No. 46, March 05, 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 - Participate in the sixth annual International Day of Action!

Please join us on March 15 for the 6th annual International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life. On and around March 14, people around the world come together for the conservation, preservation and celebration of our rivers. We are excited about using this Day of Action to remind the world that we are not only fighting against dams, but for healthy rivers and people. We can all strengthen the movement through demonstrations and protests, information sharing, discussions and education. Let's stand together in solidarity for our rivers, communities and rights!

If you are planning an action, send information to'

Private water barons controlling public water worldwide

A yearlong investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a project of the Center for Public Integrity, showed that world's three largest water companies - France's Suez and Vivendi Environnement and British-based Thames Water, owned by Germany's RWE AG - have since 1990 expanded into every region of the world. Three other companies, Saur France and United Utilities of England working in conjunction with Bechtel of the United States, have also successfully secured major international drinking water contracts. But their size pales in comparison to that of the big three. The investigation shows that these companies have often worked closely with the World Bank, lobbying governments and international trade and standards organizations for changes in legislation and trade agreements to force the privatization of public waterworks. Having firmly established themselves in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia, the water companies are expanding into the far more lucrative market of the United States. In recent years, the three large European companies have gone on a buying spree of America's largest private water utility companies, including US Filter and American Water Works Co., Inc. A recent cholera epidemic in South Africa affecting 250,000 people, killing almost 300, was caused by cutting off clean water to poor people because they couldn't pay. The effort for force people to pay the full cost of their water 'was the direct cause of the cholera epidemic,' said David Hemson, a social scientist sent by the government to investigate the outbreak. 'There is no doubt about that.'

(International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, 'Cholera and the age of the water barons,' 4 February 2003.

(International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, 'Water and power: The French connection,' 5 February 2003.


The battle to keep the Murrumbidgee River flowing free

Righting the wrongs of many decades of human intervention will help ensure the future of a vital food-source, fish life and delicate ecosystems. If by some strange twist of drought or human intervention the Murrumbidgee River dried up there would certainly be devastating results for the half-a-million people who live inside the Murrumbidgee catchment. Its agriculture yielded a quarter of New South Wales' total fruit and vegetables, 90 per cent of its potatoes, 80 per cent of its carrots, and half of Australia's rice in 2000. Here in the Australian Capital Territory it is easy to think of the Murrumbidgee River as just a series of waterholes to paddle in, and the drought and other factors changing its flow as a mere inconvenience. But experts tell a different story here and downstream, of a water source under threat from increasing salinity, falling fish populations, shrinking ecosystems and a sandy bottom which is rising closer to the river's surface. Apart from the big dry, many of the problems the Murrumbidgee now faces are the result of decades of human intervention. Former NSW government aquatic ecologist Justin Nancarrow said the river was one of the nation's most regulated, with 26 dams and weirs.

(Canberra Times, 'The battle to keep the Murrumbidgee River flowing free,' 15 February 2003.)

new zealand

Conflict over damming rights on the Clutha River

Contact Energy's application to renew damming rights on the Clutha River should be measured against the environment that would exist if its dam were removed, says Otago Fish and Game counsel Stephen Christensen. Contact believed its case should be considered against the environment that would exist if consents were not granted and water was allowed to flow unrestricted from all the openings in the dams. Fish and Game believed if Contact opened the gates and walked away, the flow would still be controlled in the sense the flow was regulated by the size of the openings, Mr. Christensen said. Furthermore, the dams and structures would no longer be being used for the permitted uses authorized. Consent would still be required to decommission the dams, whether or not it involved removing the dam structures, he said. The focus of the enquiry should be on understanding what the effects of the structures were and whether these could be overcome. 'My concern is that this baseline concept ought not to be used by the applicants to relieve itself from mitigation (work) it should do.' Rather, the commissioners should look at affects and appropriate conditions that might go some way to mitigating these.

