No. 3, December 15, 1998

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Rani Derasary


  • Dam decommissioning up and running in Canada!
  • Sierra Club gears up to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley
  • Utah State University scientist calls for tearing down dams
  • Glen Canyon Environmental Assessment update
  • Salmon shown crucial to ecosystems, if not to local politicians
  • Conservationist hired by Bonneville Power Administration
  • Historian fights for river restoration
  • New study aimed at developing a science-based approach to dam removal
  • Scientists warn that reservoirs may increase chance of earthquakes
  • American Whitewater Affiliation supports dam removal
  • Living Rivers welcomes 8 new members


**Theodosia Dam, Theodosia River, British Columbia**

Dam decommissioning up and running in Canada!

Of the more than 2,000 dams in British Columbia, it is estimated that upwards of 15 percent have outlived their useful life. In response, the British Columbia Heritage River Program and the Outdoor Recreation Council are working with the Sliammon First Nation to launch efforts to have some of these obsolete dams removed. One of their initial targets is the Theodosia dam and diversion, which diverts up to 80 percent of the Theodosia River's water. While the dam provides only nominal hydropower benefits, it is causing significant declines in salmon stocks. Before construction of the dam in 1956, the Theodosia was one of the most productive fisheries in the Georgia Strait, sustaining runs of approximately 100,000 pink salmon, 50,000 chum and 10,000 coho per year. Now these runs have been reduced to only a few thousand chum and just three dozen coho. Efforts so far are spawning discussions between the British Columbia government and Pacifica, the owner and operator of the diversion. It is hoped that success on the Theodosia will spawn wider interest in dam decommissioning across Canada.

For additional information, contact: Mark Angelo, Rivers Chair, Outdoor Recreation Council, 1367 W. Broadway, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6H4A9. Phone: 604.737.3058; email: The campaign has also produced an attractive poster titled "Dams Don't Last Forever." Contact Mark Angelo for copies.

  • "Theodosia River salmon deserve another run at it," Vancouver Province (editorial), 14 December 1998.


**O'Shaughnessy Dam, Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park**

Sierra Club gears up to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley

One of the country's most famous dam fights is now coming full circle. Ninety years ago, John Muir's Sierra Club fought to stop the construction of O'Shaughnessy Dam and prevent the flooding of Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley. Now the Club is building up momentum to have the reservoir drained, and the Valley restored. Over the past year, a special Hetch Hetchy Task Force has been established to help develop an action plan for the Valley's restoration. A web site on the restoration effort is up and running, with fabulous photographs and paintings of Hetch Hetchy Valley prior to its inundation. For additional information contact: Ron Good, Hetch Hetchy Restoration Task Force, Sierra Club, PO Box 289, Yosemite, CA 95389. Phone: 209.372.8785; email:; On the web please visit:


**Fontenelle and Flaming Gorge dams, Green River, Wyoming/Utah (respectively), Taylor Draw Dam, White River, Colorado**

Utah State University scientist calls for tearing down dams

Utah State University geomorphologist Dr. Jack Schmidt last week suggested in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune that several large dams on tributaries of the upper Colorado River basin should be removed. Dismantling Flaming Gorge and Fontenelle Dams on the Green River, and Taylor Draw Dam on the White River, "might be a better way to preserve endangered fish species than to incrementally constrain water development everywhere else in the Colorado River Basin," said Dr. Schmidt. He suggested the entire Colorado River Basin should be considered in deciding which dams should be removed or re-operated to restore more natural flow regimes.

