No. 49, June 16, 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











costa rica

Dams threaten Costa Rica's rivers

Unlike Costa Rica's other main whitewater rivers, such as the Reventazon, the Pacuare flows freely from its headwaters high in the Talamanca range all the way to the Caribbean. But, its future is far from secure. The country has embarked on an ambitious and controversial program to build more hydroelectric power plants, which will generate electricity both for local consumption and sale abroad. This means building dams, and dams, of course, mean the flooding of rivers and altering of flows. Roberto Jimenez, director of planning for the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), said in a recent interview that the country is investigating other ways to meet energy demands but insists, 'Hydroelectricity is the best and cheapest alternative for the country.' He added that ICE 'has prioritized and has interest in realizing [hydroelectric] projects' in 13 of the country's 32 river basins. He stressed that in the case of the Pacuare, while it holds 'important potential for hydroelectric energy, no decision has been made over the possible development of this river basin.'

(Thomas, Pete, 'Outdoors Pete Thomas; Beauty Flows From Pacuare, for Now,' Los Angeles Times, 9 May 2003.)


Fetid waters highlight Caspian Sea's woes

Beneath the surface of the biggest lake in the world is a record level of pollution. A major part of that pollution is caused by the entry into the sea of Russia's sewage. Experts divide the sources of pollution of the Caspian Sea into several groups. The most important of them include pollution from ships, discharge of water ballast from ships and tankers, discharge of wastes from the ships, shipping accidents, discharge of coastal rubbish including sewage and agricultural fertilizer, and activities related to exploration and production of oil and gas in the seabed. Addressing the environmental woes in the Caspian Sea and the rivers leading to it is a matter of negotiation among the five littoral countries. For now, Iran's government has banned oil vessels from shuttling between Turkmen ports and Anzali. 'A city with more than 30 percent unemployment cannot survive without poaching and bootlegging,' says Kambiz Tovassoli, a young bootlegger in a teahouse adjacent to Anzali harbor. As for the environmental problems in his midst, he explains, 'it is not my business, I should earn my living. It is a must for me.'

(Mostaghim, Ramin, 'Environment-Iran: Fetid waters highlight Caspian Sea's woes,' Inter Press Service, 12 May 2003.)


Bakun Dam, Balui River, Malaysia
Construction begins on Bakun Dam project

The multi-billion dollar Bakun Dam project will take off and by 2007, if things go according to plan, it will generate 2,400 MW (megawatts) of electricity for East Malaysia alone. Malaysia-China Hydro Joint Venture (MCHJV) emerged the winner of the Bakun Dam's main contract. In March this year, the pact was signed between MCHJV and government-owned Bakun developer Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, a signal that the Bakun Dam is finally poised to take off. Some argue that the potential risks in the project are far too great. 'The risks are enormous,' says a market observer. But clearly, East Malaysia does not require that much electricity. Demand currently stands at 800mw and it's not likely to grow to such high levels by 2007. An agreement was signed for the dam to supply 900mw of power to a new aluminum plant by 2012. Even so, the project will still be generating excess capacity.

(The Star, 'Bakun Dam to Generate Power For Economy,' May 3, 2003.)

us - california

Update: San Francisquito Creek: reversing 100 years of degradation

Jim Johnson, the official 'stream keeper' employed by the San Francisquito Watershed Council, works with its Steelhead Task Force to improve conditions from the headwaters in the Santa Cruz Mountains to the outlet into the bay in East Palo Alto. The task force, now in its third year, has modified or removed half a dozen weirs, or small dams, curbs and other obstacles to young steelhead migrating out to the bay and adults trying to return. This summer, crews will replace a concrete weir built for erosion control near the Ira Bonde bike bridge. They also plan to cut a notch in a small dam and remove a culvert. 'For 100 years, we built infrastructure without thinking about fish needing to get up and down the creek,'' said Phil Chang, director of the watershed project. ''We're going back and reversing 100 years of degradation.''

(Enge, Marilee, 'Clearing a path to survival; task force making creek easier for fish to navigate,' San Jose Mercury News, 6 May 2003.)

us - nevada

Dam removal part of Truckee River whitewater recreation corridor plans

Nevada officials singled out recreational opportunities on Reno's Truckee River as a key to attracting future tourists to an area once dependent solely on the lure of gambling. Local business and community leaders joined river guides and kayakers on a tour of a proposed 24-mile whitewater recreation corridor stretching from the California state line to east of Reno. Lynn Zonge and Jim Litchfield, both professional hydrologists and active kayakers, are among those pushing the effort. 'It's really timely for this community because we are looking for ways to diversify our economy and improve our recreation opportunities and quality of life,' Litchfield said. Zonge said the river, which flows out of Lake Tahoe, is 'beautiful, has clean water and is extremely accessible. The only thing it has going against it are major river obstructions, old dams, tons of concrete,' she said. 'If we get rid of those and modify the river we could have people using the river all year long,' Zonge said.