(Toxward, Emily, 'Baseline put by Contact 'unrealistic',' The Southland Times (New Zealand), 31 January 2003.)

us - california

Day of Action event in Auburn

Come celebrate the International Day of Action against dams and for rivers, waters and life with International Rivers and Friends of the River on Saturday, March 15, 2003 with a New Orleans-style funeral march in Auburn, California! You are cordially invited to put on your best funeral outfit to celebrate the demise of dams and rebirth of rivers, water and life. Gather at the overlook of the proposed Auburn dam site for a eulogy from Mark Dubois, a New Orleans-style funeral procession through downtown Auburn and music by Mumbo Gumbo. We will drive the first nail into the coffin of Auburn dam to celebrate the recent decision to close the dam diversion tunnel. Music sensation Mumbo Gumbo will lead the processional and activists will bear the caskets of deceased dams from around the world and celebrate the rebirth of the rivers that flow once more. Beads, party favors, balloons, fancy dress, and banners supporting rivers are all encouraged.

For more information visit

Henry Coe State Park threatened by proposed reservoirs

'Two proposals right now, scary as any I've seen, are to flood reservoirs into Henry Coe State Park and to run high-speed rail lines through other parts of Coe,' says George Cook, veteran chief of the State Parks system. Besides removing human recreation, these dam projects would inundate lush wildflower meadows where blacktail deer herds graze - subtracting extremely valuable habitat from a steep, dry region. Over on the park's east side, another dam proposal would flood two miles into the park, drowning creeks and swimming holes, submerge the park's major Ohlone Indian village site and block a major access road. Both reservoir projects are decried by park visitors who vow to fight them. Santa Clara Valley Water District intend to meet water demands of their growing county with high-quality, reliable supply through 2040. A current list of options includes the two Coe reservoirs: Los Osos, which would fill three valleys in the park's southwest, and Pacheco B, a raised reservoir. In these artificial lakes, the agency plans to store winter water pumped from the Central Valley that could be then released in summer to maintain high water quality.

(McHugh, Paul, 'Public land, private enterprise; Developers making run at state parks,' San Francisco Chronicle, 6 February 2003.)

Chinook salmon saved from the brink of extinction

At one point in the early 1990s, the Sacramento winter run chinook salmon population was down to fewer than 200 adults. But thanks to a tough federal law and the combined efforts of various government agencies, environmentalists and farmers, the salmon were revived right at the point of extinction. In an average year, between 3,200 and 7,200 adult fish swim up the Sacramento River to spawn on the riffles between Red Bluff and Redding, and the population trend is upward. Their natural reproduction is augmented through the efforts of a hatchery at the base of Shasta Dam, which releases smolts, or fingerling salmon, into the river each year. The Sacramento River is unique among the world's salmon-bearing streams in that it supports four distinct runs of chinook salmon: the spring run, fall run, late fall run and winter run. All other chinook rivers have one to three runs. Unfortunately Shasta Dam, built in the 1940s, disrupted the winter run's game plan. The huge concrete plug blocked the main river and flooded much of the Pit and McCloud, denying the fish access to their primary spawning grounds. The other salmon runs also endured impacts from the building of Shasta Dam, but the winter run suffered the most. Their population plummeted, crashing to remnant numbers by the late 1980s.

(Martin, Glen, 'This tasty fish didn't get away; Much-sought salmon brought back from the brink by efforts of government, farmers, environmentalists,' San Francisco Chronicle, 31 January 2003.)

Desalination plant possible alternative to Carmel River dam

The company that supplies most of the water-short Monterey Peninsula is weighing the pros and cons of building an estimated $100 million desalination plant in the central coast town of Moss Landing. The state Public Utilities Commission put a Moss Landing plant to purify seawater on the north county rumor network when it recommended, several months ago, a desalination plant as a 'Plan B' alternative to a new Carmel River dam. Cal-Am is seeking approval to build a controversial new dam on the Carmel River. The desalination plant would not only supply Cal-Am's Monterey-area customers, but could be expanded to provide water to other parts of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the PUC said. Costs of desalted water are going down as technology improves, but another piece of the Plan B scenario - storing Carmel River winter runoff in area aquifers and then pumping the water back up during dry seasons - could also be very expensive.

