No. 47, April 02, 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











Committee to review Japan's dams

Experts from Japan and the US launched a committee to examine Japan's love affair with dams, hoping to draw on US experiences in reviewing and decommissioning such projects. The announcement was made during a session of the ongoing World Water Forum. The US-Japan Dam Committee is chaired jointly by Nagano Prefecture Governor Yasuo Tanaka, who purses a no-dam policy, and Daniel Beard, a former head of the US Bureau of Reclamation, who declared in 1994 that the era of big dams is over. Japan has more than 2,700 dams across the country. The committee, which has about 10 members, will evaluate dams and their possible removal from administrative, engineering and scientific viewpoints. 'In the US, an organization that includes government officials is reviewing and removing dams,' said Reiko Amano, chief of the committee's secretariat and representative of the NGO Association for Public Works Review, a Gifu-based group of nongovernmental organizations. 'We want to learn from US experiences and review existing dams in Japan.' In the US, more than 200 dams have been removed over the past decade mainly because of financial, social and environmental costs. In Japan the idea has yet to become a trend, but some projects are under review.

(Murakami, Asako, 'Committee to review nation's dams,' Japan Times, 22 March 2003.)


Three Gorges Dam, Yangtze River, China
Update: Archaeologists rescue priceless antiquities from Three Gorges reservoir

Archaeologists rescued a 1,900-year-old stone stele from submergence in the huge reservoir of the Three Gorges Dam. It now rests in a safe temple beside two other priceless ancient steles also removed from the designated reservoir area. The 5.65-meter-high stele, dating from the East Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), is a unique kind of ancient invaluable monument named 'Que' that was usually made in pairs. They stood, one to the left and one to the right, in front of Buddhist temples, palaces and tombs of nobles and senior officials. The 'Que' steles represent one of the oldest and most imposing forms of stone monuments discovered in the country. Next to be removed was the home of an ancient general who lived some 1,800 years ago, in Yunyang county at Chongqing. The work must be finished by June 1 when filling the reservoir is due to begin. Archaeologists have been forced to scramble to preserve what they can of the past without adequate government funding or equipment. Of the nearly 1,300 known sites along the 482 square kilometers of riverbank, archaeologists have determined that between 400 and 500 are worthy of preservation. They estimate, however, that only half that number will actually be preserved.

(Xinhua general news service, 'Rare ancient stele removed from Three Gorges dam area,' 21 February 2003.)

united kingdom

Restored River Tweed has record catch of salmon

After years of decline in wild salmon stocks, one of Britain's best-known angling rivers has reversed the trend and recorded record catches. A total of 10,300 salmon were landed by rod last year on the Tweed, the best figure for a decade, and the sea trout catch of 1,740 was the biggest since records began more than 50 years ago. For the first time in many years, more salmon were caught on the river than on any other river system in the North Atlantic. The river's managers said the change was the result of years of work to improve conditions for salmon returning to the Tweed. The conservation program has involved the systematic removal of dams, weirs and other obstacles preventing fish reaching natural spawning grounds. John Lovett, chairman of the River Tweed Commissioners, said the result was a 30 percent increase in the river's productive capacity. But the commissioners have also expressed concern over plans for a $6 million salmon farm on the river Ettrick at Selkirk. They are concerned that escaped farmed salmon could interbreed with wild fish, and spread disease and the sea louse parasite.

For more information, visit the River Tweed Commissioners at:, or e-mail

(Cramb, Auslan, 'Tide turned as river has record catch of salmon,' The Daily Telegraph, 19 March 2003.)

us - general

Utility owners want dam regulations for wildlife eased

Legislation being considered in the US House of Representatives would make it easier for utilities to avoid costly improvements to dams for fish passage. Critics contend the proposal would hurt fisheries such as Atlantic salmon, striped bass and other migratory fish in Maine and elsewhere. Owners of hydroelectric dams complain that federal regulations are too burdensome and costly, and must be changed. But conservationists contend that dams have strangled rivers of their fish for centuries, so wildlife should be protected when federal permission is granted for new or existing dams. 'Dam owners do not own our rivers,' said Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine. 'The public interest must remain the priority when we license private companies to rent our rivers to produce power.' The hearing at the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy was part of broad legislation to set a national energy policy, which foundered last year amid disputes about oil drilling in an Alaskan refuge and requiring higher mileage for sport utility vehicles. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., said congressional debate about dams could be 'explosive' on the House floor because many Westerners consider dams indispensable for providing inexpensive power and storing water for agriculture, while many Easterners and environmentalists seek to protect fish and birds that depend on free-flowing rivers.

