No. 75, May 31, 2006

River Revival Bulletin

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

table of contents









Dams failing in Austrian floods

Troops and firefighters joined the struggle to shore up dams across northeast Austria as floodwaters rose across the region in early April. Hundreds of homes were flooded in Lower Austria province, northeast of Vienna, and more than 1,000 people were evacuated amid fears that water would burst through dam walls. "Because of the high water levels these past few days, the dams have softened and are weak and so for security reasons, we have decided to evacuate the village of Zwerndorf because we can’t say for sure that the dam will hold," reported regional official Karl Gruber. Cracks appeared overnight in a dam in Stillfried–Grub, about 25 miles northeast of Vienna, after floodwaters burst through another dam a day earlier. Some 500 troops and 750 firefighters worked feverishly to patch the breach. Crews also worked to contain flooding in Duernkrut, where another dam over the swollen March River partially gave way on April 3, forcing evacuations. Two days later, authorities blew up part of a street to help drain the road. Workers struggled to stabilize dams in Mannersdorf, Droesing and Sierndorf. In Budapest the Danube reached an all–time high of 28.2 feet late on April 4.

(Oleksyn Veronika, "Austria Struggles to Control Floodwaters,", 5 April 2006.)


Dams blamed for groundwater shortage, disasters predicted

Groundwater level in the country is falling gradually due to shortage of fresh water supply from upstream sources and over-extraction of water for irrigation, water experts reported. They also warned that if such situation continues and the groundwater aquifers are not recharged, the country will face massive disasters. "If water table continues to fall, a vacuum will be created in the aquifer, which could cause the ground to subside suddenly," said Giasuddin Ahmed Choudhury, executive director of the Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS). Groundwater aquifers cannot be recharged properly as most rivers and water bodies in the country have either dried up or become severely polluted, he said while delivering a lecture at a course on �Water and Flood Management for Journalists.’ The water flow from the upstream has declined as India has constructed around 400 dams on the Ganges basin, which is the main source of Padma water, he added. Prof Rezaur Rahman of IWFM said water flow of the rivers have decreased to a great extent because of diversion of water further upstream through Farakka barrage and other dams constructed by India.

(Staff Correspondent, "Groundwater level falling gradually," The Daily Star, 30 March 2006.)


Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA

Update: Klamath River May Flow Again

Big rivers in the western US have been dammed for electricity and drained for irrigation, pushing salmon into extinction, fishermen into bankruptcy and native populations into despair. This dismal pattern, though, may be ending on the Klamath, which straddles the Oregon–California border and has long been one of the nation’s most fouled–up rivers. Its woes include massive fish kills, blooms of poisonous algae, diabetic Indians, fuming irrigators, litigious environmentalists and aging dams that produce little power while squatting stolidly in the way of reviving the river. Two decisions in late March limiting irrigation and damming on the river – one by a federal court in California, the other by the Bush administration – raise the surprising possibility that the Klamath may overcome many of these troubles. For the first time in the nearly eight decades since the river was dammed, Indians and commercial fishermen, environmentalists and federal fish scientists agree that there are sound reasons to believe in the comeback of a river that once supported the third largest salmon runs on the West Coast.

(Harden, Blaine, "River May Flow Again, Full of Salmon; Decisions Limiting Irrigation and Damming on Klamath Could Lead to Revival," Washington Post, 2 April 2006.)

Rindge Dam, Malibu Creek, CA

Update: Rindge Dam study in need of funds

In mid-March an urgent message was sent to members of the Malibu Creek Watershed Advisory Council, imploring them to reestablish funding for the Malibu Creek Environmental Feasibility Study, or Rindge Dam Study. The study has been underway for many years and is environmentalists’ best hope to begin restoring the watershed ecosystem. The feasibility study, which is about 75 percent complete, will be without federal funding in the fiscal year 2007. The 102-foot tall Rindge Dam was built in 1926, three miles up Malibu Creek and was intended for irrigation and domestic uses, but quickly filled to the top with sediment after less than 30 years. The dam has been a source of controversy for decades as stakeholders fought over whether it posed any significant problems for the watershed. The foremost issue for consideration habitat connectivity of the Southern steelhead trout. While the study on the Malibu Creek Watershed continues, other creeks in the Santa Monica Mountains are already being restored. Solstice Creek has already had all steelhead barriers removed on National Park Service lands and only requires the removal of two more barriers.