(Parsons, Larry, 'Desalination proposed: Plant possible alternative to Carmel River dam,' Salinas Californian, 4 February 2003.)

San Clemente Dam, Carmel River, CA
Update: Carmel River dam may face demolition

After more than 80 years in operation, the San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River may face demolition - or at least a lower water level. 'We'll be dropping the water level in mid-May by 10 feet,' said Charlie Kemp, operations manager for California-American Water Co. The water company will take what safety measures it can, he said, while waiting for the Water Resources Department to decide the dam's future. The dam could be 'notched' or demolished altogether, Kemp said, and the company has to decide how to deal with the massive buildup of sediment behind it. San Clemente Dam, three miles south of Carmel Valley Village, has been in service since 1921 and was originally designed to hold up to 1,700 acre-feet of water. An operating level that once averaged 1,450 acre-feet has dropped as silt has built up and the dam now holds only 147 acre-feet of water. San Clemente has had 'a very long life for a dam,' Kemp said. Because of its age and the sediment piled up behind it, the company, the state and local public-safety officials are concerned about how well it would stand up in an earthquake.

(Howe, Kevin, 'C.V. dam facing lower water level,' Monterey Herald, 4 February 2003.)

Matilija Dam, Matilija Creek, CA
Update: Progress on Matilija Dam removal

A $4.4m study is exploring options for the restoration of river flows and to improve migration of anadromous fish at the 50.3m high Matilija Dam. The concrete dam is scheduled for removal as it no longer provides flood control, as was intended by the designers, due to the large volume of sediment that has accumulated behind the dam. However, the removal and safe disposal of the accumulated silt is the main concern affecting the Matilija Dam removal. Scientists who have studied dam removals say sediments and nutrients migrated downstream after dam removal have harmed plant and animal life. The 1973 breaching of Fort Edward Dam on New York's Hudson River released tons of PCB-laden soil, turning part of the river into a Superfund cleanup site. On Matilija Creek dam removal is considered the only way to restore the river, leaving only the question of how to remove it without causing further damage. As a part of the removal, the US Army Corps of Engineers is considering incrementally lowering the dam so the 4.6M cu m of trapped sediment can slowly wash downstream, although such an approach would take at least 20 years. USACE is also considering quicker fixes, such as using a slurry pipeline, a conveyor belt or trucks to remove the soil. Depending which is chosen as a result of the study, the dam removal could cost $40 to $180 million.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'Dam removal updates,' 31 January 2003.)

us - northwest

Salmon habitat projects reap rewards of renewable power option

Oregon is getting seven new salmon and steelhead habitat restoration projects, thanks to Pacific Power and Portland General Electric's Habitat option/Salmon-Friendly electricity customers. In another environmental development, two of the utilities' popular renewable power products are increasing their wind power content. For the Sake of the Salmon announced seven new salmon habitat restoration projects in Oregon, supported by more than 6,000 customers who purchase the utilities' Habitat renewable power option, the Green Mountain Energy(R) Salmon-Friendly Plan. By choosing the Salmon-Friendly option, customers make a monthly contribution through their electricity bill to For the Sake of the Salmon's Pacific Salmon Watershed Fund (PSWF). The contributions go directly to projects that restore habitat for threatened fish. 'By signing up for the Salmon-Friendly option, Oregonians are putting their dollars to work for salmon,' explained Betsy Kauffman, program manager with For the Sake of the Salmon. 'The projects funded by the program are opening up more than 15 miles of habitat that currently is blocked for fish passage. The Habitat option is a great opportunity for those who care about the future of our salmon runs to help make a difference.'

(PR Newswire, 'Salmon Habitat Projects Reap Rewards of Renewable Power Option; Wind Content of Green Mountain Energy(R) Electricity Boosted,' 18 February 2003.')

