No. 15, February 23, 2000

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink, Joanna Silber & Camille Warren



  • Comment on the Columbia and Snake Rivers Environmental Impact Study
  • Help determine the fate of the Missouri River


  • Dam failure causes worst European environmental disaster since Chernobyl


  • Three Gorges Dam hit by 60 million dollar scam


  • Chinook Salmon and Steelhead protected

  • Grant to aid in Matilija Dam dismantling project


  • Final (dis)agreement on timetable for removal of Elwha River dams
  • Scientists find evidence Columbia River dams cause beach erosion
  • Northwest residents pay millions to subsidize Columbia Basin irrigators
  • Alaskan fishermen call for Northwestern dam removal
  • Governor criticizes Gore's record on saving salmon


  • Draining "Lake" Powell, not fantasy new report says
  • California and Wyoming may compete for water from the Colorado


  • Project on Menomonee River should lead to trout, salmon
  • Local opposition to removal of Cedarburg's dams


  • NPS fights dam on Buffalo River


Comment on the Columbia and Snake Rivers Environmental Impact Study

There is currently a public comment period on a draft of the Columbia and Snake Rivers Environmental Impact Study. The comment period runs through March 31 of this year. To view the Army Corps of Engineer Draft Feasibility report and DEIS, visit To get detailed information or to easily submit a comment visit the web page for the Columbia and Snake Rivers Campaign at or contact their outreach director Kathi Crist (phone: 503.243.3814, email:

Help determine the fate of the Missouri River

The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is in the process of determining the fate of the Missouri River for the next half century. Your help is needed to send a strong message to President Clinton and the Corps that they must make the right decision. State and federal biologists unanimously agree that the 'split navigation season' option is the only option that will reverse the trend toward slow death of the Missouri. This option will yield the best results for river wildlife, basin state economics, recreation, tourism, and quality of life for riverside communities.

The Missouri River dam reforms proposed by the Northwestern Division of the Corps ignore the needs of river wildlife and recreation. The Northwestern Division's proposal would continue to manage the Missouri's dams primarily to benefit barge traffic - at the expense of recreation and river wildlife. Please call or fax the corps of engineers and the Clinton administration. Urge them to make the right decision for the Missouri river and the communities that depend upon the health of this great and historic river.

To review sample letters, fact sheets, articles, further information on the 'split navigation season' option, and further information about the American Rivers campaign visit

Submit your correspondence or call:

Assistant Secretary Joseph Westphal
US Army Corps of Engineers
108 Army, Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310
Phone: 703-697-8986 Fax: 703-697-7401

George Frampton, Acting Chair
Council on Environmental Quality
Old Executive Office Building, Room 360
Washington, DC 20500
Phone: 202-456-6224 Fax: 202-456-22710


Dam failure causes worst European environmental disaster since Chernobyl

The failure of a dam at a gold-mining operation in Romania has wiped out all river life in over 250 miles of the Tisza River and is currently spreading through Europe to the Danube River in Bulgaria. 'Dead fish are covering the river and 400,000 birds that find winter shelter in the Yugoslav part of the Danube River are threatened' said ecologist, Radoje Lausevic. Hundreds of poisoned deer, water mammals, pheasants, ducks and other animals are also being found. Some already endangered species may now have become extinct.

Over 100,000 cubic meters of water contaminated by cyanide and toxic heavy metals were released. The cyanide is used in a controversial gold processing operation and is banned in the European Union, of which Romania is not a member. The Baia Mare gold mine is owned jointly by an Australian company, Esmeralda Ltd, and a Romanian state owned company. Romania, like most other former eastern block countries, is desperate for foreign investment and has almost no environmental laws, which makes them a favorite for such foreign interests. Esmeralda Ltd is denying responsibility and has dismissed Yugoslavia's and Hungary's claims for compensation.

