No. 62, October 11, 2004

River Revival Bulletin
No. 62, October 11, 2004

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Wil Dvorak

table of contents










Tucurui Dam, Amazon Basin, Brazil

Underwater trees bring dam dilemma to surface in Brazil

When the Brazilian government built the giant $8–billion Tucurui Dam in the eastern Amazon they neglected to cut down the trees and clear the other growth in the 1,100–square–mile reservoir area, and 20 years later that has become a problem. Decomposing vegetation has resulted in the emission of millions of tons of greenhouse gases. Submerged tree trunks hinder navigation, increasing acidity in the reservoir could corrode the dam’s turbines, and mosquito infestations have forced some settlements to relocate. This dam is the largest entirely within Brazil and is cited by Eletronorte as a model for the more than 70 other hydroelectric power projects planned for the Amazon. Scientists are concerned about the seasonal rise and fall of the water level and the resulting decay of vegetation. Tucurui is "virtually a methane factory," said Philip M. Fearnside, a researcher at the National Institute for Amazon Research. Research suggests, he added, that dead trees in the reservoir can serve as "conduits" carrying methane from the soil of the reservoir floor. During much of the 1990s, he said, Tucurui produced more greenhouse gas emissions, between 7 million and 10 million tons a year, than Sao Paulo, with more than 20 million people.

(Rohter, Larry, "Underwater trees bring dam dilemma to surface in Brazil," New York Times News Service, 19 September 2004.)


‘Micro–hydro’ schemes threaten 76 BC rivers

Ledcor Power, an independent power producer, is proposing to build a micro–hydro power generating station on the Ashlu. Micro–hydro, an approach also called "run–of–the–river," involves diverting sections of river through pipelines into turbines before returning it to the watercourse downstream. The Upper Squamish Valley Residents Association and the Whitewater Kayaking Association of BC are opposed to that kind of project on the Ashlu, a tributary of the Squamish River, and one of the region’s best paddling rivers. Micro–hydro projects like the one planned for the Ashlu can alter flow regimes, water temperatures and insect populations for fish feeding downstream, according to the Outdoor Recreation Council. Stuart Smith of the Whitewater Kayaking Association has concerns that come, in part, from witnessing the impact such projects have had on the nearby Mamquam River. "It is the most stressed watershed [in the region]." Another concern of opponents is that Ledcor’s plan to periodically decrease water flows by half will affect the ambient air temperature. The movement toward independent power producers in part comes from the electrical energy export market in the US. The Ashlu fight is not only pitting residents against the specter of energy–hungry Californians, but against independent power developers and speculators.

(Richardson, Lisa, "A ‘Green’ Threat to B.C.’s Rivers? Touted by BCHydro as renewable electricity, the rush to install privatized ‘micro–hydro’ schemes may change the flow of 76 B.C. rivers." The Tyee, 30 August 2004. Article found at:


Chixoy Dam, Amazon Basin, Brazil

Peasants seize Chixoy Dam

Hundreds of angry farmers seized Guatemala’s largest hydroelectric dam in September, threatening to shut off power to large parts of the country unless the government agrees to return nearby lands to them. The farmers forced their way into the Chixoy Dam complex in the northern province of Alta Verapaz, seized the control room and attempted to force employees to close the gates that supply water to the facility’s turbines. "Hundreds of farm workers have cornered the manager in the control room, and are pressuring him to close the gates," said Fredy Lopez, spokesman for the National Electricity Institute, which runs the facility. President Oscar Berger urged the farmers to hand over the facility. "This is no way to negotiate or solve conflicts," Berger said. The farmers are demanding the institute give them land around the dam. The agency expropriated that land – and gave residents other plots – in order to secure the dam’s watershed and catchment basin. However, the estimated 500 farmers say they were given land of inferior quality as compensation. The takeover of the plant, which supplies about 60 percent of the country’s electricity, comes on the eve of a deadline for resolution set six months before by various peasant groups.

(Associated Press, "Guatemala Peasants Seize Hydroelectric Dam," 7 September 2004. Text found at:


Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA

Possible removal of dams on the Klamath

PacifiCorp, the owner of six dams on the Klamath River hopes settlement talks will proceed as early as this fall, and has repeated its stance that no options – including dam removal – are off the table. The Portland, Oregon–based company’s application for the relicensing of the dams has been accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Now PacifiCorp wants to open settlement negotiations with tribes, environmentalists and others, whose final terms would be adopted by federal regulators. Klamath Indian tribes, fishermen and environmentalists are just coming off a trip to Scotland, where they met with executives of PacifiCorp parent company ScottishPower and attended a shareholder meeting. ScottishPower pledged that its subsidiary would talk with the groups. ScottishPower bills itself as an environmentally minded company, and could face a public relations backlash if PacifiCorp isn’t willing to consider eliminating some of its impacts. In fact, the tribes and groups that traveled to Scotland were the source of a minor media frenzy in a country whose residents were largely unfamiliar with ScottishPower’s interests in the Klamath River. Yurok Tribe Executive Director Troy Fletcher said the Yurok have told PacifiCorp they want to negotiate with the understanding that their goal is to see the dams removed.