Forgotten lamprey faces uphill battle in dam-clogged rivers

The lamprey is poised to jump up a few places on the food chain of public attention. A recently filed petition by a coalition of 11 conservation groups from California, Oregon and Washington to the US Fish and Wildlife Service has requested the listing of four species of lamprey as threatened or endangered, and now attention is beginning to focus on this elusive fish. Historically, lamprey, which are often confused with eels because of their long, snakelike appearance, have numbered in the tens of thousands. Pacific lampreys are native to the Columbia River drainage. In the early 1960s, Ice Harbor Dam saw nearly 50,000 Pacific lampreys pass through the dam. By the 1990s, they numbered fewer than 1,000. The lamprey's steep decline can largely be traced back to dams, according to Bob Heinith, hydro coordinator for the Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission, which represents fisheries interests for the Nez Perce, Umatilla, and Yakama nations.

(Mills, Joe, 'Forgotten lamprey fights for survival; Eel-like fish faces uphill battle in dam-clogged rivers,' Lewiston Morning Tribune, 13 February 2003.)

Salmon swim upstream in new federal budget

The Bush administration's 2004 budget, combined with a decision by the Bonneville Power Administration to cut its fish and wildlife budget by 25 percent 'will dramatically underfund the federal salmon plan for the Columbia and Snake rivers,' say the environmental groups from the region. But the greens are having a hard time providing the details of their fears. This year, unlike last year, the White House budget documents do not contain a cross-cut budget: a unified salmon budget showing how much money it proposes for each of the 10 federal agencies that have a piece of the Northwest salmon action. The environmentalists charged that lumping the salmon money into general agency funding makes it less likely the Congress will focus on the salmon recovery programs. There's an interesting irony here, note the greens. The federal government faces what s known as the salmon plan 'check-in' in September. If the government gets a failing grade at that report period, it could trigger reconsideration of more aggressive salmon recovery, including taking down the four lower Snake River dams, something the administration and the region's congressional delegation do not want. 'It's up to this administration to prove that salmon recovery does not require removing the four lower Snake River dams,' says Michael Garrity of American Rivers.

(The Electricity Daily, 'Salmon Swim Upstream In New Federal Budget,' 10 February 2003.)

Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT
Milltown Dam's days numbered

On Jan. 21, one day after Montana Gov. Judy Martz (R) came out in favor of removing Milltown Dam on the upper Clark Fork River, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed that dismantling the aging structure would be the best option. More than 6.6 million cu yd of sediment contaminated from copper mining is contained behind the dam. ''State support was a big issue for us,'' says Russ Forba, EPA's project manager. The dam is part of a 120-mile-long Superfund site along the river. Los Angeles-based Atlantic Richfield Co. (Arco), and Northwest Energy, which recently purchased the dam from Montana Power Co., are the parties responsible for cleanup costs, estimated at $93 million. The project's general details, to be released this month, call for hydraulic dredging of Milltown Pond and construction of a slurry pipeline to deliver sediments to a nearby repository on high ground. Engineers will also reconfigure the Clark Fork River channel and restore the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers. Design is expected to start this year, with cleanup in 2004. Local communities want to construct a whitewater rafting and kayaking course when the river flows free. ''We're really pleased with the governor's support,'' said Tracy Stone-Manning of the Clark Fork Coalition, which has been leading the campaign to remove the dam.

Visit the Clark Fork Coalition at

(Engineering News-Record, 'Milltown dam's days numbered,' 3 February 2003.)

