No. 45, February 11, 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










Pak Mun Dam, Mool River, Thailand
Update: Strong opposition to Pak Mun Dam

The Assembly of the Poor will tomorrow open a 'village' adjacent to Government House to pressure the government to decommission the controversial Pak Mun Dam in Ubon Ratchathani. Assembly members from around the country will participate in religious and traditional ceremonies, and establish the Muang Mun Kham Thong (Golden Promise City) village on a road beside Government House, the assembly said yesterday. Khunying Amporn Meesuk, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, will lead the ceremonies. After studying the pros and cons of the dam, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra decided to support an earlier Cabinet decision to open the dam's sluice gates for four months a year and use it to generate electricity for the rest of the year. His final decision was met with strong opposition from the assembly and other opponents of the dam who want it to be decommissioned permanently. The Assembly reminded the government that studies by the villagers and Ubon Ratchathani University concluded that the ecology of the Mool River would be fully restored only after the dam was decommissioned.

(The Nation, 'Govt to get new neighbours,' 20 January 2003.)

southeast asia

Mekong River threatened by China damming

The Mekong River, the 'Mother of Rivers' and the native people along its banks have not yet been greatly impacted by the damming and hydropower industry. Unfortunately, that era is about to change. With China spearheading the damming, blasting, dredging, and development of the Mekong River with little regard for social and environmental impact, the lives of more than 65 million people downstream will be altered forever. The development of the Mekong River could be a gigantic mistake that threatens millions of people's lives and their livelihoods, as well as the river's natural ecology. Such development could destroy the Tonle Sap Lake and the millions who depend on it, not to mention the Mekong Delta, the 'rice bowl' for millions of Vietnamese. Sadly, very few 'potential victims' of this development (if one can really call it as such) realize what is going to happen to them.

(Yimsut, Ronnie, 'Learn lessons from Columbia River,' Bangkok Post, 26 January 2003.)


Niagara River Restoration Council making progress

The Niagara Restoration Council is working with local landowners to remove major barriers to water flow in Welland River tributaries. The council is a non-profit environmental group that works to improve the quality of the Niagara River system. Environmental manager Dan McDonell said he spent the summer removing 101 minor barriers such as log jams from the Welland River and its tributaries. Now McDonell is working with nine landowners in an attempt to remove bigger barriers to fish migration, such as manmade crossings and dams. With the help of landowners, government officials, fishing and farming organizations, McDonell said the council can now 'tackle projects that were otherwise out of our league.' One of these projects includes a major culvert that delivers Draper's Creek into the Welland River. The grade of the ramp into the culvert has become too steep for fish to traverse, according to McDonell. 'Fish swim upstream to reproduce, but they can't get into Draper's Creek,' he said. Anyone interested in learning more about the project can contact the Niagara Restoration Council at 905-788-0248.

(Van Dongen, Matthew, 'Group removing barriers in Welland River tributaries,' The Standard, 10 January 2003.)

us - california

No new dams foreseen in California

The Interior Department's announcement that California may soon lose enough Colorado River water to slake the thirst of 1.4 million people stunned many state officials, but water experts said Saturday that the worst-case scenario of new dams on Northern California rivers is not likely to occur. If the Bush administration's decision is upheld and the state loses a significant share of Colorado River water, Southern California water users will have to look elsewhere to make up the shortfall. This means a host of scenarios, which include the acquisition of north state water rights, construction of new desalinization plants, and development of groundwater-storage projects, as well as reclamation and conservation efforts.

'No one should panic, but everyone should be concerned,' said Tim Quinn, vice president of state water project resources for the Metropolitan Water District, which serves 17 million people in Southern California. Metropolitan Water stands to bear the brunt of the plan introduced late Friday by Interior Secretary Gale Norton. The plan would strip California of the 'excess' water that flows into the state from the Colorado River, about 13 percent of the state's take from the river.

(Martin, Glen, 'No new dams foreseen for water needs: Southern California would bear brunt of Interior's plan,' San Francisco Chronicle, 29 December 2002. Full text at:

Giant inflatable rubber dams for L.A. River

Damming a stream might seem like a strange way to revive it, but that is the premise behind a proposal to bring back the natural beauty of the Los Angeles River. City Councilman Ed Reyes, heading a committee that is looking at ways to revitalize the concrete-lined river, says he is intrigued by the idea of installing giant inflatable rubber dams at two ends of downtown so that the section would become an artificial lake that could serve as a centerpiece for urban renewal. Though the project would cost millions, Reyes argues that its value as a recreational asset and magnet for redevelopment would far outweigh the cost. In Tempe, Ariz., a city of about 160,000 in the Phoenix area, city leaders have used an intricate system of rubber dams to build their own lakeside district. Yet some environmentalists worry that damming part of the L.A. River would mean that restoring the river's natural state and bringing back native birds and fish would take a back seat to development. 'There are so many other possibilities. I think what Denver has accomplished' on the South Platte River 'is a much more interesting example to explore,' said Melanie Winter of the River Project, a Los Angeles environmental group.

