No. 18, June 20, 2000

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editor: Elizabeth Brink



  • Snowy River restoration campaign progresses


  • FERC recommends modest reduction in Eel River diversion
  • CalFed plan proposes additional water storage
  • Bill prohibits federal funding for American River restoration


  • Irrigation system threatens endangered fish
  • Umatilla tribe fighting to save lampreys
  • Slade Gorton encounters protesters on his pro-dam campaign trail
  • Wallowa Lake Dam deemed public safety threat
  • Gubernatorial candidate calls for Milltown Dam removal


  • Endangered species and corruption reveal Corps of Engineers threat to Mississippi River


  • City asks taxpayers to pay for Leatherwood Dam retrofit
  • Former residents gather annually to mourn homes, burial sites inundated by Ouachita reservoir


  • Removal of abandoned Manatawny Creek dam is focus of 2-year study


  • Americans warned of dam threats


Snowy River restoration campaig n progresses

The aim of the Snowy Alliance is basic: increase the current flow of 9 gigalitres a year to 330 gigalitres a year - that's 28 per cent of its original flow. As a result of a remarkable campaign over the past five years, there is now a good chance of more water being released into the Snowy River. Since the completion of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme in 1972, the river has carried only 1 per cent of its original flow for more than 80 kilometers below Lake Jindabyne. If the NSW, Victorian and Commonwealth governments, which still jointly own the scheme, agree to return a real "environmental flow" to the river, the Snowy could become one of Australia's first great cases of environmental rehabilitation.

The campaign to rehabilitate the Snowy is remarkable partly because of its rural base. Most major environmental campaigns over the last 30 years for places such as Lake Pedder and the Franklin, Daintree and Kakadu have come out of the city and, all too often, been opposed in the bush. The campaign for the Snowy has come out of Monaro in NSW and East Gippsland in Victoria and been supported in Sydney and Melbourne. Its prime source is Orbost, one of Victoria's logging towns most opposed to the preservation of old growth forests. "This opportunity we have got with the Snowy flows is an important chance to relook at our water-use practices," says member and Independent MP for the Victorian State seat of Gippsland East, Craig Ingram. "We have turned nearly all the rivers in this country into irrigation drains. But the silent majority are starting to use their voice."

For more information visit, or contact Paul Leete, Chairman of the Snowy River Alliance at 02 64565000.


**Potter Valley Project, Eel River, CA**

FERC recommends modest reduction in Eel River diversion

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's staff recommended a 15 percent reduction (up to 25 percent in critically dry years) in the amount of Eel River water diverted into the Russian River, rejecting calls from environmental groups and the National Marine Fisheries Service for deeper cutbacks. The energy commission staff recommendation was disclosed in a letter dated 8 June, 2000 to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The letter accompanied the release of the final round of environmental studies, which will be subject to public hearings before the commission can act.

Proponents of larger reductions have lobbied the federal agencies involved, and have denounced the final recommendation by the energy commission staff. "People are going to be flat angry about this," said Humboldt County Supervisor Stan Dixon, a proponent of larger cutbacks in Eel River diversions. Dixon said protracted litigation is a real possibility now because he thinks it is unlikely the commission will overrule the staff recommendation.

Nadananda, Executive Director of the Friends of the Eel River, emphasizes that these recommendations from FERC do not represent a final decision; so public comments and attendance at hearings will be essential to ensuring that adequate flows are returned to the Eel River. For more information, contact the organization at 707.923.2146 or by e-mail Visit Friends of the Eel River's Web site

  • Geniella, Mike, "County backed in river water fight - Key agency: 15% cut in Russian River diversion enough," Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 10 June, 2000.

CalFed plan proposes additional water storage

California Governor Gray Davis and US Department of the Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt unveiled a $10 billion, 30-year blueprint for California's water future on June 8, 2000. The document follows five years of meetings with farmers, environmentalists and cities, working under the name "CalFed" with a mission of improving supplies and protecting the Bay-Delta's threatened and endangered species without hampering water quality and flow. The agreement includes proposals for eight new or expanded water storage projects, proposals to increase water-use efficiency, and environmental measures to address fish and wildlife habitat in the 738,000-acre Delta and a vast watershed that covers more than one-third of the state. Some reports indicate that the plan is ushering in a "greener" era of watershed management, while others criticize proposals for new or expanded dams. Plans to expand the Shasta or Los Vaqueros reservoirs, like almost any other plan to boost surface water storage, are sure to be controversial.