(Jansen, Bart, 'Utility owners want dam regulations for wildlife eased; Maine Rep. Tom Allen argues rivers need protection for wildlife,' Portland Press Herald, 13 March 2003.)

us - california

Grant is welcome for project along Sacramento River

Restoration work planned along the Sacramento River at Turtle Bay Exploration Park has been a long time in coming. Finally, armed with a generous state grant, the park's caretakers will reverse years of past abuse and neglect. They'll be able to restore much of the riverbank. The addition of indigenous plants will attract more environmentally friendly insects, which in turn will provide a steady diet for salmon and steelhead. The native grasses, shrubs and oak and cottonwood trees will draw more songbirds and other wildlife. The plants and trees have further beneficial effects, in that their roots create a filtering system that traps and breaks down pollutants from parking lot runoff. Extra shade cools the water flowing into the river, which is another boon for fish. The main beneficiaries of the landscape upgrade will be the wildlife living along the river, but human beings will reap benefits too. Users of the Sacramento River Trail will hear more birds chirping. And, eventually, fishermen could see the return of more fish. Everyone who appreciates nature stands to gain. The project is truly a gift for all.

(Redding Record Searchlight, 'Grant is welcome for project along Sacramento River,' 16 March 2003.)

Lake Frances Dam, Dobbins Creek, CA
Yuba water agency sues engineer over cost of dam project

The Yuba County Water Agency has sued a Bay Area engineering company for professional negligence because a multimillion-dollar dam project cost triple what the firm estimated. The agency filed a lawsuit in Superior Court on Wednesday, alleging Harlan Tait Associates, Inc. failed to exercise the care a 'reasonable and prudent engineer' would in such a project, court documents stated. The Lake Frances Dam rehabilitation project came about after state regulators in 1989 ordered the agency to make the dam earthquake-safe or remove it. Residents in nearby communities lobbied the agency to save the dam on the grounds that the water it stored was needed for fire protection. In 1996, Tait estimated it would cost between $3.6 million and $4.3 million to refurbish the dam. By the time project was completed in January 2001, the tab had ballooned to $14.7 million.

(Nadeau, Tom, 'Yuba water agency sues engineer over cost of dam project,' Sacramento Bee, 21 February 2003.)

Folsom Dam, American River, CA
Folsom Dam temperature control device and new bridge needed

Water in Folsom Reservoir settles in layers, with the coolest water at the bottom, and the less dense warmer water at the surface. Threatened species of fish such as Chinook salmon and the steelhead of the lower American River need cooler water to survive. Releasing the cooler water from the lower levels of the reservoir allows the generators that produce hydroelectric power to run more efficiently, increasing power generation. The installation of a temperature control device on the reservoir face of Folsom Dam, it is hoped, will help meet urban water demands, while maintaining more of the cool water beneficial to the generators and fish. Also at issue below the dam is the contentious proposal before Congress for construction of a new bridge. Recent closure of the dam road to about 18,000 daily commuters hasn't moved the issue any closer to resolution. The Bureau of Reclamation opposes a bill sponsored by local Republican Reps. Doug Ose John Doolittle because it skirts the normal process for transportation projects and heaps the entire cost onto the agency's budget. Bureau Commissioner Keys said the $66.5 million bridge would consume about a third of the money for California this year, without any requirement of local cost sharing. Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Sacramento, has a pending bill treating a new bridge as a transportation project, but it links construction to authorization of a 7-foot height increase of the dam as a final element of American River flood control. Doolittle is staunchly opposed to the Folsom Dam heightening because it would detract from his dream of building a much larger multipurpose dam at Auburn.

(Harju, Adam, 'Folsom Dam temp control device to benefit fish and generators,' Placerville Mountain Democrat, 27 February 2003.)

(Whitney, David, 'Agency hits Ose's Folsom bridge plan: Bureau of Reclamation doesn't want to fund span below dam,' Sacramento Bee, 2 April 2003.)