(Bustillo, Miguel, 'New Idea Floated for L.A. River; Giant inflatable rubber dams would create an artificial lake downtown that could serve as a centerpiece for urban renewal.' Los Angeles Times, 24 January 2003.)

us - northwest

Candidate Bush may have told us a fish story

As he stumped the Pacific Northwest, arguing that salmon runs can be restored without removing dams, presidential nominee George W. Bush was moved to declare: 'The man and the fish can co-exist.' Three years later, the president would be well-advised to remind himself - as well as Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels - of that classic Bushism. OMB is holding up about $4 million for the Hatchery Reform Project, an ambitious attempt to redesign hatcheries in the Puget Sound area and coastal Washington so they work to recover runs of naturally spawning salmon and restore a sustainable fishery. Spawned by bipartisan sponsors in Congress - former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton and Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks - the program is a joint effort of the state of Washington and Indian tribes. It is managed by a non-profit group called Long Live the Kings, whose directors include a bevy of prominent Republicans including ex-Environmental Protection Agency boss William Ruckelshaus. The program has paid for watershed-by-watershed reviews on habitat and its potential to sustain spawning fish. 'This has never been done anywhere else in the world,' said Barbara Cairns, director of Long Live the Kings.

(Connelly, Joel, 'Candidate Bush may have told us a fish story,' The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 15 January 2003.)

Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams, Snake River, OR/ID
Hydro reservoirs hurt fish habitat on the Snake says Forest Service

The US Forest Service says Idaho Power's dams and reservoirs in Hells Canyon are at least partly responsible for degradation of fish and wildlife habitat in wild and scenic stretches of the Snake River. In a response to Idaho Power's draft application for a new license for the three dams, Payette and Wallawa-Whitman Forest officials said a lack of sediments in the water downstream of the Hells Canyon Dam are leaving the river without gravel beds for fish nesting. Idaho Power's current 50-year license for Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams expires in July 2005. The company is applying for a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Idaho Power's hydroelectric complex has affected the river in two primary ways, according to the Forest Service response. First, the reservoirs trap most of the silt, sand and gravel that, in an undammed river, would create sandbars and other habitat for wildlife, and supply spawning gravels for salmon and other fish. Second, the Forest Service contends, water that passes through Hells Canyon Dam contains very little sediment and thus has excess energy that erodes existing sandbars and terraces.

(Associated Press, 'Forest Service: Hydro reservoirs hurt fish habitat,' 16 January 2003.)

Snake River dams, Snake River, WA
Update: Judge rules Snake River dams don't violate Clean Water Act

Ruling in a closely watched lawsuit that could have forced the removal of dams on the lower Snake River, a federal judge this week said the four dams do not violate the Clean Water Act. US District Judge Helen Frye of Portland said the US Army Corps of Engineers is taking proper steps to ensure its dams do not cause water temperatures to exceed federal standards. Conservationists had charged that the dams violate the Clean Water Act. Frye had ordered the corps in early 2001 to produce a plan showing how it will keep water temperatures in the lower Snake River from rising to levels that harm salmon. 'We are disappointed with the court's ruling,' said Todd True, an attorney for Earthjustice who represented nine conservation groups in their legal action against the corps. 'We don't think the corps has done what the law requires to restore water quality in the Snake River.' True said the conservation groups had not decided whether they plan to appeal. Conservationists said they will continue their efforts to force removal of the dams, which they say impede the recovery of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act.

(Brinckman, Jonathan, 'Judge rules Snake River dams don't violate Clean Water Act,' The Oregonian, 11 January 2003.)

Condit Dam, White Salmon River, WA
Update: Condit Dam removal hits snags

When the plan to remove Condit Dam on Washington's White Salmon River was first announced in 1999, government officials and environmentalists alike heralded it as a landmark example of how economics and environmental protection could work in tandem. But in the past few months, the proposal to breach the 125-foot dam - which, if destroyed, would be the highest dam ever removed in the US - has hit a few unexpected snags. The biggest problem is the 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment that have backed up behind the dam for nearly a century that would wash into the river if PacifiCorp blew an 18-foot hole in the dam. This fall, the state announced it cannot endorse the 'blow and go' strategy or issue critical permits until FERC and PacifiCorp have studied how the sediments and debris will be removed, and what the impact will be on downstream stretches of the river. Opponents of dam removal have seized upon the state's concerns. According to Aaron Kilgore, president of the White Salmon Steelheaders Club, the removal will do more harm than good for endangered salmon and steelhead. Regardless of whether the silts are dredged, officials in Skamania and Klickitat counties, who represent residents living along the reservoir, say they will oppose the removal. They say blowing up the dam will destroy the reservoir's renowned trout fishery, which provides a steady source of tourist revenue. Pending the biological opinions of both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, FERC will make its decision on Condit next spring. For more information contact:

For more information, contact Brett Swift of American Rivers at 503/827-8648.