  • Hood, Jeff, "Mokelumne River restoration program: New dam, fish boost urged for Mokelumne," San Joaquin Record, 14 June, 2000.
  • Rogers, Paul, "Water politics enters greener era: State-U.S. pact signals shift to conservation," San Jose Mercury News, 9 June, 2000. Full text:
  • Taugher, Mike & LaMar, Andrew, "CalFed pact ignores dam expansion foes: Negotiators will include an enlargement of the Los Vaqueros reservoir in a program to stabilize California's water supply," Contra Costa Times, June 8, 2000.

Bill prohibits federal funding for American River restoration

The Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee of the US House of Representatives has approved a water projects spending bill that includes language barring the use of federal funds for the closure of an American River diversion tunnel or restoration of the river canyon near Auburn. The provision, possibly placed in the legislation at the request of Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, could escalate the conflict over a tunnel that state officials, environmentalists and some Auburn community leaders want closed.

The half-mile-long tunnel was placed in the canyon 25 years ago to divert water from the Auburn dam construction site. It still does that, though the dam project was halted. Now, environmentalists and business and political leaders in Auburn say the tunnel should be blocked so the river can flow naturally and be used for recreation. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is threatening to sue to close it. Rep. Doolittle opposes shuttering the tunnel, fearful that may doom the Auburn dam, which he strongly supports and hopes to revive.

  • Sample, Herbert A., "Panel votes to keep river tunnel in the flow," Sacramento Bee, 14 June, 2000.


Irrigation system threatens endangered fish

The National Marine Fisheries Service last week sued Washington State's Methow Valley Irrigation District, alleging its diversion dam is killing salmon and steelhead protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The district signed a consent decree calling for slower diversion velocities for the irrigation water and improved fish screens in the district's ditches. But the government has said that it may no longer be willing to accept the terms of the decree. The judge could order the district to "dewater" its ditches -- about four feet wide and a foot deep -- that irrigate pastures, lawns and hobby farms in the scenic Methow Valley below Twisp.

The current system is "killing some of the most endangered fish in the Columbia River Basin," NMFS spokesman Brian Gorman said Monday from Seattle. "The solution is fairly simple and won't cost the district anything: a conversion from open ditches that are losing 80 percent of their water through leakage to a more modern system of wells and pressurized pipes." Bonneville Power Administration and the state Department of Ecology have agreed to foot the estimated $5 million the changeover would cost.

Umatilla tribe fighting to save lampreys

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have launched the first effort to restore Pacific lamprey to the Columbia River Basin. Lamprey, like salmon and steelhead, spawn in rivers and streams and then spend their adult lives in the open ocean. For tribes in the Columbia Basin, lamprey are a traditional, ceremonial food. Once abundant in the region, they are increasingly scarce, as they are beset by the same set of problems that have hurt salmon, including damage to habitat from dams and diversions, logging, grazing and development. The decline in salmon numbers also probably has hurt lamprey, removing one of the host fish they latch onto as adults.

Scientists are learning that dams are particularly lethal to lamprey. Adult lamprey are poor swimmers and can barely make headway against water rushing down fish ladders built to help migrating fish pass the dams. The Umatilla tribes have successfully returned thousands of spring chinook, fall chinook and coho to the 130-mile Umatilla River, also hope to reverse the lamprey's dramatic decline. An experimental program financed by a $381,000 grant from the Bonneville Power Administration, aims both to study and restore lamprey populations. "Lamprey are important to the ecosystems as well as important to our tribal culture," said David Close, 33, a tribal member who is leading the research and restoration project, "they're just not glamorous."

