No. 55, January 28, 2004

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak









Rivers for Life!

More than 300 people from 62 countries gathered near the banks of Thailand’s Mun River in December for Rivers for Life: the Second International Meeting of Dam-Affected People and their Allies. Participants met to tell the story of their struggles, to learn from their colleagues, and to strategize on ways to better protect their rivers and communities from the threat of large dam and diversion schemes. “We oppose the construction of all socially and environmentally destructive dams. We oppose the construction of any dam which has not been approved by the affected peoples after an informed and participatory decision-making process, and that does not meet community-prioritized needs,” states the Rasi Salai Declaration, which goes on to say, “Actions, including decommissioning, must be taken to restore ecosystems and livelihoods damaged by dams and to safeguard riverine ecological diversity.”
Find out more about Rivers for Life at

Celebrate rivers, battle the World Bank on March 14

Last year on March 14 thousands of people blocked traffic to protest devastation of their rivers, scaled peaks to stop dams, organized educational rafting trips and held rituals to celebrate their sacred waters – all as part of an annual effort to protect living rivers around the world. As a special focus in 2004, the 60th anniversary of the World Bank and IMF, we are encouraging participants to celebrate a day of action on the World Bank and large dams. Of course, as always, groups are welcome to organize around whatever topics that make sense for their campaigns and issues. By acting together we can promote more equitable and sustainable ways of managing our waterways. Participants in the Rivers for Life ( conference emphasized the significance of the Day of Action in their struggles, and reinvigorated their determination to demonstrate against damaging projects, educate the public and celebrate their rivers on March 14. International Rivers hopes you will join us in this effort, and that you will let us know all about your plans.

To get more information and tell us about your event, contact International Rivers’s Day of Action intern Jill Lambird at'.

us - general

“Dam Politics: Restoring America’s Rivers,” a book review

The true cost of a dam never shows up on a balance sheet because the dam destroys the river’s natural ecosystem. Such ecosystems, says author William R. Lowry, represent the very core of the United States’ ecological health. The country contains more than 75,000 dams, with significantly more than half of these constructed between 1950 and 1980. By contrast, there have been dozens of dams removed since the early 1980s. In Dam Politics, the author, a political scientist and avid outdoors enthusiast, explores environmental policy and politics as they pertain to the habitat restoration--the first major step which usually involves dam removal. The author’s overall analysis is based largely on eight riverine case studies. Four involve dam removal, and a further four involve dam modifications or other restorative manipulations. Of these, the Snake, Mississippi, and Missouri are considered to be among the nation’s 30 most endangered rivers, due to the presence of dams, channelization or pollution. He recognizes the growing public awareness of environmental issues, including public receptivity to river restoration and the ascendancy of environmental advocacy groups.

(Westing, Arthur H. “Dam Politics: Restoring America’s Rivers; Books of Note; Book Review,” Environment, 1 December 2003.)

us - california

House approves funds for Napa Valley watershed restoration

The House of Representatives approved more than $11 million for flood and agricultural projects in Napa Valley. The six projects are part of the 2004 Energy and Water Appropriation Bill, which next goes to the Senate for approval. The Napa River Flood Control Project will get the bulk of money among the county projects with the $10 million keeping the project on schedule. Other projects that expect to receive funding through the bill include: $500,000 for the Napa-Sonoma-Marin Agricultural Reuse Project, which aims to increase water for non-irrigation purposes and enhance stream flows for endangered species and waterfowl. $400,000 for the York Creek Dam Removal, St. Helena and the modification of the lower diversion structure to provide additional habitat for steelhead trout migration. $400,000 for the Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration by state Fish and Game. The project aims to create the largest restored wetlands on the West Coast. $360,000 for the St. Helena River Restoration Project, which would go toward completing the project report and begin plans to provide habitat for endangered species and reconnect the river with restored wetland habitat. $200,000 for the Napa Valley Watershed Management Plan, which will address the local watershed’s flood control, water quality, water supply, and environmental restoration needs.

(Tribbey, Chris, “House approves flood control funds, restoration projects,”, 19 November 2003.)

