No. 76, June 23, 2006

River Revival Bulletin

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

table of contents











Returning water to the Murray River

The Australian Federal Government committed an extra $500 million to the Murray River in its recent budget, on top of $500 million already pledged by the Commonwealth and the states. At a ministerial meeting in May, the states agreed to a Commonwealth proposal for a tendering system to recover water from efficiency savings made by irrigators. "This is a very important way of exploring another mechanism of acquiring water to meet the 500–gigalitre target," says Malcolm Turnbull, the parliamentary secretary responsible for water policy. Environmental groups say state and federal governments are not doing enough to restore water to the Murray River. Doctor Paul Sinclair, from Environment Victoria, says the Murray needs at least 1,500 gigalitres. "We need to return water to the Murray to make it healthy, but we also need to tackle the causes of the reductions in water availability and the big one is the impact of climate change on our water resources," he said. "In some regions of the Murray–Darling basin, water availability may be reduced by 50 per cent because of human induced climate change."

(ABC News Online, "Govts discuss Murray River recovery,", 19 May 2006.)


Fighting for the heart of BC’s Fraser River

While the provincial government of British Columbia has tripled funding to preserve and restore BC’s rivers with an additional $14–million contribution to the Living Rivers Trust Fund, local groups have launched a focused campaign to save a specific stretch of river. The Fraser is the largest and most ecologically diverse river in BC. At its heart, between the towns of Mission and Hope, is one of the most productive stretches in the world. Called the "Gravel Reach," it meanders across floodplains, side channels, wetlands and backwaters, screened by native black cottonwoods and cedars. More than 10 million pink salmon reproduce in the main channel, sockeye salmon runs migrate through the corridor to spawn, chum spawn in the side channels, and juvenile chum and chinook feed along its gravel bars. But the heart of the Fraser is increasingly at risk. Situated at the edge of BC’s busiest metropolis, the growing pressures of urbanization, agricultural expansion, resource extraction, and land development are rapidly claiming what remains of this once thriving ecosystem. In defense, several individuals, along with the Nature Trust of British Columbia, the North Growth Foundation, the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council and the BCIT Fish and Wildlife Program are bringing together political, corporate and public interests to restore and protect what’s left of these aquatic habitats and landscapes.

To find out more about the Heart of the Fraser campaign, visit

(The Vancouver Sun, "River restoration,", 11 May 2006.)


Help Protect China’s Nu River for Future Generations

Your help is needed to keep the Nu (Salween) River in China flowing freely. The river is one of only two undammed rivers in China. The Yunnan Provincial government plans to construct a series of up to thirteen dams on the Nu River. The river forms part of the Three Parallel Rivers World Heritage Site, which is known to be one of the ecologically richest temperate regions of the world. The area contains over 6,000 different plant species and is believed to support over 25% of the world’s and 50% of China’s animal species. The dams will threaten the rich biodiversity of the area, affecting many rare and endangered species. Despite concerns about the dam impacts, the Chinese government plans to approve construction of the projects without releasing the environmental impact assessment (EIA) to the public. We need your help to send a message to Zhou Wenshong, the Chinese Ambassador to the US, asking him to relay the message to Premier Wen Jiabao that the Nu River should be protected for future generations, and that the EIA should be immediately released to the public.

Please visit International Rivers’s Action Center to send this important message

(International Rivers, "Help Protect China’s Nu River for Future Generations,", 11 May 2006.)


Three–year restoration project for Cross River

Irish government Minister John Browne officially launched a three–year restoration project for the Cross River, which aims to restore the fish habitat of this once noted wild brown trout refuge. Eamon Cusack, CEO of the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board explained that the Cross River was noted for its salmon and wild brown trout but the river suffered pollution and habitat damage over recent years, which this three–year program will address. Mr Cusack said that the water networks were similar to the road infrastructure of the country and needed regular maintenance and improvements, and noted that the restoration project is a partnership between anglers, landowners, multi–national corporation Elan, the Electricity Support Board (ESB) and Roscommon County Council. Tom Egan of the local Cross River Anglers Club presented a check for 1,000 euro to the Fisheries Board, saying the local group wanted to be involved and contribute something to the restoration project.