Hungarian Prime minister Viktor Orban said 'It is unacceptable that on the threshold of the third millennium in Europe, the health of hundreds of thousands of people and the whole eco-system of great rivers is being threatened in the sole hope of material gain." It is estimated that it will take at least 15 years for the Tisza River to support life again for even if fish stocks are introduced the whole ecosystem down to bacteria has been eradicated.


**Three Gorges Dam, Yangtze River**

Three Gorges Dam hit by 60 million dollar scam

Corrupt officials have embezzled five billion yuan (60 million dollars) set aside to relocate people out of the path of China's Three Gorges Dam project, state media reported Friday. "Five billion yuan for resettlement of residents in the Three Gorges Dam area was embezzled. Fourteen people were involved," the People's Daily said, giving no further details.

The huge scam -- revealed by auditor general Li Jinhua as part of the 125 billion yuan of state funds embezzled last year -- represents around 12 percent of the budget of 40 billion yuan set aside to relocate 1.2 million people at the dam site. The report also showed that the ministry of water resources, which is in charge of the dam project, "illegally raised" three billion yuan, which was later "misused".

The 200 billion yuan (27 billion dollar) dam project -- destined to become the world's largest hydroelectric dam when it is completed in 2009 -- has been beset by a series of financial, environmental and social problems. Many people living in the area are reluctant to leave the banks of the Yangtze River to make way for the 632 square kilometer (252 square mile) reservoir, while experts have questioned the financial logic of the project and warned of a damaging impact on the environment.

For more information visit International Rivers's Three Gorges Campaign at Say no to Wall Street funding of this disastrous project on-line at

  • 'Three gorges dam hit by 600 million dollar graft scam,' Agence France Presse, January 21, 2000. (Please note the error in the amount reported by this article, the correct figure is 60 million, not 600.) Read the complete article at:


**Oroville Dam, Feather River, CA**

Chinook Salmon and Steelhead protected

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) proposed to drop flows in the Feather River below the Thermalito Bay outlet from 2450 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 1700 cfs. However, opposition raised by Mr. Ray McReynolds, the South Yuba Conservation League, Friends of the River and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) regarding the potential loss to Feather River salmon caused the DWR to stop flow reductions at 2250 cfs.

For further information, call Bob Baiocchi of the CSPA at 530-836-1115.

**Matilija Dam, Ventura River, CA**

Grant to aid in Matilija Dam dismantling project

The effort to tear down Matilija Dam near Ojai has received a $200,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy that will be used to knock off part of the aging structure as a possible prelude to its ultimate removal. The experience gained from removing the top five feet of the edifice will help determine the best methods to bring down the rest of the structure and assess the cost effectiveness, said Neal Fishman, project manager for the Coastal Conservancy.

"It's very significant because it would be the largest dam yet taken down in the United States. It could act as a model for taking some other dams down," said County Supervisor John K. Flynn. An unusual coalition is calling for removal of the dam, which has been blamed for robbing beaches of sand and ruining migratory runs of steelhead trout in the Ventura River. Environmentalists, coastal businesses and fishermen support the project. In October, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said tearing down the dam would be a top priority.

  • 'Grant to Aid in Dam Dismantling Project,' LA Times, January 28, 2000. For further information or to review the complete article visit the LA Times at


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

Final (dis)agreement on timetable for removal of Elwha River dams

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt traveled to the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River to work out what he called 'a final consensus agreement' to remove the two dams that block migration of salmon up the Olympic Peninsula river. However doubt still exists over financing and timetabling for the removal of the Glines Canyon dam.

Congress passed a law authorizing the removal of the two dams in 1992 but has so far appropriated only half the $122 million that is needed to acquire the two dams and replace energy and water supplies. President Clinton asked for an additional $15 million in this year's budget. Despite Babbitt's confidence that he is talking dam removal 'plural', Senator Slade Gorton, R-Wash has expressed much more reticence over the future of the Glines Canyon Dam. He argues that only after the removal of the Elwha River Dam can any plans be made for Glines Canyon and cautioned that removal may still be years away.

If removed nearly 50 miles of river spawning habitat would be opened up and more than 100 000 salmon would return to the Elwha River each year.

