No. 74, March 24, 2006

River Revival Bulletin

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

table of contents










Report calls on foreign investors to stop plans for dams on the Salween River

The Karenni Development Research Group (KDRG) released the report "Dammed by Burma’s Generals," calling on all foreign investors to refuse funding for dams on the Salween River. The report focuses on the Weigyi Dam planned for Karen State. If the dam is built, 26 villages and two towns will be submerged, displacing about 30,000 people. The local people will get no benefit from this project, instead it will go to Thailand and other ASEAN countries. "The projects just bring more suffering to the Karen, Karenni, Mon, Shan and other people of Burma," said Moe Moe Aung, a Karenni girl who represented the KDRG. The Burmese military regime and Thai government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in December 2005 to build four dams along Salween River, the longest free flowing river in Southeast Asia. "We rely on the Salween River for our livelihood: for farming, fishing, and trading. The river is our life," says a villager from the Pasawng area along the Salween.

(Shan Herald Agency for News, Karenni greens release report on Salween dams,, 15 March 2006.)


British Columbia’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2006

After a year marked by a train derailment and subsequent toxic spill that killed hundreds of thousands of fish, it’s no surprise that the Cheakamus River heads the list for BC’s most endangered river of 2006. "This spill had deadly consequences, killing up to half a million fish, including salmon, steelhead and trout," notes Mark Angelo, Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC’s Rivers Committee. What may come as a surprise, however, is that the fate of the Greater Georgia Basin steelhead streams was considered so equally critical that it tied with the Cheakamus for first place on this year’s list. "The steelhead, which many think of as a sea–going trout but which is in fact a salmon, is a great symbol of BC and has garnered a passionate following among river stewards across the province," says Angelo. "Yet, despite its many attributes, steelhead stocks are in decline or considered ‘at risk’ on a number of streams in the southern part of the province, as well as streams on Vancouver Island.

For the full list and additional details, visit the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC at Contact the ORC at 604–737–3058, Mark Angelo at 604–432–8270, or by e–mail at


Money for removing Klamath dams in new state infrastructure bond measure

Tucked into a gigantic state infrastructure bond is money aimed at buying and removing dams on the Klamath River. Tribes, environmental groups, fishermen, farmers and agencies have been meeting every two weeks to hash out a settlement that could involve decommissioning PacifiCorp’s dams and removing barriers to salmon spawning grounds cut off for decades. The language was in both the California Assembly and Senate versions of the bond act – a titanic $50 billion bundle for roads, schools, sewers – and for building other dams. That last item has been hotly debated between supporters and conservatives who want money for groundwater storage and dam repair. The Klamath provision is an unspecified amount of money in a $700 million article that includes money to restore the San Joaquin River, the Sacramento River delta and Lake Tahoe. "The intention is for the money to be available for taking down Klamath dams and restoring the health of the river," said state Sen. Wesley Chesbro, chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

(Driscoll, John, "Klamath dams money in bond measure," The Times–Standard, 14 March 2006.)

Proposed salmon fishing ban energizes dam removal efforts on the Klamath

Federal regulators are considering an unprecedented ocean fishing ban on Chinook salmon along 700 miles of California and Oregon coast. Up to 15 percent of Washington’s salmon fleet depends on catches from the troubled Klamath River. Biologists have warned for years that a combination of warm and low–flowing waters in the once–mighty Klamath would cause the highly prized Chinook runs to plummet. Commercial fishermen blame the Bush administration for managing the river in a way that favors farmers, dam operators and timber companies at the expense of fish. During spring 2002 and again the following year, more than 80 percent of the juvenile fish returning to sea from the Klamath succumbed to a parasite scientists blame on a combination of low river flows, pollution and warmer water. Aside from angering fishermen, the potential ban could spill over into ongoing discussions on the renewal of federal hydropower licenses for the Klamath River dams. Environmentalists, tribes that depend on salmon, fishermen and others are engaged in closed–door talks with power generators and the federal government over the possibility of removing at least a few of the dams.

(Seattle Times staff and news services, "Chinook ban would hit local fleet hard,", 6 March 2006.)

Lawmakers ask scientists to assess collapse of Sacramento Delta ecosystem

The House Resources Committee sought assessments from seven government scientists on the collapse of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta’s ecosystem. Their answer was as murky as the waters running through nearby sloughs and channels. The Delta’s poor health has alarmed and puzzled scientists and government water managers recently. Fish stocks have dropped to historic lows despite millions of dollars spent on restoration efforts and consecutive years of relatively abundant rainfall. At a field hearing, scientists described the daunting task of trying to assess the health of one of the West Coast’s largest river systems, water source of two–thirds of California’s 35 million people and much of the state’s $32 billion agriculture industry. But the threat to the Delta’s health comes likely from three main culprits, scientists told lawmakers: invasive species that out–compete native fish for food, pesticides and other contaminants that sully water.

(Fischer, Douglas, "No easy answers in Delta, scientists inform Congress; Lawmakers ask scientists to assess collapse of ecosystem," The Daily Review,, 01 March 2006.)


