No. 70, October 20, 2005

No. 70, October 20, 2005

River Revival Bulletin

Produced by: River Revival, International Rivers
Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Wil Dvorak

table of contents







NOAA announces new rivers restoration program, The Open Rivers Initiative

A grant program called the Open Rivers Initiative will provide funding to communities for removal of obsolete and derelict stream barriers such as dams. Joining the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a coalition of private organizations that includes the American Sportfishing Association, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Berkley Conservation Institute and Trout Unlimited, under the umbrella of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. This is as strong a pooling of grassroots partners as the fishing community has seen, working together in support of conserving fish and wildlife and their habitats and ensuring access to places to fish and hunt. Access, of course, is the next battleground along America’s waterways. There are currently more than 2 million small dams and other barriers blocking fish passage in the U.S. Removing obsolete low head dams and other blockages has opened hundreds of miles of vitally important habitat to fish that rely on migrating through rivers to spawn. Dam removal also has boosted local economies by dramatically improving recreational fishing opportunities. By coming forth with a new funding source to remove more dams and barriers, NOAA has responded to one of the more important fisheries management problems in the country.

(The Beacon News Online, "Dam removal returns from back burner,", 13 September 2005.)


Ohio River restoration plans await funds

An Army Corps of Engineers study in the 1990s described the Ohio as river that could use help. It developed a restoration plan with 250 potential projects that would bring back thousands of acres of bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands, miles of damaged shoreline habitat and dozens of islands. But some environmentalists now say that’s not enough, and they are calling for legislation to expand the geographic scope of the project to include most of the Ohio River watershed. Five years after Congress approved it, a $307 million plan to restore wetlands, forests, islands and bays along the Ohio River, it has not received its first dollar. With Congress running billion–dollar budget deficits and the Army Corps of Engineers focused on other projects and the war in Iraq, the environmental program’s future is unclear. Gordon Garner, a former Metropolitan Sewer District executive director and board member of the Ohio River Sanitation Commission, said he has heard from corps officials that "any spare (Corps) resources" are going to the Iraq war effort or those domestic projects that are the largest and furthest along. "Our financial commitment to our own air, water and land is a pittance compared to what we are willing to spend on other things," Garner said.

(Bruggers, James, "Ohio River restoration plans await funds; War, other projects get money for now," The Courier–Journal, 16 August 2005.)

Green River dam to be removed

A dam on Green River in Michigan is moving closer to removal following a deal between trout farm owners and the state. The river is a tributary of the protected Jordan River, and after a legal battle between the owners of the Green River Trout Farm in and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), an agreement was conceived to allow the free flowing passage of fish. Last year, the DNR reached an arrangement with the owners of the Green River Trout Farm that permitted the state to remove the dam in exchange for allowing continued operation of the trout farm. At the request of DNR’s Fisheries Division, the Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) stepped in to bring together the partners who will work together to plan and carry out the dam removal. Signatories to the partnership agreement are: DNR, Friends of the Jordan, Antrim County Road Commission, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Nestle/Ice Mountain, Antrim Conservation District, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Michigan Council of Trout Unlimited. Although happy about the deal, environmentalists have voiced their concern about sediment damage to habitat. The dam has a 50–year build up of sediment behind it, so removal will have to be a careful operation.

(News, "Green river dam to be removed," International Water Power and Dam Construction, 16 August 2005.)

Galien River cleanup effort to start soon

After three years of planning and preparing, advocates for a healthy, vital Galien River met last week for the last time as a transition team that has piloted a long–range stream restoration and preservation concept into a goal–oriented, seven–year watershed management plan. At the same time, they moved into a new phase of what they hope will be an ambitious, largely grant–funded cleanup of the river, its stream banks, woodlots and 112,222–acre watershed. To accomplish that, they’ll be reaching out for help to many of the 16,000 Berrien County residents who live, work and play near the stream that the native Potawatomis called "the Great Galien," says Peg Kohring of The Conservation Fund. Local communities, conservation groups and government agencies – known collectively as the Galien River Steering Committee – crafted the Galien River Watershed Management Plan, a document needed to ensure future funding for cleanup, preservation and education activities within the Michigan portion of the Galien watershed during the next seven years.

(Sheridan, Kate, "Galien River cleanup effort to start soon," South Bend Tribune, 7 September 2005.)

Batavia Dam, Fox River, IL

Update: Batavia Dam removal plan nears final hurdle

The first removal of a dam across the Fox River in Kane County could begin this month and be completed by February under a $1 million plan recommended by the county’s Forest Preserve Commission. The failed South Batavia Dam will be removed from the river or cut down far below the normal water line under a $1.057 million contract. The 92–year–old, unused dam spans the northern tip of the county’s Glenwood Park Forest Preserve. For safety and ecological reasons, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has pressed the district to repair or remove the dam, said commission President John Hoscheit. Removal of the South Batavia Dam is part of a larger strategy to improve the flow and water quality of the Fox River and to return the historic waterway to a more natural condition unfettered by unused or deteriorated man–made structures. Built in 1913 to serve a coal–fired electrical power plant that closed in the 1940s, the South Batavia Dam includes east and west spillways. It is so deteriorated that a major water breach near its center could accommodate a midsize automobile, according to the district’s engineering reports.

