No. 50, July 21, 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









Three Gorges Dam, Yangtze River, China
Update: The human costs of Three Gorges

For China's communist leaders, the huge Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River that has begun to fill represents a huge stride towards national security and prosperity, an epic feat on a par with the Great Wall built by the country's ancient emperors. For Chen Youqing, the dam has meant an old age of bitter poverty worse than her former working life of farm labor. Mrs. Chen, a thin woman approaching 70, says she has been surviving on little more than $5 a month from the local government, about a third of what was promised, since she and many others were removed from their small farming plots a decade ago to make way for the dam project. In a simple village house Mrs. Chen and a dozen other elderly people with work-worn faces and calloused hands puffed on cheap cigarettes and poured out stories of a decade of neglect, deceit and contempt from authorities. These stories, which are representative of thousands of other cases in just two districts around the dam, suggest the Three Gorges Dam authorities are still to clear up a miasma of financial mismanagement and even corruption that has hung over the project from the time it was approved in 1992, along with persistent questions about its technical and environmental aspects.

(Mcdonald, Hamish, 'China's Massive Dam Will Fill, Drowning Floods of Complaints,' Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May 2003.)

(Mcdonald, Hamish, 'History Engulfed As China's Hunger for Power Casts Thousands Adrift,' The Age, 31 May 2003.)

us - general

Harvesting the river's energy without a dam

One looks like a Venetian blind. Another resembles an upside-down wind turbine, and a third resembles a double helix of DNA. These are three of a growing group of engineering concepts that some energy experts believe could revitalize the stagnant hydropower industry, providing an environmentally less-damaging alternative to damming streams. Instead of blocking rivers - and the movement of fish that live in them - these 'free-flow hydro' projects use the power of moving water to generate electricity in somewhat the same way that wind turbines capture the power of moving air. In just the past few months, local governments have begun investing in the new hydro. The San Francisco Board of Examiners voted to spend $2 million to study using the tidal flow under the Golden Gate Bridge to light city homes. New York has spent $500,000 testing one prototype, and is considering another $500,000 grant in the next few weeks. Last month, the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund announced a new $2 million program to support such emerging technologies.

(Williams, Wendy, 'Harvesting the river's energy without a dam,' The Boston Globe, 27 May 2003.)

Some specialists say rock weirs better than fish ladders

Engineers want to install an upgraded fish ladder at Upper Bennet Dam on Oregons's North Santiam River. After watching salmon and steelhead hurl themselves against the concrete dam during strong water flows despite the available fish ladder Roger Wagner searched for a better solution, which led him to fish passage experts in other states, and to a fish ladder alternative known as a rock weir long used in Europe and Canada and gaining popularity in parts of the United States. Rock weirs consist of a series of tiers of boulders of varying sizes. Removing Upper Bennett Dam is not an option; the city depends on it to divert water to its drinking water treatment plant on Geren Island. But building a rock weir below the dam would meet the city's needs and greatly reduce fish mortality, some experts say. 'It's no impediment at all to the adult fish,' said John McKern, a fish passage consultant in Washington. McKern, who worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers for nearly 30 years, visited Upper Bennett Dam with Wagner in fall 2001 and is convinced a rock weir would work well at the location and would only cost about $150,000, compared to $600,000 for the new fish ladder.

(Cruz, Laurence M., 'Experts debate merits of fish ladder; Some fish passage specialists say that a rock weir is the better solution,' Statesman Journal, 25 May 2003.)

us - california

State energy commission urges look at taking down Klamath dams

The California Energy Commission said energy company PacifiCorp should consider decommissioning dams on the Klamath River as part of relicensing its Klamath hydropower project. In a preliminary assessment of energy issues associated with the project, the commission said that replacement energy would be needed to make up for any dams that may be removed. But that power could be made up by new and proposed facilities nearby, it said, including a 484 MW cogeneration facility and two proposed projects that would provide 1,500 MW. The seven dams in the Klamath project together only produce 151 MW. Jim McKinney, an environmental policy specialist with the state commission, said 'If you can help restore an endangered salmon run at the risk of losing 160 megawatts of power, that's a good thing to look at.' Aside from being unable to pass migrating fish above lowermost Iron Gate Dam, the reservoirs formed by the project have notoriously poor water quality. 'Not all dams are created equal,' said Glen Spain with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. 'Some dams -- and the Klamath dams may be candidates -- are obsolete and far more expensive to fix in today's world than they are to remove.

