No. 89, April 3, 2008

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










River plants may play major role in health of rivers

Recent research at MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering suggests how aquatic plants in rivers and streams may play a major role in the health of rivers and ocean coastal waters. This work, which appeared in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics (JFM), describes the physics of water flow around aquatic plants. This new understanding can guide restoration work in rivers, wetlands and coastal zones by helping ecologists determine the vegetation and planting density necessary to damp storm surge, lower nutrient levels, or promote sediment accumulation and make the new patch stable against erosion. Traditionally the vegetation growing along rivers has been removed to speed the passage of waters and prevent flooding, but ecologists now advocate replanting to provide habitat. In addition, aquatic plants and the microbial populations they support remove excess nutrients from the water. The removal of too many plants contributes to nutrient overload in rivers, which can subsequently lead to coastal dead zones—oxygen-deprived areas of coastal water where nothing can survive. One well-documented dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, fed by nutrient pollution from the Mississippi River, grows to be as large as the state of New Jersey every summer.

(News Update Service, "River plants may play major role in health of ocean coastal waters," The Hindu,, 30 January 2008.)

Federal government not providing enough for Great Lakes

A report released by the Great Lakes Commission and Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative says local governments are making substantial investment in protecting the Great Lakes, but that the federal government isn't providing nearly enough. One program, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, in which the federal government helps pay for local water quality efforts, has seen funding cut nearly in half since 2004. Data for the report grew out of surveys sent to 688 units of local governments bordering the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River in the United States and Canada, asking how much they spent on protection and restoration activities in 2006. 143 communities responded, reporting a total investment of $3.3 billion. The authors extrapolated that figure out to all 688 units of local government and estimated their investment in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River at more than $15 billion. "Local governments are pulling their weight and more," said the chairman of the Great Lakes Commission.

Learn more at:

(Spangler, Todd, "Report today says federal government not providing enough for Great Lakes," Free Press,, 27 February 2008.)


Restoring wetlands reduces flood risk

Recreating wetlands and restoring peat bogs and free-flowing rivers could dramatically reduce the risk of flooding, according to Natural England. The conservation agency said England's national parks and farm landscapes could hold the key to sustainable and cost-effective flood prevention through increasing the natural capacity of the countryside to absorb and hold excess water. Traditional flood defenses of concrete and earth embankments may no longer be an adequate or sustainable solution. Natural England executive director for evidence and policy Andrew Wood says that the countryside's capacity to absorb water must be increased. "To do this we must start by reversing changes made to landscapes," he said. "Restoration of peat bogs in northern uplands would slow water reaching the streams and lowland rivers, reducing the threat to downstream towns that have experienced severe flooding. "The recreation of wetlands will increase the capacity of flood plains at times of peak risk and help to protect some of our larger towns." He said that with climate change bringing an increased probability of extreme rainfall, such as the deluges seen last summer, there was a strengthened case for well-managed landscapes. "'Flood friendly' land management also benefits biodiversity, woodland management, pollution reduction and carbon storage.

Visit Natural England at

(Telegraph Media Group Limited, "Restoring wetlands 'reduces flood risk',",
30 January 2008.)

Muscles sought to help mussels in the River Esk

More muscle is needed to help the endangered freshwater pearl mussel in the River Esk. The North York Moors National Park Authority is looking for extra pairs of hands to assist with the practical work for a project looking to improve conditions for the resident freshwater pearl mussels and salmon in the River Esk. Volunteers would get involved in a range of tasks including river habitat restoration and water sampling. Simon Hirst, River Esk project officer for the National Park Authority, said: The National Park Authority is also keen to discuss available funding opportunities for local landowners and farmers along the River Esk, to carry out practical river restoration work such as fencing of riverbanks. The Esk Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery Project is a partnership between the National Park Authority, Environment Agency, Natural England and the University of Durham. The Heritage Lottery Fund, Yorventure, Environment Agency and the National Park Authority are providing funding for the three-year project.

For more information call Simon Hirst at the North York Moors National Park: (01439) 770657.

(Staff, "Muscles sought to help mussels in the River Esk," Whitby Gazette,, 26 February 2008.)