  • Connelly Joel, 'Babbitt puffs a bit, sees two dams gone; Gorton says there is money for only one,' Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 15, 2000.

  • 'Babbitt visits doomed dam,' Associated Press, February 15, 2000.

**Columbia River Basin, ID/WA/OR**

Scientists find evidence Columbia River dams cause beach erosion

Scientists have found that dams on the Columbia River maybe contributing to the severe beach erosion that is threatening water supplies, highways homes, and wildlife on the coast. Some beaches that support sand-dependent razor clams are turning into gravel, said Doug Simons, a Washington state shellfish biologist.

Peacock Spit, a huge natural reservoir, located just North of the Columbia River mouth that fed sands to beaches along a 100-mile stretch of southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon has disappeared. Traditionally it was supplied by sand flowing down the Columbia, which scientists now argue may be storing up behind dams. Dams may also contribute to erosion by controlling floods that would have washed sediment into the ocean said Guy Gelfenbaum, study leader for the U.S. Geological Survey.

With the Columbia River so heavily dammed however there are no simple solutions to the problem. With more than 100 hydroelectric dams, and 250 water-slowing reservoirs on the Columbia watershed removal of a few dams would just cause the sand to be displaced further downstream at the next pool.

**Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia River, WA**

Northwest residents pay millions to subsidize Co lumbia Basin irrigators

The Grand Coulee Dam is one of eight dams worldwide studied by the World Commission on Dams (WCD) to determine if the dams met their intended purposes and how they impacted those living nearby.

The researchers noted that Grand Coulee transformed the region by providing cheap electricity for the aerospace and aluminum industries that helped win World War II and fueled Washington's postwar economic expansion. The Northwest still enjoys the cheapest power rates in the nation and was able to avoid forms of electricity that lead to air pollution. But the dam ended salmon runs to the upper Columbia. Native Americans were forced to change their diets and their lifestyles.

Washington's massive Grand Coulee Dam probably couldn't be built today, even though it generates more electricity than any other U.S. dam and irrigates 500,000 acres of farmland, the WCD report indicated. Since Grand Coulee was completed in 1941, awareness of the environmental and social impacts of dams has increased dramatically, said Leonard Ortolano, a Stanford University professor and lead author of the WCD study. "Virtually no studies were done on the impact on fisheries," Ortolano said. "Communities of people were excluded from the decision process."

Although it is the world's third-largest power producer, Grand Coulee was built primarily to create farms in the Columbia Basin desert. Irrigation created wetlands where waterfowl now flock. But the farms eliminated most of the state's shrub steppe habitat and subsequently, species such as burrowing owls, pygmy rabbits, jackrabbits and sage grouse are disappearing. The irrigation project cost nearly three times what the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had estimated. Irrigators were supposed to cover half the cost, but paid no more than 15 percent, the study concluded.

**Lower Snake River dams, WA**

Alaskan fishermen call for Northwestern dam removal

Commercial fishing groups in southeastern Alaska and the Washington and Oregon coasts have joined the fight to breach dams on the Snake, Columbia and other rivers in the Northwest and Canada. In response to a National Marine Fisheries Service report, which suggests severe harvest, reductions as one alternative to dam breaching those who make their livelihoods from catching salmon are speaking out for the first time in a series of 13 federal hearings.

Alaskan trollers have already had their summer fishing season reduced from 160 days in the late 1970s to 11 days in 1999 and feel after these concessions to salmon conservation dam removal must be the next step. They argue that it is the turn of East Washington farmers, who oppose dam breaching because of loss of barging, to face restrictions on their livelihoods to enhance salmon populations through increased water flow.

Trollers, who drag up to 40 lures or bait behind their boats, also catch coho salmon and have seen reductions in their catch of that species. But coho long ago disappeared from the Snake, so aren't affected by current restoration efforts. Given the magnitude of Alaska's concessions to salmon conservation, there's nothing outlandish about calling for dam removal, said Ralph Guthrie of Sitka. "To say it's radical is ridiculous," said Guthrie, a troller since 1941. "What is radical is to say you'll allow these fish to go away so you can grow a few potatoes." [Ed. Note: the reservoirs of the Lower Snake River dams in question do not supply significant water for irrigation, to grow potatoes or anything else.]

