No. 69, August 17, 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  









Chixoy Dam, Chixoy River, Guatemala

Chixoy Dam Legacy Issues Study

For nearly 36 years, Guatemala suffered a violent internal armed confrontation that profoundly affected almost every sector of society. Over this same period international financial assistance was received to finance the construction of Central America’s largest hydroelectric energy development, the Pueblo–Viejo Quixal project on the Chixoy River. Some 3,500 residents were forcibly evicted without adequate assessment of damages and compensation. More than 6,000 households in the region suffered losses from the construction of the dam and its reservoir. Protests were met with state–sponsored violence. Communities attempting to negotiate fair compensation were declared guerilla supporters, and the military and civil patrols were used to forcibly remove people from the reservoir site. The Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission, established with the Accord of Oslo in 1994, investigated human rights violations and violence, and in their summary of exemplary cases, the Guatemalan Truth Commission found that in the case of Río Negro, state–sponsored violence constituted genocide, and that the massacres in Río Negro illustrate how "many resistant attitudes to administrative decisions, even though they were peaceful, as occurred in the relation to the construction of the hydroelectric dam, were a priori conceived to be instigated by the guerilla and were resolved through violent repression."

For more information, please take a look at the Chixoy Dam Legacy Issues Study.

(International Rivers, "Chixoy Dam Legacy Issues Study,", 5 July 2005.)

us – california  

Restoring the Trinity

The Hoopa Valley Tribe relied on salmon historically and still catches fish for sustenance and for its cannery operation on its reservation north of Willow Creek. After nearly 30 years of building scientific support for restoration, the tribe had to fight for the program in court. Last year, the tribe beat Central Valley irrigators’ efforts to undermine the program, getting clearance from the courts. This project is part of a 2000 decision by former US Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. About three–quarters to 90 percent of the river’s water had been diverted from Trinity Lake into the Sacramento River, where it’s sent to farmland from pumps in the larger river’s delta. Under Babbitt’s decision, just over 50 percent will be sent to the Sacramento. The tribe’s battle may also help revive a sport and commercial fishery in Northern California and Oregon. But threats remain. The long–standing use–it–or–lose–it standard of the West is a constant concern for the program. In extremely wet years, the program is expected to release 11,000 cfs from Lewiston Dam. "Some litigation surrounding that could be a real stick thrown in the spokes," said Hoopa Valley Tribal Fisheries biologist Mike Orcutt.

(Driscol, John, "A river rising," The Times–Standard, 18 July 2005.)

Friant Dam, San Joaquin River, CA

San Joaquin River restoration bill stalled

Legislation designed to bring part of the San Joaquin River back to life was put on hold after Senator Mike Machado decided that last–minute changes still wouldn’t gain broader support for the bill. The bill would have provided nearly $9.2 million for river restoration out of the $2 billion water bond from 2000. A federal court ruling last year determined that the US Bureau of Reclamation must begin releasing water from Millerton Reservoir in order to restore fish habitat in the San Joaquin River. Now the bureau waits for an additional court order, expected by next spring, on how to release water to benefit fish habitat and farmers who get their water from the reservoir. This action came as a disappointment to the Natural Resources Defense Council, who has fought since 1988 to bring water from Millerton Reservoir. Parts of the river have gone dry as water sits behind Friant Dam for use by farmers on the east side of the southern San Joaquin Valley. "You couldn’t have more of a win–win approach to this issue and (the farmers) still fought it," said Jared Huffman, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "There is zero compromise and zero flexibility from the Friant Water interests on the issue of restoration."

(Brownne, Bob, "Joaquin River restoration bill," Tracy Press, 7 July 2005.)

York Creek Dam, York Creek, CA

York Creek Dam removal awaits federal funding

Removal of the York Creek Dam could begin as early as 2007 if the US Congress approves the Army Corps of Engineers’ appropriations. For the past five years the city has worked closely with the Corps to remove impediments to the endangered steelhead salmon that spawn in York Creek. The dam is the last remaining barrier between the salmon and the creek’s headwaters. When steelhead were added to the endangered species list in 2000, the city "got serious" about removing the dam. Because the earth and concrete structure blocks the salmon from their natural spawning grounds, it could put the city in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The city’s first action in the York Creek Dam Removal & Restoration Project was to remove a manmade barrier farther down the creek. In 2004 the concrete structure was replaced with a series of fish ladders that allow spawning salmon to get as far upstream as the dam. York Creek Dam was constructed in 1878 to form the reservoir that acted as the city’s first municipal water supply. John York was one of the directors of the water company. The water company operated until the construction of Bell Canyon Reservoir in the 1920s.