(O’Shea, Mairead, "Minister Browne launches three–year restoration project for Cross River," Roscommon Herald, 10 May 2006. Text found at


Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA

Update: NOAA employees gagged on Klamath issues by Bush Administration

The Bush administration – having made it hard for federal scientists to talk publicly about global warming – has decided that loose lips are also bad when they talk about salmon. The Washington office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has instructed its representatives and scientists to route media questions about salmon back to headquarters. Only three people in the entire agency, all of them political appointees, are now authorized to speak of salmon. The order was issued the day after an article appeared in The Washington Post quoting federal technocrats making positive statements about two recent decisions that challenged previous Bush administration policy about protecting salmon in the troubled Klamath River. The judicial decision, in a direct repudiation of administration policy, mandates federal water managers to limit the amount of water removed from the Klamath for irrigation. The scientific decision, written by NOAA and Interior Department experts, said that hydroelectric dams on the Klamath should either be removed or be rebuilt in a way that allows salmon passage. This decision was surprising, because the Bush administration has often said that dams on some Western rivers are part of the "environmental baseline" – and must never be removed.

(Harden, Blaine, "Questions About Salmon Are Directed Upstream," The Washington Post, 31 May 2006.)

San Clemente Dam, Carmel River, CA

Update: Progress on the dangerous San Clemente Dam in Carmel Valley

In April, a draft environmental impact report on the seismic safety project for San Clemente Dam was released by the state Department of Water Resources and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Department of Water Resources’ Paula Landis says the 85–year–old dam is a hazard and should have been fixed years ago. "In the event of a maximum credible earthquake or a probable maximum flood, we believe the dam is unsafe and must be remediated," she says. The California Division of Dam Safety (CDDS) tagged San Clemente as one of the state’s most dangerous dams in 1986. In 1992, the CDDS ordered its owner, the California–American Water Company, to make expensive safety improvements. Now, 14 years later, the environmental impact report marks the first significant step towards improving the safety of the dam. Settling on a solution may prove more difficult. Over the decades, the dam has been choked by an estimated 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment. It now holds less than 10 percent of its original water capacity. In addition, the dam severely impacts the resident steelhead trout population, which went on the federal endangered species list in 1997. Many want to see the dam removed.

(Masters, Ryan, "Fixing the Dam Problem; San Clemente Dam seismic safety project opens for public review," Monterey County Weekly, 27 April 2006.)

Update: Carmel River reroute gets solid backing

A proposal to rechannel the Carmel River upstream from San Clemente Dam so it flows parallel to San Clemente Creek on to Carmel Valley got strong public support at a hearing held by state and federal officials. Rerouting the river by cutting through a spur of hillside separating the river from the creek, and allowing water behind the dam to flow backward through it, would allow the dam to be torn down and avoid having nearly 2,000 acre–feet of silt from the past 85 years clog the river, said Jeremy Pratt, project manager for the consulting firm of ENTRIX Inc, who is writing the dam’s environmental impact report for owner California American Water Co. The silt, he said, would be stabilized with a grout like substance so it wouldn’t flow, which would protect the California red–legged frogs that have made the silted–up reservoir their home. Taking out the dam would eliminate a major physical barrier to upstream migration of steelhead salmon. Thus, two species listed as endangered would be aided by the alternative. "It is the most environmentally, economically and socially responsible alternative," said Jonas Minton, senior project manager for the Planning and Conservation League, which supports the reroute–teardown approach.

(Howe, Kevin, "Carmel River reroute gets solid backing; Carmel Valley: Rechannel would run parallel to San Clemente Creek,", 24 May 2006.)


More than half of US streams polluted

More than half of US streams are polluted, with the worst conditions found in the eastern third of the country, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency. In its first–ever study of shallow or "wadeable" streams, the agency found 42 percent were in poor condition, and another 25 percent were considered fair. Only 28 percent were in good condition, EPA said. Eastern streams running from the Atlantic coast through the Appalachian Mountains fared the worst, with 52 percent listed as poor. In contrast, 45 percent of streams running west of the Rocky Mountains were the least polluted, the report found. Streams in 48 states were sampled from 2000 to 2004. The EPA plans to extend the study to Alaska and Hawaii. The survey found activities such as farming and logging helped raise levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the water, which promotes the growth of plants and algae that gobble up oxygen. That, in turn, kills aquatic life. "We passed the Clean Water Act 35 years ago, and this is the first time we’ve taken a look at our small rivers and streams," said Ken Cook, president of the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. "It took too long."