Kaloko Reservoir dam, Wailapa Stream, HI

Hawaii dam break leads to general dam safety concerns

Searchers with dogs looked for bodies in the mud and debris after a dam break released 300 million gallons of water and raised fears about the safety of dozens of similar dams across Hawaii. Three people were confirmed dead, and four remained missing when rescue teams called off the search. The century–old earthen dam collapsed before dawn on March 14, after days of heavy rain swelled the Kaloko Reservoir behind it. The water swept away houses on two multimillion–dollar properties in the rugged hills of the island of Kauai, cutting a three–mile path of destruction to the sea. "From the air, the ground and even the photographs, the devastation is drastic," Governor Linda Lingle said. Officials feared another dam downstream might also fail, and crews worked to pump water out of its reservoir. Ed Teixeira, state vice director of civil defense, said, "I would characterize this as a growing crisis on Kauai." Nearly all of Hawaii’s dams were built early in the past century before federal or state standards existed. Many date to the 1890s, when sugar plantations dotted the islands, and many are privately owned earthen structures.

(Associated Press, "Crews end search for Hawaii dam break victims: Governor to request federal emergency assistance," 23 March 2006.)

(Song, Jaymes, "Crews Hunt for Bodies in Hawaii Dam Break,", 15 March 2006.)


Illinois River restoration a lengthy, pricey goal

The federal government estimates cleanup of the Illinois River will cost billions of dollars over 50 years. "The alternatives would run from $6 billion to $8 billion in the next 50 years," said Brad Thompson, project manager with the Corps of Engineers. Thompson said sedimentation of backwaters and side channels were among the culprits damaging the system. Loss of habitat and degradation throughout the Illinois River basin has long been documented. "Also the degradation of tributary streams, increased water level fluctuations, reduction of the floodplain, and tributary connectivity, plus other adverse impacts caused by human activities," he told about 30 people at a March meeting. Thompson said the plan includes long–term monitoring of the basin. Congress must approve the restoration plan before any action can be taken.

(Hustis, Jo Ann, "Illinois River restoration a lengthy, pricey goal; Cost over 50 years could hit $8 billion," Morris Daily Herald, 8 March 2006.)

St. Louis River week to focus on river restoration

The mayors of Duluth and Superior, Minnesota joined state officials in proclaiming March 19–25 as "Restoring the St. Louis River Week." Events included activities to highlight the progress made in cleaning and restoring the river from pollution and habitat destruction as well as concerns still facing the river. The celebration marks the 10–year anniversary of the St. Louis River Citizens Action Committee. The committee was called together to help map out problem areas and to develop a plan to clean up the river and protect its natural resources. That committee’s efforts include annually honoring individuals and groups that have helped protect or promote the river. The committee also developed an exhaustive study and maps of the river’s fish and wildlife habitat and what would be needed to restore the river to a fully functioning ecosystem.

(Duluth News Tribune, "St. Louis River week to focus on river restoration,", 4 March 2006.)


Hold the Sour Cream: Herring return to the Bronx River after 350 years

For the first time in 350 years, an actual live herring is swimming in the Bronx – several score of them in fact. The Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx Zoo, stocked the Bronx River, the city’s only true freshwater river, with 201 herring it hopes will spawn in the next few weeks and breed herring for centuries to come. The society wants to restore a species of fish that was abundant in the 21–mile–long river until colonists like Jonas Bronck, for whom the river and the borough are named, built dams for flour mills that made it impossible for the herring to reach their spawning grounds. Stephen Sautner, the society’s assistant director of conservation communications, compared the restoration of herring to the return of peregrine falcons to Manhattan. "If fish are restored to the Bronx River, people will feel good about the Bronx River and there will be a sense of stewardship of the river to protect it," he said. For decades, the eight–mile stretch of river that winds through the Bronx often seemed like a trough for collecting carcasses of automobiles and tires. But cleanup efforts started in 1997, and today the river is an often–idyllic place where canoeists paddle and where 45 species of fish, including eel, smallmouth bass and sunfish, thrive.

(Berger, Joseph, "Hold the Sour Cream: Herring Return to the Bronx River After 350 Years," The New York Times, 22 March 2006.)

Draft report adds 145 tainted waterways to Maryland list

One hundred and forty–five polluted Maryland waterways would be added to a state list under a draft report the Department of the Environment is circulating for public review. The vast majority of new listings – 112 – are for biological impairments to small and medium, nontidal streams. Cleaning up those waters is a priority for the state, the MDE said. The report says that the fiscal year 2007 budget includes more than $400 million for programs to control biological and bacterial pollution of waterways. The budget also includes a restoration project for the Corsica River. The additions would bring the number of Maryland waters listed as impaired to 733, up from 659 in 2004. The MDE said the additional listings don’t necessarily indicate a decline in the state’s overall water quality "but rather reflect increased monitoring, newer water quality or resource data, and new improvements in assessment techniques." The Chesapeake Bay Foundation agreed.

(Associated Press, "Draft report adds 145 tainted waterways to Maryland list," The Bay Journal, March 2006.)

