No. 79, October 30, 2006

River Revival Bulletin

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

table of contents









Friant Dam, San Joaquin River, CA

Road to San Joaquin River restoration is clear

In what will be one of the West’s largest river-restoration efforts, water will be returned to a now dry 60-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River by 2009, according to a settlement filed in federal court. The agreement caps an 18-year legal battle over how much water should be allowed to flow from the federal government’s Friant Dam to allow salmon to return to the river. "This is a story about breathing new life back into a critical waterway," said Hal Candee, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which sued the Bureau of Reclamation in 1998. Details of the settlement were hashed out in June between environmental and fishing organizations, farmers, irrigation districts, and state and federal agencies. The San Joaquin is California’s second longest river and serves as a crucial link in the state’s vast water-delivery network. When Friant Dam began operating in 1949, it transformed the San Joaquin Valley’s main artery from a river that ran thick with salmon at certain times of the year into an irrigation powerhouse. The settlement proposes restoring 153 miles of the San Joaquin River.

(Young, Samantha, "Road to river restoration is clear; Water from federal Friant dam said to have dried part of San Joaquin River will be redirected there by 2009,", 14 September 2006.)

Alameda Creek dams, Alameda Creek, CA

Two dams come down so steelhead can go up

The campaign to restore Alameda Creek and its steelhead trout is benefiting from the razing of two dams, a project the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has called the biggest dam removal in Bay Area history. Environmentalists said they are well on the way toward seeing Alameda Creek run largely unimpeded by 2011. There is still much to be done before steelhead spawn in the far reaches of Alameda Creek, including finding some way for the fish to pass a weir in Fremont. The PUC and 16 other organizations -- including the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District and the US Fish and Wildlife Service -- agreed to work together toward the creek’s restoration and finance an analysis of what must be done. Alameda Creek and its tributaries cover 670 square miles, making it the region’s third-largest watershed. It’s been at least 40 years since any significant number of steelhead made their annual migration from the ocean through San Francisco Bay and up Alameda Creek to spawn. Niles Dam was built in the 1880s. Sunol Dam went up about 20 years later. The two dams, each about 110 feet wide and 8 to 10 feet tall, became obsolete when the Hetch Hetchy system was completed in the 1930s.

(Squatriglia, Chuck, "Two dams come down so steelhead can go up,", 22 September 2006.)

Court gives push for Owens River restoration

A state appellate court has given Los Angeles a strong push to move ahead on restoring a 62-mile stretch of the Lower Owens River in Inyo County. The court upheld a court banning Los Angeles from using a key aqueduct if it continues delaying the restoration project. The ruling was hailed as a victory for Owens Valley residents, environmental groups and state officials fed up with the Department of Water and Power’s failure to comply with an agreement to restore the once-vibrant river. "This may be the final salvo in the longest-running fight over an environmental impact report in California history," Gordon Burns, deputy solicitor general for Attorney General Bill Lockyer said. The Lower Owens River Project was conceived in 1991 to mitigate excessive groundwater pumping by the DWP that had destroyed habitat in the Owens Valley from 1970 to 1990. In a legal agreement, the DWP agreed in 1997 to recharge the aquifer and create and sustain healthy and diverse habitat for fish, waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as stands of cottonwood and willows, by mid-2003.

(The Associated Press, "Court Gives Push For Owens River Restoration," CBS Broadcasting Inc.,, 28 September 2006.)

Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA/OR

Study shows Klamath dam removal to be feasible

Removing four hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River to help struggling salmon runs there would not be as expensive as feared, studies for a state agency show. The runs were so poor this year that federal fisheries managers practically shut down commercial salmon fishing off the West Coast. The studies for submission to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the California State Coastal Conservancy found that sediments built up behind the dams contain very low levels of toxic leftovers from gold mining, farming and plywood manufacturing, and that only about 5 percent of the 21 million cubic yards of sediment trapped behind the dams would wash out, and it all could be gone in one winter rainy season. PacifiCorp is seeking a new 50-year operating license from FERC to operate the dams in southern Oregon and Northern California, and has proposed trucking salmon around the dams rather than building fish ladders or removing them. Steve Rothert, of American Rivers, said that an economic analysis by FERC found that when environmental mitigation mandated by federal agencies for making the dams more fish-friendly are taken into account, PacifiCorp would lose $28.7 million a year operating the dams.

