No. 58, May 6, 2004

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak

table of contents










Premier Wen Jiabao reported to halt dam plans for Nu River

International human rights and environmental organizations welcome Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s order to halt plans for dams on the Nujiang/ Salween River. Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao newspaper reported on April 1 that Premier Wen had ordered a "suspension" of the plans saying that such a controversial large dam plan should be "seriously reviewed and decided scientifically." The controversial Nu River hydro scheme is the subject of much criticism from downstream riparian residents, Chinese individuals, civil society groups and international organizations. Over eighty groups from Burma and Thailand wrote to China’s government last December with concerns over the impacts to fisheries and downstream ecology and safety. The news comes at a time when local officials in China’s southwestern region have been rampantly brokering dam construction deals in biologically and culturally sensitive areas without central government oversight. "A decision by top–level Chinese leadership to reject the Nu River projects on environmental and social grounds, marks an important change. It reflects a growing commitment to openness, environmental protection, and reduction of social inequalities. We hope that this approach will be applied to decisions concerning large dam construction in other areas of China." says Doris Shen–Hoover, China Program Coordinator for International Rivers.

(Shen–Hoover, Doris and Tsering, Tashi, "Premier Wen Jiabao reported to halt dam plans for Nu River," International Rivers,, 7 April 2004.)

united kingdom

Survey of fish stocks in England and Wales best in over a century

Publishing "Our nations’ fisheries," the Environment Agency, which is responsible for fisheries in England and Wales, said that thriving and diverse coarse fish populations are now present in more rivers than at any time in the past century, including their restoration to many previously polluted and completely fishless rivers. Major sewage and pollution clean–ups and restoration of natural habitats are behind much of the improvement, the Agency reports. As well as demonstrating the natural value of our rivers, streams and lakes, "Our nations’ fisheries" highlights the increasing economic, recreational and social benefits associated with fish and fishing. Not all the news from the report is positive, however. Salmon stocks are seriously depleted and eel stocks are critically low, with the number of juveniles returning to rivers collapsing to just one per cent of historic levels. Copies of "Our Nations’ Fisheries" can be downloaded at www.environment–

(Fish Farming Today, "Fisheries survey has good news for anglers,", 5 May 2004.)

us – general

Most Endangered Rivers of 2004

America’s rivers and streams are becoming more polluted –– and the White House and Congress are making a bad situation worse by cutting clean water law enforcement and spending on pollution prevention, charged American Rivers with the release of its 2004 Most Endangered Rivers report. The Colorado River, confronting mounting problems with radioactive, toxic, and human waste, topped this year’s list of ten rivers. It supplies the water for 25 million people, including residents of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. America’s waters became progressively cleaner for decades after Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, but recent monitoring data indicates that this trend has reversed itself. Actions taken by the Bush administration will accelerate this decline. In particular, the administration has reduced the number of Clean Water Act enforcement actions, levied fewer and smaller fines on lawbreakers, and created new loopholes on behalf of polluting industries. The administration failed to disclose the results of an internal audit, which found that one–quarter of all major industrial and wastewater treatment facilities are in "significant violation" of the law at any one time. "Letting our kids splash in the creek, eating a fish we caught on a camping trip, and drinking water from the tap without worry are things that Americans should be able to take for granted," said American Rivers’ President Rebecca Wodder. "Washington is misspending our money if our children won’t enjoy these things, too."

Learn more about Endangered US Rivers at:

us – california

Court OKs more water for the Trinity River

Trinity River for fish. The order, issued in April by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, means the Trinity will swell with far more water this season than it has in the past five years. "It’s a breakthrough," said Mike Orcutt, fisheries director for the Hoopa tribe. "Hopefully, we’re heading in the right direction." River advocates say the once–mighty channel has declined as more water has beenshipped under the mountains to Westlands Water District, which has about 600,000 acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley. Since the 1960s, farmers have typically received about 70 percent of the Trinity’s supplies. The 2000 plan would reduce diversions to 52 percent. But Westlands sued and the issue has been locked up in court since. Nearly two years ago, 34,000 salmon died on the Klamath River below its merger with the Trinity, due in part to low flows. "We have no other choice but to continue fighting in court," Hoopa Chairman Lyle Marshall stated. "We don’t have another river to live next to. The fish don’t have another river to swim in."