(Sonner, Scott, 'Tourism boss: Truckee River recreation key to Reno's future,' Associated Press, 14 May 2003.)

us - northwest

Colorado Supreme Court upholds recreational water users' rights

The Colorado Supreme Court handed the state's recreational water users a major victory when it gave Golden, Vail and Breckenridge permission to use state-governed rivers to fill their whitewater kayaking courses. 'It's a key victory because it treats water for recreation just like any other water right,' said Glenn Porzak, Golden's attorney. 'The fact of the matter is that the state was trying to get the Supreme Court to utter a pronouncement that treated recreation as a second-class use, and they didn't get that. So it's a major victory in that regard.' In a 3-3 vote, the court let stand two court rulings, issued in 2001and 2002, which recognize recreational water rights. Those rulings granted Golden, Vail and Breckenridge water to operate whitewater kayaking courses. However, because the court ruled on a deadlocked vote without issuing an opinion, the topic is still ripe for a Supreme Court clarification in future disputes. The cases will help determine whether new economic desires for recreation will win out over old state interests concerned with development.

(Pankratz, Howard, 'Recreational water use buoyed; Colo. high court lets 3 towns use rivers for kayak courses,' Denver Post, 20 May 2003.)

Update: Judge Scraps NW Salmon Plan

A federal judge in Portland, Oregon ordered federal agencies responsible for restoring and preserving Columbia River salmon runs to scrap their current plan and go back to the drawing board. The ruling throws open the possibility of dramatically stiffer agency measures to meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, which could include the breaching of four large dams on the lower Snake River. The Bush Administration supported the federal agency's plan. A research, monitoring, and evaluation plan was required under the NOAA Fisheries 2000 Biological Opinion. The plan called for habitat restoration, improvement of hatcheries, and adjustments to fish-passage devices at dams. Their blueprint also set out certain goals that, if unmet, would trigger reconsideration of removing dams as soon as 2005. Salmon advocates have decried the plan's inadequacies since it was released in December 2000. The environmental group plaintiffs argued that the plan ignored serious threats to fish posed by the hydroelectric system and relied too heavily on work to be performed by other agencies to make up for ongoing fish kills caused by dams. District Court Judge James A. Redden agreed. His ruling said the fisheries service failed to meet the legal standard to show that protective actions would be 'reasonably certain' to occur and make up for the harmful effects of dams.

(Electricity Daily, 'Judge Scraps Bush NW Salmon Plan,' 15 May 2003.)
(Columbian editorial writers, 'Opinion - In Our View: Dammed If We Don't,' Columbian, 11 May 2003.)
(Barker, Eric, 'Judge: Government falls short on plan to protect salmon; Appeal may emerge from hearing next week,' Lewiston Morning Tribune, 8 May 2003.)

Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT
Update: EPA and Montana DEQ propose plan for Milltown cleanup

The EPA and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality have decided that the best decision for cleaning the Milltown Reservoir Superfund site is to excavate the contaminated sediment behind the Milltown Dam and then breach the dam. They said the decision is best for long-term protection of public health and the environment. It would also help recover the Milltown drinking water aquifer and aid in eliminating the possibility of contaminated releases. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) praised the decision, but urged the owner of the dam, Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO), to commit to the long-term improvement of the project and redevelopment of the areas surrounding the site. ARCO opposes excavating the sediment and breaching the dam. It has favored leaving the dam in place and modifying it with an inflatable rubber crest. EPA estimates the cleanup and removal of the dam will cost $95 million. Sediment behind the dam, which totals about 6 million cubic yards, is contaminated with arsenic and heavy metals from mining and smelting in Butte and Anaconda.

(Hazardous Waste Superfund Week, 'EPA and Montana DEQ propose plan for cleanup: breach the dam; Site Updates,' 21 April 2003.)

us - southwest

Glen Canyon Dam, Colorado and Escalante rivers, AZ/UT
Update: Low water reveals long-lost splendors of Glen Canyon

Carved in a tributary of the Escalante River, sandstone formations such as the 'Cathedral in the Desert' stand in 100 feet of Lake Powell's cold blue water. But, thanks to five winters of sparse snowfall throughout the Colorado River drainage, Powell is now only half full, revealing natural formations that have been hidden for 25 years. Richard Ingebretsen, founder and president of the Glen Canyon Institute, explains that the Institute's ultimate goal is to decommission Glen Canyon Dam and restore the natural treasures now buried under Lake Powell. To those who call him crazy, he retorts, 'the crazy thing is to store water in a desert where it evaporates. The crazy thing is to lose 800,000 to 1 million acre-feet [of water] annually at a market value of $450 million. . . that's enough water for Salt Lake City for five years.' A growing number of Americans want Powell's plug pulled for purely aesthetic reasons. Environmental and economic arguments suggest that Glen Canyon Dam is not only unnecessary for water storage but also makes no economic sense.

