical role in FPL Energy’s decision to seek the removal of Fort Halifax Dam. Save Our Sebasticook, the organization founded by state Rep. Kenneth Fletcher, R–Winslow, filed the lawsuit against the state. SOS’s suit charges that the state violated Maine law by failing to inform the public of a meeting in 1998 that involved various state and federal agencies and an assortment of environmental groups. That meeting led to a 1998 agreement –– called the Kennebec Hydro Developers Agreement–– that stipulated fish passage for sea–run species must be provided at Fort Halifax Dam by either a fish lift or by dam removal. FPL Energy, the energy company that owns Fort Halifax Dam, decided that the estimated $3 million to $4 million cost of a fish lift made that option economically unfeasible and chose to pursue dam removal instead. Dennis Harnish, an assistant attorney general, argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission provided ample notice of proceedings that led up to the 1998 meeting. Harnish said had either Winslow town officials or residents paid attention, they could have participated in the agreement. But lawyer Anthony Buxton, representing SOS, said the issue is that the state failed to give adequate notice of the 1998 meeting.

(Hickey, Colin, "Judge to decide lawsuit in dam case,", 12 January 2005.)

Strong voice for clean rivers

Scott Cowger recalls growing up in Brunswick in the 1970s when the Androscoggin was "a dead river." It smelled and it was brown, he said. "No one went near the river. It’s amazing to see it today," But, he said, Mainers still use the Androscoggin to carry waste, and it remains classified as a Class C river, the lowest classification for rivers in Maine. As the new Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee, Cowger is determined to do what it takes to ensure that appropriate water quality standards are met on the Androscoggin. In one of his first moves as the Senate chairman of the committee, the 45–year–old graduate of Brunswick High –– who earned a varsity letter in math and now owns and runs the Maple Hill Farm in Hallowell –– co–sponsored legislation drafted by Representative Elaine Makas, designed to toughen standards for water quality in two sections of the Androscoggin and St. Croix rivers. Makas’s proposed legislation would require the Androscoggin and St. Croix to meet the same water–quality standards as other Maine rivers. The soft–spoken, congenial innkeeper is also committed to reducing phosphorous emissions into Maine lakes from paper mills and dischargers that create algae blooms that can suffocate fish and other aquatic life.

(Talmadge, Leslie, "Strong voice for clean environment," 18 January 2005.)


Embrey Dam, Rappahannock River, VA

Update: Erasing Embrey Dam

The once–mighty Embrey Dam, which loomed over the Rappahannock River for 94 years, is no more. The dam, breached by Army divers last February, has been reduced to little more than rubble. For the first time in over a century it’s possible to imagine this section of the Rappahannock off Fall Hill Avenue as it was before Europeans settled along its banks in the mid–1600s. That is, with no dam. The view of the river is no longer obscured by a 22–foot–high wall of concrete. In its place, a blue–green ribbon of water tumbles over boulders exposed on either side of the causeway. It took several hundred workers two years to build Embrey Dam. The structure supplied water to a generating plant, which produced electricity for industries downstream and the city well into the 1960s, before becoming obsolete. Under a cloudy sky, the drone of heavy machinery scooping up chunks of debris could be heard over the roar of the river. Between March 1 and June 30, no heavy equipment is allowed in the river to protect spawning shad, herring and rockfish. The $10 million dam–removal project has been overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

(Dennen Rusty, "Erasing Embrey Dam,", 12 January 2005.)