(Decou, Vive, "Rindge Dam study in need of funds," The Malibu Times, 19 April 2006.)

Alameda Creek dams, Alameda Creek, CA

Update: Trout to benefit from removal of two more Alameda Creek dams

More hurdles in restoring steelhead trout to upper Alameda Creek and its tributaries were cleared when the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission approved removal of two nonfunctioning dams in Niles Canyon. The late 19th Century dams are no longer needed by the water district, and pose a barrier to steelhead trying to migrate up the creek from San Francisco Bay. "The removal of these dams demonstrates our commitment to restoring steelhead on the Alameda Creek," said San Francisco PUC General Manager Susan Leal in a prepared statement. Removal is scheduled to begin later this summer, following award of a construction contract and the issuance of final permits from several regulatory agencies. Removal of the two dams are just part of a larger multi–agency plan to eliminate barriers to fish. Grants totaling $1 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have been awarded to the Alameda County Water District, to remove an inflatable diversion dam in Alameda Creek and to install fish screens at the district’s water supply diversion point. Another $5 million to $8 million is needed for fish ladders over a concrete barrier and to remove at least one other inflatable dam.

(Brewer, Bonita, "Trout to benefit from removal of two more Alameda Creek dams," Contra Costa Times, 12 April 2006.)


Update: Boulder rapids structure proves phenomenally successful as dam replacement

Catfish, walleye and other fish have been thriving since the removal of a lowhead dam on the Red Lake River, said an official from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Dave Friedl, the area fisheries manager, said fish habitat surveys completed after the dam was taken out and replaced by boulder rapids have shown "phenomenal" results in a short time span. The most recent survey was completed after the dam was removed. "We caught 200 times more catfish in our survey nets upstream from where the dam was, compared to when the dam was there," Friedl said. When the dam was in place, there were hardly any catfish upstream. Walleye numbers also have spiked upstream. Five times more walleye were counted in the latest survey than in the previous one. "The fish are using 75 more river miles than they were before, which is giving them access to some of the best spawning areas around, especially where the Clearwater River joins in," Friedl adds.

(Grand Forks Herald, "Lowhead dam removal helps fish,", 26 March 2006.)

North Avenue Dam, Fox River, IL

Update: Dam removal reopens riverwalk plans on the Fox

After years of stalled development, the FoxWalk proposal appears to be gaining momentum again. The first piece of the puzzle was the removal of the North Avenue Dam, completed last month after more than 15 years of lobbying and planning. Mike Saville, who chairs the Riverwalk Commission, said that the group has been working toward the removal of the dam since 1988. Last year, in the absence of federal funds to pay for the $421,500 project, Mayor Tom Weisner’s administration decided to contribute city money. The dam’s removal, Saville said, opens up more riverbank property for development of the FoxWalk and for creation of new bike trails. And, for the first time in nearly 10 years, new portions of the riverwalk are on the boards. When completed, the $40 million FoxWalk will be a two-tiered pedestrian walkway covering both banks of the river. The finished project also will link up the existing bike trails that extend north and south, with the help of the Fox Valley Park District and the Kane County Forest Preserve.

(Salles, Andre, "Back on track; New developments will build crucial pieces of FoxWalk puzzle," Suburban Chicago News, 24 March 2006.)

Dam removal is right course for Yellow Breeches Creek

For much of the last century, the dam across the Yellow Breeches Creek at Spangler’s Mill was a source of electricity. Water diverted by the dam flowed through a millrace, powering the Spangler Flour Co.’s gristmill and an adjacent sawmill. The scene repeats itself along the nearly 50 miles of the stream, popular for its trout fishing, that winds its way from the headwaters to the Susquehanna River. At one time, as many as 18 dams dotted the Yellow Breeches, nearly all built to power mills. None of those mills operates, but more than half of them remain, relics that serve no purpose and provide no value beyond the aesthetics of the waterfalls they create. In most cases, the dams are more of a liability than an asset for a waterway considered to be one of the top trout fisheries in the state. They are dangers to those who swim near them, impediments to fish trying to migrate upstream and canoeists trying to paddle downstream, and detriments to the ecological balance of the creek. That is why a coalition of environmental groups and governmental entities is working to remove many of them.

