No. 44, January 21, 2003

River Revival Bulletin

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

Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak

table of contents












take action!

Act now to protect threatened Bull Trout populations

The US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is now accepting public comment on two proposals, which bear historic significance to the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies. In response to a settlement agreement with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Friends of the Wild Swan, the FWS has proposed critical habitat designation for more than 18,000 miles of streams - an area nearly twice the length of the entire National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. The FWS has also released a draft Recovery Plan for bull trout. Please submit comments expressing your support for: all the areas the US Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed for critical habitat, inclusion of specific numeric habitat standards, and the most comprehensive possible habitat protection plan.

For more information, visit the FWS website listed below, or Alliance for the Wild Rockies at:

Comments on the Critical Habitat proposal can be sent (until January 28) to:

John Young, Bull Trout Coordinator, US Fish & Wildlife Service, 911 NE 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97232
Comments can also be submitted via the FWS bull trout web site at:
Fax: 503.231.6243 E-mail:
The proposal itself, as well as the draft recovery plan, can be accessed at the web site.

Comments on the Draft Recovery proposal can be sent (until February 27) to:

US Fish & Wildlife Service, Snake River Basin Office, Attn: Robert Ruesink, 1387 W. Vinnell Way, Room 368,
Boise, ID 83709. Fax: 208-378-5262 E-mail:


Dam safety worries on the Gold Coast

The 70-year-old Tallebudgera Dam may collapse in a major flood, landowners downstream have been warned. A risk assessment found that the dam, built for water supply, needed a major upgrade to meet safety guidelines. Indeed, urgent maintenance recommended in a 1988 engineering report still has not been done. The 3000-megalitre dam was the main water source for southern townships on the Gold Coast until 1962 when the Little Nerang Dam was built. The council has opinions on a range of options, including demolition. The council has proposed upgrading the dam by raising and protecting surrounding banks with concrete and building a stilling basin downstream and lowering or removing the spillway. Area councilor Sue Robbins said the proposals were triggered by new worldwide safety guidelines requiring that dams to be deemed safe in the event of a 'one-in-one-million-year flood.' 'All dams worldwide have to meet new safety requirements after an event in South America where a dam gave way during a flood,' she said.

(Estreich, Janelle, 'City ponders fate of ageing Tallebudgera water storage; Flood could be dam buster,' Gold Coast Bulletin, 3 December 2002.)


Update: BC Hydro to decommission Coursier Dam

BC Hydro is submitting an application to decommission the Coursier Dam, in southeastern British Columbia. Coursier Dam is situated high up in an isolated mountain valley, and water from the reservoir flows into Cranberry Creek and then to the 8 MW Walter Hardman generating station, prior to being released into the Arrow Lakes reservoir. Decommissioning of Coursier Dam will decrease generation at Walter Hardman from about 48.5 to 33- 38 GWH/yr. The decision to decommission the dam was taken due to an ongoing history of deficiencies and remedial works, required by the Coursier Dam to bring it up to present day engineering and safety standards. BC Hydro's dam safety investigations lead to the dam being operated at a reduced reservoir level since 1998. According to the utility, the main long-term benefit of decommissioning will be the elimination of a threat to public safety. BC Hydro is developing plans for the restoration of the inlet tributaries and outlet channel to return Cranberry Creek to pre-dam levels.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'BC Hydro to decommission Coursier dam,' 30 November 2002.)


Dam fighter accepts Asian Human Rights Award

On accepting an award last week for promoting human rights in Asia, the head of an Indonesian nongovernmental group asked Japanese to keep an eye on the use of official development assistance. 'I believe Japanese don't want their taxes to be used in a way that endangers people in countries to which Japan offers official development assistance,' Armen Muhammad said. Armen, who heads the Taratak Foundation, accepted the Asian Human Rights Award on behalf of his group. The award was given by a Japanese group called Foundation for Human Rights in Asia. The award ceremony has been held since 1996 to honor individuals or organizations who help improve human rights in Asia. Armen worked with others to set up the Taratak Foundation in 1989. At that time he was a student at Muhamadia University's agricultural department. He soon became involved in supporting people whose lives had been drastically affected by the construction of the Kotopanjang Dam in Sumatra. The dam was built with Japanese official development assistance in the form of a 30 billion yen yen-dominated loan. Its construction displaced about 23,000 residents in 12 villages.

(Kakuya, Ishida, 'NGO head calls for monitoring of ODA use,' The Daily Yomiuri, 11 December 2002.)


