No. 48, May 27, 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











Labor government accused of opening constitution to sale of dams and pipes

A brawl has erupted over claims of back-door moves by the Bracks government to sell part of Victoria's water supply and assets. The Bracks government denied major legislative changes would lead to the sale of dams and major water supply pipes after opposition leader Robert Doyle released details of key changes to a bill designed to preserve public ownership of water authorities. The government's decision to remove dams and water pipes from the original draft legislation was proof of plans to sell assets. 'Victoria's water infrastructure assets are now for sale,' he said. Premier Steve Bracks said the government had no intention of privatizing water. 'We are keeping water in public hands,' he said. The Constitution (Water Authorities) Bill was framed to enshrine public ownership of dams and water-supply pipes. It lapsed due to last year's state election but new legislation has been introduced into parliament by the government. However, the government has excluded the clause protecting dams and pipes, potentially exposing them for sale.

(Ferguson John, 'Bracks denies water sale,' Herald Sun, 18 April 2003.)


NGOs call on banks not to fund large dam and smelter project in Iceland

An international coalition of 120 environmental organizations called on private banks and international financial institutions not to provide any funds for the large K'rahnj'kar dam and aluminum smelter project in Iceland. Iceland's National Power Company and the Alcoa Corporation are expected to sign the project's power contract. If built, the K'rahnj'kar project will consist of nine dams, three reservoirs, a series of tunnels and river diversions, and a 690-megawatt power plant. It is only the first in a series of large new dam projects in Iceland's highlands that are supposed to power new aluminum smelters. 'K'rahnj'kar will destroy unique environmental treasures on Iceland's Eastern Highlands - the second largest remaining wilderness area in Western Europe', says Arni Finnsson of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association (INCA). Alcoa is closing smelters in other parts of the world and is moving to Iceland as part of a cost-saving strategy. The company is interested in tapping Iceland's cheap electricity, and will not have to pay for the CO2 emissions of its new smelter because Iceland has an exception under the Kyoto protocol. 'It is unacceptable to sacrifice a large, pristine wilderness area for producing cheaper aluminum', says Peter Bosshard of International Rivers.

For further information: Arni Finnsson, INCA,, ph +354 897 2437, Peter Bosshard, International Rivers,', ph +41 1 491 7021, Magda Stoczkiewicz, CEE Bankwatch/FoE International,, ph +31 20 622 1369, Samantha Smith, WWF International Arctic Programme,, ph + 47 22 03 65 00.

More information on the K'rahnj'kar project is available at

(International NGO media release, 'NGOs call on Banks not to Fund Large Dam and Smelter Project in Iceland,' International Rivers, 13 March 2003.)


Attempt to restore the Tigris-Euphrates marshes

Following uprisings after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Hussein regime embarked on a scorched-earth campaign against the rebellious Shiite Muslims inhabiting the vast marshes near the juncture of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the southern part of the nation. The marshes were drained, and the water supply dammed. The Iraqi regime dammed the Tigris and created a series of canals to redirect water from the marsh. The brutal campaign displaced about 200,000 people. It was especially noteworthy because of efforts to destroy not only the marshland Arabs' settlements, but also the unique environment that gave rise to the culture. An international law expert called it 'ecocide as genocide.' Migratory birds moving back and forth between locales as far away as Russia and Africa used it as a way station. Fisheries in the Persian Gulf depended in part on the marshes. Water buffalo and an array of aquatic vegetation made for a diverse ecosystem. Now, a group of scientists and engineers has a plan to restore the marshes. Restoration would involve removing a dam and opening the river at key junctures to restore the natural flow.

(McQuaid, John, Ruined marshland and its people may find new life,' Times-Picayune, 19 April 2003.)


Proposed New Millennium Dam, Nile River, Sudan
Displacement fears over Merowe dam

Despite growing disquiet in several quarters, the giant hydroelectric dam project at Merowe, in northern Sudan is still on track. In the past four months, four Arab lending institutions have put together a comprehensive loan package of $750m. The bulk of the funding for the $2bn-plus project, scheduled for completion in 2008, is expected to come from the Sudan government, financed through oil revenues. The New Millennium Dam, near the present third cataract on the Nile, is designed to remove excess water caused by the regular, but unpredictable floods along the river. It is estimated to provide a constant source of 1,250MW of electricity. Human rights groups have begun to raise queries about the effects of the project on local communities. Government admits that some 4,000, mainly farming, families will have to be relocated further west where it is planned to build new villages. However, spokespersons for the local communities put the number of people to be affected by the dam at ten times that figure. Critics of the plan have warned the authorities that they are in danger of repeating the mistakes of Khashm al Girba resettlement in the east of the country. The mainly Nubian residents of Halfa were relocated to Khashm al Girba when the Aswan High Dam flooded their old homes, on the Egyptian border. The region is now barren, with most of the impoverished resettled villagers having deserted it. Most have moved into the shantytowns around Khartoum.

