No. 17, May 10, 2000

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editor: Elizabeth Brink



  • Overflow tower to be demolished as part of Sand River restoration


  • Chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation suggests that only beavers should build dams


  • Geographers discuss new policy on dammed rivers


  • Take action for CA rivers
  • Matilija Dam removal advances with publicity about threat to Ventura River


  • Salmon recovery a key barrier to relicensing of Skagit Valley dams
  • Restoration leads Seattle citizens to reconsider their values
  • Lawsuit filed to force notching of Elk Creek Dam
  • County commissioners in Washington oppose removal of Condit Dam
  • Racial tensions added to fight to save salmon


  • Animas-La Plata project now faces formidable concerns from the EPA
  • Pineview Dam may fail


  • Reparations proposed to compensate Sioux for losses due to dams on the Missouri
  • River Alliance of Wisconsin's Twenty by 2000 update
  • Ohio gets a 'C' for its anti-pollution programs for waterways; most states did even worse


  • Victory on the Rappahannock secured
  • Lead contamination a potential threat at Hanover Lake Dam


  • Everglades restoration lends hope to other efforts


**Zoeknog Dam, Sand River, Mpumalanga, South Africa**

Overflow tower demolished as part of Sand River restoration

Ronnie Kasrils, democratic South Africa's first deputy defense minister, gets to be the demolition man when he blows a giant concrete overflow tower to smithereens. In his present role as Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, Kasrils is planning to push the button that will detonate the overflow tower - nicknamed 'morning glory' - of the Zoeknog Dam in Mpumalanga. He will be blowing up not only a useless and potentially dangerous concrete monolith, but also a testament to apartheid engineering that fell flat on its face.

The Zoeknog Dam was built in the late 1980s to provide irrigation for citrus, rice and coffee farmers. The 'morning glory' overflow tower was celebrated by engineers for its structural design, and the "1992" imprinted close to the top of the tower marked the date when it was expected to be launched. But in late 1991, before the politicians could cut the ribbons and when the dam was only 30% full, water broke through the dam walls.

Now the 'morning glory' needs to be imploded because it has structural faults and is potentially dangerous. This restoration effort is part of a pioneering river catchment management plan called Save the Sand. Under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture's Land Care program, Save the Sand has drawn together six national government departments, the Mpumalanga and Northern Province provincial governments, communities, NGOs, foresters, conservationists and private landowners.

The aim is to get the river flowing again - agriculture and bad forestry practices have reduced it from an annual to a seasonal river -and to reduce the sedimentation caused by erosion in the catchment areas and along the riverbanks. Experts say sedimentation exacerbated the recent floods by making the water flow faster. Sedimentation is the biggest killer of fish and other life forms in the river and it reduces the quality of the water for human consumption. On all sides of the 'morning glory', the erosion caused by the disaster that was the Zoeknog Dam is monumental. Save the Sand's ambition is to get rid of the erosion, on a scale never seen before in this country.

  • Macleod, Fiona, ''Morning glory' to be imploded,' Daily Mail & Guardian, 7 April, 2000.


Chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation suggests that only beavers should build dams

The following is an excerpt from a speech given by the Chief of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Cross Lake, Manitoba, Canada. Chief Miswagon discusses his people's objection to further degradation of their land due to the Manitoba Hydro's intended construction of more dams in Canada to produce hydroelectric power to meet US demand.

''Quite simply, more electricity means there will be more, not less, environmental damage. Our trappers have already seen the richness of their traplines diminished. Our fishermen tell me how of their difficulties as they try to sustain fisheries constantly affected by the force and fluctuations of the water releases and by dirty water. Parents tell me how this news affects their children. These projects are our nightmare.

Aboriginal peoples in the north should not be asked to pay for the energy choices being made in the south with our lands, our resources, our livelihood and our lives. This is not fair. This is not just. 'Manitoba Hydro and the governments of Manitoba and Canada are now saying they understand the error of their past ways, and that they will now protect the environment and treat the indigenous people fairly. In 1977, they promised to clean up the thousands of miles of shorelines and remove forest debris from all of the project areas. This work has only just begun, and only as a result of our insistence. At the present rate of progress, determined by Manitoba Hydro, this clean-up will take hundreds of years to complete. This is just one example of many of the environmental and social measures that have never been carried out as promised.

