No. 14, January 15, 2000

River Revival Bulletin

Produced by: River Revival, International Rivers
1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94703 USA

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Joanna Silber


  • Participate in the International Day of Action Against Dams on March 14
  • Thai activists press for removal of Pak Mun Dam
  • Low Water Levels and Reduced Ayu Catches in Japan
  • Pace of Dam Overhaul Highlights Issues of Safety and Noise
  • Rare Plant Found Near Dam Site
  • End is near for aging dam; Utility agrees to removal near Columbia River Gorge
  • Congressional hopeful backs dam breaching
  • Framework of alternatives presented to help Northwest make hard decisions
  • Irrigation district official has plan for Savage Rapids Dam
  • International Coalition Calls for Conservation of Colorado River Delta
  • Batavia's Fox dam may be first to go
  • Fremont's dam blocks state's vision of river
  • Reservoir plan runs into flak


Participate in the International Day of Action Against Dams on March 14

We urge you to join us on March 14th as part of the International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water & Life. For the last two years, International Rivers has been coordinating the activities marking this Day of Action. Plan an event on March 14 as part of the Day of Action.

By acting together we:

  • Strengthen local groups by linking them to the global network of dam fighters and river protectors.
  • Show the world a strong, diverse worldwide movement dedicated to the health of rivers and the people that depend on them.
  • Publicize the need to move towards equitable and sustainable ways to manage our rivers.

International Rivers looks forward to your involvement in the International Day of Action. I am continually inspired by your efforts, let's take this opportunity to inspire and motivate others. Please let me know if you are planning to participate and do not hesitate to check out our Web site ( for more information, and contact International Rivers if you have any questions'.


Living Rivers Festival in Tasmania

Pedder 2000, the campaign to restore Lake Pedder in Tasmania, is hosting an extensive gathering surrounding the Day of Action in March 2000. Called the Living Rivers Festival, the aim of organizers is to promote the significance of healthy rivers from catchment to the sea. The theme 'living rivers' encompasses our hopes and visions for restoration and healing the relationships between the human community to the environment.

The festival aims to build awareness of existing work in eco-restoration, and further develop the community's relationship to and responsibility for the future vitality of our river ecosystems. A great range of events has been organised for the festival. These include the Living Rivers scientific forum, yoga and meditation workshop, an environment-theme seminar, rafting, and fun activities.

For more information, visit the Living Rivers Festival Web site at:


Thai activists press for removal of Pak Mun Dam

The World Bank should pay compensation to communities affected by the Pak Mun Dam in Thailand, a report released in December 1999 by International Rivers asserts. The report documents the Bank’s involvement in the project over the past decade from its earliest promises that communities would

benefit from the project, to its current claim that Pak Mun resettlement is one of the best examples amongst Bank-assisted projects.

"It is time for the World Bank to take responsibility for the role it played in the development of Pak Mun dam, own up to its mistakes, and ensure that people are compensated. If the Bank can’t do this, then it should work with the government to decommission the dam, as the villagers are demanding," says Ms. Aviva Imhof, one of the report’s authors and International Rivers’s South-East Asia Campaigner.

Determined to bring their struggle for their rights to livelihoods into the next millenium, some 2000 villagers of Assembly of the Poor held a celebratory ceremony at the Pak Mun dam site, on January 2, 2000. On this occassion, after nine months and ten days of protest at the dam site, villagers gathered not only to celebrate the new millenium, but also to worship the Mun River, and to again state their demand for the removal of the Pak Mun dam.

For further information contact Aviva Imhof at' or Chainarong Srettachau, Director, South-East Asia Rivers Network: Tel: 66 53 221157,


**Eiji Gawa Dam, Shimanto River, Japan**

Low Water Levels and Reduced Ayu Catches in Japan

A group of fisherfolk on the Shimanto River is calling for the decommissioning of the Eiji Gawa (River) Dam whose license is up for renewal soon. The fishermen claim that the drop in the Ayu fish catch is linked to low water flows caused by the dam. The Ministry of Construction (MoC) and the Prefectural Government refuse to acknowledge the connection as significant.

The Eiji Gawa Dam located in the mid section of the Shimanto River near the town of Kubokawa in Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island, Japan. It is managed by Shikoku Electric, a local power company. The central issue is that water taken from the Shimanto to generate power is not returned to it, but released into a river in a different basin. The Shimanto River Fishermen's Alliance is calling on the government to not renew the dam's license, which comes up in 2001(Heisei 13), and also for the dam itself to be removed.