(Africa Analysis, 'Displacement fears over Merowe,' 15 April 2003.)

us - california

San Clemente Dam, Carmel River, CA
Update: San Clemente Dam facing possible demolition

After more than 80 years in operation, the San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River, faces possible demolition. The dam has been in service since 1921 and was originally designed to hold up to 2.1 million cubic meters of water for consumption. However, due to intense sedimentation, the dam now holds only about 18,131 cubic meters of water. Because of its age and the load imposed by the sediment piled up behind the structure, the dam's owners, California-American Water Company (Cal-Am), and the state and local public safety officials are concerned about the stability of the structure during an earthquake. California Division of Dam Safety has ordered Cal-Am to install earthquake safety improvements to the dam. As an interim precautionary measure, to reduce the load on the dam, the operating level of the reservoir is to be lowered by 3m. Cal-Am Water estimates that strengthening the dam with concrete will cost approximately US$13-14M. The Sierra Club and others have proposed that the money be used instead to remove the dam, which would provide upstream access for the Carmel River's steelhead run. Currently, these ocean-going trout are required to climb the 20.7m high fish ladder at the dam.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'San Clemente Dam facing demolition,' 31 March 2003.)

us - northwest

Nooksack Dam, Nooksack River, WA
Nooksack Dam may go

Bellingham officials are considering ripping out the city's 40-year-old diversion dam on the Nooksack River's Middle Fork to make way for spawning chinook salmon. The city, Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Tribe have worked for several years to design a fish ladder that would allow salmon to wiggle and jump their way up a rock and concrete falls built in 1962. But cost estimates for the fish ladder range from $6 million to $9 million. And the city is facing an additional $2 million worth of repairs to the dam. The dam forces water from the Middle Fork into a 9-mile tunnel and pipeline that empties into Lake Whatcom, helping to regulate the city's water reserves. The city and tribes could avoid those costs by removing the dam and using a simple intake pipe upstream from the dam to funnel water into the lake, Fogelsong said. The lake is the drinking water source for 85,700 people. Estimates for removing the dam and installing an intake pipe range between $3 million to $4 million, he said. Building a fish ladder or removing the dam will also open 14 miles of spawning habitat to spring chinook. Spring chinook in the Puget Sound are listed as 'threatened' on the federal Endangered Species List.

(Pizzillo, Ericka, 'Nooksack Dam may go; Fish ladder too costly, so Bellingham may build pipeline to divert water to Lake Whatcom,' Bellingham Herald, 11 April 2003.)

Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT
Update: Milltown - Once again, a river will run through it

When he campaigned for the presidency three years ago, George W. Bush stood foursquare for the virtues of dams in the Pacific Northwest. The Bush administration, however, today proposed breaching a hydroelectric dam near here at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, just a couple of hundred miles from the Snake. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it wants to tear down the Milltown Dam, which for nearly a century has been trapping toxins from upstream mining and holding them in a reservoir that poisons the groundwater and kills fish. The announcement marks a rare -- and probably temporary -- truce in a wide-ranging legislative and legal war between the Bush administration and environmental groups over water, timber and energy policy across the West. 'The Bush administration is doing the right thing here,' said Tracy Stone-Manning, executive director of the Clark Fork Coalition, an environmental group that has campaigned for three years for removal of the dam. The project is expected to cost $ 95 million and take six years. The EPA was quick to insist that removal of the Milltown Dam, which produces barely enough power to light up the public schools in Missoula, will not set a precedent for removal of larger dams that environmentalists want breached to save endangered salmon.

(Harden, Blaine, 'Once Again, A River Will Run Through It,' The Washington Post, 16 April 2003.)
(Great Falls Tribune, 'Removing dam a significant step to cleanup,' 18 April 2003.)

Goldsborough Dam, Goldsborough Creek, WA
Update: Goldsborough Dam's removal yields creek teeming with young salmon

It's been over 18 months since the largest dam removal project in South Sound history was completed on Goldsborough Creek. Guess what' Salmon are reaping the benefits of the $4.8 million project, just as the many partners in the ambitious undertaking had hoped. Removal of the leaky, obsolete dam owned by Simpson Timber Co. opened up 25 miles of upstream fish habitat that had been inaccessible to all but the most athletic of salmon since 1885. It didn't take them long to find it. First to arrive on the scene in fall 2001 were chum salmon, which had never traveled above the dam. Last year, 15,000 young chum salmon were counted. Some of the habitat now available to fish is prime stuff, including spring-fed wetlands critical to coho. A 1996 flood knocked out the dam's piping system, clearing the way for serious talks between the timber company, the Squaxin Island Tribe, US Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Fish and Wildlife about dam removal. The timber company, Corps and state Legislature shared the project costs. Dam demolition and reshaping of 1,700 feet of stream channel above and below the dam was completed in November 2001.