(Driscoll, John, 'State energy commission urges look at taking down Klamath dams,' Eureka Times Standard, 4 July 2003.)

us - northwest

Powerdale Dam, Hood River, OR
PacifiCorp commits to removal of Hood River dam in multi-party, consensus agreement

PacifiCorp will remove an aging Hood River dam in 2010, restoring natural river flows for chinook salmon and other fish under an agreement announced in Salem, Oregon. The Powerdale Dam, built in 1923, diverted as much as 80 percent of the river's flow through a three-mile channel before returning it near the river's mouth on the Columbia. It posed a significant threat to migrating fish, regularly sweeping juveniles into the power canal where some were injured or killed in generating turbines. Gov. Ted Kulongoski called the settlement a model for resolving difficult natural resource issues. State and federal agencies, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, local river users and environmentalists negotiated the settlement with PacifiCorp, a unit of publicly traded Scottish Power. PacifiCorp originally tried to renew the dam's federal license, which expired in 2000. But early last year, the company halted licensing efforts after concluding that the dam would be too expensive to operate. Powerdale, near the city of Hood River, is one of a growing number of aging Northwest dams that will be decommissioned in the next decade.

(Rojas-Burke, Joe, 'Deal will mean Hood River dam removal,' The Oregonian, 7 June 2003. Full text at:'/base/news/1054987759294900.xml)

(International Water Power and Dam Construction, 'Settlement announced to decommission Powerdale,' 9 June 2003,'sC=2018686)

Elk Creek Dam, Elk Creek, OR
Bush forbids Army Corps from notching Elk Creek Dam for salmon runs

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has announced plans to build a new fish trap at Elk Creek Dam on Elk Creek - a tributary of the Rogue river in Oregon. The trap will help in the capture and haul of salmon past the half-built dam for the next several decades. President Bush has signed into law a bill sponsored by Oregon congressman Greg Walden that forbids USACE from pursuing its original plan to cut a notch in the dam, so fish can swim unimpeded past the structure on Elk Creek less than 3km from its confluence with the upper Rogue river. The notch was to be rebuilt if the dam were ever finished, after its construction was halted in 1987 by legal action filed by conservationist groups. The new law has already drawn sharp criticism from environmental groups that continue to insist the half-built dam must be removed to protect the basin's salmon and water quality.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'USACE plans fish trap at Elk Creek dam,' 30 April 2003.)

NW tribes take complaints regarding Bonneville Power to Congress

Northwest tribes took their campaign for stricter oversight of the Bonneville Power Administration to Congress and won a concession from the agency's chief that 'we can and will do better.' At the same time, administrator Steve Wright insisted the federal power marketing agency can't afford to spend more to revive Columbia Basin salmon stocks and disputed claims that it had cut its wildlife budget. Tribal representatives argued otherwise at a hearing before the Senate committee on Indian Affairs. 'Bonneville continues to provide the cheapest electricity in the US in part because it has not internalized the full cost of fish and wildlife responsibilities,' said Olney Patt Jr., executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Patt and other tribal representatives said the BPA has failed to keep commitments for salmon funding, hasn't consulted and coordinated well with tribes and has a balky contracting process that runs up unnecessary costs. The BPA sells wholesale power from 29 federal dams in the Columbia Basin dams and one nonfederal nuclear plant. Hit with big financial losses in the Western power crisis, the agency raised rates to utilities 45 percent last year.

(Detzel, Tom, 'NW tribes win concession from BPA; the agency's administrator says it can't afford to spend more on Columbia salmon stocks but can do better,' Oregonian, 5 June 2003.)