**Glen Canyon Dam, Colorado River, Utah/Arizona**

Glen Canyon Environmental Assessment update

Glen Canyon Environmental Assessment Update In early January 1999, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec) is expected to release an Environmental Assessment (EA) for controlling the temperature of water released from Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Arizona. This presents an unusual opportunity for the public to call for a major rethinking of the function of -- and need for -- Glen Canyon Dam. BuRec is responding to a "Biological Opinion" published in 1994 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service stating that the continuing release of cold water from the dam is endangering the survival of the Humpback Chub, a native warm-water fish species. BuRec will recommend modifications to the dam which would allow for release of warmer water from nearer the surface of the reservoir. Activists are invited to comment on this EA, which will be posted on the website of BuRec's Upper Colorado Regional Office ( sometime in January. Decommissioning activists are simultaneously calling on BuRec to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the temperature problems with Glen Canyon. Activists insist that minor modifications to the dam's operation are not likely to significantly affect the long-term survival of the Chub or other endangered fishes in the Colorado River, and that the government must examine a dam decommissioning alternative if it is to fairly and openly evaluate the range of options available for recovering endangered species impacted by cold water releases from Glen Canyon. River Revival Bulletin will issue a detailed action alert upon release of the EA. Information on how and where to submit comments will be included at that time.


**Snake River Dams, Washington (Lower Granite, Little Goose, LowerMonumental, Ice Harbor)**

Salmon shown crucial to ecosystems, if not to local politicians

Breaching the lower Snake River dams and removing the earthen portions so the river flows unimpeded is being supported by conservationists and many biologists, who say the action would be best for salmon. At the same time, a recent preliminary economic analysis suggests that the loss of hydroelectric power would cost between $150 million to $360 million annually, and industrial users of the river are strongly opposing the idea for varying reasons. At a recent forum, Eastern Oregon mayors cited threats to irrigated agriculture and the Columbia River barge system. Rationality may not have been ruling the meeting, however, since Ken Puzi of the Port of Umatilla described the notion of breaching the dams as, "tantamount to the discussion of eliminating oxygen from the atmosphere."

Meanwhile, researchers at Washington State University have found that salmon-eating grizzly bears played a significant role in producing the "Paul Bunyan-proud trees" that lured the timber industry to the Northwest. Through their digestive process, bears help to spread the rich nutrients found in salmon through the forest. Current studies being carried out in Alaska show that each salmon-eating bear spreads 400 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus a year -- in a form much more easily used by trees than commercial fertilizer. The University researchers' findings raises questions about how bears (and "towering trees") will survive if the US Fish and Wildlife Service goes ahead with its plans to reintroduce grizzlies into Idaho and Washington without first restoring salmon runs. According to a Weyerhaeuser Corporation salmon researcher, "we have changed the system so dramatically," it is unclear how successful grizzly revival would be. The Columbia River dams, he adds, "present a real challenge in terms of getting salmon back.''

  • "Dam breaching cost could hit $360," The Spokesman-Review, 21 November 1998.
  • "Eastern Oregon mayors decry breaching four dams: Removing the barriers in the Snake River might save salmon, but it would have catastrophic effects, say participants in a mayors forum," The Oregonian, 22 November 1998. "Unbearable conditions: Could grizzlies be fat and happy without salmon runs?" The Spokesman-Review, 29 November 1998. Register your comments at:

Conservationist hired by Bonneville Power Administration

Three months ago, as co-director of the Northwest office of American Rivers, Lorraine Bodi called for breaching the four federal dams on the lower Snake River to aid endangered salmon. Now the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the federal agency that markets the electricity those dams generate, has hired Bodi as a senior policy adviser. Her goal is to help the region work out a 10- to 20-year plan that would help fish, while guaranteeing that BPA continues supplying the region with power at below-market rates. "BPA hire brings new ideas to salmon debate," The Oregonian, 13 November 1998.


**Missouri River**

Historian fights for river restoration

Perhaps no one knows the Missouri River better than author and historian Stephen Ambrose. Since 1976, he has retraced Lewis and Clark's 1804 route 2,500 miles from St. Louis to the river's source at Three Forks, Montana. Ambrose was shocked to witness what industry had wrought upon the broad and meandering braided river. The Missouri for most of its length has been leveed, dammed, and channeled into a sterile and narrow barge canal with one fifth of its river and flood-plain flora and fauna either endangered or threatened. Ambrose calls it "a bloody disaster," and is spearheading a campaign to pump millions of dollars into Missouri River renewal.