But promises like these, whether they are now carried out or not, are no longer acceptable. Mega-hydroprojects such as Manitoba Hydro's Lake Winnipeg Regulation and Churchill, Nelson Rivers Diversion Project are not sustainable. The electricity Manitoba Hydro sells to you is not clean or renewable, for you or for us. It is not cheap either. More destruction of the waters of Nitaskinan and the boreal environment of which it is part should be unthinkable in today's world. We should be planning for the decommissioning of these terrible undertakings, not building more.'

  • Miswagon, Chief John of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Cross Lake, Manitoba, Canada 'Only Beavers Should Build Dams,' remarks from a conference on Environmental Justice and Energy Policy at the Upper Midwest University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, translated from Cree language into English, 15 April, 2000.


Geographers discuss new policy on dammed rivers

For much of the past two centuries, the United States has embraced a rivers-be-dammed policy of water management. But now there's a growing trend to go with the flows as environmental, economic and safety considerations move policy from dam building to dam removal, said William L. Graf, former president of the Association of American Geographers, which held its annual convention in Pittsburgh last week.

'Given the way American rivers exist today, an examination of [dams] is important'We must ask if this is the kind of river system we want to leave for future generations, and if not how it should be changed.' Graf stated. 'Our multi-century legacy for future generations can and should be to establish physical integrity for rivers that are as natural as possible,' he continued, "thus insuring that as a system they are parts of the infrastructure for a vibrant national economy, continuing threads of our cultural heritage and a quality natural environment."


Take action for California rivers

Scoping comments needed by May 19 for Battle Creek Restoration Project. Write a letter to support removal of Eagle Canyon Dam and five other dams. For details and instructions, visit For more information, contact Jen Carville at Friends of the River, 916-442-3155 extension 223; email:

Input needed by May 26 on Farad Dam Reconstruction on the Truckee River. For details and instructions, visit For more information, contact Kathie Schmiechen at Friends of the River, (916) 442-3155, ext. 204, or Charles Albright, American Whitewater Regional Coordinator, (775) 787-1751,

**Matilija Dam, Ventura River, CA**

Matilija Dam removal advances with publicity about threat to Ventura River

With the decaying, 53-year-old Matilija Dam as a backdrop, a coalition of conservation groups on Monday called on Gov. Gray Davis and President Clinton to 'tear down this public nuisance.' The damage caused by the dam is so great that the environmental group American Rivers listed the Ventura River as one of the most endangered in the nation. .' The dam was built in 1947 for flood-control purposes. Built to store 5,000 acre-feet of water, it now holds only 500--or 163 million gallons. 'It's a silt tub that has outlived its usefulness,' Jim Edmondson, conservation director for California Trout Inc., said of the dam.

Even though Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has declared removal of the dam a top priority, finding the money to do the work, up to $80 million, has been a problem. Those who want to remove the dam hope that by elevating the issue to a national level they can pressure Congress and the state Legislature to allocate the money. 'The removal of the dam is going to be a huge undertaking,' said Mark Capelli, executive director of Friends of the Ventura River. 'And it's going to require support on the national level. This is the first step in getting that support. So, it's an important recognition.'

  • Dirmann, Tina, 'Ventura River Ranked 3rd Most Endangered,' Los Angeles Times, 10 April, 2000.
  • Polakovic, Gary, 'Dam Removal Gets Boost From Report of Ventura River Threat,' Los Angeles Times, 11 April, 2000.


Salmon recovery a key barrier to relicensing of Skagit Valley dams

In the next 47 years, 60 hydroelectric plants in Washington State will have to decide whether to renew their licenses and face new requirements. As a result of new regulations, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service will require hydroelectric projects to keep less water from rivers in reservoirs to improve salmon habitat downstream.

As an example, Puget Sound Energy, a Bellevue-based private utility company, is beginning the process of renewing its licenses for its Baker River hydroelectric project. Upper and lower Baker dams shut off downstream migration of sockeye salmon. A pipe and net system called a "gulper" was created to help sockeye over the dams but failed. Young sockeye are now trucked around Baker dam and released downriver when they are ready to head to the ocean.