(Breitler, Alex, "Trinity to get more water; Court OKs request from the Hoopa tribe," Record Searchlight, 27 April 2004.)

(Driscoll, John, "Analysis backs 2000 Trinity restoration plan," Eureka Times–Standard, 2 May 2004.)

Dam removals proposed for Malibu Creek steelhead revival

A scoping meeting took place in Malibu, offering the public an opportunity to comment on a National Park Service and Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains proposal to remove a series of obstructions from Upper Solstice Creek, in an effort to revive the endangered Southern California steelhead trout. This is one of a series of steelhead trout replenishing projects taking place in Malibu, including a study of a proposal to remove the Rindge Dam from Malibu Creek. Conservation Director of California Trout Jim Edmondson said that steelhead have been present in Solstice Creek for 10,000 years, and that the species is present in every coastal stream in California. He also said the removal of the small "check" dams on the creek will allow the natural flushing of sediment from the streambeds, bringing in new shale and gravel for laying eggs, and permit the natural thinning of flora and fauna to provide abundant insects for newly hatched trout. "Removing manmade structures will restore natural functions and systems that have been in place for thousands of years," Edmondson said.

(Bassett, Mark, "Proposed Solstice structure removal to revive trout," Malibu Times, 7 April 2004.)

us – northwest

Bonneville Power and the Army Corps want to reduce summer spills for salmon

The Bonneville Power Administration and the US Army Corps of Engineers said last week they want to reduce summer spills of water, hich aid fish moving downstream past hydroelectric dams. The spill reduction will allow the BPA to sell more electricity to California, benefiting Northwest lectric ratepayers. For far less, the agency argued, it can "achieve similar or better" results for fish with mitigation steps, such as control of salmon predators. If BPA can pull off the change in river operations without violating the Endangered Species Act, which very much remains to be proved, the agency might eliminate part or all of an expected 5 percent increase in wholesale costs to electrical utilities. However, the federal government’s 20th century dam–building binge has changed the Northwest’s economy. Some of the environmental damage is well documented. That’s why one of the salmon runs helped by summer spills is under Endangered Species Act protection. It’s also why the removal of four Snake River dams was almost ordered four years ago. Salmon are still a long way from health. This plan unwisely invites more risk. A short–term financial boost will prove a foolish bargain if broken promises of recovery require dam removal.

(Editorial Board, "Pinching pennies won’t save fish," Seattle Post–Intelligencer, 4 April 2004. Text found at:

Governor supports Willamette restoration, denounces federal salmon plan

Governor Kulongoski struck the right tone in his two–day drive to call attention to the Willamette River as an asset that contributes greatly to Oregon’s economy but could contribute more. He took note of the need for continued work to clean and keep pollution out of the river. Whatever is done for or on the river, Willamette Valley farmers must continue to have the ability to make a living, he said. The other aspect of Kulongoski’s new approach to river restoration is his emphasis on recreation, especially the quiet kind that has paddlers going downriver at a leisurely pace. The Governor also denounced the federal government’s plan to alter its strategy for saving Northwest salmon, saying it could threaten more than a decade of habitat restoration work and Oregon’s quality of life. The governor’s remarks follow reports that NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency overseeing efforts to restore wild salmon runs, will count millions of fish raised in hatcheries annually when deciding whether salmon deserve continued protection under the Endangered Species Act. His comments come at a time the Bush administration is increasingly under attack by conservationists who say its policies are weakening protections for declining species. "I do not think that just combining, or I should say, bleeding in the hatchery fish into our native stock is the long–term approach." Kulongoski said he’s concerned that such a policy will put too much emphasis on the numbers rather than the overall health of the landscape.

(Cole, Michelle, "Governor assails salmon plan; Gov. Ted Kulongoski says a federal plan to change fish counts could undermine years of work in Oregon,", 5 May 2004.)

(Corvallis Gazette–Times, editorial, "River’s economy getting its due," 20 April 2004.)