Read the entire FERC filing at:

(Barnard, Jeff, "Dam removal from river doable,", 28 September 2006.)

Update: Judge’s ruling a major boost for Klamath Dam Removal Plan

A September ruling offers great news for current efforts to remove Klamath River dams. After weeks of inaction, this week saw a flurry of activity in the relicensing of PacifiCorp’s aging Klamath River dams, including a judicial decision that may force the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to amend the draft Environmental Impact Statement to include millions of dollars’ worth of fish ladders. Although the Judge was not asked to consider dam removal, his ruling could result in that outcome. According to FERC’s own analysis, dam removal would cost PacifiCorp and its ratepayers less than installing fish ladders. "We voiced disappointment when we saw that FERC staff was recommending a �trap and haul’ plan. Today, a federal Judge set the record straight," said Karuk Vice-chairman Leaf Hillman of the Judge’s ruling. "It was an historic moment," explains Troy Fletcher, FERC negotiatitor for the Yurok Tribe, "for the first time all the Tribes, fishermen, environmentalists, and federal agencies were supporting one another as we fought off PacifiCorp’s challenge. We have never ALL been on the same page at once before."

(Bacher, Dan, "Judge’s Ruling A Major Boost for Klamath Dam Removal Plan,", 28 September 2006.)


Update: Baraboo River restoration shows incredible results after five years

In the five years since the Baraboo River was restored to the rocky-bottomed, rapid-tumbling channel white settlers first encountered in the early 19th Century, the river’s ecosystem has largely recovered from 150 years of being stifled by dams. The project freed the Baraboo River to become the longest in North America entirely restored through dam removal. Before the dams were brought down, former Mayor Dean Steinhorst recalled, the city had its fair share of skeptics about the project. "(They said) it was going to be terrible, it was going to be mudflats. But it’s sure a lot nicer now than the stagnant water," he said. "I like to see the water flowing and cascading over the rocks, and the ripples and rapids that are there. We should have a river that’s flowing." When the dams stalled the river, the Department of Natural Resources documented 23 species in that stretch of waterway, most of them carp who relished the warm water and muddy bottom. After the dams came out, the number of fish species tripled to 78, and carp were fewer while small mouth bass -- a species that doesn’t tolerate poor water quality -- made a dramatic comeback.

(Beam, Christina, "Currents of change,", 11 October 2006.)


Study affirms vulnerability of Maine salmon

A federal review of wild Atlantic salmon, including those in the Androscoggin, Kennebec and Penobscot rivers, indicates their population is substantially lower than historic levels. A genetic analysis indicates the Atlantic salmon in the three larger rivers are indeed similar to endangered fish in eight smaller rivers in eastern Maine. The review stops short of recommending the fish in the Androscoggin, Kennebec and Penobscot rivers be added to the endangered species list. A panel of biologists including federal, state, and Penobscot Nation representatives, as well as fisheries experts compiled the report. Both George LaPointe, commissioner of the state Department of Marine Resources, and fisheries advocates said the best way to help Maine’s Atlantic salmon population recover is to support the Penobscot River Restoration Project. That project seeks to provide migrating Atlantic salmon with access to upper parts of the river by removing hydroelectric dams in the lower section of the river. The Penobscot River Restoration Trust is working to raise private, state and federal funds to pay for the ambitious project.

(Keith, Edwards, "Study affirms vulnerability of Maine salmon," Kennebec Journal, 27 September 2006.)

State heralds Fore River and marsh recovery 10 years after oil spill

It was a decade ago that Sheryl Bernard walked along the Fore River to survey the damage following the spill of nearly 180,000 gallons of oil when a tanker crashed into the Million Dollar Bridge. The gash in the Julie N’s hull sent oil flowing up the river, coating the banks in black goo and damaging wildlife. "I just can’t walk through this area without remembering how it was a few days after the oil spill, how sickening a feeling it was. It looked like someone had painted the marsh black," said Bernard, an oil and hazardous materials specialist for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in Portland. Officials made a bold decision. They decided to let nature run its course because they feared the removal of oil from marsh grasses would have been more destructive than letting the normal cycle of snow and ice accomplish the same task. Officials agonized over the decision, but it was the right one because there was little evidence of the oil a year later, Bernard said.

