No. 68, June 22, 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  










Cana Brava Dam, Tocantins River, Brazil

Police attack dam–affected people in Brazil

Police attempted to evict protesters from Brazil’s Dam–Affected Movement (MAB) who camped at the entrance to Cana Brava Dam on the Tocantins River, in Goiás state. One MAB leader was arrested and six were injured. Witnesses say that several shots were fired by the police. About 350 families set up a camp on May 23 at the Cana Brava site, demanding negotiations with dam–owner Tractebel, in an attempt to gain adequate compensation and resettlement for those affected by the project. Tractebel is a subsidiary of the French water and energy giant Suez. MAB says that few of the nearly 1,000 affected families have received any compensation from the company. According to Agenor da Silva Costa, a MAB coordinator at Cana Brava, these families received less than $2,000 each, and some as little as $14. "Some were poorly compensated. They received a part of the money they were promised or went to resettlement areas without any infrastructure. 75% of the families received no compensation at all. 500 MAB members also occupied Serra da Mesa dam, just upstream. State electric company Furnas has now agreed to begin negotiations. MAB’s camp at Tucuruí Dam, also on the Tocantins, continues in its third month.

(International Rivers, Police Attack Dam–Affected People in Brazil, 25 May 2005.)

us – general  

America’s unheralded water cleanup

With little fanfare, counties, states, and the federal government have collectively spent an estimated $14 billion or more – at least $1 billion a year since 1990 – to restore rivers and streams to their natural condition, not including dollars spent on Goliath restoration projects like the Everglades. Ironically, the move to clean up America’s unheralded rivers comes at a time when the condition of the nation’s waterways overall is starting to deteriorate. "What we’re seeing is a twofold phenomenon," says Andrew Fahlund of American Rivers. "There’s been great recognition of the value of healthy rivers and streams in our communities. But now we’re at risk of backsliding from the progress we’ve made over 30 years." That finding is tempered by growing signs that the nation’s rivers are getting dirtier overall – after decades of getting cleaner. From about 1973 to 1998, rivers and lakes in the US were getting cleaner, but that has reversed itself. Over a third of US rivers are listed as polluted or impaired. Extinction rates of freshwater fish are about five times the level of land animals. Withdrawals of freshwater from rivers for agricultural and other uses is so extreme in some regions that the rivers no longer reach the ocean all year long.

For more information, visit

(Clayton, Mark, "America’s unheralded water cleanup," Christian Science Monitor, 12 May 2005.)

Restoration just one part of river health

Billions of dollars are spent on thousands of stream and river restorations in the United States, but environmental experts question their value due to lack of monitoring and failure to deal with the root causes of waterway damage. A recent study in the journal Science found scientists lack a central repository of information that would allow them to track the effectiveness of projects. A review of more than 37,000 river restoration projects showed some did not include monitoring for environmental value. Experts also said there was inadequate emphasis on preserving pristine waterways and correcting upstream conditions that can cause waterway damage. Without correcting those problems, any knowledge gained and environmental improvements achieved by restoration efforts could be lost. River restoration has, over the past decade, become a booming business in the United States, with an average of at least $1 billion spent annually since 1990. But piecemeal monitoring, despite the money being spent, still makes it unclear what techniques actually work. Palmer said when factoring in salaries of people working on restoration projects, government spending is closer to $1.3 billion annually, yet without better preventive measures, the restorations could be wasted efforts.

(Haddix, Dar, "Restoration just one part of river health," UPI Science News, 12 May 2005.)


Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA

Klamath dam owner courted by Buffett

Smack in the middle of a complicated licensing process, Klamath River hydropower operator PacifiCorp is being bought out by the Warren Buffett company MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. While some worry that the swap in ownership could affect the tone of the proceedings, PacifiCorp itself claims there will be no change. The utility is owned by ScottishPower, a publicly held company that bills itself as environmentally conscious. Regulatory proceedings on the sale are expected to last as long as a year. The Klamath hydroelectric project produces about 151 MW, enough to power about 77,500 homes. MidAmerican is controlled by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. But the four dams on the river also block salmon from hundreds of miles of potential spawning habitat, and its reservoirs become fetid and algae–choked in the summer, as the main run of salmon is pushing upstream. The license to operate the project is up in March 2006. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is reviewing the project while parallel settlement talks among tribes, environmentalists and other stakeholders proceed apace. Tribes visited ScottishPower last year, which was receptive to their concerns. The tribes have been especially adamant that removal of the dams be closely examined as part of the process.

(Driscoll, John, "Klamath dam owner courted by Buffett," The Times–Standard, 25 May 2005.)

