No. 82, March 22, 2007

Produced by: River Revival, International Rivers

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Wil Dvorak

table of contents












Ecological debt of dams highlighted by churches

Mozambique is "owed an ecological debt by those who constructed and have made profits from the dams of the Zambezi River, that is to say, the Portuguese government and the South African company Eskom," Malawian economist Francis Ng’ambi told participants at a World Council of Churches (WCC) workshop on ecological debt at the World Social Forum. The idea is that industrialized Northern countries owe a debt towards Southern countries because of the manner in which they have used these countries’ natural resources, often devastating natural environments. The Zambezi River, with more than 30 large dams is "the most damned river in Africa," according to Ng’ambi. Its use has led to displacement of people -- over 57,000 by the Kariba Dam and 47,000 for Cahora Bassa Dam, to name just two -- damage to agriculture systems, increases in water-borne diseases, and drastic losses in downstream fisheries, among other problems. Ecological debt "reverses countries’ traditional debtor and creditor positions," says Athena Peralta, who coordinates the WCC work on ecological debt. In an attempt to repay their financial debts to Northern creditors, Southern countries have also caused environmental destruction in their efforts to secure necessary surplus funds. "Recognizing ecological debt entails, first of all, the cancellation of the illegitimate financial debt ‘owed’ by Southern countries," Peralta adds.

(Ekklesia, "Ecological debt highlighted by churches at WSF,", 26 January 07.)


Scientists, producers hose down dam water plans

Australia’s Northern Territory scientists and pastoral industry are sounding a note of caution over any plans for dams on tropical rivers to supply water for irrigated farming. They are urging the national task force on developing northern agriculture to look at other alternatives. The NT Cattlemen’s Association’s executive director, Stuart Kenny, says dams are not needed for a steady water supply in the dry season and "before we look at any damming or any use of that, I think we need to have a look at use of underground water". He says underground water could be used for irrigation. The director of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Research Hub at Charles Darwin University, Dr Michael Douglas, stated "history has shown that dams can be a very expensive proposition and that you may never recoup the costs associated with those unless you are growing very high-return crops." Dr Douglas says there are few, if any, sites on tropical river systems that would be suitable for dam-based irrigation and a number of economicaly important industries could be threatened if there are radical changes to river flows.

(ABC Online, "Scientists, producers hose down dam water plans,", 26 January 2007.)

israel / palestine

Israeli-Palestinian team cleaning up regional rivers

The miserable state of the Alexander River, which runs through both Israel and Palestine, is one of the reasons why a team of Israeli and Palestinian researchers has joined forces to restore the quality of not only the Alexander, but also all 15 rivers that flow through Israel and Palestine. Rivers are not confined by borders; therefore, cleaning a river in one location does not stop it from becoming polluted elsewhere. Most of the rivers that flow through Palestinian and Israeli land are heavily polluted with raw sewage, effluent, and industrial waste. This is the first time there has ever been any kind of joint monitoring of water quality or a combined action plan to clean the rivers up. The team consisting of both Palestinian and Israeli researchers is being funded with a $1 million grant from the Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The three-year Trans Boundary Stream Restoration Project began in October 2004 and the team is now in the final stages of putting together an effective river restoration strategy for Israel and Palestine, which is tailored to the unique ecological and geographical conditions of local streams.

(Blackburn, Nicky, "Israeli-Palestinian team cleaning up regional rivers," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,, 7 Jan 2007.)


River rescue

The River Care Fund (RCF) was developed by the Global Environment Centre (GEC) with funding assistance from Danish International Development Assistance (Danida) to build the capacity of community groups including residents, students and special interests groups in river restoration and protection. As major stakeholders in every river basin, community groups can play a key role in the management of rivers, especially through pollution monitoring activities. Some activities supported so far include: establishment of Community River Watch Centres by local Orang Asli and Malay communities along Sungai Nenggiri, creation of the River Education Centre for SMK Teloi Kanan, launch of a program for restoration of Sungai Penchala by six community groups in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, clean-up of Kelana Jaya Lakes by Friends of Kelana Jaya Park, and establishment of 15 River Ranger and SMART Ranger teams in schools in Selangor, Kedah and Kuala Lumpur.

For more information, contact Suzana Mohkeri at or Hooi Youli at, or call (03) 7957 2007.