Water supply reduced by global warming

A new analysis of more than 40 years of measurements of Pacific Northwest mountain snow suggests that climate change has already reduced water supplies for drinking, electricity and irrigation. University of Washington research scientist Philip Mote studied snowpack records for 145 sites in four states and British Columbia from 1950 through 1992. He found a steady decline in water content - called snow-water equivalent - throughout the region. In some places the drop was as much as 60 percent. Mote attributed most of the drop to higher temperatures that cause snow to melt. At lower elevations, rain falls instead of snow. 'I was surprised at the size of the result,' said Mote, who works with UW scientists known as the Climate Impacts Group. 'There's already a clearer regional signal of warming in the mountains than we expected.' The outcome is consistent with earlier forecasts of higher average temperatures based on global and regional climate models. Researchers have warned that higher temperatures in the decades to come will lead to earlier spring meltoffs and reduced river flows. 'For water managers, it underscores the trend toward a warmer climate with less snow and less summer water supply,' Mote said.

(Gordon, Susan, 'Study: Water supply reduced,' News Tribune, 7 February 2003. Full story found at:

Money, Not Environment, Behind Dam Removals

The United States removes more dams each year than any other country in the world. Of course, the U.S. has more dams to start with. But in recent years it's become clear that dams cause all sorts of problems for endangered fish. Still, when a dam is removed, it's rarely for environmental reasons. Money is usually the reason dams are taken out. About twelve to 24 dams are removed each year in the U.S. That may not seem like a lot considering the thousands of dams that exist. But compared to the past when the country was focused on building dams--it's quite a turnaround. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC regulates most of the dams in the U.S. It issues 30 to 50 year licenses to dam Making a dam more environmentally friendly is sometimes a good deal more expensive than taking it out and getting the power from somewhere else. Economics generally drive dam removal. Most of the dams that are taken out are smaller and don't make a lot of money for their owners. Since economics is the major factor in deciding whether to remove a dam, it may become more difficult to get Northwest dams decommissioned in the future. That's because power prices are expected to steadily rise and that could make small dams, only marginally profitable now, much more profitable in the future.

(Brady, Jeff, 'Money, Not Environment, Behind Dam Removals,' Oregon Considered, January 21 2003. Text at:'action=article&ARTICLE_ID=444634.)

Dams disrupting aquatic ecosystems

A group of studies by an aquatic entomologist at Oregon State University suggest that at least some of the problems facing streams in the American West may relate to their loss of extreme water flows, ranging from severe droughts to flash floods. The same dams that have tamed the violent or extreme nature of these streams may also be disrupting aquatic ecosystems that depend on such events to favor native species, keep out invasive plants or animals, and maintain a natural ecological balance that evolved over millennia, researchers say. Studies ranging from the unusual evolution of a giant waterbug in high mountain streams of Arizona to the mysterious disappearance of cottonwoods on river banks across much of the West all point to the same conclusion: that streams and rivers in the West have evolved with regular floods, droughts and everything in between, and any disruption of those patterns may pose a risk to native ecosystems. 'Right now in the American West there are more than 15,000 dams,' said David Lytle, an OSU entomologist. 'They remove the extreme flow events that used to exist, preventing both the major floods and the extremely low flows during summer months. But the increasing level of knowledge we're gaining about these extreme disturbances suggest they are critical to many native ecosystems.'

(Life Science Weekly, 'Hydrology: Stream health may hinge on violent floods, drought,' 3 February 2003.)

us - midwest

North Avenue Dam, Milwaukee River, WI
Update: Dam removal part of Milwaukee park revival

Take one neglected county park. Throw in a coalition of environmentalists and neighborhood activists who see a diamond in the rough. Fast-forward a few years and behold a refurbished jewel. It's not that simple, of course. But a quiet renaissance under way at Riverside Park on Milwaukee's east side could serve as a model of how to heal the urban landscape and rescue chunks of the financially strapped county parks system. When adjacent Riverside University High School was expanded in the late 1970s, the topography was flattened out to create recreational space. Pollution made the river unfit for swimming. As the parks budget got squeezed, maintenance declined; invasive plant species flourished. That neglect, however, masked a rich ecosystem, including almost 130 species of birds. About 10 years ago, retired biophysicist Else Ankel started a small outdoor education program there. Gradually, people started to rediscover the park. Removal of the North Avenue Dam in 1997 began to flush out contaminants from the river. Crime in the park went down - thanks, in part, to a growing number of dog walkers, who weren't supposed to bring their pooches there but got winks from police. Volunteers helped remove invasive plants. The current catalyst for renewal is the Urban Ecology Center a spunky little non-profit, operating out of a double-wide trailer next to the high school.