(Sharp, David, "State heralds recovery 10 years after Julie N oil spill,", 27 September 2006.)


Victory for Arctic wildlife and watersheds

Activists won a major courtroom victory for the Western Arctic Reserve, one of America’s greatest natural treasures. A federal judge has blocked the Bush administration from proceeding with oil and gas development in the famed Teshekpuk Lake region and its world-class wildlife nurseries. The Western Arctic Reserve may be less well known than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but its wildlife populations are every bit as unique, spectacular and endangered. Even Ronald Reagan’s Interior Secretary James Watt -- no friend of the environment -- recognized Teshekpuk’s great importance and granted it federal protection in the 1980s. But the Bush administration was preparing to strip this wildlife treasure of its protections, sell it to the highest bidder, and create a sprawling industrial zone of pipelines, rigs and waste sites. NRDC and our partner groups went to court to stop this unconscionable giveaway to Big Oil. And now that court has ruled that the Interior Department failed to consider the cumulative environmental impacts of oil and gas drilling on this sensitive ecosystem.

(Beinecke Frances, NRDC, "Huge victory for Arctic wildlife!,", 04 October 2006.)

Teenager’s work leads to removal of dam

For 17-year-old Colby Davidson, destruction can be beautiful. The more so when it’s destruction of the concrete dam blocking Newton Creek, the subject of a science project he did during his junior year at Philomath High School. His work showed that there was still a thriving native fish population in the creek, and helped lead to the decision to remove the dam. For his study, Davidson trapped 200 fish, including seven native species such as cutthroat trout. Davidson hopes the dam’s removal will enable fish to migrate further upstream and possibly even spawn in the creek, which runs through an old mill site. Ecology and forestry classes at the high school will work together to improve the stream bank and monitor water and wildlife in the area, said Jeff Mitchell, a science teacher at Philomath High School. Community members also are pitching in: the Marys River Watershed Council is managing the project and wrote grant proposals. A $7,000 grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board will help pay for trees and other riparian zone improvements. A National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant of $20,000 will pay for equipment such as the backhoe and education programs at the site, Harding said.

For more info on area restoration projects, visit the Marys River Watershed Council at:

(Associated Press, "Teenager’s work leads to removal of dam," The Register-Guard, 9 October 2006.)

Dam removal fund suggested

A coalition of environmental groups has recommended that Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) set up a dam-decommissioning fund to help pay for the "obvious eventuality" when three dams on the upper McKenzie River are removed in the interests of protecting threatened fish runs. The recommendation is part of the groups’ response to EWEB’s draft application for a new federal license to continue operating the Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project, whose license expires in November 2008. "We’re talking about EWEB building a war chest for the time when they’re going to have to remove (those dams), so that it doesn’t shock ratepayers," said Rebecca Sherman, Northwest coordinator for the Hydropower Reform Coalition. "We don’t want them making decisions based on fears of a huge rate hit." Groups endorsing the decommissioning fund proposal include American Whitewater, Pacific Rivers Council, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Trout Unlimited and Oregon Natural Resources Council. EWEB, however, has never considered setting up such a fund and views its projects on the upper McKenzie as viable into the indefinite future, spokesman Marty Douglass said. The utility is looking at spending that much money or more to win a new 30- to 50-year operational license, with most of the money dedicated to a new fish ladder.

(Wright, Jeff, "Dam removal fund suggested," Eugene Register-Guard, 15 September 2006.)

Update: Oregon regulators vote to remove Chiloquin Dam

Officials have decided to remove the Chiloquin Dam, which blocks the passage of endangered Lost River and short-nosed suckers to spawning areas up the Sprague River. The Modoc Point Irrigation District voted to remove the structure last week and met Monday to ratify the vote. Removing the dam was identified as a key project for helping endangered suckers after the Endangered Species Act forced irrigation water to be shut off to most of the 1,000 farms on the Klamath Reclamation Project during a 2001 drought. The move was intended to maintain water levels in Upper Klamath Lake -- the project’s main reservoir and the primary habitat of the suckers. The US Department of the Interior will pay for removal of the 92-year-old dam. The agency also will pay to install a new pumping station, and will give the district a $2.4-million to create a fund to pay for operation and maintenance of the pump station. Bureau of Indian Affairs officials who studied the dam considered upgrading fish ladders to help endangered fish species. However, they decided removing the dam was the most efficient plan. The Klamath Tribes once depended on the fish as a primary source of food, and each spring they hold a ceremony to assure its continued well-being.