(The Star Online, "River Rescue,", 06 January 2007.)

tibet / china

Proposed Megoe Tso dam, Megoe Tso Lake, Tibet/China

Chinese prefecture cancels dam project on sacred Tibetan lake

A controversial dam project on a sacred lake in eastern Tibet has been scrapped by the Chinese authorities following concerns expressed by local Tibetans and Chinese environmentalists. "The decision on the Megoe Tso dam is a rare example of the government paying attention to local people’s concerns about the impact of major development projects in Tibetan areas," said Tashi Tsering, a specialist on the Tibetan environment at the University of British Columbia. "We are inspired by the exemplary efforts of the courageous local Tibetans and Chinese environmentalists who have been campaigning to stop this project." The official Sichuan Daily newspaper reported that the Ganzi Prefecture’s Party Committee and government in Sichuan Province had decided to cancel the Megoe Tso project in favor of tourism development. The Ganzi Prefecture’s governor was quoted in the newspaper as saying that "although hydropower is clean energy, we are strongly against the impacts of this development on the environment." The Megoe Tso Lake is surrounded by pristine glacial waters, hot springs, and primeval forests, all of which sustain more than 1,000 species of rare tropical plants and 2,000 varieties of animals and birds. Tourists, botanists, photographers and spiritual pilgrims from around the world visit the area every year.

(Press Release, "Chinese Prefecture Cancels Dam Project on Sacred Tibetan Lake," Civil Society Rejects Greenwashing of Dams at World Water Forum, 14 November 2006.)


Democrats oppose new dams in California

Democrats in the state Senate said California does not need to build new reservoirs as it tries to cope with the expected consequences of global warming. Instead, the state should rely on conservation, underground storage and boosting the height of existing dams. Their plan, outlined in a series of bills, runs counter to Republicans’ desire for new reservoirs to help California address the changes anticipated from global climate change. It sets up a potential clash in the coming months with Republicans and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who proposed $4.5 billion for two new reservoirs and underground water storage in his state of the state speech earlier this month. "We do not believe that dams at this point are needed. They cost billions of dollars and take years to build," said Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. Democrats also said California should wisely spend the $9.5 billion in flood-control and water bond money approved by voters before it spends more for new dams. California’s average temperature is projected to rise 3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050 and 5 degrees by 2100, state climatologist Michael Anderson said.

(Thompson, Don, "Waiting for water woes: Democrats oppose new dams in California, favor conservation in face of global warming," The Associated Press,, 26 January 2007.)

O’Shaughnessy Dam, Tuolumne River, CA

Update: Bush eyes Hetch Hetchy Valley restoration

President Bush’s budget fully funds one curious item: a $7 million assessment of the restoration of Yosemite’s dammed Hetch Hetch Valley, source of San Francisco’s and much of the Bay Area’s drinking water. The earmark matches exactly the California Department of Water Resources’ cost estimate for the next study phase, and it’s sure to draw vitriol from some of the region’s most powerful players, notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a strident critic of any effort to remove O’Shaughnessy Dam. Groups arguing for the valley’s restoration were the most surprised. "At this point, I don’t know where this is going," said Jerry Cadagan, chairman of the board for Restore Hetch Hetchy. "This came as a very big surprise to a bunch of us today. We’re just going to see where it goes. Obviously, we’re delighted. This is a way of keeping the issue alive."

(Fischer, Douglas, "Bush eyes Hetch Hetchy Valley restoration,", 06 February 2007.)

Iron Gate Dam, Klamath River, CA

Update: Klamath Riverkeeper to sue Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp for polluting river

Klamath Riverkeeper sent notice of intent to file a lawsuit against Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp for polluting one of the most important and controversial salmon rivers in the US, the Klamath. The lawsuit asserts that operation of the Iron Gate Dam hatchery has resulted in repeated violations of the Clean Water Act and is just one of the ways that PacifiCorp, as the owner of the four dams along the Klamath River, is destroying the River, its salmon runs, and the coastal fishing economies of the California and Oregon Coastline. Thousands of adult salmon have died because of low flows and poor water quality. Since the dams were built, Klamath salmon numbers have dropped from more than a million to less then 8% of that. Record-setting levels of highly toxic algae have been found behind the dams during the last two years, and last year, low runs of wild Klamath salmon caused severe restrictions on commercial salmon fishing on over 700 miles of coastline in Oregon and California. These conditions have resulted in federal disaster declarations and have fueled the movement by the states, fishermen, tribes, and environmental groups to take down PacifiCorp’s outdated dams along the Klamath River.