**O’Shaughnessy Dam, Tuolumne River, CA**

Update: San Francisco doesn’t need Hetch Hetchy, new study says

San Francisco could do without that 117 billion-gallon reservoir filling a spectacular glacial valley in Yosemite National Park. So says Sarah Null, a University of California at Davis graduate student who has written a master’s thesis on the removal of San Francisco’s controversial Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite. Sidestepping a bitter, century-old debate, Null found that the Bay Area’s far-flung water-delivery system could work without Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, a conclusion cheered by environmentalists and questioned by San Francisco officials. Her work comes at a time when the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is crafting a $3.6 billion overhaul of the old Hetch Hetchy system, a 167-mile series of tunnels, aqueducts and pipelines that delivers water to 2.4 million people. The Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, Restore Hetch Hetchy and others consider O’Shaughnessy a monumental mistake. They have believed all along that San Francisco could live without Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. If the dam were removed, Yosemite would again have the valley with eye-catching waterfalls and soaring granite cliffs. Muir called Hetch Hetchy a geologic twin of Yosemite Valley, which is about 25 miles to the south.
For more information, visit Restore Hetch Hetchy at

(Grossi, Mark, “S.F. use of Hetch Hetchy studied City doesn’t need the Yosemite reservoir, grad student says,” Fresno Bee, 28 December 2003.)

us - northwest

Utilities are upgrading their hydropower dams

With minimal public tolerance for new dams, utility companies are settling for making improvements to existing structures to capture additional power. Throughout the region, from Montana to Idaho to Washington, utility companies are replacing turbines, re-insulating conductive wiring and making repairs costing millions of dollars. When the work is done, the dams will produce more power. Nationwide, 4,300 additional megawatts of power could be developed at existing dams by upgrading and replacing equipment, according to the National Hydropower Association. That’s enough power for about 4 million homes, said Mark Stover, the association’s director of government affairs. As the region grows, power companies want to produce more of their own power to reduce the amount they need to buy on the open market. Producing more power with the same water also can provide a boost in low water years, utility officials say. Hydroelectric is the most efficient type of power production with plants generally operating well above 90 percent, according to A.R. “Skip” Collier, who teaches classes on electric system operations. Efficiency is a measure of how much of the energy going into a machine is available to use when it comes out. By contrast, coal- fired plants convert only about 35 percent of heat energy into electrical energy.

(Spokesman Review, “Efficient generation; Utilities throughout the region upgrading their hydropower dams,” 12 December 2003.)

Democrats propose public and cooperative ownership of Montana’s dams

Democratic legislators presented an energy plan Monday that calls for rural electric cooperative or public ownership of Montana’s dams and electricity distribution system to put more affordable, reliable power back in consumers’ hands. The plan also calls for more reliance on other sources of electricity - wind power, energy conservation and natural gas- fueled power plants. Presenting the plan called “ReFuel Montana” were Senate Minority Leader Jon Tester of Big Sandy and Sen. Ken Toole of Helena. They want to discuss it with Republican Gov. Judy Martz, the Montana Public Service Commission and leaders of the Republican legislative majorities. “Montana had some of the cheapest power rates in the nation,” Tester said during a Capitol press conference. “But that changed in 1997 when the Republican Legislature deregulated Montana’s electricity. Republicans gave away one of our competitive business advantages.” The last three Republican-controlled legislative sessions have failed to correct this bad situation, he said, “and Montanans are forced to pay millions of dollars more for natural gas and electricity.” Martz thanked the Democrats for their proposals and said she would forward the proposals to her nonpartisan Energy Consumer Protection Task Force for consideration. In order for the effort to be truly bipartisan, Martz said, divisive and partisan language should be set aside.

(Billings Gazette, “Democrats offer alternative to deregulation,” 1 December 2003.)

Endangered listing for elusive orcas?

The government may turn to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to try to save the Orcas of Puget Sound but applying it to a migrating mammal at the top of the food chain could touch everything from construction along major rivers to cruise-ship operations. US District Judge Robert Lasnik ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service ignored available science in 2002 when it decided against listing the region’s killer whales as threatened or endangered. While he stopped short of ordering the agency to do so, most observers expect NMFS will do precisely that sometime next year. When killer whales are food-stressed, they draw on their fat reserves, which releases those toxins into their systems, so scientists maintain one of the best things to do for orcas may be simply to keep them well-fed. Bain and others said a listing could put more pressure on the government to breach dams bottling up what was once among the region’s largest salmon runs. Two Elwha dams have been approved for removal, but still await the necessary money, tens of millions of dollars. The Elwha is a candy store for orcas. Remove the cork, and the fish will flow out.

(Welch, Craig, “Endangered listing for elusive orcas? From spills to toxins to humans, scientists seek clues to their decline,” Seattle Times, 19 December 2003.)