(Kindler, Dorsey, "York Creek Dam removal awaits federal funding," St. Helena Star, 30 June 2005.)

East Panther Creek Dam, East Panther Creek, CA

Update: PG&E and Foothill Conservancy cooperate on East Panther Creek restoration

PG&E’s annual Environmental Leadership Award, was given recently. Mike Jones, PG&E director of hydro operations and maintenance, said the award was given to a seven–member PG&E team who exemplifies environmental leadership and was "able to initiate $35 million worth of work in Mokelumne River in licensing over the last few years." The team decided to give the money to Foothill Conservancy, which raised $40,000 to turn a dam breach – knocking a big hole into the dam on the West Panther Creek – into complete removal of that dam. The project got another $5,000 from PG&E, which matched the employees’ donation. "This is the first bite. I have another $165,000 to raise," said vice president Pete Bell, after accepting the large, ceremonial check. Bell said the Conservancy’s goal is to have the project permits completed this year and the East Panther Creek Dam completely removed by next construction season. The east and west legs join to form Panther Creek, a tributary to the Mokelumne River, on which Tiger Creek Dam stands. The money will help restore natural stream flows, improve aquatic habitat, improve fish passage and enhance river recreation opportunities along the river and its tributaries.

(Reece, Jim, "Foothill Conservancy accepts check, sets goals," Amador Ledger Dispatch, 20 July 2005.)

us – northwest  

Mike Horse Dam, Blackfoot River, MT

Group calls for removal of Mike Horse Dam

A conservation group is campaigning for the removal of the deteriorating Mike Horse Dam, built in 1941, which separates tons of toxic mine tailings from the headwaters of the Blackfoot River. In a draft report, the US Forest Service acknowledged the dam was unstable and indicated it should be taken out of service, although officials said removal may not be the only option. Members of the Clark Fork Coalition disagree. They say they don’t want a repeat of 1975, when mine tailings from the dam eroded into the river following a severe storm. An engineered dam was later built to contain the remaining tailings, which polluted the river and its aquatic life with their concentrations of heavy metals. Concerns arose last month, when about 2 inches of rain fell in the mountains and water began seeping out of the toe of the dam. Although the dam held, the Forest Service report said the 450–foot–long dam is internally compromised, including a 7–foot–wide void. Removing the dam would require relocating about 2 million cubic yards of mining waste, similar to the amount at the Milltown Dam near the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers.

(Associated Press, "Group calls for removal of Mike Horse Dam," The Billings Gazette, 11 June 2005)

Snake River Dams, Snake River, WA

Update: Judge Redden gives another scathing ruling on Bush salmon recovery plan

For more than 20 years, the fate of 13 threatened and endangered salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest has been a contest between the status quo agenda of politicians and power producers and a legacy of the Nixon era, the Endangered Species Act. A few months ago, many in the press who have been following the salmon story predicted that the Bush administration’s long awaited recovery plan would end up as confetti in a judicial paper shredder. And so it has. US District Court Judge James Redden ruled that the Bush plan violates federal law on four counts and amounts to a "shameless assault on the Endangered Species Act." Judge Redden’s mounting frustration was evident June 10 when he convened warring stakeholders to his Portland courtroom. A no–nonsense man who seems keenly aware that the clock is ticking toward extinction for salmon, Redden characterized the new Bush plan as "an exercise in cynicism." Then he delivered the bombshell he’d held in reserve. The courtroom hushed as he ordered the Bonneville Power Administration to comply with salmon advocates’ request for heavy releases of water from four Columbia Basin dams – three on the Snake River and one on the Columbia. This "summer spill" was urged by fisheries zoologists to help juvenile salmon reach the sea.