**Dam Removal and Remanagement Guidelines Under Study**

New study aimed at developing a science-based approach to dam removal

With assistance from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a program is now moving forward to develop science-based guidelines for the removal and remanagement of dams. The program will be developing ecological, economic, hydrological and other criteria for utilizing dam removal as a strategy for improving fish habitat and watershed management. The study will be undertaken over the next year. Two teams have been formed. The Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies will be focusing on case studies for the Western US, but principally those in California and Marin County. The River Alliance of Wisconsin will be focusing on case studies for the Eastern US. For additional information, or to recommend case studies, contact: Mike McGowan, Senior Research Scientist, Romberg Tiburon Center For Environmental Studies, phone: 415.338.3514, email:; or, River Alliance of Wisconsin, phone: 608.257.2424, email:

**Earthquake Studies Provoke Dam Safety Concerns**

Scientists warn that reservoirs may increase chance of earthquakes

A 1959 earthquake which measured 7.3 on the Richter scale and killed 28 people near Yellowstone Park may have been caused in part by a reservoir, according to a Texas scientist. Before this study of Hebgen Lake reservoir, the largest earthquake widely believed to have been induced by a reservoir occurred in India in 1967 and had a magnitude of 6.3. In the Pacific Northwest region, a "couple of hundred" small earthquakes have been recorded since Boise State University installed nine seismograph stations in 1991 between La Grande and Hells Canyon on the Snake River. One scenario predicts that if nearby Brownlee Dam failed due to a big quake, a wall of water would rush down the narrow Snake River canyon, taking out in turn Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams, and then causing catastrophic damage to lowland areas in the twin towns of Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington. Such a calamity is possible, scientific publications have warned. On a related note, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) has announced plans to switch government emphasis from disaster recovery to prevention. The plan encompasses hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes, but focuses on flood insurance. Clearly, potential dam failures present another area of prevention that FEMA should seriously consider.

  • "FEMA Emphasizes Disaster Prevention," The Associated Press, 10 November 1998.
  • "Quakes raise alarms for Brownlee Dam: Seismographs record a whole lot of shaking, and puzzled geologists consider worst-case scenarios for that impoundment and others," The Oregonian, 29 November 1998.
  • "Reservoir part of Yellowstone quake?" United Press International, 23 November 1998.

**Decommissioning Gaining Support of River Recreation Enthusiasts**

American Whitewater Affiliation supports dam removal

Each year, the American Whitewater Affiliation (AWA) presents its "Top 40 Whitewater Issues" list. Their 1998 list was just released at the end of September, and one emerging upward trend identified by the group is dam removal, which they recognize "has the potential to restore miles of whitewater, to unlock rapids drowned by reservoirs, to repair aquatic habitat, to restore salmon, and to change how society looks at rivers." AWA marvels that several years ago the thought of removing even one of the more than 75,000 large dams in this country was unthinkable, but in 1998, it is a full-fledged national [international!] movement. The work of Glen Canyon Institute is included in the top 10 issues, and hydropower relicensing stories appear throughout the list.

Living Rivers update!

Living Rivers welcomes 8 new members

Eight organizations recently signed on to the Walker Creek Declaration, joining Living Rivers:

  • Alabama Rivers Alliance, USA
  • Charles River Watershed Association, USA (Massachusetts)
  • Cook Inlet Keeper, USA (Alaska)
  • Eyak Rainforest Preservation Fund, USA (Alaska)
  • New York Rivers United, USA
  • River Network, USA (national organization based in Oregon)
  • Rivers Unlimited, USA (Ohio)
  • Vermont Watershed Action Network, USA

We thank them for their support. If you would like contact information for any of these groups, and/or know of other organizations which would be interested in endorsing the declaration and joining Living Rivers, please let us know at'.