Dams have been blamed for the loss of salmon runs, and environmentalists have sought the removal of dams throughout the state. Some hydroelectric projects are considering abandoning their power-generating plants and allowing lake levels to drop or dry up altogether rather than face new requirements.

Restoration leads Seattle citizens to reconsider their values

A century and a half ago, Seattle's Safeco Field was a tidal mudflat and the Duwamish industrial area was a marsh thronged with birds. Lake Union was a distant refuge ringed with old-growth forest. Singing their way down the city's shady ravines were clear, salmon-filled creeks that we eventually named Ravenna, Pipers, Thornton, Longfellow, Schmitz, Fauntleroy, Puget, Mapes and Taylor, to list just the major ones.

That Seattle cares about restoration of its creeks at all is a relatively recent phenomenon. It began largely in the 1970s when citizen activists began to drag city officials, kicking and screaming, to see potential in the city's streams. 'When we started it was like pulling teeth,' recalled Cheryl Klinker, president of the citizen's Thornton Creek Alliance. 'Habitat conservation was not even in their scope. Got a flooding problem? Put it in a pipe. They've come a long way.' If there is something at all sacred about life, however, then what hundreds of volunteers and the city are haltingly trying to do is really an act of reverence and worship, even of atonement. Creek restoration pays homage to not just what was once here but the natural web that still sustains us - even if we do push it over the horizon sometimes. It turns the environment from an abstract ideal to a stomping ground city people can see every day.

**Elk Creek Dam, Elk Creek, OR**

Lawsuit filed to force notching of Elk Creek Dam

Environmentalists, anglers and commercial fishers joined to file suit Thursday over Elk Creek Dam, asking a judge to order the half-completed structure notched so threatened coho salmon can reach spawning habitat more easily. Plaintiffs include the Oregon Natural Resources Council, Oregon Trout, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the Rogue Flyfishers and Waterwatch of Oregon.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, argues that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to consult the National Marine Fisheries Service on the dam and its impacts on coho salmon, a threatened species. Though the Corps of Engineers formally proposed in 1997 notching the dam to allow Elk Creek to freely run through it, local political pressure to someday finish the dam has kept Congress from funding the project.

**Condit Dam, White Salmon River, WA**

County commissioners in Washington oppose removal of Condit Dam

Skamania and Klickitat county commissioners filed official notice that they oppose an agreement by dam owner PacifiCorp to remove 125-foot Condit Dam from the White Salmon River, which serves as a natural border between the two counties. Opponents to dam removal have called the lake a haven for trout anglers and boaters, as well as habitat for otters, ducks and beavers. County commissioners also raised concern about damage to salmon habitat in the lower two miles of the White Salmon River. They criticized the company's plan to blast a hole through the dam and allow much of the 2.42 million cubic yards of water to rage through all at once, saying dredging before removal should at least be considered.

PacifiCorp, 14 environmental groups, the Yakama Nation and state and federal agencies signed a settlement agreement last fall. It calls for the dam to come down in December 2007, giving PacifiCorp enough time to raise the $17.15 million it will cost to remove the structure. Company officials estimate it would cost $30 million to install fish ladders and screens for a dam that generates only 14 megawatts of electricity. That's enough power to light up 13,000 houses. The 125-foot structure is the first large dam to be earmarked for removal in the Pacific Northwest and widely thought to be the largest ever in the country.

Racial tensions added to fight to save salmon

Native American tribes in the northwest with treaty fishing rights lacked the political clout to block construction of dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers. But they've joined with environmentalists and some non-tribal fishing groups to push aggressively for removal of four federal dams on Eastern Washington's portion of the Snake. Unless the river runs free, the tribes contend, salmon are doomed and their treaties will be violated.

At the same time, the tribes continue harvesting salmon and steelhead from the lower Columbia in a highly regulated but controversial commercial fishery. Perhaps one out of every several hundred of those fish comes from an endangered run from the Snake or Columbia river. The tribes' dual roles as advocates for preservation and harvesters of the fish strikes some dam supporters as hypocritical. Often, that sentiment is expressed in terms that strike tribal members as racist. Such was the case at a February hearing. 'Save Our Salmon. Eat Indian Gillnetters,' read the sign carried by one protester outside the Pasco hearing.