Centerville Head Dam, Butte Creek, CA

Dam removal a distant dream for plaintiffs striving to help salmon

A lawsuit calling for better protection of Butte Creek salmon does not seek to remove the Centerville Head Dam. The goal of the suit is to get two federal agencies to engage in formal consultation over what actions are needed to protect threatened spring–run salmon. Now that millions of dollars in public funds have been spent removing obstacles to the fish in lower Butte Creek, it’s imperative that adequate protection be provided in the stream’s upper reaches, said John Beuttler, conservation director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. Earthjustice described the lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and referred to the dam specifically. "A major obstacle to fish restoration is Centerville Head Dam, located 300 yards below DeSabla Forebay, where salmon are almost completely blocked from reaching the creek’s upper watershed," their news release stated. Allen Harthorn, a director of Friends of Butte Creek, said he’d love to see the dam removed, but that was really a separate issue from the goals of the lawsuit, filed by his organization and several others. The aim of the suit, said Beuttler, is to get action to prevent salmon from dying in upper Butte Creek during hot summer weather. In 2002 and 2003, many salmon died from diseases that became rampant as water temperatures rose.

(Mitchell, Larry, "Dam removal a distant dream for plaintiffs striving to help salmon," Chico Enterprise Record, 24 May 2005.)

us – northwest  

Columbia River dams, Columbia River, WA

Population boom and seven year drought strain Columbia River water usage

Between 1990 and 2000, the population in Washington, Idaho and Oregon grew more than 20 percent, increasing demand for water and power. That growth continues today, even as parts of the river basin enter their seventh consecutive year of severe drought. The result: more rainwater flowing down the river in winter and spring, when it already is flush with water, instead of a heavy snowpack melting slowly during the summer months, maintaining streamflows for irrigation, fish, recreation and transportation. More rain could mean more hydropower in the wet season, but it poses problems for managing the system for other needs. If average precipitation doesn’t vary drastically but shifts from snow to rain, it becomes a question of whether the region has enough reservoir space to store water for summer and fall. But if the drought is so deep that it represents a fundamental decline in water, storage no longer is an issue. "If we confront longer, deeper periods of drought than we have become familiar with in the last 100 years of record keeping, then a premium is going to be placed on making more efficient use of the supplies that you have," said Bill McDonald, the regional director of the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

(Dininny, Shannon, "Climate, usage demands strain Columbia River management: Drought, population boom leave waterway unable to fill all needs,", 1 June 2005.)

us – southwest  

Childs and Irving power plants, Fossil Creek, AZ

Fossil Creek restoration

What started as a trickle had the force of a flood, heralding a historic event and the beginning of a new era for the central Arizona stream, Fossil Creek. It marks the first time in anyone’s memory that an Arizona dam has been taken out of commission in the name of restoring a river. It’s extraordinary for a number of reasons, as speaker after speaker said during a ceremony that marked retirement of the Childs and Irving hydroelectric–power plants. "This is just another benchmark in the long history of Fossil Creek," said Jack Davis, president and CEO of APS. When future generations come to Fossil Creek, he said, "they’ll remember that short period of time – 100 years – when Fossil Creek was used for economic development." The creek is one of the few perennial streams in Arizona. Stopping the diversion will open a 14–mile waterway for hikes along the tree–lined stream, and wildlife is expected to be drawn to the once–again flowing creek. Davis said the shutdown of the only two hydropower plants in its network wouldn’t cause a ripple in APS’ power supply. Combined, the plants were producing less than 1 percent of APS’ total electricity. The return of water to Fossil Creek came about through an unusual alliance between the utility company, various environmental organizations and the Yavapai–Apache Nation.

(Pitzl, Mary Jo, "APS dam removal releases Fossil Creek: Central Ariz. plant closures let stream flow again," Arizona Republic, June 19, 2005. Full article at:

Schroeder Reservoir, Virgin River, NV

Reservoir at Beaver Dam State Park drained

In a move the state Department of Wildlife said was necessary to protect the public downstream from the park, state officials broke holes in the dam and drained the reservoir. Now, it looks like an oversized mud puddle. The emergency decision was made with little public input and no plan in place to repair or replace the 45–year–old dam, acknowledged Rich Haskins, chief of fisheries for the state Department of Wildlife. Officials say the dam posed a safety threat after water spilled over the top during January’s flooding in north of Las Vegas. If similar flooding hit the area again, experts determined, the earthen dam could break, sending chunks of concrete and other debris sailing down the creek, he said. "We consulted a lot of people about it," Haskins said. "There was no disagreement. The dam needed to be breached. It wasn’t a political decision. The dam was such that we needed to react."

(Geary, Frank, "Reservoir at Beaver Dam State Park drained: Officials say dam posed safety threat," Las Vegas Review–Journal, 11 April 2005. Text at:

us – midwest  

Research reveals river recovery in Ohio after dam removal

After the removal of the St. John’s Dam in 2003, a research team was assembled to study the effects on the river over a five–year period. "There is a good population of small mouth bass and red horse sucker. The prominent species use to be carp and green sunfish," said Bob Gable of the ODNR division of natural areas and preserves. "Last year we saw a dramatic decline in the number of carp and green sunfish. We are seeing a shift in the fish community," he said. Gable said that in a healthy river system, the water flow naturally creates a series of riffle run pools. "When you build a dam, you destroy that complex. By removing the dam, you go back to the riffle run pools complex over time," he said. Researchers also have observed an increase in the number of darters and minnows, which require fast moving currents. Initially, when the decision was made to remove the dam, concerns were raised about the absence of the pool on the river bank. Some people were concerned that released sediment trapped behind the dam would create problems farther down stream. At this time, no problem with sediment has been observed.