Blue River Restoration named ‘exemplary project’

After receiving a third award for their Blue River restoration efforts, local Trout Unlimited members are looking for other stream beds in the county to improve for fish habitat. The most recent accolade for the Blue River project came April 17 when the Colorado Trout Unlimited (TU) honored the local Gore Range Anglers chapter of TU and its partners with the Exemplary Project Award. Trout Unlimited and its partners worked together to narrow the channel of the Blue River. With declining stream flows during the ongoing drought, and only minimal releases from the Dillon Reservoir Dam, the 120–foot wide channel below the dam provided water too shallow for fish to survive. The restoration project generally narrowed the channel to 30 feet wide. Partners who worked on the Blue River restoration included the town of Silverthorne, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG), the National Forest Foundation, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the US Forest Service and Summit County.

(McManus, Christine, "Restoration named ‘exemplary project’," Summit Daily News, 2 May 2004.)

us – southwest

Salt River Restoration Project

But a century ago, Phoenix was a riverside community, a settlement with sometimes flowing water and even an occasional flood. The water in the Salt River ebbed and flowed with the desert seasons.

Eventually, dams turned the riverbed into a barren ribbon punctuated by gravel mines, abandoned cars and assorted junk. That could change in coming years, however. Sections of the Salt River, totaling some 40 miles, are in various stages of study or rehabilitation as the US Army Corps of Engineers and local governments seek to return water to the riverbed and trees and vegetation to its banks. "Our goal isn’t to establish it to presettlement conditions," said Kayla Eckert, study manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. "We’re trying to create something that’s sustainable." That means the river would have seasonally flowing water, braided streams and small pools and would be flanked by native trees like willows, cottonwoods and mesquite. The Corps of Engineers used to have two basic civilian missions: flood control and maintaining ports and waterways for commercial traffic. But in 1986, environmental restoration was added to the Corps’ functions, opening the door for projects like Salt River restoration.

(Rushlo, Michelle, "Projects would restore river that once ran through city," 27 April 2004.)

us – midwest

Harpeth River Watershed Association restores Tennessee rivers, awards volunteers

Through a combination of manual labor and long–term planning, Harpeth River Watershed Association’s (HRWA) River Restoration Program is working to protect and restore stream and river banks throughout Middle Tennessee. With a technical advisory team, state–of–the–art techniques, and a corps of volunteers, this program has completed a number of projects, including numerous stream bank stabilizations, that will help improve water quality throughout the watershed. Mike Walton, called "volunteer extraordinaire" by the, loves the Harpeth River. So do the other winners of HRWA’s 2004 River Steward Awards, presented in April. Walton won his award for "outstanding support of HRWA as president by donating office space for three years, participating in many projects and studies, taking on what needed to be done and providing a guiding light." Harpeth River Watershed Association Executive Director Dorene Bolze says all award winners have the same thing in common. "They are all doing different things to be river smart," Bolze says.

Learn more about restoration of the Harpeth River by visiting the HRWA at:

(Hines, Stephen, "Harpeth River Watershed Association names Steward Award recipients," Review Appeal, 5 May 2004.)

us – northeast

Winnicut Dam removal one of three options

Local residents packed into the Greenland Town Hall to hear the final proposals for the restoration of the Winnicut River project. Cherri Paterson, of the New Hampshire Fish and Game, and Ted Diers of the state’s Coastal Program, presented the final draft of the feasibility study for restoring fish stocks in the river and the possible removal of the Winnicut Dam, which is owned by Fish and Game. Project consultant Michael Cheminski said the study presented three options to the project – do nothing, change the existing fish pass to include river herring, or remove the Winnicut Dam entirely and use open channels for a new fish pass. "This provides a chance to not only provide upstream passage but downstream passage as well," Cheminski said of Option C, the state’s preferred choice. The study estimated the dam removal option would cost around $1 million, but would be funded by a federal grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Removal of the dam and restoration of native fish populations would provide ecological benefits to Greenland and beyond. However, a group of residents who live upstream of the dam worried about the affect the removal would have on their properties.

(Aronson, Emily, "Proposed removal of dam causes unease," Seacoast Newspapers, 13 March 2004. Full story available at:

Dam removals becoming increasingly popular in Pennsylvania

"What you get with a dam removal that you don’t get with a fish passage is you no longer have a barrier to fish migration," said Sara Nicholas, associate director for dam programs with American Rivers’ Mid–Atlantic office. "A ladder usually has a target species in mind, like American shad, and is not always useful in terms of passing other types of fish." Some species, such as sturgeon, are too big for ladders. And others, such as minnows and darters, generally don’t use them. Also, manmade fish passages are not 100 percent effective, even for target species. Predation often increases in areas below the ladders as fish line up to get through. Even in the best cases, fish are delayed as they reach the dam and have to search for the ladder—or wait their turn to pass through if it’s crowded. "The more blockages you have, the more delays you have, and the less chance these fish have to get upstream before water temperatures make them do what they have to do physiologically—spawn," said Scott Carney, a fisheries biologist with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. "There is nothing more efficient than an open river system."