**Proposed Animas-La Plata project, Colorado River, UT**

Animas-La Plata project now faces formid able co ncerns from the EPA

Animas-La Plata Project proponents learned Tuesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has "continuing concerns" with the long-proposed southwestern Colorado reservoir and its compliance with the Clean Water Act. Congress authorized Animas-La Plata in 1968, but it has stalled and lurched for three decades because critics pounded away at environmental and economic issues related to what was to be the last of the great federal dam projects.

Last year, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt proposed a smaller Ridges Basin Reservoir. The EPA is asking for more information comparing the impacts of the Babbitt-backed proposal to an alternative preferred by a coalition of local and national environmental groups. The coalition's alternative would provide a water supply through more efficient operation of existing reservoirs; the purchase of land, water rights and reservoir storage space from current owners; and raising the height of Lemon Dam. The EPA suggests that the bureau's final environmental document provide detailed plans for repairing and replacing wetlands and other habitats that would be lost or damaged by dam construction in Ridges Basin.

**Pineview Dam, Ogden River, UT**

Pineview Dam may fail

Pineview Dam could fail in a major earthquake and needs to be renovated or replaced, according to Bureau of Reclamation officials. Tests conducted by the bureau during the past year show the 137-foot-high dam could collapse in an earthquake measuring 7.5 or more on the Richter scale. The reservoir's 36 billion gallons of water could flood the Ogden, Utah area in less than 30 minutes. The Bureau of Reclamation will forward two proposals to Congress in September that call for either replacing much of the dam or reinforcing the existing structure. Congress may choose to appropriate no funds.


Reparations proposed to compensate Sioux for losses incurred due to dams on the Missouri

A $200 million Missouri River trust fund would move American Indian tribes closer to compensation for land lost to federal dams, a tribal leader said. "In the spirit of what our people gave up, it could never entirely make up for that," said Michael Jandreau, chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. "But this is realism. South Dakota gets the benefit totally, and the individual interests of the state and the tribes also get assistance. It puts us in a situation where we really have to work together for the preservation of our resources." Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has introduced legislation to create a Missouri River Trust Fund to help control silt and erosion, improve recreation and protect cultural sites along the river.

River Alliance of Wisconsin's Twenty by 2000 update

Two sites have been added to the Twenty by 2000 list and the last site will be named in May. The two new additions are collaborative restoration projects in headwaters of the Onion River Watershed in Sheboygan County. Last year, a private conservation buyer purchased both the Silver Springs and Kamrath properties with the goal of restoring these streams and their wild trout fisheries. Trout Unlimited is leading these restoration efforts and is working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources throughout the process.

The Silver Springs restoration project includes the removal of more than 10 small dams and ponds to restore water quality and fisheries habitat. The project also includes permanent conservation of the parcels and eventual public access to the restored fishery. The dams are located on two tributaries to Mill Creek, a tributary to the Onion River. From the 1930s through the 1950s these streams were completely altered for an unsuccessful and now defunct private fish hatchery operation. The Kamrath Dam is 12-foot high earthen dam that has significantly degraded the quality of a wild trout stream. The dam is located on an unnamed tributary to the Onion River. The restoration plan includes removal of the dam and other fish passage restrictions and restoration of the stream channel.

For more information about dam removal in Wisconsin please contact Todd Ambs or Stephanie Lindloff of the River Alliance of Wisconsin at 608-257-2424 or, or visit

  • 'Lessons learned on Earth Day anniversary: dam removal one of best river restoration tools,' River Alliance of Wisconsin News Release, 19 April, 2000.

Ohio gets a 'C' for its anti-pollution programs for waterways; most states did even worse

The National Wildlife Federation gave Ohio a C for its attempt to develop a new federally mandated program to control polluted runoff and storm water, even though the program is yet to be implemented in the state. Ohio has done a reasonably good job in developing its program and it shows great promise, said Jeff Skelding of the Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide umbrella organization of eco-groups.