(Gould, Whitney, 'Park revival shows how to breathe new life into a landmark,' Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10 February 2003.)

us - northeast

Work restores Monocacy Creek to natural state

Several years ago, Frank Kovacs was frustrated at the lack of trout in the Monocacy Creek. Even though the Lower Nazareth Rod and Gun Club spent $3,000 every year to stock the quarter-mile section of the creek that runs across its property, the fish never seem to stick around very long. So in 2000, the conservancy received a $26,178 Growing Greener grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection and assigned Brian Vadino, a stream restoration specialist, to help direct the project. Vadino told club members that some of their practices were harming the creek's water quality, making it less hospitable to trout. One of his recommendations involved removing some dams that had been constructed in the hopes of enticing the fish to stay. In their place, Vadino and the club members set up more natural barriers such as logs and rocks through a habitat design plan put together by the state Fish and Boat Commission. Finally, club members, who donated $5,000 out of their budget, and other volunteer, spent countless hours planting more than 400 native bushes and trees such as black willow, red maple, river birch, pin oak and red osier dogwood. 'The Monocacy stream restoration is a positive for the club, the community and especially the environment,' said Earl Seip, club president.

(Averett, Nancy, 'Work restores Monocacy to natural state; Conservancy group, Lower Nazareth club repair part of creek,' Morning Call, 14 February 2003.)

Silk Mill and Ballou dams, Yokum Brook, MA
Dam removal on Yokum Brook for salmon run

One aging dam will be removed and another breached under a plan by public and private entities to restore the free flow of Yokum Brook for a salmon run. The project to remove the Silk Mill Dam and to breach the Ballou Dam, about a quarter of a mile downstream, has been in the works since June 2000, when a team from the state's River Restore Program visited the site and recommended changes to benefit both resident and migratory fish movement. When completed next fall, the estimated $250,000 project will remove obstacles to spawning Atlantic salmon making their way back from the ocean and unleash a picturesque brook running through the heart of town. The first documented natural spawning of Atlantic salmon in Massachusetts in more than 150 years took place in the Westfield River watershed in 1998, according to the state. Some 20 percent of salmon swimming up the Connecticut River, New England's longest, are branching off into the Westfield River.

(Carey, Bill, 'Letting the waters flow free: Project will remove obstacles to salmon,' Berkshire Eagle, 2 December 2002.)

West Winterport Dam, Marsh Stream, ME
Update: Maine Supreme Court to rule on Winterport dam

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has been drawn into the battle over the fate of the West Winterport Dam. Lawyers for the towns of Winterport and Frankfort and the dam's owners appeared before the law court last week to debate the merits of a temporary restraining order that halted the dam's demolition. Superior Court Justice Andrew Mead issued the order last fall. After the arguments, the court's seven justices took the matter under advisement and will hand down their decision at a later date. Lawyers for both sides said they expected the ruling to be made within a few weeks. West Winterport Dam owner John Jones and the conservation group Facilitators Improving Salmonid Habitat, or FISH, want to remove the dam on the Marsh Stream. Jones, who had a hydroelectric station at the dam for 20 years, has gotten out of the electricity business and does not want the liability of maintaining the dam. FISH wants the dam removed to improve the habitat for spawning fish such as Atlantic salmon, alewives and blueback herring. Some residents of Winterport and Frankfort, on the other hand, want the dam to remain standing. They have argued that the dam's 40-acre impoundment provides a reservoir of water for fire protection.

(Griffin, Walter, 'Court to rule on Winterport dam.' Bangor Daily News, 17 February 2003.)