(Driscoll, John, "Settling on the Klamath’s dams," Eureka Times–Standard, 1 September 2004. Text available at: www.times–

Shasta Dam, Sacramento River, CA

Tribe uses war dance against Shasta Dam

As darkness fell across the crescent–shaped Shasta Dam, eight barefoot Winnemem Wintu warriors armed with bows began the tribe’s first war dance since 1887. Members of the tiny American Indian tribe launched the four–day ceremony to stop a potential expansion of the Shasta Dam, which would destroy sacred sites that had survived its original construction. "The war dance itself is a message, a message to the world that we can’t stand to put up with this again," said Caleen Sisk–Franco, the chief who says she received the protest vision from the spirits of ancestors. "We’ve already lost too many sacred sites to the lake. To lose more is like cutting the legs off all the tribal members." For more than 20 years, there’s been talk of raising the 602–foot high dam that holds back three rivers, including the Sacramento, the state’s biggest. Multimillion–dollar studies are underway over the possibility of raising it as little as 6_ feet and as much as 200 feet, and the Winnemem feel an imminent threat to their way of life. Three–quarters of the state’s rain falls north of Sacramento, and Shasta Lake, with its 370–mile shore, is the largest reservoir.

(Associated Press, "Tribe uses war dance against Calif. Dam; Expanding the site could destroy sacred areas," 14 September 2004.)

(Murphy, Dean E. "At War Against Dam, Tribe Turns to Old Ways," New York Times, 14 September 2004.)

us – northwest

Libby Dam, Kootenai River, ID

Kootenai Tribe restoring historic Kokanee salmon runs

For the past three years, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho has been involved in an ambitious project to restore native kokanee salmon to the Kootenai River system. The 1974 completion of Libby Dam blocked the inflow of nutrients to Kootenai lake. Kokanee runs collapsed in the 1980s. Although the fish managed to endure an ice age, the species was wiped out of the watershed in less than a generation – the Libby Dam cut off their food supply and their spawning beds had been destroyed by cattle and bulldozers. Kootenay Lake, a massive reservoir north of the border where the fish traditionally spent their adult life, is being fertilized to boost plankton production. And the tribe has been working with landowners to rehabilitate the kokanee’s ancient spawning beds. Next month, the tribe will plant three million salmon eggs in the washed gravel of the beds. Although the restoration effort has required the fitting together of numerous missing pieces from a vast ecological puzzle – healing the spawning beds, boosting nutrients in the reservoir and ensuring continued flow of clean water from the headwaters – the tribe has been mostly focused on fixing the spawning beds in Parker, Trout, Myrtle and Long Canyon creeks. The creek restoration program is strictly voluntary and works by handshake, not legal contract, said Gretchen Kruse, an independent fisheries biologist leading the project. The program was designed to ensure ranchers and farmers would benefit from improved water and land quality without the burdens of increased cost and restrictions.

(Hagengruber, James, "Tribe prepares fish revival," Spokesman Review, 24 September 2004. Text from:

Pelton–Round Butte Dam, Deschutes River, OR

Tribes ‘buy in’ to restore their river and bring back salmon

The Deschutes Basin salmon sustained at least three tribes, which are now the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. Since 1855, those tribes have lived on the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Deschutes River marks the eastern boundary of their territory. An 1855 treaty ensured that the tribes could continue fishing, but the construction of the Pelton–Round Butte dam complex in 1964 has made a once–bountiful resource scarce. Soon after the dams began operation, officials realized the fish ladders –– designed to allow adult fish to swim past the dams en route to spawning grounds upstream –– didn’t work. They abandoned efforts to allow the fish to pass the dams and instead built hatcheries downstream. Now, thanks to a first–of–its–kind business partnership and a broad–based restoration effort, that may change. The recent developments mark a major triumph for the tribes, who have found a new way to take control of their lives and resources. Their unequivocal appreciation for salmon also promises to accelerate the restoration of fish and habitat in one of the Northwest’s most prominent fisheries. To win control of the dams, the Warm Springs tribes didn’t use lawsuits: They used cash, and applied a healthy dose of arm–twisting to the dams’ majority owner, Portland General Electric. Contacts: Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs 541–553–2001, Brett Swift American Rivers, 503–827–8648.