The Ohio EPA has completed its first plan: for the Middle Cuyahoga River in Summit and Portage counties. The plan, awaiting final federal approval, calls for modifying dams in Munroe Falls and Kent and getting the city of Akron to release more water from its Lake Rockwell dam to the Cuyahoga River. That would improve water quality on the river between Lake Rockwell and state Route 91 in Munroe Falls. The dams result in a low level of dissolved oxygen, which kills off most fish and aquatic insects and is a violation of federal limits. There also are problems with altered wildlife habitats and excessive nutrient loads. The Ohio EPA is working with local communities in an effort to win support for the project. Akron is not happy with the plan.

Nationally, 19 states received a grade of F and another 19 states got Ds for their efforts to implement what is called total maximum daily load limits for polluted waterways. Ohio and five other states got Cs. Six states got grades of B. No state got an A. 'The American public should be appalled that states are ignoring the (federal) law and putting people at risk,' said Mark Van Putten of the National Wildlife Federation. 'Our rivers, lakes and streams are in critical condition, and many states refuse to pick up the phone and call 911.'

  • Downing, Bob, 'Ohio gets 'C' for efforts: National Wildlife Federation rates states' attempts to enact anti-pollution programs for waterways,' Akron Beacon Journal, 6 April, 2000. Find the full story at:


**Embrey Dam, Rappahannock River, VA**

Victory on the Rappahannock secured

The Embrey Dam will be removed in 2002 to restore the Rappahannock River and the habitat it provides for shad and other fish. Removing the dam will open more than 170 miles of spawning habitat in the Rappahannock River and its tributaries to fish such as American shad and striped bass. Embrey Dam, constructed in 1910, no longer produces hydropower. The dam is a barrier to migratory fish and poses a public safety hazard.

A 1994 engineering analysis of the dam notes excessive cracking in the dam's concrete, with deep pockets and trenches, plus significant leakage. The report stated that the continual flow of water through these fissures will accelerate the deterioration of the concrete and eventually breach the dam. US Senator John Warner (R-VA) in August 1999 helped secure direct federal authorization for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove the dam and full federal funding for the project. Within the next two years, a new water intake will be constructed on a tributary to the Rappahannock River, eliminating the need for the marginal water supply benefits provided by Embrey Dam.

For more information, contact: John Tippett ( of Friends of the Rappahannock at 540.373.3448, Margaret Bowman of American Rivers at 202.347.7550, or Chuck Epes of Chesapeake Bay Foundation at 804.780.1392.

  • 'Embrey Dam to be Removed in 2002 to Restore Rappahannock River, Shad,' U.S. Newswire, 21 April, 2000 .

**Hanover Lake Dam, Hartshorne Mill River, NJ**

Lead contamination a potential threat at Hanover Lake Dam

In an effort to determine the extent of lead contamination in waterways around Fort Dix, the Army collected more samples this week from a dam on Hanover Lake, where preliminary sediment samples have already shown high levels of lead. Sampling is also scheduled for next week on Pemberton Township's Little Pine Lake, Big Pine Lake and Mirror Lake, said Richard Cahill, a spokesman for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the project. 'The testing at the dam is to determine the extent of the contamination, whereas the testing at the lakes is to determine that they're safe for recreation,' Cahill said.

The lead is believed to have come from dirt transported from firing-range berms to fortify the Hanover Lake spillway. Bullet slugs are largely composed of lead. While it is unclear when the lead-laced dirt was transported, Chominski told the EPA that the deposit could have occurred in the early 1990s, the berms were reconfigured. The Army is planning for a cleanup of soil around the Hanover Lake Dam.


Everglades restoration lends hope to other efforts

Congress and Florida's Legislature will make their first decisions this year on whether to jointly fund an $8 billion proposal to restore the health of the Everglades. It would remove more than 240 miles of canals and levees. While dam-breaching continues to face heavy resistance elsewhere in the country, the Everglades proposal is attracting support among Republicans and Democrats in Congress and in Florida.

Environmental groups are pointing to that support as a sign that Congress may fund other large restoration projects -- such as breaching the Snake River dams, which environmentalists estimate would cost about $2 billion. 'The price tag on the Everglades project has really changed the rules of the game,' said Scott Faber of American Rivers, a Washington, D.C.-based group. 'We're about to spend $8 billion to replumb the Everglades. . . . In comparison, $2 billion doesn't sound so bad.'