** Snake River dams, Snake River, WA **

Update: Corps rolls out Snake dredging plan

The US Army Corps of Engineers has announced its plan to dredge the shipping channel, port, and recreational areas of the Snake River next winter. Environmental groups say the plan looks nearly identical to the plan a federal judge halted two years ago, and they will go to court again to stop it. The dredging plan calls for removing 315,600 cubic yards of sand, silt and cobble from the river bottom and dumping it at another location in Lower Granite Reservoir where it will be used to create habitat for young salmon and steelhead. The debate over dredging the shipping channel of the Snake River revolves around controversial efforts to recover salmon and steelhead listed as threatened and endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Environmentalists contend dredging and dumping of the dredge spoils will harm the fish. They challenged the corps plan on a number of fronts and convinced federal judge Lasnik that the corps did not consider alternatives to dredging, such as seasonal drawdowns designed to flush out sediment and better land management to reduce the amount of sediment that reaches the river. The National Wildlife Federation at Seattle favors breaching the lower Snake River dams to recover anadromous fish runs. Removing the dams would end barge traffic made possible by slack water and a system of locks at the dams.

(Barker, Eric, “Corps rolls out dredging plan; Environmentalists say the plan doesn’t hold water,” Lewiston Morning Tribune, 20 December 2003.)

Update: Salmon recovery would profit much of Idaho

A large chunk of rural Idaho needs to look carefully at the economic benefits that sustained runs of salmon and steelhead could bring to the state each year. Unlike timber, which has a rotation time of 80 to 150 years to reach maturity, salmon and steelhead can be caught in three to five years. Studies by Boise economist Don Reading estimated the value of recreational salmon fishing to Idaho during 2001 was about $90 million. Likewise, a 1996 study by the same author showed that the 1992-93 steelhead fishery in Idaho was responsible for more than $90 million in expenditures. Salmon and steelhead hatcheries currently are driving the fisheries that are supporting the state’s economic boon. But wild fish recovery is a major component to allowing maximum flexibility in harvest for hatchery fish, as well as providing long-term assurances for viability of the hatchery program. Unfortunately, Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead runs aren’t doing all that well. Long-term sustained runs of wild fish to Idaho will require effective recovery measures. The best available science supports removal of the four lower Snake River dams as the most effective restoration method. Dam removal can offer other substantial economic benefits to Idahoans by eliminating the need for flow augmentation from the upper Snake River and Dworshak Reservoir.

(The Idaho Statesman, editorial opinion, “Salmon recovery would be profitable for much of Idaho,” 30 December 2003.)

Update: National Marine Fisheries admits salmon plan falls short

The plan to save the wild salmon of the Snake and Columbia rivers without disabling dams is not working as well as planned, the Bush administration has admitted. The National Marine Fisheries Service has acknowledged in a recent report that “delays represent a significant concern” but nevertheless judged federal efforts to carry out the plan “adequate.” Federal agencies are behind on “key actions” to save Columbia and Snake River salmon stocks from an extinction spiral. That’s worrisome, although it could be remedied, the report said. The report by the fisheries service looks at the performance of three other federal agencies: the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, which operate large dams, and the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the electricity they produce. The results laid out in the new report drew fire from environmentalists who already had won a court ruling that the recovery plan is deficient.” You have an inadequate (plan) that is not being adequately implemented, and that spells trouble,” said Rob Masonis of American Rivers, an environmental advocacy group. “It relies on voluntary, unspecified actions that are going to happen sometime down the road.”

(McClure, Robert, “Salmon plan falls short, report says; effort to save fish, dams not going as expected, but ‘adequate’,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 30 December 2003.)

Update: Columbia River utilities devise plan to aid salmon without opening dams

Environmental lawyers struck a knockout punch when a judge rejected as inadequate the US government’s plan to protect endangered Columbia River salmon from hydroelectric dams. But in the vacuum left by that ruling, electric utilities are finding ways to avoid a particularly costly measure intended to improve survival of salmon. During spring and summer, fishery authorities have required dam operators to open spillways in dams to help young fish pass without getting chewed up in power-generating turbines. Bonneville Power officials are seeking to reduce the amount of water spilled for fish. Utilities and other large power buyers say the benefits for salmon are modest and not worth the high price. Biologists with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, an agency representing four tribes, said reducing water spilled during July and August alone would result in the loss of between 15,000 and 25,000 adult returns in following years. Conservation groups and tribes are gearing up to lobby elected officials to preserve the spill program. Todd True, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund lawyer who led the lawsuit against the federal salmon plan, said the move to curtail the spill program could be illegal, given the court ruling in May. “They are already outside of legal bounds here, and they are talking about doing less,” True said.