White House stymies plan to cool the rivers and help salmon, critics charge

A dispute over regulating water temperatures on the Columbia and Snake rivers has reached into the White House and top levels at the Interior Department. The discussion comes amid state and tribal concerns the effort to help endangered salmon could be undercut in order to protect federal dams. Nine months after it was first circulated among federal agencies, an EPA preliminary draft proposal for establishing temperature controls remains in limbo. Cool water is considered essential for migrating salmon. Any plan to cool the Columbia and Snake rivers would have a major impact on the operation of the dams' generation of relatively inexpensive electricity. 'Temperatures are clearly one of the main constraints on salmon populations,' said Chuck Coutant, a fisheries biologist who has studied the effects of temperatures on the Columbia and Snake runs. Coutant said water temperatures above the mid-60s start to stress salmon of all ages; at 70 degrees the fish can get 'really stressed'; and they start dying when water temperatures hit the mid-70s. The current standard of 68 degrees for the Columbia is often exceeded. The EPA considers both rivers 'impaired' because of the high temperatures.

(Blumenthal, Les, 'White House stymies plan to help salmon, critics charge; EPA: Corps of Engineers, BPA oppose plan to cool rivers,' The News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington) 26 May 2003.)

Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT
Update: EPA may remove Milltown dam as part of superfund cleanup

The US EPA is proposing the removal of the 96-year-old Milltown dam near Missoula in Montana, US. The dam, considered to be a Superfund Clean Up site, is to be removed along with the mine waste that has collected behind the structure. For years mine waste from the dam sediment behind the dam has polluted the Clark Fork River. The cost of dam removal, which includes removing tons of contaminated sediment, and restoring the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, is estimated at $95M. About 90% of the cost is estimated to pay for removing about 2M cu m of sediment from behind the dam. The sediment is contaminated with arsenic and heavy metals that washed downstream 193km from the mining and smelting towns of Butte and Anaconda. The dam, built in 1907 mostly out of timber and stone, sits at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers just upstream from Missoula. Removing the dam will require construction of temporary earthen coffer dams while a contractor begins dismantling the main structure piece-by-piece with heavy equipment. The EPA said the project should be mostly completed by 2011.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'EPA may remove dam as part of superfund cleanup,' 28 May 2003.)

Snake River dams, Snake River, WA
Update: Consensus in favor of keeping dams from governors at salmon recovery summit

In a four-state summit on salmon recovery in Boise, Northwest governors sent a unified message to the Bush administration: We can help threatened and endangered species without removing dams or curtailing the output of the hydroelectric power system. 'Everybody is still wanting to stay the course and try to figure out a way to resolve all of the critical issues for fish while at the same time stimulating the Northwest economy,' said Jim Myron, a natural resources adviser to Kulongoski. Ed Bartlett, who represents Montana on the Northwest Power Planning Council, summed up the recommendations of advisers to all four governors: 'The programs that are in place will work, and we need to continue with that.' Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski's stance, in particular, marks a significant departure from his predecessor, John Kitzhaber. Three years ago, Kitzhaber was the region's only governor to insist that the breaching of four dams on the lower Snake River be considered. The debate roared back to life May 8, when the federal agency in charge of restoring wild salmon runs lost a pivotal legal battle with environmentalists.

Learn more about the fight to restore the Snake River at

(Rojas-Burke, Joe, 'Dams, power consensus expected from governors at salmon recoverymeet,' The Oregonian, 5 June 2003.)

us - midwest

Kent and Munroe Falls dams, Cuyahoga River, OH
Dam changes restore natural flow and habitat to the Cuyahoga

The Cuyahoga River's Kent Dam and the dam in Munroe Falls are being altered. The changes will shrink the pools behind the dams and create a narrower, more natural, free-flowing river through Kent and Munroe Falls, with attractive habitats for fish and aquatic insects. Gone will be the stagnant, algae-filled backwaters now behind the structures. Together, the dam modification projects will cost in excess of $7.5 million, but they're expected to benefit the water quality in significant ways. 'The change in dissolved oxygen will be virtually instantaneous,' says water expert Dr. Robert Heath of Kent State University, ''and fish and aquatic insect species will then return to the river. The river may look the same... but it will be different and better -- very soon.'' Eliminating old dams is a growing trend across the United States.