(Bacher, Dan, "Klamath Riverkeeper to Sue Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp For Polluting River; Lawsuit is the first step in Riverkeeper’s effort to restore the Klamath!" SF Bay Area Independent Media Center,, 17 January 2007.)

Klamath River Dams, Klamath River, CA

Update: Feds tell Pacificorp that costly fish ladders are necessary for dam relicensing

The federal government issued its final mandatory terms and conditions that Klamath River dam owner PacifiCorp must meet in order for the company to re-license its four dams. The Department of the Interior determined that PaciCorp must install fish ladders and other fish-friendly measures. While the news wasn’t favorable to PacifiCorp, tribes from the Klamath River Basin indicated they were pleased. "We applaud the Departments of Commerce and Interior for fulfilling their obligation to protect and restore the Klamath River," said Leaf Hillman, vice chairman of the Karuk Tribe in a news release. "Now it’s time for PacifiCorp President Bill Fehrman to make good on his commitment to protect his ratepayers from higher costs and simply remove these fish killing dams." California Department of Fish and Game Director Ryan Broddrick indicated that the fish ladders would help to facilitate fish passage for salmon and would create better habitat and conservation values. "Clearly we prefer the four lower dams be removed and we hope that PacifiCorp will eventually make that decision voluntarily," Broddrick said.

(Rushton , Nathan, "Pacificorp to install fish ladders," The Eureka Reporter,, 31January 2007.)


Kaloko Dam, Kauai, Hawaii

Before the Flood

The 40-foot-high Kaloko Dam collapsed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai last March, releasing a 70-foot-high, 200-foot-wide, 1.6-million-ton wave that carried away 16 cars, hundreds of trees and a cluster of houses, drowning all seven occupants. It is tempting to dismiss Kaloko’s collapse as an isolated event, but given the perilous state of the nation’s dams, it is more likely a harbinger. In 2005, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave US dams a D grade that is still justified two years later. The nation’s dam stock is rapidly aging with most US dams being at least 25 years old. Most dams need major repairs 25 to 50 years after they’re built and over time their danger increases. This is a matter of not just advancing decrepitude, but also the tendency of developers to build directly downstream from dams. The result is that even though Americans now build few dams, more and more dams threaten people’s lives. The number of dams identified in one estimate as capable of causing death and in need of rehabilitation more than doubled from 1999 to 2006, from around 500 to nearly 1,400. The civil engineers’ 2005 report placed the number of unsafe dams much higher, at more than 3,500.

(Leslie, Jacques, "Before the Flood," New York Times, 22 January 2007.)


Study finds dam removal increases property values in long run

A study by the University of Wisconsin concluded that dam removal does not decrease the values of homes near the water. Three different sites were compared -- properties with a dam next to them, properties that had a dam removed form 1995 to 2000, and properties next to a river where the dam had been removed several decades earlier. "No one has looked at this question of how dam removal impacts property values quantitatively," said University of Wisconsin-Madison economics professor Bill Provencher, who conducted the study. The study found that removing a dam does little harm to property values in the short run; it increases property values in the long run; shoreline frontage along small millponds does not notably increase residential property values compared to frontage along free-flowing rivers; and that residences near a free-flowing river are more valuable than identical property near a pond by an average of $14,000. The study was funded by the River Alliance of Wisconsin. "This is a piece of the puzzle that we’ve really been missing for a long time," said Helen Sarakinos, the River Alliance’s dams project manager. "They’re not pristine, beautiful lakes. Property values can be negatively affected by a stinky pond."

(Greenhalgh, Nathan, "City part of river study," Times-Press,, 31 January 2007.)

Low dams being removed, modified

Ohio and other states are removing or modifying many low dams, blamed for drownings from the churning the structures create in the water. Besides posing deadly hazards, low dams block the movement of fish and the propagation of endangered fresh water mussels, both key factors in waterway health. Ohio defines low heads as dams less than 15 feet high and built from timber, stone or concrete from bank to bank. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has had a policy since 1973 to remove outdated dams that no longer serve a purpose. Since 1999, eight have been removed. Nationwide, 49 dams -- many of them low dams -- were scheduled for removal in 2006 in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states, according to American Rivers, a Washington-based nonprofit that pushes for restoring natural waterway flows. The organization has helped remove more than 50 in Pennsylvania in the past three years, said Stephanie Lindloff, director of the Restoring Rivers Initiative. National estimates on the number of low dams in the U.S. start at 99,000 and extend to 2.5 million.