(Blankenship, Karl, "Often, the best fish passage is none at all: Dam removals becoming increasingly popular," Bay Journal, 01 April 2004.)

Quiet crusade against deadly dams

It has been nearly four years since Frederick J. House and his 14–year–old son, Paul, drowned on a May afternoon while canoeing on the Perkiomen Creek. Rescuers said the pair apparently paddled too close to an unmarked "low–head" dam, a relatively harmless–looking structure of a type that spans rivers and creeks all over Pennsylvania. But these dams, built to serve mills, factories and canals in the 19th and 20th centuries, are not harmless. They have claimed the lives of so many swimmers, boaters, fishermen and children that water safety experts call them "drowning machines." For the last decade, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the state Department of Environmental Protection, and American Rivers, an organization that promotes free–flowing waterways, have been working to remove abandoned and unstable dams. More than 100 in Pennsylvania have been demolished. Two–thirds of the removals have been financed with state and federal funds and private grants. The average demolition cost is surprisingly low: $50,000. Often, the work can be done with a backhoe. Scott Carney, a biologist with the Fish and Boat Commission who coordinates dam removals, said about 50 more dams in Pennsylvania are slated for removal, 15 of them in the Philadelphia area. "It’s the best thing for the environment, and it’s the best thing for public safety to get rid of these things," Carney said.

(Ditzen, L. Stuart, "Quiet Crusade against deadly dams,", 21 March 2004.)

us – southeast

Restoring Kissimmee River helps Okeechobee

Once, Florida’s Kissimmee River wound its way through more than 100 miles of wetlands. It’s widely fluctuating cycle of wet and dry seasons was critical to local wildlife, but the ever–present flooding offered little accommodation for development of any sort in the immediate area. Channelization began in the early 1960s when the US Army Corps of Engineers dug a ditch 300 feet wide, 30 feet deep and 56 miles long to create many thousands of acres of usable pasture land. After channelization, most of the wildlife, which had included nearly 40 species of fish and 38 species of water birds, disappeared and the marshes no longer helped filter and reduce the phosphorus and other agricultural runoff. In 1992, after more than a decade of environmental and engineering studies, Congress authorized USACE to implement the Kissimmee River Restoration Project. The first phase of the restoration project was completed in March of 2001. Nearly seven and a half miles of the canal have been filled and new low–ways have been created, restoring the flood plain marshes of the Kissimmee. But the future of the project is uncertain as the river flows south into Lake Okeechobee. Many more acres of wetlands along the Kissimmee River must be preserved, in addition to the ones targeted by the restoration project.

(Jones, Lloyd, "Restoring Kissimmee River helps Okeechobee, Everglades," News–Sun, 21 April 2004.)

Sugar company agrees to vacate land key to Everglades project

A major sugar company has agreed to vacate an 18,000–acre parcel of land considered crucial to restoring the Florida Everglades, clearing the way for a piece of the massive restoration project to continue on schedule. US Sugar Corporation announced it would leave a piece of land at the southern end of the Everglades Agricultural Area before its lease expires in April 2005. The company will harvest the last crop of sugar this fall, then walk away from the property, said spokesman Robert E. Coker. The federal government consolidated a 50,000–acre plot in a key piece of the Everglades, after buying land from the Talisman Sugar Corporation, then leased parcels to three sugar companies in 1999. At least one of the companies, Florida Crystals, has resisted leaving, raising some concerns about whether the $8.4 billion project could move ahead as scheduled. "This is the highest priority for Everglades restoration," said Eric Draper, policy director for Audubon of Florida. The 30–year–restoration project aims to restore some of the natural water flow through the ecosystem that once stretched uninterrupted from a chain of lakes near Orlando to the Florida Bay.

(Roxe Hilary, "Sugar company agrees to vacate land key to Everglades project,", 29 April 2004.)