(Odell, Rachel, "Tribes ‘buy in’ to restore their river; Warm Springs Indians become dam owners in an effort to bring back salmon." Western Roundup, 27 September 2004.)

Elwha Dam, Elwha River, WA

Update: Doomed Elwha Dam still packs powerful punch

Few creations better mark Port Angeles’ past than the 93–year–old Elwha Dam, which turns the Elwha River’s strength into electricity. About five miles from the river’s mouth, the Elwha Dam spans 420 feet across a verdant canyon and soars over the river’s blue–green waters, where the shadows of large salmon sway beneath the surface. It’s these fish that have led the way to a historic final agreement on removal of the 108–foot–tall Elwha Dam and a second dam upstream on the river, the 210–foot–tall Glines Canyon Dam to restore the river to its natural ecosystem. It will be the biggest dam–removal project in history. Beginning in 2008, the dams will be dismantled in stages over two and a half years, eventually reopening 70 miles of prime salmon and steelhead spawning habitat. The cost: about $182 million. As part of Port Angeles Heritage Weekend, people were allowed to tour the Elwha Dam and its powerhouse. The original 1910–era gauges and the massive, looming turbines still control the flow of water through the dam. The dam produces about 197,000 megawatts of power per year, which is enough to power about 97,000 homes annually.

(Cokelet, Emeline, "Clallam: Doomed Elwha Dam still packs powerful punch," Peninsula Daily News, 20 September 2004.)

Snake River Dams, Snake River, WA

Update: Bush administration discounts need for Snake River dam removal

The Bush administration says the removal of Snake River dams no longer has to be considered for restoring threatened and endangered salmon runs due to improvements to the Columbia Basin hydroelectric power system. Strong ocean conditions, upgrades made in the past four years and plans to add experimental removable spillway weirs over the next 10 years to help fish over dams make it no longer necessary to hold dam removal as a backup plan, said Bob Lohn, Northwest regional manager of NOAA Fisheries. In May 2003, a US District Judge ruled that the biological opinion issued in 2000 was illegal because the federal government could not guarantee that habitat enhancements and upgrades to hatchery and dam operations would be done. The 2000 plan included a provision that if improvements did not occur, the government had to consider removing the four dams on the lower Snake River. "The idea that the whole hydrosystem in the Columbia River is all of a sudden now determined to not jeopardize fish is quite a change in direction for the federal government," said Jim Myron, natural resources adviser to Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, whose predecessor, Gov. John Kitzhaber, called for the removal of the four dams on the lower Snake River.

(Barnard Jeff, "U.S. discounts need for Snake River dam removal," Seattle Post–Intelligencer, 1 September 2004.)

Update: Judge disputes White House on dams

At issue is a draft legal opinion by federal fisheries authorities for balancing the needs of threatened and endangered salmon against the demand for electricity, irrigation water and barge transportation provided by the system of 14 federal dams sprawled across Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The draft document published in September rejected the possibility of demolishing dams to help restore salmon runs. US District Judge James Redden raised several questions about the legal and scientific footing for that opinion. "I am concerned," he said, "about whether or not there is a train wreck in our future." In a written order issued last week, the judge said the government may have "diverged significantly from the intent and terms" of the ruling he made last year, rejecting the federal blueprint for protecting Columbia Basin salmon. Conservationists and a broad coalition of commercial and sport fishing groups and Native American tribes have expressed outrage at the government’s new stance. "All we’re saying is, use best science, not best politics when managing these fish stocks," said Trey Carskadon, marketing director for Alumaweld Boats Inc., one of 400 hundred representatives of the fishing and outdoors industry who are lobbying Congress to keep open the option of removing Snake River dams. Fishing and conservation groups and tribes with treaty rights to salmon contend that the surest way to return fish stocks to abundance is to remove four dams on the lower Snake River.

(Rojas–Burke, Joe, "Judge disputes White House on dams; A federal judge challenges a document that rejects the idea of demolishing dams to help restore salmon runs,’ Oregonian, 29 September 2004. Text found at:

us – southwest

Flaming Gorge Dam, Green River, WY

Flaming Gorge may alter flows, temperatures for native species

Native fish have been missing their spawning cues and pools for so many years along the Green River that four species are now endangered. The Bureau of Reclamation released a proposal to address the problem by modifying flows and temperatures at Flaming Gorge Dam to more closely mimic seasonal conditions that existed downstream before the dam was built in the 1960s. But the draft environmental impact statement – now in the public comment period – has been panned by environmentalists. For John Weisheit, conservation director of Moab–based Living Rivers, the issue is one of shortsightedness. Contending that this same proposal has failed elsewhere, he calls for a whole new assessment of the Colorado River system – of which the Green is a main tributary. "The needs of the fish, the environment, the national parks were never addressed when decisions were made about how to allocate water from the Colorado River and its main tributaries, so we have these big problems now," said Weisheit. "They tried experimental flows in the Grand Canyon and at Glen Canyon Dam, and there is no record of success." What’s needed is "a big picture" review of the Colorado system, which he predicts will eventually result in the dismantling of dams such as Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon because of decades–long sediment buildup in the reservoirs.

To get more information and take action before November 15, visit Living Rivers at:

(Baird, Joe, "Endangered: Dam seeks to revive fish; Flaming Gorge may alter flows, temperatures for native species," Salt Lake Tribune, 23 September 2004. Text:

us – northeast

Dam removals, habitat restorations get boost

People who are working on dam removal and habitat restoration projects in Maine are getting $386,000 in federal grants. The money is the latest installment from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the Gulf of Maine Council. In the past three years, the group has received almost $2 million from the NOAA Community–Based Restoration Program for projects around New England and Canada. The grants "are based on the needs of the regional ecosystem, rather than on political boundaries," said Tim Keeney, the NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere. In Maine alone, the NOAA has awarded more than $900,000 for 23 marine and estuarine habitat restorations. In 2002, the Smelt Hill dam on the Presumpscot River was removed. The river has since seen increased fish passage along the opened 7–mile stretch. The Gulf of Maine Council is targeting restoration work on 400 acres of a salt marsh around the Pleasant River to restore normal tidal flow in and out of a tributary leading to the Gulf of Maine. The Drakes Island Marsh Restoration project was completed last year at an estimated cost of $234,000. The Sennebec Dam removal cost $270,000. Since that dam’s removal in 2002, and an installation of a rock ramp, alewives, smallmouth bass and brown trout have been spotted swimming upstream to Sennebec Pond, according to Restoration Program documents.

(Durkin, Jessica, "Dam removals, habitat restorations get boost," Portland Press Herald, 31 August 2004.)

Cuddebackville Dam, Neversink River, NY

Neversink River freed to run its old course

The Cuddebackville dam in the Catskills is being pulled down by the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a $2.2–million project that is among dozens of dam demolition efforts under way this year across the country. The Corps of Engineers, long the nation’s preeminent dam–builder, is learning to become its dam–eradicator also. Never before has a dam in New York state been demolished solely for sake of the environment. In the muddy aftermath of hurricane–related flooding, which swelled the Neversink flow to 50 times normal, a construction crew continued to dismantle the low–lying, 107–foot dam. A third of it has been torn down so far. Already, the fish are swimming freely. "We have the dam breached; we have fish past the dam for the first time," in decades said aquatic ecologist Colin Apse at the Conservancy’s Neversink River project office. The Cuddebackville dam is among 60 being torn down this year in 14 states as part of a growing movement to clear rivers of defunct barriers. "This is a great project, simply for the fact that it is being done for environmental reasons," said Serena McClain, who works at American Rivers in Washington DC. "The Corps spent decades destroying rivers; now it is restoring them."

(Hotz Robert Lee, "Neversink River Freed to Run Its Old Course: The Cuddebackville dam in the Catskills, which has been abandoned for decades, is being torn down in a concession to nature," LA Times, 26 September 2004. Text at:

us – southeast

Embrey Dam, Rappahannock River, VA

Update: Sediment buildup behind dam raises concern on the Rappahannock

Conservationists are concerned about a sandy wall of silt piled up behind the breached Embrey Dam, which they say poses an environmental and navigational threat downriver in the Rappahannock River. Friends of the Rappahannock Executive Director John Tippett outlined his concerns in a letter to Brian Rheinhart, who heads up the dam–removal project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He cited plans to recreate a ferry crossing at Ferry Farm, George Washington’s boyhood home. "Our concern is that the extensive volume of sediment remaining behind the dam will eventually make its way [there] where it will remain," Tippett wrote. "Once there, it will not only impede recreational boating and the proposed ferry, but also increase the elevation of floodwaters in an already flood–prone area." The 22–foot–high Embrey Dam, built in 1910, was breached Feb. 23. A contractor will build a causeway into the river to begin dismantling what’s left. The dam removal should be completed by early next year. "Why not remove the remaining sediment at that time as well?" Tippett asked, noting that it would be easier to remove now that it is exposed. The dam was breached to allow the passage of migratory fish and because it is obsolete and a safety hazard. Tippett said silt, which turns the water chocolate–brown after heavy rains, harms fish, smothers bottom dwellers such as mussels, and blocks sunlight needed by aquatic plants.

(Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, "Sediment buildup behind dam raises concern on the Rappahannock," Bay Journal, September 2004.)