Olivenhain Dam, CA
Update: New Olivenhain Dam doesn't dam a river

Unlike nearby Lake Hodges, which pools the flow of water from the San Dieguito River, the Olivenhain Reservoir doesn't dam a river. Instead, the reservoir will receive water from the Second San Diego Aqueduct that carries Colorado River water, and from Lake Hodges via a 1.5-mile tunnel. The Olivenhain Dam will hold an 8 billion gallon supply of emergency water that can sustain 192,000 people for one year. The entire project, including pumping stations and access roads, will cost $200 million. A pipe will connect the dam to Lake Hodges reservoir about a mile to the southeast, and allow water to be moved in and out of the two reservoirs as needed. To fill the dam, more than $1 million worth of untreated water will be bought from the Metropolitan Water Authority. The Olivenhain Water District partnered with the San Diego County Water Authority to build the reservoir and has rights to use 4,000 acre feet per year from the facility to serve its customers. The remaining 20,000 acre feet will be held in reserve in case of an emergency. Olivenhain Dam stats: Height: 318 feet, Weight: 6.2 million tons, Length: 2,552 feet, Capacity: 7.8 billion gallons (24,000 acre feet), Cost of structure: $149 million.

(Sisson, Paul, 'New Olivenhain Dam to be filled this summer,' North County Times, 17 March 2003.)

Update: Fear for Klamath River growing

Just six months after the largest salmon die-off ever recorded in the American West, the Bush administration is poised to issue a decision that is likely to put even less water in the Klamath River of Northern California this year. As the Klamath Basin prepares for what could the third dry summer in a row, scientists, tribes and fishermen fear that low river levels could lead to another disaster in the region. The federal government operates the Klamath Project, which supplies water to 1,400 farms and ranches in the region, and makes decisions about how much water goes to irrigation and how much flows into the river. Drought conditions for the past two years have led to bitter conflicts between the agriculture community and downriver fishing interests, and critics contend the White House has catered to the influential farm lobby and jeopardized the environment. Fishery biologists, most prominently in the California Department of Fish and Game, have concluded that poor water quality, high temperatures and diversions to the Klamath irrigation project caused the diseases that spread among migrating salmon and led to the deaths of an estimated 33,000 mature fish near the mouth of the river in September.

(Enge, Marilee, 'Fear for Klamath River growing: Some say Bush plan could cause more damage,' San Jose Mercury News, 20 March 2003.)

us - northwest

Babbitt says Bush, Congress need to take salmon plan more seriously

A few years ago, then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was party to the Northwest Salmon Plan, an ambitious effort by federal agencies to save imperiled fish runs without removing dams on the Lower Snake River. Bruce Babbitt, as a private citizen, joined environmental and tribal interests to warn that a judge soon may end up determining the fate of salmon unless the Bush administration gets serious about making the salmon plan work. 'We've been through that before in the Pacific Northwest,' Babbitt said, citing legal battles in the 1990s about the northern spotted owl that effectively shut down the timber industry until political leaders forged a regional truce. But Babbitt said the region is 'heading into a confrontation that need not occur' because the administration and Congress has failed to put enough money into salmon restoration or implement major parts of the 10-year plan. Releasing an annual report card on the plan, a coalition of advocacy groups called Save Our Wild Salmon gave the government flunking grades. Only 27 percent of the 150 recovery measures called for in the first two years were enacted, the group said, and spending levels are half the $900 million a year envisioned by biologists when the plan was adopted in 2000.

Learn more at

(Detzel, Tom, 'Babbitt says Bush, Congress need to take salmon plan more seriously,' Oregonian, 27 February 2003.)

Biologists for NOAA find no broad improvements for protected salmon

Increasing salmon and steelhead returns in the past three years appear to be due mostly to a temporary cycle of more food in the ocean and do not signal any lasting victories in saving the fish from extinction, federal fisheries scientists say. None of the 27 populations of salmon and steelhead evaluated appear to warrant coming off the threatened or endangered species list, and three appear to have declined from threatened or candidate species status to endangered, the scientists indicated. The conclusions were made by a team of biologists for NOAA Fisheries, formerly known as the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency in charge of restoring salmon. Their findings were included in a preliminary report to state and tribal fisheries agencies in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The report is the beginning of a process to be concluded by the end of the year with recommendations on whether to change the Endangered Species Act status of salmon and steelhead, said NOAA Fisheries Northwest Regional Administrator Bob Lohn. US District Judge Michael Hogan had ruled that NOAA Fisheries erred when it included both wild and hatchery salmon in the same population group, and then granted threatened species protection only to the wild fish. Protection for Oregon coastal coho was restored pending appeal.