(Presecky, William, "Dam removal plan nears final hurdle; Batavia pilot project may begin this month across Fox River,", 7 September 2005.)


Jeffords secures $500,000 for river restoration

There’s good news for the Batten Kill River. Senator James Jeffords has secured another 500–thousand dollars for the restoration of the river’s habitat. The Batten Kill in southern Vermont was once known as a world–class trout fishing river. But the trout population has declined dramatically over the past decade. Jeffords says its critical that the state do all that it can to recreate conditions so that trout will again thrive in the river.

(Associated Press, "Jeffords secures $500,000 for river restoration," Channel 3 News, 10 August 2005.)

McCoy–Linn Dam, Spring Creek, PA

Funds pour in for Spring Creek dam removal

A federal grant could help pave the way for removal of a 70–year–old dam, setting the stage for a stream restoration project that could improve water quality and make more of Spring Creek a recreation destination. The removal of the McCoy–Linn Dam would be paid for, in part, with a $100,000 Legacy Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation given to the ClearWater Conservancy of Central Pennsylvania. If the project moves forward, the dam could be removed by December 2006. ClearWater officials said the removal of the dam is desirable because it is no longer used, presents a hazard to anglers and boaters and impairs the creek habitat. The project would restore about 4,000 linear feet of stream habitat and streamside vegetative corridor, according to ClearWater. In addition, 1.5 acres of wetlands within the area would be restored and about 1.3 acres of land would be used to create a public access to other parts of Spring Creek. The project is a partnership between the state Fish and Boat Commission, the state Department of Environmental Protection and a number of local, state and federal environmental groups. An environmental review of the project is pending.

(Brenckle, Lara, "Funds pour in for dam removal; Idle structure poses obstacle to recreational use, officials say,", 9 August, 2005.)

Wolf Lake Dam, Conococheague River, PA

Breaching Wolf Lake Dam

Wolf Lake has outlived most of its memories. Wilson College received state approval the breaching of Wolf Lake Dam. Work should begin this fall. The stream is to be returned to its natural state – with cool, fast–flowing water that trout love. The 8–foot–tall dam poses liability and flooding risks. In recent years, the boil at the foot of the dam was a favorite fishing spot. The lake upstream had few visitors and all but disappeared after the college opened a gate at the dam a year ago. "Today Wilson’s dam is weak and dangerous, and rather than presenting recreational opportunities, poses a serious hazard," said Lorna Edmundson, Wilson College president. "The new wetlands and stream banks will be an added recreational attraction." The area will be included in the college’s environmental science program, according to Edmundson. Students can study and assist with the return of natural vegetation. Scott Carney, chief of fish passage with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, said a variety of grants are available for the removal of the dam and restoration of land along the stream. The breach will be the second on the Conococheague this year. Siloam Dam, two miles upstream, was knocked apart in June. The stream temperature at Siloam dropped 9 degrees following the removal of the dam. Since 1994 the state has assisted with the removal of 80 dams. There are another 65 on the list. Pennsylvania has about 5,000 dams.

(Hook, Jim, "Wolf Lake almost gone; Work to breach dam begins in September,", 15 August 2005.)


$100 million dam removal settlement for Milltown

Financing has been announced for the removal of Milltown dam in the U.S., together with the clear up of sediment in the river. Milltown dam, located in Montana at the confluence of Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, holds back approximately 5 cubic meters of mud laced with metals, one third of which is to be removed and deposited 161km away in a disposal site at Opportunity Ponds. A Consent Decree has been formally agreed, outlining the responsibilities of the parties involved with the operation. NorthWestern Energy will contribute US$11.4M for the dismantling of the dam and power house while Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) will cover US$80M of the cost and is responsible for performing remediation work. The state of Montana is providing US$7.6M, taken from a US$225M settlement reached between ARCO and itself in 1998 for damage to natural resources. The Consent Decree comes after three years of negotiations between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the state, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes and ARCO and NorthWestern Energy. The decree will undergo a public comment period prior to confirmation by the U.S. District Court and the public has 30 days to comment on the agreement. The cleanup project could begin this autumn, with plans in place to remove the dam in 2007 and complete work in 2009.

(International Water Power and Dam Construction, "US$100M dam removal settlement," 04 August 2005.)

Cove Dam, Bear River, ID

Cove Dam removal pending

A Utah–based utility will ask federal regulators for permission to remove an aging small dam on the Bear River in Idaho, a move that environmentalists say will help improve dwindling numbers of Bonneville cutthroat trout. The Cove Dam near the southeastern Idaho community of Grace is expected to be removed next year pending approval by the agency that licenses privately operated dams, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A� dam removal agreement was signed July 20 in Pocatello between the utility and various groups and agencies, including the Shoshone–Bannock Indian tribe, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Conservation groups had urged the company to remove the dam to improve the Bear River’s ecological health and improve habitat for the Bonneville cutthroat. Earlier this year, the Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Rivers Council and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Bonneville cutthroat as a threatened or endangered species. "This is a big deal for the Bear River," said Bill Sedivy, executive director of Idaho Rivers United. "I’m glad we were able to get past the emotional attachment of dams and pay attention to the science and get this done."