(Ison, Patrick, "Research reveals river recovery after dam removal," The Advertiser–Tribune, 28 April 2005.)

us – northeast  

Conowingo Dam, Susquehanna River, MD

Sediments held by dam threaten Chesapeake Bay

Piled up for miles along the Susquehanna River bottom, is 200 million tons of environmental conundrum. It’s muck, for lack of a better word: dirt, coal dust and particles of manure brought down by the Susquehanna and trapped behind the massive Conowingo Dam. The muck has been building up here for more than 75 years, stopped just at the doorstep of the Chesapeake Bay. Now, the gargantuan muck pile has become a hot topic among scientists trying to fix the bay. They worry that in the next two decades, it could fill all the space behind the dam, forcing any new sediment – and the pollutants it contains – straight through to the bay. Many scientists have concluded that it would be better for the bay’s fragile ecosystem if the muck was gone. But all their efforts keep coming back to the same problem: "What do you do with it?" asked Jean Kapusnick, a civil engineer with the US Army Corps of Engineers, which handles dredging at harbors nationwide. The Conowingo, which generates hydroelectric power, is one of three major dams on the lower Susquehanna. The blockages have their environmental sins – they hinder the migration of fish, for one – but they do one thing that has made them some of the bay’s best friends. They catch dirt.

(Fahrenthold, David A., "Accumulating River Sludge Threatens Bay – Harford Dam Could Become Too Full to Confine Muck," Washington Post, 7 February 2005.)

Nature Conservancy plans to restore Lower Connecticut River watershed

The Nature Conservancy is evaluating 68 acres on Hartford Road that it considers among its top priorities in the watershed, recently renewing its option to purchase that parcel. The conservancy signed an option to buy 68 of the 72 acres there in March of 2004; the renewal gives it until March of 2006 to decide whether to purchase the land. Nathan Frohling, director of the conservancy’s Lower Connecticut River program, said the conservancy has done an analysis of parcels in the Eightmile River watershed and compiled a Top 20 list. Frohling said the property ranks in the top 20 because of its "ecological criteria." "This whole area we’re talking about is part of a 1,755–acre block of unfragmented habitat," Frohling said. The property includes the Hales Pond and a dam, which Frohling said is important. "The dam presents the last remaining impasse for migratory fish in the east branch of the Eightmile River," he said. Frohling said the conservancy is considering whether to pursue a fish ladder with dam restoration or dam removal.

(Crompton, Karin, "Nature Conservancy Eyeing 68 Acres In Salem," The Day, 01 June 2005.)

Senators urge Bush to fund Penobscot River restoration project

Senators Olympia Snowe (R–ME) and Susan Collins (R–ME) wrote President Bush requesting that $18 million in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 budget be included to complete the Penobscot River Restoration Project. This conservation project is a collaborative effort among the PPL Corporation, Department of the Interior, the State of Maine, Penobscot Indian Nation, and five conservation groups to restore Maine’s Atlantic salmon and several other species of native sea–run fish in the Penobscot River. In order to improve fish passage, the project involves the purchase of three dams, the removal of two, and a by–pass of the third. "Atlantic salmon are a highly valued natural resource for the State of Maine and the nation. An estimated 70 percent of our nation’s Atlantic salmon spawn in the Penobscot and this project represents the best hope for restoring sustainable runs of salmon on the United States," Snowe and Collins said in a joint statement. "Federal funding is both needed and appropriate to complete this project, which represents a major step forward in fish restoration." The conservation groups involved in lobbying the GOP senators include American Rivers, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Trout Unlimited.

(Magic City Morning Star, "Senators Urge Bush to Fund Penobscot River Restoration Project," 6 June 2005.)

us – southeast  

Dam removal draws international interest

The project that brought down the Embrey Dam on the Rappahannock River is bringing people to Fredericksburg –– to learn how community organizations can work with government to make change. Officials from Thailand and the Philippines toured the former dam site and members of the group Friends of the Rappahannock described their lengthy campaign to have the dam removed. Thailand officials said the project shows how people in the community have to join forces to protect environmental resources. The Asian delegation is wrapping up a week of touring the Cheseapeake Bay and other key waterways in the region.

(Ball, Nancy, "Dam removal draws international interest,", 25 April 2005.)

Dillsboro Dam, Tuckasegee River, NC

Preliminary step in dam removal proposal

The North Carolina Division of Water Quality issued a certificate of approval for Duke Power to remove the Dillsboro Dam. The approval of the 401 Certificate is a preliminary step in Duke’s mitigation proposal. The plan still requires approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC will decide whether Duke’s proposal, the alternative settlement signed by several local governments, or some combination of the two is the best management plan for the utility’s hydropower operations in the region. The certificate was issued on May 16. Kevin Barnett with DWQ said the permit should be available for public inspection in the Asheville DWQ office this week. The state DWQ was one of the original signers of the Dukemitigation proposal.

(Smoky Mountain News, "DWQ Approves preliminary step in dam removal proposal," 5 May 2005.)