Visit NOAA Fisheries at

(Associated Press, 'Crapo says salmon recovery efforts bear hearings,' 26 February 2003.)
(Barnard, Jeff, 'Review finds no broad improvements for protected salmon,' Associated Press, 25 February 2003.)

American Fork Project, American Fork Creek, UT
American Fork dam removal shows the benefits of cooperation

Though headlines and television news stories often show conservationists, the government and the private sector battling over issues related to water, air, fish and wildlife, occasionally these diverse interests find common ground. A case in point is the agreement regarding the American Fork Hydroelectric Project signed on Feb. 6. The agreement, which awaits approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will decommission and remove a small diversion dam and a two-mile-long pipeline that runs through the Lone Peak Wilderness and the Timpanogos Cave National Monument in American Fork Canyon. The project of dam removal and stream restoration is scheduled to begin in September 2006 and promises an array of benefits for the citizens of our state. This agreement among PacifiCorp, Trout Unlimited, the Forest Service, National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah State Historic Preservation Office and American Whitewater was not without its challenges. The small hydro facility produced electricity, albeit a tiny fraction of PacifiCorp's overall generation, and played an historic role in the development of communities in northern Utah County.

(Matheson Jr., Alan, 'American Fork dam removal shows the benefits of cooperation,' Salt Lake Tribune, 15 March 2003.)

us - midwest

Modifying dams into rapids on the Red River watershed

When complete, the Red Lake River Dam will retain its water-holding capacity, but the new design will eliminate the dangerous roller currents that typify low head dams. The new rapids also accommodates fish passage, and Red River species will be able to access some 50 miles of spawning habitat in the river. Before, these spawning areas only were accessible when river levels were high enough to top the dam. Luther Aadland, a dam modification expert for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Fergus Falls, designed the rapids for the Red Lake River Dam, the Riverside Dam in Grand Forks and several other dams in the Red River watershed. Completion of the Red Lake River Dam represents an important step in the journey to 'reconnect the Red' by removing or modifying lowhead dams and the barriers they pose. The city of Crookston is exploring funding options for removing its dam on the Red Lake River and constructing a set of rapids in its place, Aadland said. That would open fish habitat all the way from the Red to Thief River Falls.

(Dokken Brad, 'Reconnecting the Red: Sudden spring puts brakes on dam project; Lowhead dam will look like a rocky rapids when complete,' Grand Forks Herald, 23 March 2003.)

St. John's Dam, Sandusky River, OH
Update: Demolition project on Sandusky River begins

Pieces of concrete will begin falling this week from the St. John's Dam. State workers met at the site yesterday and already have started bringing down the 60-year-old structure. Officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said they plan to use a track hoe with a hammer again today to strike at the concrete barrier, which is 7.2 feet high and 150 feet wide. Earlier this year, state officials began talking seriously with the Ohio-American Water Co., the owner of the St. John's Dam, about acquiring the concrete barrier so it could be dismantled. The water company no longer had a use for the dam, about five miles south of Tiffin, and didn't want to pay to make repairs sought by the state after a 1999 inspection. The state expects to pay less than $30,000 to demolish the structure, money that will come from the sale of Ohio's Scenic Rivers license plates. Officials selected this month to begin the project so they could avoid working during the spring spawning season, which begins on April 15 and runs for at least a month. State officials argue that removing the dam is the best restoration activity for any river or a stream. It will bring a more diverse habitat to the waterway, while also improving water quality.

(Bates, Kim, 'St. John's Dam: Demolition project on Sandusky River begins,' Toledo Blade, 19 March 2003. Full text at:

us - northeast

Maine plan to restore sea-run alewives

Six dams stand between China Lake and the Atlantic Ocean, blocking the return of the sea-run fish the Maine Department of Marine Resources intends to stock in the lake next year. DMR project leader John Perry told China selectmen Monday evening the dams will be removed or have fish passages added before the alewives are ready to come back from salt water in three to five years. Perry expects a decision on the much-discussed Fort Halifax dam on the Sebasticook River next month. Either the dam will be breached, or a fish lift will be installed, he said. The other five dams are on Outlet Stream in Vassalboro, between China Lake and the Sebasticook Perry began his half-hour presentation by explaining that alewives used to be common in Maine inland waters, including China Lake. The fish are less than 12 inches long and weigh eight or nine ounces, and their range extends from Newfoundland to North Carolina, he said. Alewives lay their eggs in fresh water in the spring. In the fall, the young fish migrate to the ocean, where they live for three to five years before returning to their native lake to lay their own eggs and start a new cycle. Dams, water pollution and overfishing eliminated alewives from many Maine lakes, Perry said.