(Dodge, John, 'Dam's removal yields creek teeming with young salmon,' Olympian, 18 April 2003.)

us - midwest

Camp Tu-Endie-Wei dam, Brewster Creek, IL
Dam removal process never undertaken before in Illinois to begin on Brewster Creek

Barring a failure to overcome last-minute legal hurdles, Kane County is in the middle of a dam removal project that has captured the interest of state environmental officials. The YWCA built the dam in 1929 across Brewster Creek, to create a canoeing pond at Camp Tu-Endie-Wei. It, like other creek dams of its era across the state, is crumbling and must be removed before it collapses altogether. But removing dams can be an intense process overseen by myriad local, state and federal agencies. More importantly, it's a process never undertaken before in Illinois, so the process for removing this dam likely will become the state's dam-removal standard. Originally, the 1999 plan cost $1.2 million and called for removing the dam by diverting the creek around it. Land engineers would have dug two new channels to drain the pond. But Kane County officials acknowledged Thursday the plan was too complicated and too expensive to be the precedent-setting process. Instead, officials decided to let construction crews notch out the dam from top to bottom throughout the next year. As the dam gets shorter, more and more of the pond's waters would spill over it, allowing the water to carve its own creek channel. By spring 2004, the dam will be no more. This process, which is considered by state environmental leaders, as more natural than any conceived so far, is a lot cheaper, too, costing only about $330,000.

(Kazak, David R., 'State watching as county set to remove dam,' Chicago Daily Herald, 11 April 2003.)

North Batavia Dam, Fox River, IL
Update: Voters have spoken to keep Batavia Dam

Voters have spoken - they want to keep the dam. But it's not clear if that will happen. Unofficial vote totals show Batavia residents cast 62 percent of the vote in favor of keeping the dam. Almost 38 percent of voters, or 2,386, said they backed state plans to remove the aging, crumbling dam. On Wednesday, neither state nor city officials would commit to what the vote on the non-binding referendum means for the dam's future. But all agreed the vote will force some discussions. State officials suggested plans could change, but said for now they'll focus on talking with city, park and Kane County Forest Preserve officials about how the vote may change dam removal plans. The city council voted last July to remove the dam. State officials planned to start the project, expected to cost $8.6 million, in 2004. The project prompted debate and led two Batavia women to get the issue placed on the ballot in the form of an advisory referendum. Supporters of the dam removal said the project would create a healthier river. Pro-dam residents said the dam has been part of Batavia's history for almost 100 years and that removing it would decrease the size of the river.

(Fabbre, Alicia, 'Batavia dam's fate still unclear,' Daily Herald, 3 April 2003.)

us - northeast

Frankfort Dam, Marsh Stream, ME
Frankfort Dam, salmon preservation compatible'

Designation of the Frankfort Dam as a National Historic Place should have no bearing on the proposal to tear down the West Winterport Dam eight miles upstream in a bid to restore a run of wild Atlantic salmon, a conservation group's lawyer says. A lawyer fighting the dam's removal thinks otherwise. Bill Townsend, president of Facilitators Improving Salmonid Habitat, or FISH, a conservation group working to remove the West Winterport Dam, said preservation of Frankfort Dam at the mouth of the Marsh Stream was an entirely separate issue from the removal of the West Winterport Dam upstream. The Frankfort Dam is a 250-foot-long cut granite step dam that was built in 1904 of granite quarried from nearby Mount Waldo. FISH wants to remove the dam on the Marsh Stream in order to restore the waterway to its natural state and create a habitat for spawning species such as Atlantic salmon, alewives and herring. The towns of Winterport and Frankfort want to preserve the dam for fire protection, flood control and recreation. The towns and FISH are locked in a legal battle over the dam removal matter and the case should be heard in Waldo County Superior Court this summer.

(Griffin, Walter, 'Dam, salmon preservation compatible,' Bangor Daily News, 11 April 2003.)