(Vandevelder, Paul, "Salmon find a judge who listens: Judge Redden gives salmon restoration efforts new hope in a scathing ruling on the Bush recovery plan," Tidepools, 28 June 2005.)

us – southwest  

Dam removal releases Fossil Creek

It started as a trickle, a small finger of water stretching across a sunbaked slab of granite. But it had the force of a flood, heralding a historic event and the beginning of a new era for this central Arizona stream. At high noon on Saturday, June 18, Arizona Public Service Co. abandoned the dam that held back Fossil Creek for nearly a century and let the water flow unabated. 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. On Fossil Creek, the water had been diverted to power two hydroelectric plants run by APS. "To do something like this in Arizona is extraordinary," said Andrew Fahlund, vice president for protection and restoration at American Rivers. It’s extraordinary for a number of reasons, as speaker after speaker said during a creekside ceremony that marked APS’ 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 chief executive officer 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."

(Pitzl, Mary Jo, "APS dam removal releases Fossil Creek; Central Ariz. plant closures let stream flow again," The Arizona Republic, 19 June 2005. Article from

us – midwest  

Kalamazoo River dams, Kalamazoo River, MI

Dam removal plan moves through state senate

State senators have approved an amendment that would give $250,000 to the Department of Natural Resources. They hope the money will speed the department in studying the removal of the dams along the Kalamazoo River at Otsego, Plainwell, and Trowbridge Michigan. Lawmakers say if the dams were to suddenly break, the contamination would be worse than if they were removed. Not everyone thinks removing the dams will help clean–up the Kalamazoo River. Opponents say moving the dams will release PCB’s trapped in the soil and damage the river. The amendment now goes to the House.

(Freedom Broadcasting of Michigan, "Dam removal plan moves through state senate," 15 June 2005.)

Elm Street Dam, Battle Creek, MI

Update: Dam removal lets Battle Creek get back to its normal course

Sheets of metal stamped "1909" were pulled from the Battle Creek River in the final stage of the Elm Street Dam removal. The remnants of the six–foot Consumers Energy dam are being removed piece by piece in a deconstruction intended to return the river to its natural state. "It’s getting the river back to its regular course," said Kristine Boley–Morse of the Calhoun County Conservation District, the agency leading the project. Boley–Morse said removing this structure will provide a better habitat for fish and allow them to migrate. It also will remove a dangerous structure that has been a liability for Consumers. This same crew removed about 100 feet of the 160–foot structure a year ago, which has helped vegetation to spread and the river to begin flowing a more natural course, she said. Officials from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Calhoun County Conservation District took a fish survey a few weeks before the first stage of the removal as a prelude to the dam removal. The DNR estimates there are about 2,500 dams in Michigan, most of them which have deteriorated over the years.

(Iwan, Christine, "Dam removal lets Battle Creek river get back to its normal course," Battle Creek Enquirer, 8 July 2005.)

us – northeast  

In Pennsylvania, a flood of dam–busting

Like beavers, earlier Pennsylvanians rarely passed up a chance to throw a dam across any river, creek or stream they happened across. But now that zeal is running in the other direction, as the state and private partners have been removing more dams every year – restoring stream flows, improving conditions for sport fish, and eliminating potential hazards. "Pennsylvania is leading the nation in the effort to remove dams," said Eric Eckl, spokesman for American Rivers, who works with the state Fish and Boat Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection to restore Pennsylvania’s rivers. Its mid–Atlantic regional headquarters are in Harrisburg. In June alone, five dams across the state were removed by contractors. The Fish and Boat Commission has about 60 dam–removal projects in progress, and thousands of candidates. Dam removal is a priority among conservationists nationally. In the West, some are campaigning to remove substantial dams on the Snake River in Idaho, and others dream of undamming the spectacular Hetch Hetchy valley in the Sierras, flooded a century ago to satisfy San Francisco’s thirst.

(Fish, Larry, "In Pa., a flood of dam–busting; The state leads a national trend toward removing old, dangerous dams," Philadelphia Daily News, 10 July 2005.)