For more information about the effort to remove the Lower Snake River dams, visit

Governor criticizes Gore's record on saving salmon

Gov. John Kitzhaber accused the Clinton-Gore administration of having "taken a hike" on restoring Northwest salmon runs. Kitzhaber became the first governor to embrace presidential candidate Bradley over Gore, laying bare his growing unhappiness with the administration's approach to salmon and dumping the issue into the middle of the heated Democratic presidential primary.

Kitzhaber, claims that Gore has deliberately delayed making a discoing on whether four Snake River dams should be breached to help salmon runs in the Columbia River Basin so as to prevent the controversial issue coming up before the presidential primacies. "To delay making any politically controversial decisions in the Columbia Basin -- which is what the federal government is doing today -- is going to ensure extinction," Kitzhaber said in Portland. "It's a decision to walk away from this important resource, and it's a decision to put politics ahead of policy."

Despite the excitement surrounding Kitzhaber's statement and the credibility it lends to the dam-removal movement other politicians are cautious to act for fear of upsetting the political applecart. Gore himself has been quick to defend his record on saving salmon saying more time has been needed to consider scientific evidence.

  • Barnett, Jim and Mapes, Jeff 'Democrats in Washington D.C. are leery of following Kitzhaber,' The Oregonian, February 19, 2000.

  • Mapes, Jeff and Brinckman, Jonathon, 'Kitzhaber backs Bradley, blasts Gore on salmon,' The Oregonian, January 20, 2000. Full text at:


**Colorado River, WY/AZ/CA/NM/UT/CO**

Draining "Lake" Powell, not fantasy new report says

The Stanford Environmental Law Journal recently published an 88-page analysis of the Sierra Club's 1996 proposal to restore Glen Canyon on the Colorado River by draining 'Lake' Powell reservoir. The extensively researched analysis titled, "Undamming Glen Canyon: Lunacy, Rationality, or Prophecy" was written by Scott Miller, an attorney with the Office of the Solicitor, U.S. Department of the Interior. The analysis is his own, however, and in no way represents any official government position on the future of Glen Canyon Dam. Among his concluding remarks, Miller states, "This preliminary analysis of water, power, recreation, and the environment reveals that some of the common assumptions about the importance of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell may not be accurate. ...We owe it to ourselves, future generations, and the lands of the Colorado River to finally evaluate the costs and benefits objectively."

To obtain a copy of the report, contact Glen Canyon Action Network, by e-mail:, or by telephone: 435.259.1063. For more information about the people's movement to restore Glen Canyon, visit their Web site at

California and Wyoming may compete for water from the Colorado

Wyoming officials are concerned that a water-use agreement for southern California could affect Wyoming by way of Arizona's 'Lake' Powell. The agreement is to be discussed at the Colorado River Water Users Association annual meeting in Las Vegas. California has agreed to reduce its Colorado River usage from a maximum of 5.5 million acre-feet (one acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons.) annually to 4.4 million acre-feet annually by 2015. Until then, California may take needed water from 'Lake' Powell and Lake Mead during dry years, and Wyoming officials are worried that a severe drought could result in more regulations on the state's water use.

"We're a very small state in terms of population," said John Shields, Wyoming's interstate streams engineer. "So if political pressures come to bear, then we would probably lose out compared to Utah or Arizona." If California does not curtail Colorado River water use, the Secretary of the Interior each year will have to declare that the river has a surplus of water in order to ensure that the state has enough water.

"We're not opposed to the declaration of surplus occurring, so long as it's based on hydrology, on the fact that the reservoirs are full as opposed to the secretary declaring a surplus does exist just because California needs the water," Shields said. Besides Wyoming, the agreement would affect New Mexico, Utah and Colorado during a drought.