(Courogen, Chris A., "Dam removal is right course for stream, groups say," The Patriot–News, 09 April 2006.)

Harry Pursel Dam, Lopatcong Creek, NJ

Stream restored after 150 years of dams

Lopatcong Creek hasn’t been able to run freely into the Delaware River since the Morris Canal was built in the mid–1800s. Even after the canal ceased operations in 1924, the little stream lost its freedom to flow. In 1927, the Pursel family built a dam there, diverting water to run a mill on their property. They stopped using the mill in 1945 but – as is the case with many American streams – the dam remains. Aside from creating a potential flooding hazard to downstream residents, the existence of the Pursel’s Mill dam means anadromous fish (those that migrate upstream to spawn) can only go about three–quarters of a mile up Lopatcong Creek. It also hampers water quality for the stream’s existing brown trout. The dam removal, a joint effort between property owner Harry Pursel, several government agencies and some conservation groups, will improve the trout habitat and allow spawning fish from the Delaware to travel about eight miles up the creek, said Geoffrey Goll of project designer Princeton Hydro. "This is the first time in New Jersey that a dam is being breached to restore a stream to its prior condition," said Axt. vice–chairman of Trout Unlimited’s New Jersey State Council. "There have been other dam breaches, but they were done for different reasons... This is being done, basically, for environmental reasons."

(Aun, Fred J., "Dam removal to help out trout," Star–Ledger, 02 April 2006,)

County to ax three area dams on Perkiomen Creek

To reduce flooding and potential legal liability� Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is planning to remove three broken–down dams it owns on a 1.5 mile stretch of Perkiomen Creek. Nearly all of the estimated $180�000 cost of the project will be born by state� federal and private grant money. Physically removing the dams – which are about 220 feet wide and 4 to 6 feet high as measured from the stream bottom – should only take 3–5 days with an excavator each. Restoring the banks would take considerably longer. Around the country� there’s increasing interest in removing dams to improve stream health. "Besides allowing for movement of fish when the dams are out it also restores the stream to its free–flowing condition�" said Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission fisheries biologist Dave Kristine. "The long term goal is to provide passage for fish and other aquatic organisms for as much of the Perkiomen is feasible�" Kristine said. That one day could include allowing American shad and river herring – both of which swim upstream from the ocean – to return to the creek if the state also commits to fish passage or removal of numerous other dams downstream.

(Fenton, Jacob, "County to ax three area dams," The Reporter, 16 April 2006.)


1838 miles of Chesapeake Bay watershed habitat restored

To help migratory fish reach their spawning grounds, the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia and the District of Columbia agreed to remove dams or provide fish passage. Since 1988, 1,838 miles of habitat in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have been reopened to both migratory and resident fish. These partners have also agreed to complete 100 fish passage or dam removal projects, opening 1,000 miles of fish spawning habitat by 2014. Many historical spawning areas are not accessible. Fish are cut off by culverts, pipes, dams and other obstacles. More than 2,500 manmade blockages in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have greatly reduced fish spawning for both resident and migratory fish. Dams and other blockages also affect a waterway by fragmenting the river, changing hydrological characteristics and trapping large amounts of sediment. These changes affect the waterway and landscape downstream of the blockage, shrinking channels, deactivating the floodplains and impairing water quality. After a dam is removed, there is often an increase in both the abundance and diversity of aquatic insects and fish. But the most significant effect of dam removal is the immediate opening of upstream spawning habitat for fish.

For more information about dam removals and other fish passage projects, contact US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist David Sutherland at 410-573-4535 or

(Reshetiloff Kathy, "For Bay’s herring species, there’s no place like home for spawning," The Bay Journal, March 2006.)