Arase Dam, Kumagawa River, Japan
Decision to dismantle Arase Dam is the first in the nation

For the first time an operating dam in Japan has been slated for removal. Citizens have long complained the nation's rivers are vastly over-dammed, and a decision to remove the Arase Dam on the Kumagawa River is the first crack in the usual cover-it-in-concrete waterway policy. Kumamoto Prefecture's Governor Yoshiko Shiotani deserves praise for her administration's decision to tear down the obsolete hydroelectric dam over the Kumagawa River in seven years. Nagano Prefecture's Governor Yasuo Tanaka sought to abandon construction of a dam on the Asakawa River as part of his 'down with dams' campaign, and similar reconsideration of dams has occurred in many other parts of the nation in recent years. The Arase Dam has an impounding capacity of 10 million tons, and blocks the natural run of ayu sweetfish and other fish. Young 'one-foot sweetfish,' for which the Kumagawa River is known, have been carted upstream in trucks to grow. Sediment has built up in the riverbed above the dam over time, cutting off oxygen and killing the river. Citizens also complained that tremors caused by the release of water from the dam created large cracks in their houses. People in the village of Sakamoto, where the Arase Dam stands, began pressing for its removal when controversy arose over the merits of the land ministry's plan to build a dam on the Kawabegawa River further upstream.

(Asahi News editorial, 'Removal is a first step to freeing choked rivers,' 13 December 2002.)
(The Daily Yomiuri, 'Kumamoto gov. says Arase Dam to close,' 11 December 2002.)

us - general

Interior calls FERC relicensing reform timeline too ambitious

Though the US Interior Department supports the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's ongoing effort to reform its relicensing procedure, the department told FERC it is concerned regulators are moving too fast toward a fall 2003 target for a final rule. The filing added that FERC's reforms should follow closely recommendations made separately by the Interagency Hydropower Committee and National Review Group, both of which advocate improved coordination among the various federal and state resource agencies that take part in environmental review of proposed and existing hydro facilities. Interior said FERC should take steps to ensure that the Fish and Wildlife Service, US EPA and National Marine Fisheries Service resolve study disputes early in the licensing process, especially given the massive percentage of public hydro capacity - more than 50 percent - set to come up for renewal over the next decade.

(Sullivan, Colin, 'Hydropower: Interior calls FERC relicensing reform timeline; 'too ambitious',' Greenwire, 16 December 2002.)

us - california

Fish migration barriers identified on Lagunitas Creek

Environmentalists have identified 53 spots in the Lagunitas Creek watershed that may hinder threatened salmon on their way to spawn. The creek and its tributaries provide breeding grounds for coho salmon and also host steelhead trout. Fish advocates surveyed 13 creeks in the San Geronimo Valley and found many of the trouble spots were culverts and small dams that could be removed or refitted to let fish pass. 'If we can muster the resources and political support to repair or replace all these migration barriers, we can open up more than 4.5 miles of habitat that have been completely or partially lost to the fish,' said Todd Steiner, director of the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network.

(Associated Press, 'News briefs from around California,' 30 November 2002.)

Potter Valley Project, Eel River, CA
Update: Eel River dams harm California salmon

The National Marine Fisheries Service says current dam operations on the upper Eel River in Northern California are likely to jeopardize the survival of three species of threatened anadromous fish: coho salmon, chinook salmon and steelhead trout. NMFS has recommended to FERC, which regulates the Eel River's Potter Valley Project, to force Pacific Gas & Electric to change dam operations, but whether FERC decides to follow NMFS's recommendation or not, sources say a nasty and confusing legal battle over water rights in California's third largest watershed may be inevitable, likening the situation to the infamous Klamath River basin. The Eel River basin is California's third-largest producer of coho and chinook, and second-largest producer of steelhead, although combined runs of all three fish have hovered at only 1,000 the past years compared to 30,000 in the 1980s and an estimated half million at the turn of the century.

For more information, visit Friends of the Eel River at:

(Henry, Natalie M., 'Eel River dams harm Calif. salmon, NMFS says,' Land Letter, 12 December 2002.)

us - northwest

Northwest Coalition says region can generate 9,000 MW with renewables

The Pacific Northwest can slash power demand by 3,100 MW through conservation and generate 9,000 MW with new wind, biomass and geothermal resources at power costs comparable to new gas fired generation, says a study commissioned by the Seattle-based Northwest Energy Coalition. This would enable the region to meet all of its growing need for power by increasing energy efficiency and investing in renewables - primarily 6,000 MW of wind generation, 1,400 MW of biomass and 300 MW of geothermal resources, according to the $30,000 study conducted by Boston-based Tellus Institute. ''Far from suffering an energy crunch, we can enjoy an abundance of clean, affordable energy,'' said Sara Patton, executive director of the NW Energy Coalition.

Learn more by visiting the Northwest Energy Coalition at

(Utility Environment Report, 'Northwest Coalition says region can generate 9,000 MW with renewables,' 29 November 2002.)

Northwest Council proposes reduced summertime flows

The Northwest Power Planning Council has proposed a plan to decrease the amount of water released from reservoirs on the Columbia and Snake rivers during the spring and summer to increase power output in the winter, angering environmentalists who say it will harm salmon. The plan would also reduce the amount of water released over dam spillways, which help young salmon reach the ocean. The plan would also create the potential to generate 41 megawatts on average per year because of the increased waterflows during the winter. The National Marine Fisheries Services must review the proposal. Environmentalists say the plan would cut flows during vital salmon migration periods. Jeff Curtis of Trout Unlimited: 'One would have thought that 33,000 dead fish floating in the Klamath last month would have resolved the question of whether or not fish truly need water survive. But it appears that certain interests within the Power Council are still interested in testing that principle.'

(Greenwire, 'Northwest Council proposes reduced summertime flows,' 21 November 2002.)

Cedar Creek dam, Cedar Creek, WA
Town of Ione applies for dam removal funds

The town of Ione and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have applied for $741,643 in state and federal grants to take out a dam that blocks Cedar Creek, a tributary of the Pend Oreille River. Just as it is with the Snake River dams, this is an issue of endangered fish - albeit bull trout, not salmon. But it's also one of safety. ''There are three homes and families in the downstream valley that would be seriously threatened by the floodwaters from a failure of the dam,' reads a state Department of Ecology letter. That letter informed officials that they have two years to make significant repairs or remove the dam altogether. There's really no choice. The town of 465 people can get government money for removing the dam as a trout-restoring effort. It likely could not get enough money for repairs and modifications that would cost nearly as much as removal. The dam stands two stories tall and 94 feet across. The concrete dam never produced power; like two earlier wooden dams that blew out, it was built for water supply. Because of that, the watershed behind the dam has not been heavily logged or otherwise degraded.

(Hansen, Dan, 'Small dam near Ione causing stir: Town has two years to replace or remove dam,' The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wa.), 16 December 2002.)

Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT
Update: Milltown reservoir Superfund Switcheroo'

Montana is wondering if NorthWestern Corp. pulled a fast one. The Sioux Falls, SD-based parent of NorthWestern Energy has pulled back under its umbrella all but one of the assets NorthWestern Energy acquired from Montana Power Co. last January. The lone asset in NorthWestern Energy's hands is called Milltown Damand Reservoir. Milltown includes a 2 MW hydroelectric plant, but sits at the end of an expensive EPA Superfund site. The asset transfer shelters the deeper pockets of the parent firm from all but $15 million in cleanup costs at the polluted reservoir. The NorthWestern reorganization includes an 'environmental liabilities support agreement' that limits the parent company's liability for all claims arising from Milltown Dam and Reservoir to $15 million. State Attorney General Mike McGrath said that Montana intends to protect its citizens from the $100 million-plus cost of ridding Milltown reservoir of contaminated mine and smelter tailings. EPA is nearing the end of work on a cleanup plan for Milltown, which could include not only removal of the polluted reservoir sediments, but also removal of the dam. The cost of the cleanup and the power company's potential liability are unknown, McGrath said, so it's too early to say if $15 million is sufficient.

(Electricity Daily, 'NorthWestern Superfund Switcheroo'' 9 December 2002.)
(Hansen, Dan, 'Small dam near Ione causing stir: town has two years to replace or remove dam,' Spokesman-Review, 16 December 2002.)

us - southwest

FWS recovery goals for Colorado River deemed inadequate

The federal government's recovery goals for four endangered Colorado River fish are inadequate and would leave the species in peril, environmentalists say. The Grand Canyon Trust notified the Fish and Wildlife Service last week that it intends to challenge the recovery goals in court. 'The recovery goals are not based upon the best available science and in fact will leave these fish in greater peril than they were when originally listed,' said Nikolai Ramsey, program officer at the Grand Canyon Trust. The fish at issue are the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. Environmentalists are particularly upset at what they say is a low recovery goal for the humpback chub, which have traveled the river for thousands of years. FWS would be satisfied with a population of only 2,100 adults, the environmentalists say. 'That number is unacceptably low,' said Earthjustice attorney Jay Tutchton. The new recovery goal is a 'feel-good fairy tale based not on sound science, but political expediency and the desires of powerful special interests.' Nevertheless, the environmentalists say the federal government is caving to business interests, especially when it comes to operation of the Glen Canyon Dam, which many would like to remove from the river.

(Berman, Dan, 'Enviros carp about fish recovery plan; BuRec still undecided on water releases,' Land Letter, 5 December 2002.)

us - northeast

GE on the hook for a million pounds of PCB dumping in the Hudson

For decades, until the 1970s, General Electric Co. discharged upwards of 1 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls into the Hudson River for decades from capacitor manufacturing plants about 40 miles north of Albany. PCBs are thought likely to cause cancer and other health problems. Though the public can no longer comment on the government's plan to assess and restore Hudson River natural resources damaged by PCB pollution, the agency in charge of the study will continue to accept proposals for restoration projects that would compensate the public for damages that can be documented. Three government agencies (the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service) known as the Hudson River Trustees are studying a variety of potential damages - from the reproductive success of mink to recreational fishing - and will propose projects that compensate the public for any damages that can be documented scientifically. Projects could take many forms, from removing dams on tributaries to building fishing docks.

For more information about the Natural Resource Damage Assessment on the Hudson River, visit the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Web site at:

(Shapley, Dan, 'PCB damage being assessed,' Poughkeepsie Journal, 3 December 2002.)

McPhee and Thoreau plead for dam removal in 'The Founding Fish'

Prolific author, John McPhee, quotes historians describing Washington's troops surviving on shad from the Schuyllkill River at Valley Forge in his book, 'The Founding Fish.' McPhee makes a case for what was once unthinkable: removing some dams to assist shad, salmon and other fish in their migrations. McPhee also recounts Thoreau's pleas on behalf of shad blocked in their spawning run by a commercial dam. They were, Thoreau argued, 'armed only with innocence and a just cause.' Thoreau's hopes notwithstanding, the fishes' future was in doubt by the 1870s. Dams decimated their population, as did pollution and uncontrolled harvesting. McPhee profiles the recurring role of shad in US history. Thomas Jefferson, he notes, enjoyed his shad split open and broiled. Shad fishermen, McPhee asserts, helped John Wilkes Booth flee across the Potomac River after he assassinated President Lincoln.

(Coulter, Lynn, 'A Revolutionary tale that didn't get away,' The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 1 December 2002.)

Smelt Hill Dam, Presumpscot River, ME

Update: Smelt Hill Dam removal in process

Sections of the Smelt Hill Dam on the Presumpscot River have been removed, allowing water upstream to pass freely into Casco Bay for the first time in 268 years. Construction crews for A.C.T. Abatement Corp won the contract with a US$254,000 bid and began work on the dam in October 2002, installing erosion controls and lowering the water level. The Army Corps of Engineers is paying about two-thirds of the US$1M removal cost, including the dam's purchase price, with the state of Maine and several federal agencies and private groups paying the remainder. A dam has backed up water at the Smelt Hill site since 1734. The present Smelt Hill Dam was built in 1890. The stone-filled timber-crib structure is 46m long, 9m wide and 4.5m high. It was Maine's first hydroelectric power plant, generating electricity for the SD Warren paper mill in Westbrook and thousands of homes. The push to remove the dam picked up steam when devastating floods damaged it. Central Maine Power Co opted to sell the dam instead of repair it. Smelt Hill Dam's removal will allow migratory fish such as alewives, herring, shad, Atlantic salmon and striped bass to make their way upriver. It also opens 11km of the lower Presumpscot and frees 259ha of watershed.

For more information, visit Friends of the Presumpscot at

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'Dam removal gets under way at Presumpscot,' 30 November 2002.)

us - southeast

Great Falls Dam, Catawba River, SC
Great Falls of the Catawba may flow again

Conservation groups want restoring water to a long-ago landmark called the Great Falls on the Catawba River. In the 1890s, the falls cascaded 'rolling, seething, foaming, rushing water over a distance of half a mile,' according to an account published in 1944. Now the rapids, near the namesake South Carolina town, are mostly dry rock. Duke Power has redirected the water to its Rocky Creek reservoir since 1907. 'My best hope is they would deactivate and destroy that (Great Falls) dam and restore the natural flow,' said Parker Whedon, a Charlottean who has paddled and fished the lower Catawba for decades. 'I've felt deprived all my life that I haven't seen the Great Falls of the Catawba.' Whedon belongs to the Real Running River Protection Association, one of four groups that filed papers last week with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The others are the SC Coastal Conservation League, American Rivers and American Whitewater. 'The Great Falls hold the greatest potential for whitewater recreation within 225 miles of the Catawba and Wateree rivers encompassed by the (Duke hydroelectric) project,' their motion said. The four conservation groups, and a federal agency, objected to Duke's revision of maps that define the boundary covered by its Catawba hydropower license.

(Bruce Henderson, 'Groups file to restore rapids on Catawba; Goal is to get dam demolished so Great Falls can flow again,' Charlotte Observer, 11 December 2002.)