(Grow, Mary, 'China officials hear update on restoration of sea-run fish,' Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 12 March 2003.)

Fort Halifax Dam, Sebasticook River, ME
Update: Bill focuses on policies for dams

Disturbed by the process that could lead to the removal of Fort Halifax Dam, two local legislators have introduced legislation that would ensure local communities get a say in the fate of dams. Under Legislative Document 709, the state would have to hold public hearings prior to state agreements for dam removal. The bill is retroactive to 1996 and thus, if approved, could lead to a public hearing on Fort Halifax Dam. A related piece of legislation will renegotiate the fish passage timetable established at Fort Halifax, Benton Falls and Burnham Dam. The aim of the proposal is to extend the deadline for passage at Fort Halifax Dam by two years to May 1, 2005. A third bill seeks to require the state Department of Marine Resources to provide a more comprehensive and detailed plan on its fish restoration effort on the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers. Included in that piece of legislation is a requirement to hold public hearings on such issues and to reassess the impact that reintroduced alewives will have on resident smelt populations. A fourth bill asks that the state give municipalities the right to appeal Department of Environmental Protection decisions regarding smaller hydropower projects in operation since 1952.

(Hickey, Colin, 'Bill focuses on policies for dams Measure would ensure towns' role in process,' Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 12 March 2003.)

West Winterport dam, Marsh Stream, ME
Update: Court rejects appeal of West Winterport dam ruling

Maine's highest court has rejected an attempt by the owner of the West Winterport Dam to begin its demolition and ordered that the issues be handled by a lower court. Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied the appeal of a temporary restraining order issued last fall by Superior Court Justice Andrew Mead on behalf of the residents of Winterport and Frankfort. The towns obtained the restraining order when dam owner John Jones and the conservation group Facilitators Improving Salmonid Habitat, or FISH, announced plans to remove the dam. FISH and Jones had asked the law court to overturn the order. FISH and Jones want to remove the dam to improve water quality and open the river to spawning fish such as Atlantic salmon, alewives and blueback herring. Some Winterport and Frankfort residents want to preserve the dam for recreational uses, flood control and as a source of water for fire protection. FISH and Jones obtained the required state permits to remove the dam last year. The towns challenged the legality of the permit and moved to take the dam by eminent domain. FISH and Jones appealed that taking, sued for damages and also challenged the towns' insistence that a shoreland zoning permit was needed before starting any work on the dam.

(Griffin, Walter, 'Court rejects appeal of dam ruling; Belfast Superior Court to hear case on fate of West Winterport structure,' Bangor Daily News, 11 March 2003.)

us - southeast

Embrey dam, Rappahannock River, VA
Update: Aging Embrey Dam scheduled for demolition

If all goes according to plan, explosives will be placed along a 200-foot section of the Embrey Dam in February 2004. A controlled blast will breach the concrete structure, opening up the Rappahannock River above the dam to migrating fish for the first time since the mid-1800s. But before that can happen, a vast shoal of sediment that has piled up behind the dam must be removed. By the end of 2006, all remnants of the dam will be gone. It will become a footnote in Fredericksburg's history. The dam project, with a $10 million price tag, will become the most expensive demolition project ever attempted here. It's really three jobs in one: dredging, removing the Embrey Dam, and dismantling an 1854-vintage crib dam buried behind it. As dam projects go, this one 'is very unique,' Rheinhart said. One reason is the sheer size of the structure. It's over 1,000 feet long, including the abutments, and 22-feet high. Silt has been piling up behind it for almost a century, and the crib dam running parallel to Embrey Dam is of historical interest. Timing is another issue: no demolition work can be done from March through June, when fish such as shad and herring return to the Rappahannock to spawn.

(Dennen, Rusty, 'Dam to disappear: If all goes according to plan, the first section of the Embrey Dam will come down early next year,' Free Lance-Star, 16 March 2003. Full article accessed at: