No. 73, March 9, 2006

River Revival Bulletin

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

table of contents









Arase Dam, Kumagawa River, Japan

Demolishing Arase Dam

The people of this mountainous area of Kyushu were determined to get rid of an aging and unproductive dam and restore the Kumagawa River to its former glory. It seems they have won. The prefectural government has agreed to deconstruct the Arase Dam in a 4.7–billion–yen demolition project that will be the first of its kind in Japan. But as plans for Arase Dam dismantling project proceed, the central government is pushing ahead to create one of the largest dams in Kyushu – on the Kawabegawa River in the region. The Arase Dam was built half a century ago near the village of Sagara, where the government is now pushing the new dam project. Some say the Arase Dam is a good example of why the area has no need for the new dam. Water at the hydroelectric Arase Dam lies stagnant, full of floating debris and nearby residents say the water stinks and has become a breeding ground for algae. They also are concerned about the ever–decreasing fish stock, the loud rumblings every time water is discharged, and the compounding maintenance costs. "Before the dam was built, there were fleets of fishing boats going out," says Seimitsu Kimoto, 70. "The river was teeming with fish." Residents hope those days – and the fish – will return.

Read more on this story at, as well as International Rivers’s No More Dam Illusions: The Growing Success of Dam Opponents in Japan (PDF).

(Hokao, Makoto and Shimada, Kosaku, "Costly legacy: Demolishing dam will cost Kumamoto 4.7 billion yen," The Asahi Shimbun, 08 February 2006.)


Conflict over Sacramento River restoration projects

A group that serves as a round–table regarding issues along the Sacramento River declined to follow Colusa County’s lead and call for a halt to river restoration projects. Colusa County plans to veto restoration in the county until wildlife agencies further protect nearby landowners from harm due to habitat conversion. After much effort, the wildlife agencies have failed to recognize property owners’ concerns. The flap centers around a "good neighbor policy" that has been worked on for the past few years. The Sacramento River Conservation Area Forum (SRCAF) came up with several policies that met with good response from wildlife agencies. These include things such as notifying nearby landowners when habitat restoration is planned, public access to information, prevention of trespassing, buffer zones and a way to protect property owners who accidentally harm endangered species that come onto their property. However, a SRCAF committee had additionally pushed for a voluntary program to compensate landowners for unforeseen damages from restoration and a fund to help landowners who suffer loss when habitat is installed.

For more information, visit

(Hacking, Heather, MediaNews Group, "Sacramento River group won’t lead on restoration," Daily Democrat, 05 February 2006.)

DWP starts work on Owens River restoration

The Department of Water and Power has begun the court–ordered construction of a project to send water flowing into a 62–mile stretch of the Lower Owens River, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. The project will reverse damage to the river’s environment caused by L.A.’s diversion of water from the Owens Valley to Southern California. The courts have fined the city $5,000 a day since September for delays – or $645,000 – and another $2.4 million in fines are expected before the project is finished.

(Times Staff and Wire Reports, "DWP Starts Work on Owens River Restoration," Los Angeles Times, 13 January 2006.)

Delta development at a crisis point

The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta is one region where we can never win the war against nature. So we should quit trying. It’s time to place the delta permanently off limits to development. Last year, we had a preview of the delta as a lake when a levee surrounding an island known as the Jones Tract collapsed, flooding 12,000 acres of farmland. The ultimate cost to repair the levee, pump out the waters and relevel the land exceeded $100 million. It could happen again, at any time, anywhere along the hundreds of miles of levees that surround the 500,000 acres of reclaimed land on delta islands. Yet, developers continue to lobby for bigger levees, holding out visions of still more development and suggesting that the state should come up with the $10 billion to $15 billion they say will make the delta safe for subdivisions. We need a delta protection law that will end the possibility of deals for developers arguing for just one more exception – a law that will prevent adjacent communities from sprawling into the delta. A law that preserves the delta intact as a place apart, reserved in perpetuity for its water resources, its fisheries, waterfowl, wildlife, agriculture and recreational values.

(Babbitt,Bruce, "Tales of 2 Levee Systems; Delta development at a crisis point,", 22 January 2006.)

Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA

Update: Klamath salmon near extinction, record low runs recorded

Scientists and conservationists were shocked to learn that the Salmon River fall Chinook run dipped even lower than last year’s record low. A large tributary to the Klamath, the Salmon River had an all time low in 2004 with a run of 626 fall Chinook. Before that, the record low was 780 in 1999. Regulators and fishing communities worry that the last wild runs in the Klamath basin will soon be extinct. The fisheries experts agree that over fishing is not part of the problem. Ocean and in–river salmon harvest quotas were the lowest in years. Many point to the massive adult and juvenile fish kills in the Klamath in 2001 and 2002 when most of the adult salmon that returned to the river last year were born. The fish kill of 2002 left over 68,000 adult salmon dead before spawning due to low flows and high water temperatures. Tribes, fishermen, and conservationists are hoping that PacifiCorp’s dams, which block over 350 miles of historic spawning habitat, will be removed as part of the dam relicensing agreement which could be decided on later this year. Others hope that upper basin agricultural interests and down river fisheries interests can work out some win–win solutions to put more water in the river’s future and provide certainty for farmers.