Mt. Fir Mill Dam, South Fork Ash Creek, OR

Dam replacement with boulder structures to restore salmon and steelhead runs

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board has agreed to fund part of a project that includes removing an old mill pond and dam, which will open access for juvenile steelhead and Chinook salmon to several miles of the South Fork Ash Creek for the first time in 50 years. The $20,625 grant will fund part of a two–year project coordinated by the Luckiamute Watershed Council (LWC) in cooperation with local and state agencies and the City of Independence, who owns the property along the stream. When the dam at the former Mt. Fir mill began breaking apart in the winter of 2004–05, the LWC saw an opportunity to open up miles of winter refuge habitat that was blocked by the dam. This project will remove the dam and place 50 boulder structures in the new stream to create small pools that can be used for shelter by salmon and steelhead. The newly exposed riparian habitat will be planted with native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
Visit the Luckiamute Watershed Council, a local community group seeking to restore and maintain a sustainable ecosystem that supports a healthy watershed and provides a strong socio–economic base for the watershed communities, at

("Former Oregon Mill Pond Restoration To Aid Winter Steelhead,", 27 March 2006.)

Mitigation Banking: Restoring Habitat at a Profit

In Montana’s Blackfoot valley, a new approach to restoring streams and wetlands is gaining ground. It’s been dubbed "for–profit" or "incentive–based" conservation. The program, overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, is called "mitigation banking." The basic formula is this: through private investment and public grant money, damaged wetland and stream habit is financed and restored. The Army Corps then assesses the value of the improvements ("ecological lift" in Corps jargon) and awards "credits" that can be sold to developers in the same region or "service area." In October, Oxbow Land Management, a Helena–based company, received approval from the Corps to begin selling credits for the first mitigation "streambank" in the northern Rockies. To ensure no net–loss of wetlands, the Army Corps must first approve a development project before it can enter the mitigation banking process. "It’s not a blank check that says go ahead and impact the area," says Karen Lawrence from the Corps’s regional office in Omaha, Nebraska. "Buying conservation credits through a mitigation bank does not allow developers to forego the regulatory process that minimizes environmental impacts."

(Andrulis, John, "Mitigation Banking: Restoring Habitat at a Profit," New West,, 12 April 2006.)


Pigg River Power Dam, Pigg River, VA

Dam-removal benefits envisioned on Pigg River

Removing a dam on the Pigg River would improve the environment, offer kayaking and other recreational opportunities and avert problems for a wastewater treatment plant, officials say. With help from federal, state and private groups, Franklin County plans next year to remove the 22-foot-tall dam, which was built around 1900 but hasn’t been used to generate electricity for 40 years. Federal officials want to remove the dam to enhance the habitat for two fish: the Roanoke bass, also known as the red eye, and the endangered Roanoke logperch. A chemical spill in the 1970s wiped out wide swaths of the logperch population near Rocky Mount, and the dam has made it hard for the fish to repopulate that stretch of the river. Other groups have different reasons for wanting the dam removed. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality likes the idea because it would include removal of 60,000 to 400,000 cubic yards of sediment behind the dam. The nearby town of Rocky Mount is supportive because the dam is starting to crack and its wastewater treatment plant is just downstream. The project appeals to Franklin County officials because it would increase their "blueways" river-access program by about 80 miles.

(The Associated Press, "Many dam–removal benefits envisioned; Pigg River structure in Franklin County was built about 1900,", 8 April 2006.)

Update: Everglades headwaters to flow freer with final land acquisitions

The headwaters of the Everglades will soon flow freer now that all the land has been purchased to restore the Kissimmee River’s meandering path. State water managers say they have completed the acquisition of about 103,000 acres of land that will allow much of the water to return to its natural state in the river basin, flowing south through Lake Okeechobee and into the Everglades. The 22–mile Kissimmee River restoration project, authorized by Congress in 1992, aims to undo decades of degradation and flood control diversions by filling an offshoot canal to restore 43 miles of the river bed. Seven miles of the project have already been completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. "We have wading birds coming in like we’ve never seen before, fish coming into the river, and water quality is rapidly improving," said Ernie Barnett of the South Florida Water Management District, which spent $300 million purchasing the land. The entire project is set for completion by 2011. "It’s a tremendous success story," Barnett said. The move is part of an overall plan to restore natural water flow throughout the Everglades.

(Skoloff, Brian, "Everglades headwaters to flow freer with final land acquisitions,", 11 April 2006.)