For more information, visit the Glen Canyon Institute at, or Living Rivers at

(Smart, Christopher, 'Low Water Reveals Long-Lost Splendor; Activists say Cathedral in the Desert bolsters case for draining lake; Glen Canyon Wonders Are Back in View as Lake Powell Is Halved,' Salt Lake Tribune, 19 May 2003.)

us - midwest

Michigan dam breaks

Two dam breaks sent water surging downriver toward the largest town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and more than 1,700 people were ordered to leave their homes. The deluge flooded a power plant, but no injuries were reported and no one was reported missing. Officials were trying to determine whether other dams would hold. Heavy weekend rains caused an earthen dam on Silver Lake to partially collapse. Water rushed down the Dead River, carrying debris that backed up below a bridge and caused floodwaters to spread toward the city of about 20,000. At least 1,750 people were ordered to evacuate their homes. A second dam collapsed the next day, said George Madison, a fisheries supervisor with the state Department of Natural Resources. The new torrent flooded a Wisconsin Electric Power Co. plant less than a mile from Lake Superior.

(Tyree, Mike, 'More than 1,700 people evacuated in Michigan after dams wash out,' Associated Press, 16 May 2003.)

Prehistoric sturgeon returned to restored river

About 60,000 lake sturgeon were released into the Manitowoc River, marking the first time the prehistoric fish have plied those waters in more than 100 years. 40 years ago the river didn't support much more than carp and a few other hardy fish species. Now, with improved water quality and the removal of a couple of dams, the river is once again healthy enough to support lake sturgeon. The DNR released the 10-day-old lake sturgeon into the Manitowoc River just below the dam at Clarks Mills. Sturgeon were also released into the Milwaukee River and the Branch River. Lake sturgeon have been known to live as long as 152 years and reach weights of nearly 300 pounds.

(Rhines Neil, 'Sturgeon released into river,' Herald Times Reporter, 15 May 2003.)
(Behm, Don, 'Sturgeon resurging; Sturgeon resurging, with help; Thousands of baby fish released in Milwaukee River,' Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 13 May 2003.)

Snake River dams hurt Indiana economy

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Indiana) has requested a General Accounting Office audit of the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal agency that sells 45 percent of the electricity consumed in the Pacific Northwest. Visclosky, who is a ranking minority member on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, has called for an audit because the BPA is deeply in debt, despite receiving generous government subsidies. BPA has a deficit of $1 billion and debt of $13.6 billion, including $7.4 billion owed to the federal Treasury. Their request for an additional $700 million spurred the request for an audit. Additionally, its four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River have nearly extinguished the salmon and steelhead populations, which, if not restored, will hurt Indiana's sport fishing market. Visclosky, whose northwest Indiana district borders Lake Michigan, is concerned about BPA's financial woes for another reason: For years, the Great Lakes have been stocked with millions of salmon from the Northwest. Indiana's $4 billion sport and commercial fishery industry will be harmed if Midwest salmon hatcheries can't be replenished with Northwest salmon stock.

(Indianapolis Star, 'Salmon shortage is no fish story,' 19 May 2003.)

Johnsonville Dam, Sheboygan River, Wisconsin
Johnsonville faces a dam dilemma

The community that utilizes the Johnsonville Dam, an aging concrete structure on the Sheboygan River, doesn't want to see it destroyed. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, meanwhile, is prepared to remove the decaying dam and restore the river to its free-flowing state. Inspections by the DNR last year revealed that the dam does not meet current safety regulations. The DNR has been unable to determine who might own the dam, and could make repairs. An older, smaller remnant of another dam slightly downstream would also be taken out. The search to find the owner, which is required to last sixty days, had ended. In a letter sent to neighboring residents, Brent Binder, a DNR water management engineer, wrote that removing the dam would improve fish migration, restore free-flowing conditions to a 27-mile stretch of the Sheboygan River from Millhome to Sheboygan Falls for recreational uses, and increase the quality for aquatic life in the river.