Two years ago, in response to previous demands by the alliance, the MoC and the prefecture began a two-year study of the impact of the dam on the water quality and ecology of the river. According to their findings, the dam is responsible for some turbidity and fluctuations in water temperature, but the connection between lower Ayu catches and the dam as claimed by the fishermen is denied.

  • Souter, Heather (translation) "Low Water Levels and Reduced Ayu Catches Not Linked" NHK News Bulletin, 3 November, 1999.


**Casitas Dam, Ventura River, CA**

Pace of Dam Overhaul Highlights Issues of Safety and Noise

Construction crews and heavy equipment are working around the clock to fortify Casitas Dam before winter storms threaten progress, but such haste is not winning many friends in the community. The 40-year-old dam, deemed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to be at serious risk in the event of a major earthquake, has been undergoing a massive overhaul as part of a $42-million effort to ensure it can survive a direct seismic jolt.

Residents are upset about legions of big trucks crawling along Casitas Vista Road each morning and the roar and clang of heavy equipment throughout the night. A machine called "the grizzly" seems particularly distressing; it spins, shakes and sorts tons of rock and sounds like a gigantic, unbalanced washing machine.

"This project was entirely not supervised enough. It's ravaging the back country, and the dust and noise are fairly egregious," said Dave Kaplan, who lives in the area.

Environmentalists are dismayed. The Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center earlier this year threatened to sue to halt the project until environmental concerns were addressed, although legal action was averted through a compromise to protect natural resources. Center attorney John Buse said that the agreement needs to be revisited because lights, dust and noise appear greater than anticipated.

And Ventura County lawmakers and emergency response personnel are frustrated because they say the federal bureau failed to install a fully functional alarm system along the Ventura River to warn residents of an approaching flood should a quake topple the dam while it's being strengthened.

**Lang Ranch Dam, Lang Creek, CA**

Rare Plant Found Near Dam Site

A rare plant has been discovered near the site where the federal government wants to build a 67-foot-tall flood-control dam in Thousand Oaks. Opponents hope the discovery will force changes to the project.

Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Linda Parks says she confirmed the existence of six Braunton's milkvetch plants at the Lang Ranch dam site Sunday. The plant was first noted at that site last summer by a biologist working for the Ventura County Flood Control District.

Parks and environmentalists say the dam and a retention basin threaten the plants, ancient oak groves and Chumash Indian sites. They say a more thorough environmental review of the project should lead to the dam being scaled back and relocated. The dam remains in limbo because key permits and signed agreements have not yet been issued by the Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Fish and Game.

Polakovic, Gary "Rare Plant Found Near Dam Site," LA Times, 4 January 2000. Read complete article at:

**Columbia River Basin, WA/OR**

Framework of alternatives presented to help Northwest make hard decisions

With time running out for saving Columbia Basin salmon runs from extinction, the federal government has produced a framework of alternatives to help the Northwest make the hard choices ahead. The framework looks at the chances of restoring salmon runs when changes are made in managing what are known as the Four Hs -- habitat, harvest, hatcheries and hydroelectric dams.

The groups with a stake in the debate are not happy with the framework.

"Leaving the dams in place, can you get to harvestable levels of salmon? We don't think you can," said Charles Hudson, spokesman for the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, which supports dam removal. "Habitat is too much of an unknown. There is no scientific proof it can get you to recovery in time."

Rob Masonis of American Rivers, a Seattle environmental group that advocates dam removal, said the one positive message the paper was sending was that there were no easy ways out of salmon extinction, and anything short of dam breaching will demand significant improvements in the other three Hs.

Chris Zimmer of Save Our Wild Salmon said the paper was short on specifics about improving habitat. He added they were concerned NMFS had "set the bar too low," trying only to prevent extinction, not rebuild runs enough for future harvests.

Ten separate groups of salmon and steelhead have been listed as threatened or endangered species in the Columbia Basin for which biologists blame a combination of factors. NMFS concluded that breaching the dams would be the single most effective action to restore dwindling Snake River salmon populations. However, the idea has gotten strong political opposition from Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., who argue the costs would be too high.

  • "Alternatives presented on saving Framework designed to help Northwest make hard decisions," Associated Press, 16 November, 1999.
  • "Fisheries panel offers alternatives to dam breaching on the Snake," Seattle Post Intelligencer, 16 November, 1999.

**Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, OR**

Irrigation district official has plan for Savage Rapids Dam

A change in a gag order imposed by a federal judge has prompted the chairman of the Grants Pass Irrigation District to offer a revised plan for settling the dispute about whether the Savage Rapids Dam should be torn down to improve salmon runs.

District Chairman Dennis Becklin announced the plan Tuesday after U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan in Eugene clarified his decision to lift a gag order that has kept the talks secret. Hogan said parties could address the current proposal but could not discuss the history of negotiations.

Savage Rapids Dam, which diverts water from the Rogue River for irrigation, has been controversial for the past five years because of concerns about fish passage. The federal government sued the district in 1998 for failing to meet Endangered Species Act requirements on threatened coho salmon.

Becklin's proposal states that dam removal is unnecessary, but it has become the only option because of the commitment of the state, the federal government and environmental groups to remove the dam. Becklin said the district will ask the Oregon congressional delegation to push the district's removal plan.


**Lower Snake River, ID**

Congressional hopeful backs dam breaching

Boise forklift operator Gene Summa appears to be the only candidate for Idaho's 1st Congressional District seat support breaching lower Snake River dams to save the salmon. "It's time to restore the Snake River salmon back to levels where they can be removed from the endangered species list," the Republican said in a prepared statement.

The dams provide no flood control, have minimal irrigation benefits and produce a small fraction of electricity for Idaho, he said. Removing the dams would save millions of taxpayer and ratepayer dollars, Summa said, and restoring Idaho's fisheries would generate $170 million and create up to 5,000 jobs.

Five years ago, Summa withdrew from the Republican primary race for Congress and endorsed Helen Chenoweth, who was elected. Republican congressional candidates Lt. Gov. Butch Otter, Dennis Mansfield, Ron McMurray and Democratic candidate Linda Pall of Moscow oppose breaching the dams.

  • "Congressional hopeful backs dam breaching," Associated Press, 2 December, 1999.


**Colorado River Delta**

International Coalition Calls for Conservation of Colorado River Delta

A coalition of more than thirty five-national, international and local conservation groups (including International Rivers) representing more than eight million people from Mexico and the United States sent a letter to their governments calling for an amendment to the 1944 water utilization treaty between the United States and Mexico. The proposed amendment would allocate water for conservation of the Colorado River Delta and northern Gulf of California.

The groups contend that the lower Colorado River is an ecosystem under great stress. In accordance with the 1944 treaty, the relatively small amount of water which reaches the United States/Mexico border is diverted in its entirety by Mexico to its agribusinesses. Since the early 1960s, the river has reached the Gulf of California only when flows have exceeded storage capacity at Hoover Dam and are deliberately spilled by the Bureau of Reclamation. Forests, shrimp, and shore bird populations, among others, exhibit dramatic healthy change when this water is spilled into the ecosystem. The groups believe the spilled water that serves to support this ecosystem is currently treated as wasted water by U.S. state water and power agencies.

The groups have called on the governments of Mexico and the United States to craft, with public input, a new minute to the 1944 treaty specifically allocating water for cross border, in-stream, and perennial Colorado River flows for conservation of the delta and Cienega de Santa Clara. A Letter of Intent signed in 1997 by Mexican Secretary Julia Carabias and U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt could become the basis for an ecological amendment or minute to the treaty of 1944, according to the coalition.

The groups that have signed on to the letters include:

American Humane Association, American Rivers, Amigos Bravos, Animal Protection Institute, Asociacion Ecologica de Usuarios del Rio Hardy-Colorado (AEURHYC), Audubon Council of Utah, Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Border Ecology Project, Bosques de las Californias, A.C., Bradshaw Mountain Wildlife Association, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Connections, Centro de Derecho Ambiental e Integracion, Economica del Sur A.C. (DASSUR), Centro de Estudios de los Oceanos y Desiertos (CEDO), Centro Regional de Estudios Ambientales y Socioeconomicas (CREAS), Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, Earth Island Institute, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of Pronatura, Forest Guardians, Fund for Animals, Glen Canyon Institute, Great Salt Lake Audubon, The Humane Society of the United States, In Defense of Animals, International Rivers, International Sonoran Desert Alliance, ITESM -- Campus Guaymas, National Audubon Society, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, Pacific Institute, Pro Esturos, Pronatura Sonora, Sierra Club, Sonoran Institute, Southwest Toxic Watch, Wetlands Action Network and Dr. Miguel Lavin, CICESE.