(Rojas-Burke, Joe, “Columbia River Utilities Devise Plan to Aid Salmon without Opening Dams,” Oregonian, 12 December 2003.)

us - southwest

Development of Tulsa riverfront fuels concern for species

Just as it blocks the flow of the river downstream, Tulsa’s low-water dam blocks the migration of fish, like striped bass, upstream. They have nowhere else to go but into the fisherman’s frying pan. ”It’s a great thing for the fishermen, but not so good for the fish,” said Brent Gordon, northeast region fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The dam creates a scenic view of the Arkansas and provides a lovely back drop for Tulsa’s River Parks. But it also creates some environmental consequences. “It wasn’t built right in the first place,” Gordon said. And what really worries him is that Tulsa might be getting ready to repeat this mistake. There’s been a lot of talk lately about developing Tulsa’s riverfront, and most of that talk includes the construction of another low-water dam. Least tern nesting habitat would be flooded. Classified as an endangered species, the terns return every spring to nest. And they prefer to find the Arkansas River just the way nature made it, which means twisty, rocky and often low on water. If environmentalism isn’t considered during the conceptual phase, it’ll be too late, Gordon said.

(Overall, Michael, “Development of riverfront fuels concern for species,” Tulsa World, 28 December 2003.)

us - midwest

Traverse City officials seek study in possible dam removal

City officials want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study whether it would be possible to take down city-owned dams on the Boardman River. Traverse City Light & Power maintains them now, but may stop using them for power generation, leaving their maintenance in the hands of the city. The study, free to local government, will look at the ecological and economic impact of dam removal. A county official estimated a removal project couldn’t begin for four to five years. The Boardman, Sabin and Brown Bridge dams all generate power in Grand Traverse County. Only the Brown Bridge Dam operates at a profit; Sabin and Boardman lost $190,000 last year and $4.7 million over the last 17 years, said Richard Smith, Light & Power executive director. Under a contract with the county, the utility pays all maintenance costs on the dams. Smith said the contract expires in three years when the debt on the power-generating equipment is paid. The three dams generate about 750,000 kilowatt hours a year, or equivalent to 13 hours of electricity on the hottest day of the year.

(Michigan news briefs, “Officials seek study in possible dam removal,” Detroit Free Press, 27 December 2003.)

River, dam policies causing extinctions on the Fox

Recently, Robert Schanzle and others at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources published “The Freshwater Mussels of the Fox River Basin, Illinois and Wisconsin.” As part of the Fox River study, Schanzle compared the freshwater mussel fauna collected by Max R. Matteson from 1957 to 1958 with the current study from 1997 to 2001. At the same 10 stations used in both studies, there was a 63 percent decline in mussel abundance and a 30 percent reduction in species. In recent decades, several species have become extirpated from the Fox River. The study mentions dams, siltation, point and non-point source pollution, development of tributary corridors and loss of fish hosts as possible contributing factors. The ecological degradation caused by Fox River dams is scientifically undisputed and Schanzle’s study documents recent local extinction of aquatic species in the Fox River. Unfortunately, local and state officials, and state agencies continue to ask state taxpayers to fund projects that promote the continued degradation of the Fox River. In Yorkville, the IDNR recently has recommended dam modification instead of removal. The Batavia City Council recently decided to seek state funding to repair or rebuild the north dam. How many more species must be eliminated from the Fox River before we take actions to improve the water and habitat quality of the river?

(Horn, David J., Fence Post (opinion), “River, dam policies causing extinctions,” Chicago Daily Herald,
28 December 2003.)