(The Cincinnati Post, "Low dams being removed, modified,", 7 February 2007.)


Linking rivers and economic development

More than thirty years after the Clean Water Act was passed, Maine’s rivers are now clean enough that Mainers can say the words "economic development" and "rivers" in the same sentence and not be laughed at. That is precisely what a group of community activists and lawmakers did at a press conference. They proposed a $25 million bond to support riverfront community development. In Brunswick, a new and trendy restaurant/cinema/art gallery has opened in a revitalized mill alongside the once filthy Androscoggin River. Cross the bridge into Topsham, and you have to play bumper cars with all the construction vehicles that are bringing people to work on the latest riverside office development. In Skowhegan, city officials and volunteers have been meeting for several years to plan the state’s first whitewater kayak run on the fast-moving portion of the Kennebec River that roars just behind downtown. In Gardiner, enhancements for that city’s waterfront park include a new boat launch and a boardwalk that can be used by anglers. Newly built trails stretch along the Kennebec River. And in Lewiston and Auburn, old riverside mills are being transformed into office space, restaurants and condominiums.

(Morning Sentinel, "Linking rivers and economic development," Kennebec Journal, mainetoday.morning, 10 January 2007.)

Granddaughter of a dam builder works to remove obsolete dams

Laura Wildman is an engineer and an environmentalist. Her maternal grandfather was an engineer famous for the big water-supply dams he designed in Arizona and her paternal grandfather was an engineer with a deep love for the outdoors and fishing. Wildman is a Glastonbury resident and director of river science for American Rivers, the major environmental group dedicated to river preservation and restoration efforts. She is the group’s go-to-person on dam-removal efforts in the Northeast. Dams are ubiquitous in the region, far more so than most people realize. There are thousands of them in Connecticut alone, and some no longer serve any purpose. They are just there, almost always degrading water quality in a stream or river, with no benefit to society. Wildman is available without charge as an initial engineering consultant for nonprofit groups, municipalities and government agencies wondering whether a dam is a good candidate for removal.

Contact Laura Wildman by phone at 860.652.9911 or by e-mail at

(Grant, Steve, "Granddaughter of A Dam Builder Works To Remove Obsolete Dams," The Hartford Courant,, 17 January 2007.)

Praise comes in waves for NOAA’s Penobscot River Restoration Project funding

Advocates are applauding the decision to include $10 million for Maine’s Penobscot River Restoration Project in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s fiscal year 2008 budget. "We are delighted with NOAA’s funding proposal," said Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited. "It is bold. It is timely. I cannot think of a single better way for any federal agency to spend $10 million to support fish and wildlife." The Penobscot River is a major source of wild Atlantic salmon production in New England and the primary place to prevent extirpation of the species in the United States. In 2006, 90 percent of Atlantic salmon returning to New England rivers came back to the Penobscot. The Penobscot River project is one of the nation’s most innovative restoration projects. The total project cost is expected to be $60 million. Built on an agreement between PPL Corp. and a broad coalition of partners, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust holds an option to purchase and decommission three dams. The effort will improve access to nearly 1,000 miles of river and stream habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon and 10 other species of sea-run fish.

(Village Soup, "Praise comes in waves for NOAA’s Penobscot River Restoration Project funding,", 07 February 2007.)


Update: Florida reaches Everglades land acquisition milestone

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have acquired more than 99 percent of the land needed to complete Acceler8 -- Florida’s initiative to speed up eight vital Everglades restoration projects. "Land acquisition is essential to complete the largest environmental restoration project in the nation," said Governor Charlie Crist. "By moving forward aggressively to acquire the remaining land, we are reaffirming Florida’s commitment to the restoration of America’s Everglades." Crist has made Everglades restoration a priority for the Fiscal Year 2007-08 budget by recommending $100 million for the Save Our Everglades Trust Fund, $50 million for the restoration of Lake Okeechobee as well as $40 million to protect the health of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. "Restoring the Everglades is a massive program covering hundreds of thousands of acres, and it is critical to secure the land needed at a fair price," said DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole.

(McGinn, George, "State Reaches Everglades Land Acquisition Milestone -- More Than 124,000 Acres Set Aside," All Headline News,, 6 February 2007.)

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