(Associated Press, "Oregon regulators vote to remove Chiloquin Dam,", 26 September 2006.)

$4.1 million in land bought for river restoration

The Sagewinds/Catholic Diocese property, a centerpiece for the Truckee River flood control and river restoration project, has been purchased for $4.1 million. Using flood control money, the Washoe County Commission agreed to buy the 14.3 acres on the south bank of the river. It is the last major piece of land to be obtained for the flood project. "It’s a perfect piece to add to the river parkway," said Naomi Duerr, flood control director. "I expect it to be the centerpiece of the restoration efforts. It’s already a lovely spot and when the project is finished, we will be providing public access." Giant cottonwoods line the riverbank. Deer, an occasional badger and other wildlife can be seen here. More than 100,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats have made the underside of the bridge their summer home. Under the flood plan, a low-lying berm would be built on the south edge of the property to contain floodwaters. Five buildings are on the property, and a study will determine whether to retain any of them.

(Sierra Air, "$4.1 million in land bought for river restoration,", 21 September 2006.)


San Antonio River restoration set for 2007

A project to restore a heavily engineered eight-mile stretch of the San Antonio River back to a more natural state is on track to begin construction in summer 2007. This project could serve as a national model for restoring a river and its ecosystem in an urban setting, says John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works. "The Corps (of Engineers) flood control engineers, biologists, environmental scientists and historians are working together to design a project that will transform the river from the drainage channel you see today into a healthy, sustainable ecosystem teeming with fish and wildlife that will once again be enjoyed and appreciated by the residents of San Antonio and that will continue to serve a vital flood control function for this growing city," Woodley said. The Mission Reach of the $198.7 million river improvements project will involve establishing 24,000 native trees, 56 acres of native grasses, 113 acres of aquatic habitat and 320 acres of riverside habitat. The Corps of Engineers in the 1950s and 1960s straightened the river along that stretch to move floodwaters downstream.

(Needham, Jerry, "S.A. river restoration set for 2007,", 08 September 2006.)


Second phase of Kissimmee River restoration

The US Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District are in the second of four planned phases of restoration work involving the Kissimmee River, one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in the world and a forerunner to the massive Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The river was channelized for flood control purposes between 1962 and 1971, and two-thirds of the flood plain was drained. This caused unintended changes including drastic declines in wintering waterfowl, wading bird and game fish populations, and a loss of ecosystem functions. This next phase of restoration involves filling in more than 1.5 miles of the channelized river, so that water can flow more naturally through the historic river route. Work is slated for completion by the end of 2007.

(Orlando Business Journal, "Second phase of Kissimmee River restoration under way," 19 September 2006.)


Community teams to uproot pesky Tamarisk

It sucks down 300 gallons of water a day, chokes out native plants and takes over creeks and streams across the West. No, it’s not a mythological creature wreaking havoc on the Front Range. It’s called tamarisk, and it is an invasive plant that state law requires to be managed. The Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership orchestrated an October effort to remove the invasive plant, sometimes called saltcedar. The Colorado Noxious Weed Act of 1996 requires property owners with tamarisk to manage the plant, because it can take over waterways and displace native plants like willows and cottonwoods. Additionally irritating, "our wildlife and water fowl have not adapted to utilize tamarisk as a suitable habitat," recreation weed specialist Kelly Uhing said. Tamarisks were used as ornamental plants and brought to the United States from southern Eurasia for draught tolerance, heavy seed production and their pleasant appearance and were also used by some agencies for erosion control. A prime example of how the plant can get out of hand is the Colorado River, Uhing said, lined by tamarisk through western Colorado and eastern Utah.

(Shoemaker, Will, "Community teams to uproot pesky Tamarisk," Brighton Standard Blade,, 17 October 2006.)