For more information on the fight to restore the Klamath, visit

(Klamath Salmon Media Collaborative, "Klamath Salmon near extinction: Record Low Salmon River Salmon Runs – Three Times in a Row," San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center,, 24 January 2006)


Presumpscot River dams, Presumpscot River, ME

Update: US Supreme Court hears landmark dam case

This week, S.D. Warren Co. brought its dispute with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection before the US Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court upholds the state courts’ decisions, S.D. Warren would be required to abide by the state’s water quality requirements and install fish passage, by means of "ladders and lifts," on five Maine dams in the future. If the Supreme Court finds in favor of S.D. Warren, environmental regulation of hydroelectric dams by states would be put in question nationwide. While the nine justices – including newly appointed justice Samuel Alito – will not make their decision for several months, the eyes and ears of environmental watchdogs across the country are focused on what is being called a landmark case in the history of the US Clean Water Act. Before the dams were built, many species of fish, like the Atlantic salmon, migrated up and down the 25–mile long river. Now owned by Sappi Fine Paper, S.D. Warren claims the state went beyond its legal power by imposing environmental regulations on its hydroelectric dams. Under the Clean Water Act, states may require water quality certification for any industry that creates a discharge into navigable waters. Friends of the Presumpscot River, a local environmental organization, along with national group American Rivers, are advocating on behalf of the state’s ability to impose environmental standards on the dams. It has been a longtime goal of the environmental advocates to restore fish habitats along the Presumpscot.

Learn more about this case, and Presumpscot restoration efforts from the Friends of the Presumpscot River.

(Wright, Douglas, "US Supreme Court hears S.D. Warren case,", 22 February 2006.)


Hegewisch Marsh plan flowing

Planning stages for the restoration efforts at the Hegewisch Marsh are 60 percent complete, and officials involved with the project are seeking community input to try and establish how best to preserve the property. Suzanne Malec, deputy commissioner with the Chicago Department of Environment, said the restoration process will be a lengthy one but said changes are going to start right away. The state recently received a $750,000 grant for the marsh. Malec said that grant money will be used in the first phase of restoration for one of the first large–scale wetland restoration projects in the area. Currently, those involved anticipate the process will take three phases to complete. David Urban, of Land and Water Resources Inc., said the first phase of the project will include restoring the natural environment and preserving the land so that species, such as the state endangered yellow–headed blackbird, will continue to flourish.

(Henderson, Terrie, "Hegewisch Marsh plan flowing,", 22 February 2006.)

North Avenue Dam, Milwaukee River, WI

Update: North Avenue Dam removal restores river

River enthusiasts and civic visionaries have been working to get the North Avenue Dam torn down for more than 15 years. In the end, all it took was a few minutes with an oversized jackhammer. City contractors struck the long–awaited blow, knocking down about a third of the dam and opening the flow of the river for the first time in half a century. "(Removing the dam) is something that the RiverWalk Commission has been working on since 1988," said Alderman Mike Saville, referring to the city task force he launched that year to build a series of riverfront paths throughout downtown. Last year, newly elected Mayor Tom Weisner’s administration decided to fund the project with city money, and work began in December. The Hollywood Casino contributed $100,000 as part of a prior agreement with the state that was negotiated when it built its fixed gambling barge to replace its boats. The rest of the dam will be cleared over the next few months, city staff said. When the work is complete, the river will be essentially returned to its natural state.

(Garbe, David, "Portion of North Avenue dam gone," Suburban Chicago News, 20 January 2006.)


Rule change sought for easier removal of outmoded dams

Saying that environmental rules governing dams are too cumbersome and costly, state Environmental Affairs Secretary Stephen Pritchard vowed to streamline the regulatory process to allow easier removal of scores of aging dams that no longer serve a useful purpose. Last October, public safety officials ordered the evacuation of residents along the Mill River, closing schools and businesses for several days after runoff from heavy rains threatened to burst the 173–year–old Whittenton Pond Dam. Had the rotting wooden dam burst, officials feared that a 6–foot wall of water would have surged through town. It held, and after the water subsided, engineers constructed a replacement out of stone mined at a nearby quarry. Emergency inspections of 186 other dams after the incident generated no other imminent threats. But the state inspections also led officials to conclude that public safety and the environment could benefit if a large number of dams that no longer served a useful purpose were torn down. Standing in the way are complex and time–consuming environmental regulations that discourage private dam owners from removing aging spans. "Dams block fish passage, raise water temperatures, impair water quality, and block the natural movement of sediment and debris," the release stated. "Dam removal can be a win–win solution."