(Petrie, Bob, 'Johnsonville faces a dam dilemma,' Sheboygan Press, 7 May 2003.)

us - northeast

Future plan for Presumpscot River could make it a jewel

Eight dams currently remain on the Presumpscot River, and the River Management Plan Steering Committee has recommended removal of three of them - Little Falls, Mallison Falls and Saccarappa - in its proposed plan for the river's future. All three are owned by Sappi Fine Paper North America, which participated in the committee until last fall. The committee, comprised of more than a dozen organizations and agencies, worked for three years on a comprehensive plan to improve the health of the Presumpscot River and minimize the negative impacts to it. The committee tackled three main areas: fisheries, in which the group examined ways to improve migratory fish populations; open space, in which it looked at public access, trails and development impacts; and cumulative impacts, in which it researched how industrialization of the river had affected the ecosystem. Environmentally, it's more valuable to remove dams than to provide passage for fish.

(Portland Press Herald, 'Future plan for Presumpscot River could make it a jewel; Serious discussion about dam removal should be accompanied by an analysis of costs and benefits,' 10 May 2003.)

us - southeast

Dillsboro Dam, Tuckasegee River, North Carolina
Dam may be removed on the Tuckasegee River

Duke Power has taken a tentative step toward tearing down a hydroelectric dam. The tentative agreement came as Duke, local governments and interest groups negotiated new license terms for Duke's 10 hydro projects in southwestern North Carolina. Duke won't make a final decision until September whether to tear down the dam. That's when the 30 parties with interests in the Tuckasegee and Nantahala rivers - Duke, federal and state agencies, local governments and community groups - hope to sign binding agreements on license terms. Before then, Duke will do environmental and engineering studies. 'We will do it if we can,' said Fred Alexander, the Nantahala district manager in Franklin. Duke has removed at least two other dams. Taking out the Dillsboro Dam would be a boon to boaters and fish, adding 11 unimpeded miles to the Tuckasegee, for a total of 32 miles of free-flowing river above Fontana Lake.

(Henderson, Bruce, 'Duke may take out hydro dam in N.C. mountains; Removal of Dillsboro barrier would be boon to boaters,' Charlotte Observer, 22 May 2003.)

Pleasant Green Road Dam, Eno River
Agencies plan dam and spillway removal on the Eno River

The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, N.C. Division of Water Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers are planning to remove the aging Pleasant Green Road Dam and spillway in Eno River State Park pending completion of an environmental assessment. A 2001 study of the dam, which was built in 1915, concluded that it was at risk of failing. Two weir gates are inoperable, and there is evidence of seepage and structural weakness that the study says pose a safety and liability risk for the park. The dam is 122-feet long and 12-feet high and holds back a 21.8-acre lake. The dam was built to provide cooling water for a Duke Power plant, which was dismantled in 1958. Freeing up the stream is intended to provide an improved habitat for native species of fish and mussels.

('Briefs; Agencies plan dam removal,' Herald-Sun, 18 May 2003.)

Update: Everglades restoration undercut by Florida Legislature

The rewriting of the Everglades Forever Act, which is backed by large sugar interests, delays compliance with state water quality standards in the Everglades by at least 10 years. The bill sailed through committees in the House and Senate with few no votes. Legislators ignored warnings from Florida congressmen that weakening the water rules would endanger $4 billion in federal funding for the $8 billion Everglades restoration. Warnings from Washington couldn't trump the offensive mounted by US Sugar Corp. and Flo-Sun, which have pumped more than $1.6 million into campaign coffers since 1998. Defeat of the bill by Gov. Bush is unlikely.

(Salinero, Mike, 'Session Stings Ecology Activists,' Tampa Tribune (Florida), 8 May 2003.)

Rodman (Kirkpatrick) Dam, Ocklawaha River, FL
Update: Attempts to save Rodman Reservoir

Legislature has passed a bill that tries to preserve the North Florida reservoir and its dam and locks. The structures, relics of the defunct Cross-Florida Barge Canal, block the flow of Ocklawaha River. The canal project was halted in 1971 and decommissioned in 1991, but the reservoir has been preserved as a fishing resort by a series of North Florida legislators. Their efforts have defied the federal government and six Florida governors, all of whom have sought the restoration of the Ocklawaha. Among those governors is Jeb Bush, who in 2001 vetoed a $1.6 million legislative proposal to preserve the reservoir as an important recreational amenity. Bush has sought money from the Legislature to begin removing the dam and restoring the Ocklawaha. He has been denied. The governor has hinted that he would again use his veto. With the state budget still in negotiation, however, Bush or Senate President Jim King might use the reservoir as a bargaining chip. The state has estimated that it would cost almost $7.7 million in the next two to three years to maintain the aging dam and locks.

(Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 'Rodman redux; Governor should veto latest effort to save reservoir,' 10 May 2003.)