**North Dam, Fox River, IL**

Update: Progress on Batavia’s North Dam issue

The issue of whether to remove or repair Batavia’s North Dam has torn the town in half for three years.
Believing now is the time to move on, the Batavia Park District board voted 4 to 1 on Wednesday to split the difference. It endorsed an Illinois Department of Natural Resources plan first floated in 2000 that would keep a dam at half its current height. The park district’s vote serves only as a guide to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has the final say. The half-height dam would be about five-feet tall at the dam’s current location with a three-foot-tall check dam located 520 feet upstream. A rocky river bottom would lie in between, creating small rapids and allowing fish passage. The park district board initially endorsed the half-height option, dubbed alternative four, in July 2002. In a joint meeting then, the city council voted 11 to 2 for full removal, while the park board voted 3 to 1 for the half-dam. Meanwhile, the state worked up its own plan of a notched dam with concrete riffles, which appeased no one. In an April 2003 advisory referendum, residents voted 62 to 38 percent to keep the dam. That led to the city asking in October if the state would pay to rebuild the dam. It said it would, but that Batavia would have to pay to maintain the full-width whitewater rapid ramp.

(Ordower, Garrett, “Park board wants dam to be half as tall,” Chicago Daily Herald, 25 December 2003.)

us - northeast

Runoff threatens Blackstone

Possibly the biggest remaining challenge to a cleaner Blackstone River is stopping the massive flow of sand, salt, fertilizers, chemicals, animal waste, and sewage that is washed into the river and its tributaries with each rainfall. While federal regulations require cities and towns to begin assessing that runoff by doing an inventory of storm drains and analyzing runoff for pollutants, those federal standards do not yet require curtailment of runoff pollution. Improvements in water quality have seen fish return to the Blackstone watershed already since the 1970s. “There are now 19 kinds of fish in the main stem of the river,” said Donna Williams of Grafton, “and 39 species of fish live in the watershed overall.” Many advocates are closely watching plans to remove the first dam on the river Pawtucket. Removing the dam will allow native anadromous fish to swim further up the river from Narragansett Bay. “They have been waiting at the Main Street dam for more than a century,” she said of those fish who will return from salt water to the river to spawn. “Re-establishing anadromous fish will fuel the whole aquatic system.” When there is a new influx of aquatic life it revives a range of wildlife in and around the river, from reptiles to herons and ducks and other bird life, Ms. Williams said.

(Monahan, John J., “Runoff threatens Blackstone,” Sunday Telegram, 23 November 2003.)

** Winterport Dam, Marsh Stream, ME **

Update: Settlement preserves Winterport Dam

Residents of this town beside the Marsh Stream have joined with their neighbors in Winterport to approve a settlement with the owner of the West Winterport Dam that will preserve the dam indefinitely. The decision to accept the settlement brings an end to a three-year legal battle among the towns, owner John Jones and the conservation group Facilitators Improving Salmonid Habitat, or FISH. Jones and FISH had obtained permits to remove the dam and open the stream to spawning species such as wild Atlantic salmon. The towns wanted the dam to remain standing to preserve a 50-acre impoundment. The mill pond had been used for years for recreation and as a source of water for fighting fires. Some residents contended that the dam serves as a flood control barrier during spring runoffs. Under the settlement, Jones severed his relationship with FISH and agreed to restore the dam to its original condition. In return, the towns have agreed to drop their attempt to obtain the dam and Jones’s stream-side property by eminent domain. The stream forms the boundary between the towns, and Jones owns property on both ends of the dam. FISH President Bill Townsend declined to comment on the settlement, saying he planned to meet with members of his organization and the Atlantic Salmon Federation to review legal options before taking any further steps.

(Griffin, Walter, “Settlement preserves Winterport Dam,” Bangor Daily News, 19 December 2003.)

Update: Penobscot dam removals hold promise of tourism

One opportunity to expand tourism, and a big opportunity at that, will come when two hydroelectric dams along the Penobscot River are removed and a bypass is built around a third. The historic agreement to remove the dams was reached this fall between PPL Corp., operator of the dams, and many other parties, including the Penobscot Nation tribe, conservation groups and state and federal governments. Power generation will be enhanced at the remaining dams, and the removal and bypass will make more than 500 miles of habitat accessible to salmon and about 10 other species of fish from the ocean, including striped bass, two kinds of sturgeon and alewives. It also means the river will be more attractive to fishermen. The Penobscot Nation had hoped, with the construction of the casino in southern Maine, to have an informational center that would help draw people to the river. It also was looking at developing Indian guide services for fishing excursions. The marketing now will have to be approached differently, Dana said. The tribe is wise to be working on it, as the river is a tremendous recreation resource.

(Portland Press Herald, editorial, “Maine’s Indians look beyond casino’s defeat; The sting of rejection has not entirely healed, but the state and the tribes are working to develop alternatives to provide economic opportunity for some of Maine’s poorest residents,” 28 December 2003.)