(Ranalli, Ralph, "Rule change sought for easier removal of outmoded dams: Official says many are decaying relics," Boston Globe,, 28 January 2006.)

River restoration gets go–ahead

By a unanimous vote this week, the Board of Selectmen adopted the Herring River Technical Committee’s recommendation to restore tidal flow to the Herring River salt marsh. Technical Committee chair Gordon Peabody presented his group’s recommendation to a packed audience, stressing that the restoration of the 1,100–acre marsh (the dike was originally built in 1908) would be an "incremental" one. A tidal restoration of the area, Peabody said, "is feasible and� significant improvements in water quality would provide subsequent public health, recreational, environmental, and economic benefits." The recommendation, which was distributed to the public audience and will be available in its entirety on the town’s website ( also stated that "a new structure" would be put in place where the current Herring River dike stands, one that would "incorporate controlled gates to provide incremental increases in tidal exchange." Such a structure, Peabody said, "would allow for well–thought–out management, supervision, monitoring and evaluation [of the Herring River salt marsh]." The Herring River Technical Committee was formed subsequent to last August’s signing of the Herring River Memorandum of Understanding between the town and the National Park Service – the latter controls much of the affected salt marsh area.

(Sussman, Emily, "River restoration gets go–ahead,", 12 January 2006.)

Bishopville Pond Dam, St. Martin River, MD

Demolished dam will allow fish to go further upstream

The Army Corps of Engineers and the State Highway Administration will spend more than $6 million to remove the dam at the Bishopville pond, adding nine miles of stream for fish migrating up the St. Martin River. "We are finishing up and trying to finalize plans," said Roman Jesien, a science coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. "The pond will remain in Bishopville and a stream will flow down, into its right side that will provide a series of pools and riffles. They will be graded pools with vegetation and it will just look a stream next to the pond." The stream will be graded to allow anadromous fish, fish that spawn in freshwater but live in salt water, to migrate from the bays to fresh water. The species of fish expected to make the additional swim include eels, which already inhabit the nearby St. Martin River, white perch and river herring. "I think that it might take time to establish runs of river herring," Jesien said. "But the white perch and eels will be able to use it right away." The dam removal is only part of the plan to enhance the ecosystem of Buntings Branch creek, a tributary of the St. Martin River.

(King, Scott, "Demolished dam will allow fish to go further upstream," Ocean City Today, 10 February 2006.)


Brownsville Dam, Calapooia River, OR

Historic Brownsville Dam may be too costly to keep

A historic dam that has supplied water to a three–mile millrace since the late 1880s may be history itself soon. Area residents attended a public meeting to discuss possible removal of the Brownsville Dam, located on the Calapooia River. Some people worry that removing the dam will jeopardize a canal flowing along a city park and dozens of backyards, drying up some of Brownsville’s historical charm. But others say private citizens who own the dam no longer can afford to maintain it – and that the canal could survive its removal. Originally constructed as a wooden "crib dam" to divert water from the Calapooia for long–defunct woolen and timber mills, the dam was rebuilt with federal Community Beautification Funds in 1968. But it is still privately owned by the Brownsville Canal Co., a group of about 50 property owners along the millrace. Most live inside the city limits, but about 10 farmers rely on canal water for irrigation and livestock. If the Brownsville Canal Co. decides to tear down the dam, federal grants are available to cover all costs of removal, and restoring the river channel and natural habitat at the site.

(McCowan, Karen, "Historic Brownsville dam may be too costly to keep," The Register–Guard, 11 January 2006.)

Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, OR

Update: Federal budget includes $13 million toward replacing Savage Rapids Dam

The Bush Administration’s proposed 2007 budget includes $13 million toward replacing Savage Rapids Dam with electric pumps, some $3 million more than a consortium of environmental groups suggested. If it survives the budgetary process, the money will be the largest single payout to date toward removing the 85–year–old dam from the Rogue River while continuing to furnish water for the Grants Pass Irrigation District. But it likely is not enough to complete the plant, water intake and piping necessary before the dam is replaced. The money is in the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s proposed budget, which, if approved, would go into effect in October. "Thirteen million dollars will be enough of a boost to really push this thing," said WaterWatch attorney Bob Hunter, who has worked more than a decade for replacing the dam deemed the biggest fish killer on the Rogue River. Removing the dam and installing the pumps provides a long–term solution to the current dam’s fish–passage problems while keeping GPID in the irrigation business. A US Fish and Wildlife Service study concluded the dam severely reduces the Rogue’s ability to grow wild salmon and steelhead.