(Planet Ark, "More Than Half of US Streams Polluted – EPA,", 08 May 2006.)

Dam removal programs may get big boost from Open Rivers Initiative

Efforts to remove dams may get a big boost as Congress considers record–setting appropriations for national programs that promote the removal of aging structures to improve fish passage. Earlier this year, the Bush administration proposed $6 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s new "Open Rivers Initiative," a grant program unveiled last year as the government’s first–ever program specifically aimed at supporting dam removals. In a lesser–noticed move, the administration in its proposed 2007 budget also sought an additional $10 million for the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP), which would be specifically targeted to support dam removal and fish passage projects. Both programs have been working their way through the Congressional appropriations process. Nationwide, more than 2 million obsolete dams – many only a few feet high – act as barriers to fish migration. Dam removals have increasingly become the preferred way to open rivers for fish. Even the best fish ladders are not as effective as an open river – plus, they require ongoing maintenance. Dam removals are cheaper than fish passage. In Pennsylvania, the average cost of dam removal is $30,000. The average cost of a fish passage is $35,000 per vertical foot.

Visit NOAA’s Open Rivers Initiative website at

(Blankenship, Karl, "Dam removal programs may get big boost from initiative; Administration proposals contain $10 million for efforts to improve fish passage,")


Army Corps to study Boardman River and its dams

The Army Corps of Engineers is tackling a dam removal project that could affect how the Corps approaches future dam removals. This project involves several dams being taken out of production along the same stretch of the stunning Boardman River, where it winds and turns and tumbles through forested hillsides and passes along northern cedar swamps. Sections of the upper river qualify as a blue ribbon trout stream, but a series of dams along the lower half of the river degraded some of the best habitat. Steve Largent has worked on repairing damaged banks along the Boardman for the last fifteen years. He says removing the dams will restore faster flowing sections of the river, and clearing out the sand and silt built up behind the dams will be good for trout and other species. River engineers are interested in landing the job of studying the Boardman River and its dams. The million–dollar study will look at whether to keep or tear down three hydroelectric dams along a 17–mile stretch of river in northern Michigan just before it flows into Lake Michigan.

(Allen, Bob, "Dam removal’s balancing act," Great Lakes Radio Consortium, 22 May 2006.)


Presumpscot River dams, Presumpscot River, ME

Unanimous US Supreme Court ruling favors river over dams

The US Supreme Court ruled in May that SD Warren (a South African–based company) must abide by environmental standards imposed by the state of Maine on its five hydroelectric dams along the Presumpscot River. As part of a 1999 re–licensing of the dams, the state required SD Warren, now owned by Sappi Fine Paper, to keep minimum stream flows and install "passage" on its dams for migratory fish and eels. SD Warren protested these environmental regulations through a series of appeals. The company argued that its dams do not create a "discharge" as defined by the Clean Water Act of 1972 because no pollutants are added to the water as it runs through the turbines. However, all nine justices sided with a previous state court decision that dam impoundments and control of water by the dams does affect water quality and therefore should be subject to state regulation under the Clean Water Act. Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe sees the ruling as broader than Sappi’s protest. "The decision will lay to rest any doubt that states have the primary role under the Clean Water Act in restoring the chemical, physical and biological integrity of our nation’s waters," Rowe wrote.

(Wright, Douglas, "High Court: State can regulate dams,", 17 May 2006.)

Veazie, Great Works and Howland dams, Penobscot River, ME

Dam removal and reoperation to improve 500 miles of the Penobscot

Energy company and dam owner PPL Corporation has an agreement with government agencies, private nonprofit conservation groups and the Penobscot Indian Nation that will result in the sale of three dams for about $25 million. The buyers plan to remove two dams and bypass a third, improving access to 500 miles of river for the Atlantic salmon and 10 other native species of migratory fish. Part of the agreement allows PPL to increase the power output at its other hydroelectric dams in Maine. The Penobscot River in eastern Maine, supports the largest remaining run of Atlantic salmon in the United States. Its restoration is expected to stimulate economic benefits for businesses and communities in the area as the prized Atlantic salmon, American shad, river herring and other migratory species return. The Penobscot River Restoration Trust has until June 2009 to purchase the dams.