Chesapeake Bay cleanup; When abnormal becomes the norm

For nearly two decades, the Chesapeake Bay has been whipsawed by weather extremes. It has bounced from some of the wettest years on record to some of the driest – sometimes with dire consequences for the local cleanup effort. Although nutrients are the main culprit in worsening Chesapeake water quality, their impact is exacerbated by climatic factors. "It’s not just man’s actions that have caused the degradation that we have seen," said Scott Phillips, Chesapeake Bay coordinator for the USGS. "Human activities are the principle ecosystem stressors, but river–flow variability is another major factor in the condition that we see in the Bay in a particular year, or over a longer period of time." The amount of sediment and phosphorus increases when high river flows related to strong storms transport sediment down river corridors and into the Bay. When nutrients reach the Bay, they spur excess algae growth, which clouds the water, blocking sunlight to underwater grass beds, one of the most important habitats in the Chesapeake. When the algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water.

(Blankenship, Karl, "When abnormal becomes the norm, Bay cleanup becomes more complex," The Bay Journal, March 2006.)

Bishopville pond dam, Buntings Branch Creek, MD

$6 million dam removal project in Maryland

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Maryland’s State Highway Administration will spend more than US$6M to remove the dam at the US state’s Bishopville pond. The dam removal will add 14.5km of stream for fish migrating up the St. Martin River. Species of fish expected to make the additional swim include eels, which already inhabit the nearby St. Martin River, white perch and river herring. The dam removal is only part of the plan to enhance the ecosystem of Buntings Branch Creek, a tributary of the St. Martin River. The project is being carried out under the authority of the Estuary Restoration Act of 2000, which requires USACE to implement estuary restoration projects that improve the quality of the environment. Other organizations involved with the project are the Maryland Coastal Bays program, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and Worcester County government.

(International Water Power and Dam Construction, "US $6M dam removal project," Wilmington Media Ltd., 23 February 2006.)


Sammamish River restoration becoming a popular urban kayak adventure

The Sammamish River is barely a river now, but it is becoming more of one, and it’s becoming a more popular urban kayak adventure. This 14–mile stretch of river begins at Lake Sammamish and ends at Puget Sound, and is an easy paddle on a gentle flow, at times like paddling a deep ditch and other times like paddling a willow–lined bird sanctuary. That’s because it is the focus of a major restoration effort by the cities along its banks, King County, Washington state, Uncle Sam and conservation groups. The project is designed to restore habitats for native fish and wildlife, such as the federally protected Puget Sound Chinook salmon. This has been necessary because in the 1960s, "the Slough," as locals have called it for decades, was straightened, dredged, diked and channeled by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

(Johnston, Greg, "Restoration projects are bringing ‘the Slough’ back to nature," Seattle Post–Intelligencer, 23 March 2006.)

Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, OR

Update: Savage Rapids Dam removal gets $13 million in Bush budget

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. 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. The bureau recently completed an environmental study that backed a 1995 conclusion that dam removal was the best and cheapest alternative for solving the dam’s fish–passage and water– delivery issues.

Learn more about the battle to free the Rogue River from Savage Rapids Dam at

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

Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT

Update: Report calls for first Milltown Reservoir drawdown in June

The first reservoir drawdown that will officially mark the beginning of Milltown Dam’s removal may begin in June. Envirocon, the company hired to remove the dam, released its first preliminary design report, outlining the proposed 10–foot lowering of the reservoir level. The preliminary design report is the first of what will be many technical reports over the next few years describing different aspects of the project. The first report considers potential impacts of the 10–foot drawdown needed to dry out sediments that will be removed during construction of a temporary bypass channel for the Clark Fork River. The hope is the drawdown can begin sometime in June – so high water during the annual spring runoff can dilute any sediment that might be scoured from the riverbed or banks. The report considers a list of potential impacts of the drawdown, including surface and groundwater issues, bridges and dam safety. Fein said the next draft will include additional information on contingency planning. The next stages, which include diverting the river into a bypass channel and beginning the dam’s removal, will be much more involved.

(Backus, Perry, "Report calls for first Milltown Reservoir drawdown in June," Missoulian, 08 March 2006.)


Nature Conservancy buys prime habitat for Everglades restoration

The Nature Conservancy has purchased 1,646 acres of land along the old Kissimmee River to advance important goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Paradise Run is prime habitat and a top priority for protection under the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project of the CERP. The site is part of the original Kissimmee River floodplain and presents a unique opportunity for habitat restoration. The Conservancy bought the land on behalf of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) for transfer at a later date. "This land came on the market at an unplanned moment, but one very timely for restoration of these important Everglades systems. We appreciate The Nature Conservancy providing assistance in acquiring this priority tract at this critical time," said Ruth Clements, director of the SFWMD Land Acquisition Department. "The conservation value of this acquisition is not only the protection of top priority habitat for the CERP but the enormous contribution to restoration of related aquatic sites and abating threats to them," said Victoria Tschinkel, Florida director of The Nature Conservancy.

(Austin, Jill, "Conservancy Buys Prime Habitat for Everglades Restoration; Acquired site along Kissimmee River praised by Audubon, Fish and Wildlife Service," The Nature Conservancy, 22 March 2006.)