Slade Gorton encounters protesters on his pro-dam campaign trail

Sen. Slade Gorton, R. WA, is seeking his fourth term in the Senate, and in his official announcement he repeated several times his pledge to fight any attempts to remove federal dams in the Northwest. He faces no serious primary opponents, but state Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn and former U.S. Rep. Maria Cantwell are running for the Democratic nomination. "On my watch, this administration will not destroy the hydroelectric dam system of the Northwest," Gorton said later, to which supporters cheered and opponents jeered. The protesters were the first Gorton encountered in a whistle-stop tour of the state. He said he wasn't surprised to see either the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition or tribal activists. Along with his stance on dams, Gorton has angered tribes on issues covering tribal sovereignty and funding for Indian programs.

Gorton shocked the press and public by finally acknowledging that breaching the four lower Snake River dams would increase the odds of saving some endangered stocks of salmon but that he remains opposed to the action because of the economic and social costs. "If you ask the narrow question, will breaching the four Snake River dams increase the possibility of recovering one or two endangered runs of salmon on the upper Snake, I'd probably have to answer that question yes," "In the past, his rhetoric has been that the dams are not a problem," said Chris Zimmer, a spokesman for Save Our Wild Salmon in Seattle. "This cuts through that myth."

**Wallowa Lake Dam, Wallowa Lake, OR**

Wallowa Lake Dam deemed public safety threat

Built in 1918, the 35-foot Wallowa Lake Dam in northeastern Oregon has been classified by the Oregon Water Resources Department as a "high-hazard dam," indicating some loss of life and property could occur if the dam failed. Ringed by glacial moraines and the spectacular stone teeth of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Lake pools behind an aging concrete dam that experts say is too decrepit to do its job much longer; it could be condemned if it is not rehabilitated soon, reported inspector John Falk of the Oregon Dam Safety Office on March 24, 2000. Operator Associated Ditch Cos. Inc. could be ordered, for reasons of safety, to remove the dam, warned manager David Hockett in a recent "project description" of the planned rehabilitation effort. The group is currently making plans to refurbish it, starting in autumn 2002, at a cost of $2 million to $3 million.

**Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT**

Gubernatorial candidate calls for Milltown Dam removal

Mark O'Keefe, democratic candidate for governor of Montana, is calling for the cleanup of contaminated sediment behind the Milltown Dam and the eventual removal of the dam altogether, saying the contaminants contained behind the structure simply pose too much of a risk. "It's a wooden structure that was built in 1907," said O'Keefe. "It has a finite life and someday it will have to be removed. Worse, it could fail before it is removed." Contaminated sediments have washed down the Clark Fork River since mining began in 1864. When Milltown Dam was completed in 1907, the sediment accumulated in the reservoir behind the dam. It now holds 6.6 million cubic yards of sediment, much of it polluted with copper, lead, zinc, cadmium and arsenic.

A risk assessment performed by the Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that the sediment often spills over the dam during high flooding, and an ice floe in 1996 scoured so much sediment off of the bottom of the reservoir that concentrations of copper downstream exceeded levels that would occur during a major flood. The EPA, with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is looking into the feasibility of removing the dam. The results of an EPA study evaluating clean-up efforts are expected to be released in September. The structure is a Superfund site, and paying for the cleanup is the responsibility of Atlantic Richfield Co., which acquired assets and liabilities of the Anaconda Co. through a 1979 merger.

  • Hunter, Dave, "O'Keefe Calls For Removal of Milltown Dam," 24 April, 2000.


Endangered species and corruption reveal Corps of Engineers threat to Mississippi River

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a sweeping "jeopardy opinion" concluding that federal efforts to maintain a barge channel on the Mississippi River are threatening the survival of two endangered species, a decision with serious economic and environmental implications. The Service warns the Army Corps of Engineers that its locks, dams, dikes and dredges on the upper Mississippi are impeding the recovery of the endangered pallid sturgeon and Higgins' eye pearlymussel. The opinion may most affect the proposed lock expansion project, which was thrown into turmoil in February by allegations that top corps officials had rigged a $54 million study to justify construction. The Pentagon is investigating the study, as are the General Accounting Office and a congressional committee.