Visit the Penobscot River Restoration Trust at

(PRNewswire, "River Restoration Agreement Yields Added Benefit – More ‘Green’ Power,", Germany, 31 May 2006.)

Lochner and Ward dams, Smithtown Creek, PA

Two local dams among 100 being removed in Pennsylvania

Two deteriorating dams on Smithtown Creek are among about 100 being removed across Pennsylvania. The Lochner and Ward dams, named after their owners, are no longer needed and were causing sediment to build up. The Lochner Dam was removed in May and the Ward Dam, just upstream, was scheduled for June removal. State and private money is paying for about 100 dam removal projects statewide, said Scott Carney, habitat management division chief for the Fish and Boat Commission. Some dams are removed for environmental or aesthetic concerns, but the structures also are taken out because they no longer function and are a liability for owners, Carney said. He calls them "attractive nuisances" because they draw children and others who may be hurt. The Smithtown dams, however, were not in immediate danger of collapsing and were not considered "high hazards."

(The Morning Call, "2 local dams among 100 being removed in Pennsylvania,", 02 May 2006.)

Massachusetts must spend tens of millions on dams

Inspectors must move swiftly to complete an inventory of the nearly 3,000 dams in Massachusetts and the state must be prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars to improve dam safety, according to a May legislative report. The report by the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee found a lack of emergency plans at the vast majority of so–called "high hazard" dams – dams that could cause significant property damage or death if they fail. The report also found the structural condition of nearly half of the dams in Massachusetts has yet to be assessed. "These dams have suffered from decades of neglect," said committee chairman Senator Marc Pacheco. The report’s findings mirror the results of an investigation last year by the Associated Press, which examined dams throughout southern New England. The AP report found that thousands of residents live and work downstream from centuries–old dams in need of repair, and fixing them could take years and millions of dollars. The Senate report comes as flood waters continued to tax dams in the eastern part of the state.

(LeBlanc, Steve, "Report: State must spend tens of millions on dams,", 17 May 2006.)

Passaic River polluter to sue sewer utility

A major polluter of the Passaic River plans to sue the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners for part of the costs of cleanup. Tierra Solutions Inc. of East Brunswick, whose predecessor company, Diamond Alkali, dumped toxic chemicals into the lower Passaic for more than 20 years, has filed a "notice of intent" to sue the commission, charging that their sewer system also allowed dioxins, a known human carcinogen, to flush into the Passaic River during heavy rains, based on a 1989 federal report. Rich Ambrosino, spokesman for the commission, dismissed Tierra’s notice as a "legal strategy to catch as many responsible parties as possible to reduce the cleanup costs on them." According to the Superfund law that governs cleanup of hazardous waste sites, any entity that handled, treated, or transported hazardous waste is responsible for the costs of investigating and cleaning up the affected areas. But several experts familiar with the Superfund law characterized Tierra’s potential lawsuit as a misapplication of that law.

(Cunningham, Jennifer H., "River polluter to sue sewer utility," Herald News, 7 June 2006.)


Salmon advocates’ victory over Snake River water operations

A coalition of fishing businesses and conservation groups won a major victory for Pacific Northwest salmon recovery efforts when federal district court judge James A. Redden declared that the federal government’s 2005 NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinion of the Bureau’s Upper Snake projects violates the Endangered Species Act and relies heavily on the illegal 2004 Federal Columbia River Power System Plan (FCRPS), which governs federal dam operations on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers. The decision is a clear victory for salmon, but also for the people of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. It sends a strong message to the federal government that it can no longer manipulate the Columbia and Snake rivers in ways that drive the region’s salmon to extinction, said Todd True of Earthjustice, attorney for the coalition of groups. Neither the illegal downriver salmon plan, nor the current upriver water management plan, which shares many of the same flaws, will protect and restore salmon and steelhead. The decision compels the federal agencies to do a complete, credible scientific analysis and evaluation of all restoration options, from dam removal to more water from Idaho to increased spill and improved river conditions.

(Earthjustice, "Salmon Advocates Win Major Victory in Federal Court Over Snake River Water Operations; Judge Declares 2005 Biological Opinion Violates Endangered Species Act; Win Forces Basin–wide Analysis of Impact of Snake River Dams on Salmon Recovery," 24 May 2006.)