"Unprecedented collapse" of California's largest salmon run last fall

West Coast fishers are braced for severe restrictions during this year's salmon fishing season, as federal regulators address what they call an "unprecedented collapse" of California's largest salmon run. The number of chinook or "king" salmon returning from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries this past fall was down by more than 88 percent from its all-time high five years ago. The decline is part of a broader trend throughout the West that has scientists vexed and will trigger tough fishing restrictions. Some believe the decline is related to changes in the ocean linked to global warming. Others blame the troubles on increased pumping of freshwater from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, which supplies drinking water to millions of people in drought-stricken Southern California, as well as irrigation for America's most fertile farming region. Only about 90,000 returning adult salmon were counted in the Central Valley in 2007, the second lowest number on record. The population was at 277,000 in 2006 and 804,000 five years ago. On average, about 40,000 juveniles return each year. Only about 2,000 2-year-old juvenile chinooks returned to the Central Valley last year, by far the lowest number ever counted.

(Chea, Terence, "Officials warn of salmon population "collapse",, 30 January 2008.)

Update: Evaluating the Klamath Restoration Proposal

This blog commentary discusses the plight of California salmon, and claims concerning a proposal from Klamath "stakeholder representatives," and argues that this proposal favors some farmers over others, some tribes over others and will not lead to recovery of Klamath River Salmon. It calls for a different approach -
one that is equitable for ALL interests and which will lead to real restoration and recovery, not more special interest boondoggles. The proposal is promoted by some as a means to unify the Basin, and to end decades of struggles over water and fish. Claims are also made that this 137-page proposal must be adopted in order to get PacifiCorp's Klamath River dams removed. The PacifiCorp dams will come down because complying with fisheries and water quality laws necessary to secure a new license outweigh the profits that can be made selling the dams' power output. Rather than helping secure a dam removal deal, the complex, costly and controversial proposal released last week has already delayed negotiations with PacifiCorp for two years and is likely to make getting to a dam removal deal more difficult. Claims by some politicians that the proposal is a means to end the Basin's water conflicts are similarly naïve. But the largest problem facing the Proposal may be its nearly $1 billion dollar cost and the details of where those taxpayer funds would go.

For more information, visit KlamBlog at:
Also see the Klamath Riverkeeper at:

(Pace, Felice, "Evaluating the Klamath Restoration Proposal: Can it end Klamath conflicts & get dams out?" San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center,, 21 January 2008.)

Update: Steelhead trout get annual helping hand up Alameda Creek

Two adult steelhead were radio tagged and moved upstream during Alameda Creek fish rescue in late February. The trout, migrating through lower Alameda Creek in Fremont, were netted and moved upstream into Niles Canyon. This is the 11th consecutive winter the Alameda Creek Alliance has documented ocean-run steelhead in lower Alameda Creek. Alameda County has pledged to construct a fish ladder so that steelhead and salmon can migrate past the barrier to more suitable cold water spawning and rearing habitat upstream. The 6-8 pound rescued steelhead were initially observed in the flood control channel. Steelhead trout were listed as a federally threatened species in 1997 and the Alameda Creek Alliance has been advocating since then for dam removals and construction of fish ladders to allow migratory fish to reach spawning habitat. There are 15 local, state, and federal agencies cooperating on fish passage projects in Alameda Creek, including dam removals and construction of fish ladders and fish screens. These restoration projects will make up to 20 miles of Alameda Creek and its tributaries accessible to ocean-run fish for the first time in over half a century.

Visit Alameda Creek Alliance on the web at:

(Miller, Jeff, "Steelhead trout get annual helping hand up Alameda Creek," Alameda Creek Alliance,, 26 February 2008.)

**Matilija Dam, Matilija Creek, CA**

Update: Ventura River restoration input sought

One hundred years ago the Ventura River, cascading down the Ojai mountains to the Pacific Ocean, sustained a burgeoning industrial city. But as businesses and homes sprang up next to the riverbanks like the wild grasses, the waterway fell into neglect and environmental disrepair; it was forced to bear the brunt of human error and ecological-missteps. In 1947 the Matilija Dam put a stranglehold on the river, choking out steelhead trout and removing much needed soil from the tributary. Now, California Polytechnic University, Pomona Landscape Architecture graduate students are stepping up to help preserve the river on behalf of the environment - and the local community. "We want to get people's personal memories of life that have to do with the river," said Hope A. Escario, who's helping out with the project as part of her masters thesis. "The purpose of putting it in that kind of language is to show people that they really do have things they can contribute, whether it's modern photos of their family near the river or historic images of the river that can give us clues to what the shape and form of the river used to be."

(Guzik, Hannah, "Ventura River restoration input sought; Graduate students to compile suggestions for proposed parkway," Ventura County Reporter,, 21 February 2008.)


Jordan River restoration and 9000 tree plantings

After 10 years of planning, the Willow Creek stream channel was re-routed to its natural bed along the east side of the Jordan River. More than 100 volunteers gathered for the next phase of the project, which was to plant willows, cottonwoods and other wetland and upland shrub species. Dedicated to planting trees, stewardship and education, TreeUtah set a goal to plant nearly 9,000 seedlings along the Jordan River restoration site in South Jordan. "We are close to wrapping it up," says Jeff Ward, TreeUtah's executive director. "We've had thousands of volunteers come out to help throughout the years," Adds Vaughn Lovejoy, organizer and ecological-restoration coordinator of the tree-planting project. "Eventually, this most recent project will result in 120 acres of shrubs and trees that will bring in 98 different kinds of songbirds." Lovejoy says the area along the Jordan River contains the most critical type of habitat and a large number of species. Since 1990, TreeUtah has planted 300,000 trees. It is part of a larger organization, the Alliance for Community Trees, a national coalition of 140 nonprofit organizations engaged in urban and community forestry in 39 states and Canada.

Visit Tree Utah at:

(Bruin, Bettyanne, "Tree planting project finishes goal of 9,000; TreeUtah installs the sapplings along Jordan River," Salt Lake Tribune,, 31 January 2008.)

**Elwha & Glines Canyon dams, Elwha River, WA**

Update: Elwha dam removal project cost rising to $308 million

The three-year Elwha River dams removal project will begin in 2012 and cost an estimated $308 million, plus or minus 15 percent, says the National Park Service. The estimated cost of removing the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams has increased from the $135 million cited in its last comprehensive budget estimate in 2001. Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said that when the 2001 project estimate of $135 million was revised upward to $185 million in 2004, which included only inflation estimates. The latest estimate, completed in 2007 as part of a comprehensive project review, and is the first "complete, detailed estimate" of project costs since 2001, she said. The park service has planned to take down the two Elwha River dams since the 1992 Elwha River Restoration Act authorized their removal to restore salmon habitat. The federal law also required construction of two treatment plants, one for municipal use and the other for industrial use. The 108-foot Elwha Dam was built in 1913, and Glines Canyon Dam, 210 feet high and eight miles up river, was built between 1925 and 1927.

(Gawley, Brian, "Elwha dam removal project cost rising to $308 million," Peninsula Daily News,, 06 February 2008.)


**Glen Canyon Dam, Colorado River, UT**

Update: Grand Canyon restoration experiment launched

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne opened jet tubes at Glen Canyon Dam on March 5 to release about 41,500 cubic feet per second of Colorado River water into the Grand Canyon. The Secretary's action launched a scientific experiment aimed at learning more about how to improve the river for wildlife and visitors. The experiment is a 60-hour "high flow test." The additional water is expected to push sand built up at the bottom of the river channel into a series of sandbars and beaches along the river. "This experiment has been timed to take advantage of the highest sediment deposits in a decade and designed to better assess the ability of these releases to rebuild beaches that provide habitat for endangered wildlife and campsites for thousands of Grand Canyon National Park tourists," Secretary Kempthorne said. The 2008 test is different than previous high-flow tests conducted in 1996 and 2004. In particular, scientists have concluded that more sand is needed to rebuild sandbars throughout the 277-mile reach of Grand Canyon National Park than was available in 1996 or 2004. Currently, sand supplies in the river are at a 10-year high with a volume about three times greater than the volume available in 2004 due to tributary inflows below the dam over the past 16 months.

(Imperial Valley News, "Grand Canyon River Water High Flow Experiment Launched,", 05 March 2008.)


**Des Moines River Dam, Des Moines River, MN**

Rock riffle structure to replace obsolete dam in Minnesota

The Des Moines River Dam in Jackson will be replaced by a series of spread-out rock riffles, the Jackson City Council unanimously decided. The riffles can potentially be placed to keep the level of the river near to its current state, lowering it only about a foot. Some of the other options available to the city lowered the river as much as four feet in some locations. The rock riffles economical, and will keep the water table the highest. The Council committee will continue meeting in order to make some more specific decisions about the dam's design, including the ultimate fate of the pond-like bayou area behind the current dam and the locations of the rock rapids. Only after those decisions are made will the council seek bids for removing the existing structure and building the riffles. The estimated cost of the project is $1.12 million, excluding engineering fees, but grants from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for dam removal and dam safety mean the city will pay about $570,000.

(Lucin, Kari, "Jackson resolves dam issue," Worthington Daily Globe,, 05 February 2008.)

Missouri River restoration efforts begin

Over the last 10 months, the US Army Corps of Engineers and US Fish and Wildlife service worked with the planning group to develop the charter for a committee that will develop and work through issues related to ecosystem recovery along the Missouri River watershed. The charter outlines how committee members, whose agendas are often at odds, will work together on the project. The goal is to help the ecosystem of the watershed, which covers one-sixth of the area of the United States, recover from the effects of flood-control measures begun in the 1940s through the federal Pick Sloan Act. The law led to construction of six mainstem dams and 20 tributary dams along the river and its branches. The modifications altered wildlife habitat, created faster currents, deeper channels and reduced spring rise, causing three species - the least term, the piping plover and the pallid sturgeon - to become endangered. Cheryl Chapman of Rapid City is co-chairwoman of the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee planning group, which represents federal agencies, 28 Native American tribes, 8 states and other nongovernmental organizations who are stakeholders in the river. "I don't want to be too dramatic," Chapman said. "but I think we are seeing a change in agencies' attitudes in the sense that the Corps and Fish and Wildlife know they can't make decisions in a vacuum. They have to work together with states, tribes and others."

More information about the committee is available at:

(Aust, Scott, "Missouri River restoration efforts begin,", 02 March 2008.)


Update: Bats from the upper Hudson River show elevated levels of PCBs

Bats from the upper Hudson River have five times as much polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a probable carcinogen, in their systems as bats from other parts of the state. The aquatic insects coming out of the upper Hudson, which bats eat in large quantities, have concentrations of more than five parts per million PCBs. Bats are also prey for higher-level predators, including some migratory birds such as barred owls. "The Preliminary Investigations of PCBs in Hudson River Bats" is part of an ongoing state-federal natural resource damage assessment of problems caused by PCBs in the Hudson River. General Electric capacitor plants discharged an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the upper Hudson over a 30-year period. The practice stopped in 1977 but the river was heavily impacted by the toxic chemicals, according to federal scientists. The resource damage assessment project is not part of the Hudson River PCB cleanup project that is scheduled to start in the spring of 2009. However, once the assessment is completed in five or six years, the assessment team will develop a plan to restore the Hudson River focusing on the species that were most heavily impacted by the PCBs.

(Coleman, Lee, "Bats show elevated levels of PCBs; Study seeks to assess damage done to natural resources from chemicals," Daily Gazette,, 30 January 2008.)

**Briggsville (Hewatt Pond) Dam, Hoosic River, MA**

Clarksburg dam being removed; Giving life to a river

The Briggsville Dam certainly has seen better days. Built in the early to mid-1900s, it originally served to provide water-cooling to the Strong-Hewatt mill. Because the company shut down the mill and the dam decades ago, it has just been collecting silt. Today, the silt is as high at the dam, so the river runs right over it. But it is still a barrier to wildlife and the health of the river's ecosystem. As river fish species move through their life stages, they also migrate to a variety of river habitats, a need that is restricted by this and other old dam structures, making survival more of a challenge for fish living in this stretch of river, noted Brian E. Graber, who heads the northeast dam-removal section of American Rivers. "They tend to fragment the river and prevent species from moving from one habitat to another," Graber said. "It completely changes the ecosystem to one that is neither sustainable nor natural to the (river) system. Many dams become liabilities to their owners, and this is certainly an example of that." Working together, Cascade School Supplies (the dam's owner), the Massachusetts Riverways Program, American Rivers and the Hoosuck Chapter of Trout Unlimited have secured about $180,000 for the project through public and private grants.

Visit Trout Unlimited at:, and American Rivers at:

(Stafford, Scott, "Clarksburg dam being removed; Giving life to a river," Berkshire Eagle,, 04 February 2008.)