(Engelson, Andrew, 'Condit Dam removal hits snags: Sediment behind dam could trash salmon habitat downstream,' High Country News, 9 December 2002.)

Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, Mt.
Update: Conservative governor says remove Milltown Dam

In a surprise announcement, Governor Judy Martz called for the removal of Milltown Dam from the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers. 'The health of our families and communities, the health of our environment and our wildlife - these must come first,' Martz said near the end of her address. 'That is why tonight, I am announcing that I am placing the full support of my office behind removal of the Milltown Dam at Bonner.' Martz has steadfastly refused to comment on how best to rid Milltown Reservoir of the arsenic and heavy metals that washed downstream from mines and smelters over the past century and what to do about the dam that stopped, or at least slowed, their migration. With the sediments gone, the groundwater beneath the community of Milltown will cleanse itself of arsenic within four years. Leave the sediments and the aquifer will remain unfit to drink for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years. The EPA is considering two options: either remove the most-polluted reservoir sediments and with them the dam; or leave the sediments in place and increase the height of the dam, in hopes of reducing the amount of sediment washed out of the reservoir by ice floes or floods.

(Devlin, Sherry, 'Martz: Remove Milltown Dam,' Missoulian, 22 January 2003. Article found at:
(Dennison, Mike, 'Governor calls for removal of Milltown Dam,' Great Falls Tribune, 22 January 2003.)
(Henry, Natalie M., 'Montana gov. Martz supports removing Milltown dam, dredging; reservoir,' Land Letter, 30 January 2003.)

WaterWatch contests International Paper's water rights claim

In spite of a withdrawal by two of the parties contesting a state decision to award International Paper Co. permanent water rights on two central coast lakes, WaterWatch of Oregon continues its opposition. The issue is likely to be decided through a state hearings officer later this year. 'The big issue is whether someone can get a certified water right when they have no plans to use the water,' WaterWatch attorney Karen Russell said Friday. In 1960, the company secured temporary rights to use Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes as a water supply for the paper mill at Gardiner. IP's use of the water dropped dramatically when the mill closed in 1998. But WaterWatch and others took advantage of an appeals period in which the certificates could be contested. Although WaterWatch argues that it makes no sense to grant the rights for a publicly owned asset such as the lake water for a use that has been discontinued, IP attorney Ron Howell of Memphis, Tenn., said the mill could open again.

(Bacon, Larry, 'Oregon Group Continues to Contest International Paper Co.'s Water Rights,' The Register Guard, 27 January 2003.)

us - southwest

An alternative to reservoir construction

In 1996, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Tarrant Regional Water District signed an agreement to allow the construction of 2,300 acres of wetlands on the mitigation lands. As an alternative to constructing a new reservoir, the Department and the Water District initiated a $22 million raw-water-treatment wetlands project that will reclaim not only used water but also wildlife habitat. A state wildlife agency and a regional water district are showing how the development of water-treatment facilities such as this one can help to reduce the need for reservoir construction and subsequent loss of habitat. Equally important, they are demonstrating how the creation of wildlife habitat can also help to meet the water-supply needs of society.

(Kraai, Kevin and Gunnels, Jeffrey, 'An alternative to reservoir construction,' 24 December 2002. Text at:

us - midwest

Compensation at last for tribes that lost lands to dams

A story of unresolved grief and injustice lies behind six enormous dams on the upper Missouri River and the large lakes created when they were built. Now, the saga of Native American lands lost, homes destroyed and an entire village swallowed by the water is drawing to a close, ending a bitter piece of history on the northern Great Plains. The story centers on Indian tribes whose homelands along the river disappeared when waters spread far and wide behind the Missouri dams in the 1950s and 1960s. The Indian lands that were submerged - an estimated 550 square miles - were taken from the tribes by the government through a condemnation process without adequate compensation. Four decades after the last dam was finished, a bill redressing this wrong was signed by President Bush on Friday. It provides nearly $28 million to the Yankton Sioux of southeast South Dakota and the Santee Sioux of northeast Nebraska for damage done when the Missouri's waters covered almost 4,000 acres of their land. Congress approved the legislation before Thanksgiving. 'While we cannot recover the valuable lands that are now under water, we can provide compensation that the tribes deserve,' Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said.