(Associated Press, "Cove Dam removal pending," Idaho News, 3 August 2005.)

Chiloquin Dam, Sprague River, OR

Irrigators vote on dam removal

The Modoc Point Irrigation District in Klamath County voted in July on a plan to remove Chiloquin Dam. Directors set the advisory vote, held at a real estate office in Chiloquin, as a final step in a three–year effort to re–open Sprague River to passage of spawning sucker fish. About 4,200 acres are irrigated by the district formed to take over canals and the dam built by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs when the district was part of the Klamath Indian Reservation. The dam is 91 years old. Under a plan worked out by the federal government and residents, removal of the dam and construction of a replacement pump system would be at no cost to irrigators. The project still needs to become part of a 2007 federal budget bill making its way through Congress. Two species of suckers, on the Endangered Species List since 1988, have had difficulty negotiating aging fish ladders at the concrete dam.

(Capitol Express, "Irrigators vote on dam removal," 29 July 2005.)

Snake River dams, Snake River, WA

Update: Former electric utilities biologist now advocates Snake River Dams removal

An Idaho biologist who argued for a quarter–century that fish ladders were good enough to prevent salmon from dying out now says four dams on the Snake River in Washington ought to be removed to help the endangered fish. Don Chapman, 74, wants to get rid of the Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Lower Granite dams between the Idaho border and where the Snake River flows into the Columbia River Chapman worked for years as a consultant for electric utilities, arguing that constructed fish bypass systems on the dams such as ladders and barges were enough to keep salmon populations viable. He now believes that warming of the Columbia River and its tributaries along with changes in the Pacific Ocean that may be caused by global warming necessitate breaching the barriers to help fish migrate upstream. Chapman said his change of heart has scientific and political origins: He believes President Bush’s salmon recovery plan, which characterizes dams as an insignificant factor in the survival of salmon on the ground that they were there at the time the fish were listed under the Endangered Species Act, is flawed.

(Seattle Post–Intelligencer, "Biologist says ladders won’t save salmon,", 10 August 2005.)

Update: Salmon–killing Snake River dams may amount to "takings" of tribal fishing rights

In the late summer of 1958, the Snake River plunged through an un–dammed Hells Canyon for the last time. The raging water slammed against the bodies of enormous salmon as they sought their ancestral breeding grounds. By 1959, Brownlee Dam had blocked the river about 25 miles southwest of Riggins. In 1961, Oxbow Dam joined it, followed by Hells Canyon Dam in 1967. The dams brought cheap electricity, fueling the Idaho farming boom and creating jobs. They also doomed the salmon runs in the Middle Snake River and its tributaries. Now, almost 50 years later, the salmon might have a chance for a comeback. The license for all three dams expires this year, and in a case that other Northwestern tribes are watching closely, the Nez Perce Tribe is looking to a 150–year–old treaty––and to the "takings" clause in the U.S. Constitution––for help in the struggle to bring back the fish. Idaho Power, which owns the dams, has submitted more than 100 environmental studies to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the license renewal process. The company’s conclusion: Allowing salmon to pass through Hells Canyon is simply too expensive. Instead, Idaho Power has proposed spending $380 million, in part to benefit fish downstream, between the three Hells Canyon dams and the four lower Snake River dams, where the company has built hatcheries. Among other changes, the company says it would purchase and restore 26,000 acres of habitat and increase the levels of oxygen in reservoir water.

(Odell, Rachel, "The Snake River, Unplugged; Salmon–killing dams may amount to "takings" of tribal fishing rights,", 7 September 2005.)


A plan to restore the Mississippi Delta and protect New Orleans

The catastrophe that devastated New Orleans has been centuries in the making. Since its founding in 1718, the city has lain uneasily between two watery and potentially lethal boundaries: Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south. Engineers have protected the city over the years by fortifying the earthen barriers between high water and low land. New Orleans’ efforts to keep dry also sank it lower – a process called subsidence, caused when groundwater is pumped regularly out of silty soil. At the same time, the levees and canals around New Orleans diverted the flow of river sediment, dumping it in the Gulf of Mexico instead of allowing it to spread to the protective marshes and islands at the river’s mouth. Devastating hurricanes are more likely in coming years. Warmer ocean surface temperatures, no matter what their cause, fuel more violent hurricanes, which derive their power from the water’s heat. One of the most effective shore defenses has been not only ignored but undermined. Barrier islands and the marshes of the Mississippi River Delta used to present hurricanes with a formidable land barrier to cross before reaching New Orleans. Louisiana loses about 24 square miles of this land barrier each year. A plan backed by environmentalists, industry and the Corps of Engineers would spend $2 billion to dredge sediment from the Gulf to be used in rebuilding the land, and divert some river sediment toward the marshland.

(Editorial, "Let nature help,", 7 September 2005.)