Long-term effects of Earth Day on the Naugatuck River

My favorite example of the long-term effects of Earth Day is the Naugatuck River, which runs through the Connecticut valley in which I grew up. The brass, chemical and rubber industries dammed the river in a number of spots for water power in the 19th century, and then dumped chemicals in it. The mill towns along the river dumped their untreated waste there. When I was growing up in the '50s and early '60s, the river would turn colors -- yellow, green and blue -- and smelled like rotten eggs from the sulfur. Nothing grew in or along the toxic waterway. Today, four of the dams have been, or are being, removed, while the three others, including the one across from my old junior high school, are being equipped with bypasses or fishways for boat traffic and the migration of sea-run brown trout, American shad, alewives, blueback herring, and other aquatic species for the first time in more than a century. I've seen marsh reeds and other aquatic plants in the river. Ducks land there, and still have their feet when they take off. That's change on a grand scale. Happy Earth Day.

(Heavens, Alan J., 'In the beginning...' Monterey County Herald, 22 April 2003.)

us - southeast

Madard dam, Alafia River, FL
Medard reservoir could be drained

Medard Reservoir, the latest recreational resource to fall into the cross hairs of budget-tightening government agencies. The Alafia River Basin Board voted unanimously to consider dismantling the dam, which would drain the 740-acre lake. The lake is a favorite of freshwater anglers. It's probably the best in this part of the state for catfish and sunshine bass, thanks to heavy Fish & Wildlife Commission stocking. The FWC put more than 70,000 sunshines into the lake last year, and catches of up to 20 per angler per day are common. Unlike most lakes, Medard provides fishing for anglers without boats; several boardwalks and piers provide access to some of the best fishing. And it's close to thousands of urban and suburban residents - a rarity in fishing resources these days. But the river board has pointed out that the aging dam is costly to maintain, and some residents who live below the outfall have raised concerns about safety should the structure fail during heavy rains. A consulting firm will report on the cost to maintain the dam, and the cost to remove it, in June. As in most water matters in the Tampa Bay area, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has the ultimate say in retaining or removing the reservoir.

(Sargeant, Frank, 'Medard Lake Could Be Drained,' Tampa Tribune, 6 April 2003.)
(Hammett, Yvette C., 'Dismantling Of Medard Dam To Be Studied,' Tampa Tribune, 4 April 2003.)
(Zink, Janet, 'Medard Reservoir; Problems run deep,' St. Petersburg Times, 11 April 2003.)

Anglers hope razing of dams speeds shad's rebirth

A three-year process starts this summer to remove two dams that sit on the Rappahannock near Fredericksburg. One is a small wood-and-stone 'crib' dam built in the 1850s to divert water for drinking and agriculture. The other, the Embrey, is a larger concrete dam built in 1910 to generate electricity. Part of a national trend, the dams' dismantling is expected to improve the habitat for migrating fish such as shad and herring. For more than a century, those fish have not had access to their historic spawning grounds upstream, which reach as far as Fauquier County. Shad and herring populations have declined significantly in recent years in the Rappahannock, and larger local 'resident' -- nonmigrating -- fish such as smallmouth bass are growing more slowly than they should because there are fewer of the smaller fish for them to eat, experts say. Although the smaller Hickory shad are still plentiful in the Rappahannock, American shad have nearly vanished. Once the dams come down, state officials and environmental groups plan to stock the river upstream with American shad and plant underwater vegetation in an effort to return the Rappahannock to its more natural environment.

(Boorstein, Michelle, 'Anglers Hope Razing of Dams Speeds Shad's Rebirth,' Washington Post, 6 April 2003.)

Rodman (Kirkpatrick) Dam, Oklawaha River, FL
Update: Reservoir of contention; fight brews to save Rodman

The Cross-Florida Barge Canal project was abandoned in 1971, and environmentalists have been battling ever since to tear down the Rodman Reservoir dam. The project began in 1964, but President Nixon eventually halted it, acceding to the growing sense that the entire project had been a mistake. Now powerful legislators have stepped into the role of protectors. They are pushing a state law to save the dam and reservoir, a fishing hot spot. The reservoir, stocked with bass, has become a favorite of anglers. Bills moving through the House and Senate would be a major step toward making the reservoir permanent, and they appear to have support to pass. That has set up a struggle that sounds clear enough: Environmentalists, Gov. Jeb Bush and past governors and the US Forest Service want the Rodman dam taken down and the Ocklawaha to flow freely again. Local politicians and business groups want the reservoir, which forms the northern boundary of the Ocala National Forest, to stay just as it is. Underlying the fight is a political mess of lobbying, permit applications, nutrient analyses and governmental jurisdiction so tangled that just about everyone figures the whole thing is destined for court. Nobody knows when or how long a resolution may take. The U.S. Forest Service, which owns 600 of the flooded acres and a third of the earthen dam, wants the river restored. It could decide to breach the portion of the dam it owns, or it could demand the state get the water off its land. Either would probably initiate a lawsuit.

(Wolfson, John, 'Reservoir of contention; fight brews to save Rodman project that scarred treasured river,' Orlando Sentinel, 18 April 2003.)