(Graham, Judith, 'Compensation at last for tribes that lost lands to dams,' Chicago Tribune, 14 December 2002.)

us - northeast

Badger Pond Dam, Tioga River, NH
Badger Pond may become part of Tioga River

Badger Pond, a 17-acre man-made body of water that once served as a source of water power for a 19th century textile mill in Belmont Village, could be emptied for good by the end of the year, making it just another part of the Tioga River. The state Department of Environmental Services Dam Bureau has issued an administrative order to the owner of Badger Pond Dam requiring that it either be repaired or removed by the end of 2003. But Will Fay of Thorndike, Mass., owner of the dam just off Route 106 north of Belmont Village, says he can't afford the cost of repairing it and will have to remove the dam unless the neighboring landowners take it over and assume the costs of operating and maintaining the dam. Fay, who has owned the dam since 1993, said it will probably cost him at least $15,000 to repair the dam, money he just doesn't have, while breaching the dam would cost only a third as much. Even though he's never realized a penny from the dam and the small hydro plant he had hoped would generate a yearly income for him, he doesn't want to see those who have used the pond left high and dry.

(Amsden, Roger, 'Dam's fate in neighbors' hands,' The Union Leader (Manchester NH), 15 January 2003.)

Peterson Dam, Lamoille River, VT
Lamoille River's Peterson Dam to be removed

The announcement made by environmental groups, the town of Milton, Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and several state agencies said Peterson Dam will be removed from the lower Lamoille River in about 20 years. Until the dam is taken out of the river, CVPS will conduct business on the lower Lamoille in a more fish-friendly way, providing better fishing conditions for anglers in that stretch of the Lake Champlain tributary. The settlement has two items of almost immediate benefit for Lamoille anglers: CVPS will be required to provide minimum flow levels over the four dams, including Peterson, it operates on the lower Lamoille; and CVPS will contribute $500,000 to a fish and habitat restoration fund. Braden Fleming, a member of the Trout Unlimited group that helped bring about the settlement, is confident that anglers will reap the benefits of the agreement. Below Peterson Dam, the impact is going to be very positive. Under the agreement, CVPS has to provide stable flows in the fall. The levels are strong enough not only to hold salmon in that water, but to attract them up in there, too,'' Fleming said.

(Crawford, Matt, 'Peterson Dam decision should boost fishing,' The Burlington Free Press, 12 January 2003.)

Fort Halifax Dam, Sebasticook River, ME
Update: FERC says no EIS required for Fort Halifax Dam

The environmental assessment report released this week by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concludes that fish passage options for Fort Halifax Dam, including the proposed partial removal of the hydroelectric facility, do not require a more extensive environment impact statement. Opponents of dam removal, led by resident Kenneth Fletcher, Winslow's recently elected state representative, have long lobbied for the commission to conduct an environmental impact statement. The commission, however, comes to a different conclusion in its 76-page report: 'We conclude that none of the resources that we studied - including geology and soils, water quantity and quality, fisheries, terrestrial, aesthetic, cultural and recreational - would experience significant adverse effects under the proposed action or alternatives. 'Therefore, on the basis of the record and this EA (environmental assessment), staff conclude the surrender of the Fort Halifax Project license, or any other alternative considered in the EA, would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. For this reason, and pursuant to commission regulations, no EIS is required for the proposed action.' The process that led to the report started last June when FPL Energy filed an application with the commission to surrender its hydroelectric dam license and partially remove the dam.

(Hickey, Colin, 'Feds: No dam study on fish required,' Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 10 January 2003.)

Sandy River Hydro Station Dam, Sandy River, ME
Update: Sandy River dam's fate up to voters

Sandy River Hydro Station dam, a century-old piece of Madison's history, is being targeted for removal. The station which produces about 1 million kilowatts of electricity, about $50,000 worth in good year, either has to be taken out or Madison residents have to install a state-mandated fish ladder for about $1.3 million, according to Calvin D. Ames, superintendent of Madison Electric Works. 'It takes $25,000 a year just to maintain the building and the dam, and that is not putting anything aside for major catastrophic events,' Ames said. Taxpayers would have to pay for construction of the fish ladder; the $300,000 cost to raze the dam would fall to Madison Electric, a utility with 2,500 customers, Ames said. He said the utility needs to have a written decision to the federal government by April 30 or face a $1,000-a-day fine. The dam removal is part of an effort to restore sea-run fish to their former habitat. Ames said Madison Electric separated from the town in 1974, so it probably has the authority to remove the dam. But, to be on the safe side, he said, the utility decided to get agreement from Madison voters. The station generates so little electricity it has no value, according to Ames.

(Pickett, Darla L., 'Dam's fate up to voters: State-mandated fish ladder would cost $1.3 million,' Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 15 January 2003.)