For more information contact: Dave Hogan of the Center for Biological Diversity, 760-782-9244 or Nicole Stoduto of Defenders of Wildlife, 202-682-9400, ext. 122


**Lower Batvia Dam, Fox River, IL**

Batavia's Fox dam may be first to go

A crumbling dam across the Fox River near Batavia might be demolished because that would be much cheaper than repairing it, Kane County officials say. The lower Batavia dam also poses a risk to canoeists and boaters, sportfish and other aquatic life, according to the Kane County Forest Preserve District.

The district, which owns the aging dam, plans to seek estimates for demolishing the 3-feet-high concrete barrier rather than spend money repairing a structure they say is obsolete. Repairing the dam could cost $500,000, forest preserve officials estimated. Demolishing it likely would cost no more than $200,000, they said.

The move by Kane County follows a national trend of experts reviewing whether many dams are still needed or should be removed. State officials are studying removing another dam on the Fox River, at Yorkville. The quasi-governmental Fox River Ecosystem Partnership wants all 15 dams on the Fox reviewed to determine which can be demolished or modified.

Dam opponents say the structures prevent fish from moving freely up the river, trap sediments and pose a hazard to boaters, canoeists and fishermen. A state expert likes the idea of removing the lower Batavia dam, which was built to provide cooling water for a local power plant that no longer operates.

"I think that's an excellent candidate for removal," said Bob Rung, a biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which owns most of the dams on the Fox. "Dams are so highly destructive to river habitat."

  • "Batavia’s Fox Dam may be the first to go," The Suburban Reporter, 8 December, 1999.

**Ballville Dam, Sandusky River, OH**

Fremont's dam blocks state's vision of river

The Ballville Dam, just south of Fremont, holds a reservoir which serves as the city's primary drinking water source. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources thinks it's time to retire - and remove - the 83-year-old concrete dam and restore 22 miles of Sandusky River to its original state.

"Restoration of rivers is a very important issue in the Great Lakes, and removal of the dam is important to river restoration,'' said Gary Isbell, head of fish management for natural resources department's division of wildlife.

The government purchased the dam, which was built for electricity in 1917 by the Ohio Power Co. The state has a policy of restoring rivers, especially scenic waterways, to original flows, Mr. Isbell said. "It was an opportunity to explore removal of the old dam so that fish might move upstream at least 17 miles further, almost all the way to Tiffin,'' he said.

Spawning fish, particularly walleye, can go upstream only as far as the dam. White bass, walleyes, and small-mouth bass could reach further to spawn, said Mr. Isbell, adding that another factor is declining gravel beds.

"There is a natural progression of gravel and silt down river, but the dam acts as a plug, so gravel spawning grounds below the dam have grown sparse,'' Mr. Isbell said.

Mr. Grob, a photographer and travel lecturer, said residents who live along the shores of the reservoir are upset and have met to discuss ways to oppose removal plans.

"The dam created a source of recreation and scenic beauty," Mr. Grob said. "If it is removed, the river there would go from being a lake to a quick-drop river, fast-running and useless for recreation."


**Proposed Dam, Bay Minette Creek, AL**

Reservoir plan runs into flak

A 1,000-acre reservoir being considered by the Baldwin County Commission for Bay Minette Creek is drawing opposition from local landowners and county officials, who characterize the plan as an environmental and economic boondoggle.

County officials are considering a proposal to dam Bay Minette Creek to create a 1,054-acre recreational reservoir. The proposal calls for construction of a nearly 40-foot-high dam across Bay Minette Creek. Those who support the plan say that the reservoir is needed to meet a growing demand for water in the county, however, residents and county officials disagree on the urgency of Spanish Fort's need to secure an additional water source.

James Robinson, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who directed a 1994 study of Baldwin County's groundwater resources, said Monday that the study indicated that Spanish Fort's wells are the problem, and not a general shortage of underground water in the county. With proper planning, groundwater resources within Baldwin County could easily support two to three times the current population, Robinson said.

"I know they're running low on water in the summertime. Their wells are not producing the volume they need," said Spanish Fort City and Corps of Engineers environmental engineer Ronald Gibson. However, he also said the proposed reservoir was "developer-driven" and there are easier ways to solve the water shortage problem.

"I'm real curious about this because no one has mentioned the economic basis for it," he said.

Baldwin County environmental planner Ed Polasek said from an environmental and economical perspective, he would not recommend commission support of the reservoir.

  • Davidson, Lee and Finch, Bill. "Reservoir plan runs into flak," Register-Staff. 30 November, 1999.