During the last century, the corps transformed about 30 turbulent rivers into placid barge channels, smoothing the way for commerce -- at a cost. Natural rivers twist and turn, rise and fall. They are cluttered with back channels and islands, sandbars and shoals. Barge channels need to be straight and deep and reliable. Dams cause additional damage by blocking fish migrations. Barges stir up sediments and tear up fish.


**Leatherwood Dam, West Leatherwood Creek, AR**

City asks taxpayers to pay for Leatherwood Dam retrofit

The city of Eureka Springs, Arkansas is asking voters to support a plan to issue general obligation bonds and use city savings to bring Leatherwood Dam up to the standards of the state's Soil and Water Conservation Commission. The dam is 750 feet from end to end and just wide enough for two people to cross walking hand in hand. It's 70 feet tall, with water slipping over the top and continuing downstream as part of West Leatherwood Creek. When the dam was completed in the mid-1940s, it was designed to hold back 75 percent of the probable maximum flood. That standard later was raised, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1980 studied the dam. The study found it would tip over if the area receives 30 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. It's uncertain what it would cost to bring the dam up to the standards, but some estimates have been near $600,000. The state Soil and Water Conservation Commission has pledged $100,000 that can be used for the dam's improvement or to tear it down.

**Blakely Dam, Ouachita River, AR**

Former residents gather annually to mourn homes, burial sites inundated by Ouachita reservoir

It's been 48 years since the new Lake Ouachita reservoir inundated Manuel Bradley's family homestead, but his memories still come flooding back. Each year Bradley gathers with others chased from their southwestern Arkansas homes when Arkansas Power & Light built a dam 10 miles downstream across the Ouachita River. The reservoir now stretches about 40 miles long. The annual reunion fulfills a promise residents made to each other: No matter how far we're scattered, we'll always be a community. The Blakely Dam was conceived in 1909 and completed 1952. Before the lake covered the town, residents moved the church and cemetery to a nearby hilltop. "When the dam started up and they had to move all of the bodies, I think that was the saddest part," Gladys Bradley said.

Nelson, Melissa, "Town lies underneath a lake, but arises each year in memory," 11 June, 2000, The Associated Press. Full text at:


Removal of abandoned Manatawny Creek dam is focus of 2-year study

The Patrick Center for Environmental Research (PCER) of The Academy of Natural Sciences was awarded $369,000 by the Pennsylvania Environmental Stewardship and Watershed Protection Program (better known as "Growing Greener") to study the ecological effects of a dam removal project on the Manatawny Creek in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Expected improvements following the dam removal include the eventual return of migratory fish to the upper watershed, and a decrease in nuisance algae blooms within the impoundment area behind the dam. The dam, scheduled for July 2000 removal, no longer serves its intended purpose, has no traceable owner, and is believed to be a significant impairment to the general health of the creek. To better understand the scope, magnitude, and timing of ecological improvements, scientists will conduct a comprehensive study of the physical, chemical, and biological attributes of Manatawny Creek over the next 2 years. Project results will provide important information concerning the ecological benefits of dam removal, and will inform future policy decisions concerning dam removal as a restoration method throughout Pennsylvania and the US.

  • "Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge Awards The Academy of Natural Sciences `Growing Greener' Grant for Important Dam Removal Research Project," PRNewswire, 8 May, 2000.


Americans warned of dam threats

More than 80,000 dams dot the United States, some large and others small, many of them old and in need of repair. Some 9,326 dams are rated as "high-hazard," meaning that if they should fail for any reason, loss of life and serious property damage would result. Being designated as high-hazard does not mean that a dam is deficient or in danger of failing. Rather it indicates the potential for damage and loss of life if the dam should fail because of flooding, earthquake or other reasons.

Less than 40 percent of the high-hazard dams have an emergency action plan for people to follow, according to James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "The failure not only to operate and maintain safe dams, but also to plan in advance for failure, can have catastrophic consequences,'' he warned. There have been 1,449 dam failures in the United States in the past 150 years, the association reports. A survey by the state dam safety officials produced an estimate that, nationwide, $40 billion of work is needed to maintain and improve current dams.

  • Schmid, Randolph, "Americans Urged To Be Aware of Dams," Associated Press, 6 June, 2000.