(Freeman, Mark, "Budget includes $13 million toward dam removal," Mail Tribune, 12 February 2006.)

Elwha River dams, Elwha River, WA

Update: Removal of Elwha River dams edges closer

The planned destruction of the Elwha River dams is a once in a lifetime opportunity for research scientists but the time is now. So says Jerry Freilich, Ph.D, the research and monitoring coordinator for Olympic National Park. Critical scientific research in a host of areas needs to be conducted now in order to study ecological changes expected after the historic dams’ removal. Researchers got a reprieve when the dams’ planned removal in 2008 was extended until February of 2009. The two dams were built on the Elwha River to provide hydroelectric power. The lower Lake Aldwell Dam was completed in 1914 at a height of 105 feet. The upper Glines Canyon Dam, at 217 feet, was constructed in 1927. Because no fish ladders were built, the dams stopped prolific salmon and steelhead runs. The loss was perhaps felt most keenly, by Lower Elwha Klallam tribal members dependent on salmon since the dawn of time. The project is the largest dam removal ever attempted in the US and the world, Freilich said. This one is huge.

(The Sequim Gazette, "Removal of Elwha River dams edges closer,", 02 January 2006.)

High School students will study Elwha Dam removal impacts

When more than 70 miles of salmon habitat on the Elwha River are undammed after more than 90 years, Eagle Harbor High School will be there. "There’s a lot of emphasis in science in getting kids in real life (situations), but the dam removal project is unprecedented," Eagle Harbor science teacher Mary Kay Dolejsi said. "The project itself is so wide in scope, it’s an unprecedented ecological experiment." Historically, the Elwha was the habitat for six species of salmon and steelhead. Annually, hundreds of thousands of spawning salmon used to return to the river, which flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Damming the river not only affected fish populations, but also the diet of animals in the forest. Sediment suppressed by the dams caused the beach at the river’s mouth to erode and damage historic clam beds. Eagle Harbor High School is one of 12 schools in the state that will be working alongside scientists gathering data on the Elwha River ecosystem before and after dam removal. Students will study the event’s scientific, political, economic, social and cultural aspects.

(Lieu, Tina, "Kids give a dam about salmon," Bainbridge Island Review, 11 February 2006.)


Glen Canyon Dam, Colorado River, AZ

Conservation groups file suit to reverse harm to Grand Canyon’s aquatic habitat

The Center for Biological Diversity, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Living Rivers, Sierra Club–Grand Canyon Chapter, and Glen Canyon Institute filed suit in US District Court in Arizona against Gale Norton, US Department of the Interior, and the US Bureau of Reclamation on behalf of the humpback chub and the Grand Canyon. For more than a decade the Bureau of Reclamation has been required to modify the operations of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River to reverse the dam’s downstream impacts on Grand Canyon’s priceless river ecosystem. These efforts have failed to produce results. The agencies are in violation of the Grand Canyon Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. "The agencies have neglected their responsibilities to this incredible place. Arizona’s native fish are overwhelmingly imperiled, and only four of eight native fish species continue to exist in the Grand Canyon. In 1992, Congress passed the Grand Canyon Protection Act to reverse the demise of the canyon and the decline of endangered native fish species such as the humpback chub.

For more information, visit the Center for Biological Diversity at, or contact Robin Silver at 602–246–4170.

(Center for Biological Diversity, "Conservation Groups File Suit to Reverse Harm to Grand Canyon’s Aquatic Habitat," Environmental News Network,, 20 February 2006.)

San Miguel River restoration project

After thousands of years of flowing freely, the San Miguel River has been confined to a narrow channel for 115 years, making it look more like a drainage ditch than a mountain stream. A framework agreement with the San Miguel Valley Corporation requires that the town spend "$15 million ... over a 5–year period to complete a mutually agreed upon Restoration Plan for the Conservation Parcel, to improve the aesthetic and natural quality of the parcel for the use and enjoyment of the general public." Troy Thompson, a water resource engineer, said that the land needs to be surveyed first. There are a lot of different types of plans that could be conjured up, and you need to have a "baseline study" of the available resources and an idea of what the town wants to protect. Putting the river back in its original state is impossible, since it’s confined on the east side by buildings and on the west side by a bridge, but getting it close to its original state requires moving a railroad grade and the sewer and power lines that run next to it, and forcing the river back into a more natural course on the valley floor.

(Capps, Reilly, "VF restoration plan would re–route river," Telluride Daily Planet, January 31, 2006. Full text at