Lawsuit removes dam from Perkiomen Creek

A small Montgomery County dam, tied to the drowning of a father and son in 2000 and at least five other deaths, has been removed, state officials said this week. The removal of the so–called B.F. Goodrich dam, unmarked and scarcely visible from upstream, was the primary goal of a lawsuit settled last year by Joanna House. Her husband, Fred, and son Paul drowned on the Perkiomen Creek during a canoe trip. The dam was near the Lower Perkiomen Valley County Park. The "low–head" dam was built in the 1940s to provide cooling water for a tire plant in Oaks, but had served no purpose in years. Common throughout the region, low–head dams, only a few feet high, are dangerous because falling water creates a churn that can trap bodies. In February 1977, four people, age 17 to 23, drowned while canoeing. And in August 1993, a 19–year–old man who was swimming in the Perkiomen drowned after being caught in the dam’s undertow. The Goodrich removal went very smoothly.

(Fish, Larry, "B.F. Goodrich dam removed from creek; The removal was the primary goal of a lawsuit from a woman whose husband and son drowned on Perkiomen Creek in 2000," Philadelphia Daily News, 23 June 2005.)

Congressman urges end to destructive power plant practice on Hudson River

Congressman Maurice Hinchey has called on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to require Dynegy Northeast Generation Inc. to construct a closed cycle cooling system for the Roseton electric power plant. In the absence of a closed cycle cooling system, the facility currently draws up to a billion gallons of Hudson River water each day, killing a substantial number of fish, fish eggs and larvae, while returning heated water to the river, which is also harmful to the river’s life, he said. The Roseton plant has operated for 13 years with an extended expired state permit. "Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has been vital to the restoration and protection of the Hudson River, which has experienced significant improvements in its overall health. However, the continued use of pre 1972 era, once through cooling technology by the older power plants along the Hudson River, including Roseton, remains one of the greatest industrial threats to the many aquatic species that live in and/or migrate into the river," Hinchey wrote in his letter.

(Mid–Hudson News Network, "Hinchley urges New York DEC to restore Roseton’s power use," 20 July 2005.)

$3 million in grants to fund 88 restoration projects

Rain gardens that reduce polluted runoff and streamside buffers to prevent erosion are among bay and river restoration projects in Pennsylvania and five other states that will be funded through $3 million in grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Program. A total of 88 projects will be funded through the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants. The goal of the grant program is to accelerate restoration of the bay and the rivers that feed it through funding that helps communities restore their part of the bay watershed. "By linking the resources of the federal government and the dedication and knowledge of local organizations, we can work together to help speed the restoration of this national treasure," said Donald Welsh, Mid–Atlantic Regional Administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency. A "rain garden" is a man–made depression that collects and stores rainwater, which is then filtered and slowly absorbed by the soil. Programs will take place across all six states in the Bay’s 64,000 square–mile watershed. Grant recipients will also plant more than 209 miles of forest buffers and improve 32 miles of streams that drain into the bay.

(NEPA News, "$3 million in grants to fund 88 bay, river restoration projects,", 15 July 2005.)

us – southeast  

Elizabeth River group is boosted by grants

Members of the Elizabeth River Project believe the Chesapeake Bay can be restored one river at a time and are working on one of its most polluted tributaries in an attempt to prove it. "If someone wanted to clean up their house, they’d do it one room at a time," reasoned Lyle Jackson, a project manager for the 2,000–member group based in Portsmouth. The group organized 13 years ago to rescue the Elizabeth River. Decades of intense industrial use had turned the river into a cesspool and some of its banks into Superfund sites. The effort got a giant boost last week when the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation conservation group and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program gave it $95,000. The money is part of more than $3 million in awards sponsored by the two groups that will be distributed to 88 bay and river restoration projects in the bay’s six–state watershed. Virginia groups will get about $800,000. The grants are distributed annually. Much of the Elizabeth River Project’s grant money will be used to develop an "eco park" on Paradise Creek that Jackson said will be "the cornerstone of a five–year plan to restore" the damaged watershed.

(Latane, Lawrence III, "Elizabeth River group is boosted by grants; State groups overall get $800,000 to help clean bay bit by bit," Richmond Times–Dispatch, 19 July 2005.)