  • 'Wyoming officials are concerned that a water-use agreement for southern California could affect Wyoming by way of Arizona's Lake Powell,' Associated Press, 17 December, 2000.


**Menomonee River, WI**

Project on Menomonee River should lead to trout, salmon

A project that will create new fishing opportunities by opening more than 20 miles of the Menomonee River to upstream migration of trout and salmon from Lake Michigan is under way and scheduled for completion in March. The project includes the removal of a four-foot drop structure and a concrete stream channel, and regrading to produce a more gradual flow and a natural looking river bed. "This thing is moving ahead and it's going to be done," said Mark Kass, communications manager with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Bob Boucher, spokesman for Friends of Milwaukee's Rivers, formerly Friends of the Menomonee River, a group that has long advocated for the project said, "We're delighted and happy that it's finally happening. It should allow migration for steelhead and salmon and establish a sport fishery in Wauwatosa and further upstream that we've never had before. This will change the character of the river and bring people down to the river to catch fish." Boucher said, "I have confidence that this section is going to be as good a stream restoration as can be done."

**Various dams, Cedar Creek, WI**

Local opposition to removal of Cedarburg's dams

Opposition to the struggle to remove Wisconsin's Columbia Mills, Wire and Nail Factory, and Ruck dams has come from some of the area's residents. They argue that the dams are part of their cultural heritage and resources and losing them would be to lose one of Wisconsin's 'premier visions.'

The DNR is conducting studies into dam removal because of fears about the long-term stability of the dams and contaminants in the dammed-up sediments that can be carcinogenic, working their way downstream. As well as restoring the natural river run breaching the dams would avoid long term maintenance costs falling on the city, a major problem since three of the dams are in substantial need of repair. Wisconsin has pioneered in removing aging dams - 73 dismantled in the last 30 years, more than in any other state, according to a recent study. Research has shown that when dams are taken out, rivers tend to cleanse themselves, fisheries improve and biological diversity increases.

So how can two worthy causes, environmental protection and historic preservation, be reconciled? Andy Larsen, a naturalist at Newburg's Riveredge Nature Center, chooses the former. "We've given away a lot of environmental quality in the name of establishing a culture on the land," he says. "I'm not sure that's the way it has to be." Yes, losing Cedarburg's dams and millponds would take some getting used to, he concedes, "but people can learn to change their customs."

For more information about these, and other, dam removal opportunities in Wisconsin, contact Stephanie Lindloff of the River Alliance of Wisconsin by e-mail at, or by phone at 608.257.2424. Visit their Web site at


**Bear Creek, AR**

NPS fights dam on Buffalo River

The controversy over a proposal to build a dam on a tributary of the Buffalo National River may greatly influence the future balance between protecting congressionally designated rivers and the need to provide water for swelling populations.

The Searcy County Regional Water District is demanding an impoundment on Bear Creek-a major tributary to the Buffalo River- to provide water for industrial development and an alternative water source to some radium tainted public wells. The National Park Service (NPS) is not disputing the community's need for safe drinking water, but does not think that adequate steps have not been taken to ensure that a dam is the best way to provide that water.

Damming one of the Buffalo's major tributaries defies the 1972 legislation that established the Buffalo National River, the country's first national river. The law specifically prohibits the licensing of any project on or directly affecting the Buffalo National River. All wild and scenic rivers administered by NPS and other federal agencies are afforded similar protection, and if the Buffalo River falls victim to this dam, both the Park Service and NPCA fear that environmental safeguards will be overlooked on future projects.

More immediately, the Bear Creek dam could have devastating effects on the river's ecosystem. The dam would stop vital floodwater from cleansing the riparian area of old vegetation and scouring out silt along the riverbed. Fish, plants, and animals depend on the seasonal floods to provide aquatic habitat. Park hydrologist David Mott notes that the Buffalo River is one of a few large rivers in the Southeast with no major dams along its watershed. Approval of this dam would set a dangerous precedent, most likely initiating a chain of requests to build others.