(Downing, Bob, Dam changes tap river's possibilities; Natural flow, habitats expected from Kent, Munroe Falls face-lifts,' Akron Beacon Journal, 27 May 2003.)

Update: Baraboo on its way back

The 120-mile-long Baraboo River became the nation's longest restored free-flowing mainstream in October 2001, upon the removal of the last of four dams, the privately-owned Linen Mill dam. 'We know quite a bit about the effects dams have on fish communities and their habitat; however, considerably less is known about recovery processes of biota (plant and animal life) following dam removal,' said Matt Catalano, project biologist with the Wisconsin Cooperative Fishery Research Unit who has studied the river since October 1999. His study is one of the first to document fishery recovery following small dam removal. 'It's dramatic,' Catalano said. 'I've seen large numbers of emerald shiners -- schools of hundreds. We've found them as far as Elroy, 100 miles upstream of the Wisconsin River and even moving into some of the tributaries.' Previously, emerald shiners were only observed below the Linen Mill Dam. Emerald shiners are an important food source for many game fish. Their presence in the Baraboo could greatly benefit species such as walleyes, saugers, white bass and smallmouth bass.

(Schwalbach, Randall P., 'Baraboo on its way back; Absence of dams has improved fishery; The fishery on Wisconsin's Baraboo River continues to improve following removal of all its dams,' Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 25 May 2003.)

us - northeast

Maine groups oppose proposed hydro relicensing reform

Maine environmental groups and the Penobscot Nation are protesting proposed changes in the dam relicensing process that they say will give the hydroelectric industry too much power and potentially devastate efforts to restore salmon and other sea-run fish to the state's rivers. A controversial provision of the Senate energy bill would give dam owners, through a new hearing process, the opportunity to contest (and propose alternatives to) fishways and other conditions imposed by federal natural resource agencies that mitigate the environmental impact of dams. 'We view it here as a major step backwards in efforts to improve fish passage and impacts to habitat from hydroelectric projects,' said John Banks, natural resources director for the Penobscot Nation. Banks and others are particularly upset by what they see as the one-sided nature of the changes to the relicensing process. 'People need to remember that these rivers are public resources,' Banks said. 'They're not corporate assets that the companies have complete control of. The rivers belong to the public, to the people.' Environmentalists say the reforms the industry is seeking would shut out states, tribes, citizens groups, and the general public from the relicensing process in an unprecedented way.

(Goad, Meredith, 'Maine groups oppose proposed hydro reform; Changes could prove harmful to the state's rivers, opponents say.' Portland Press Herald, 1 June 2003.)

Inflatable Wilkes-Barre dam would pose environmental, health risks

Additional study of an inflatable dam across the Susquehanna River has brought more concern about the potential for raw sewage pooling behind the dam. Sewage discharges pose a health threat not only to the public, but also to fish and wildlife, according to department supervisor Jared Brandwein of the US Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service, who wrote that such discharges would impair the dam's recreational opportunities and economic development by creating 'unpleasant odors, unsightly algae blooms and deposits of suspended wastes within the pool.' US Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, who has spent nearly a decade pushing for the dam to create a recreational lake on the Susquehanna, is undeterred. The EPA wrote, 'We are extremely concerned that impoundment of poor quality river water may pose significant risks to human health from exposure to bacterial pathogens.' The proposed project could adversely affect wetlands, fish, aquatic life and migratory water-dependent birds, their letter continues. The path of migratory fish may be compromised by dam construction, even though the project is supposed to include a fish passage structure. EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program has put 'significant effort' into removing dam structures that prevent fish passage.

(Learn-Andes, Jennifer, 'Inflatable Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Dam Would Pose Environmental, Health Risks,' The Times Leader, 29 May 2003.)

New legislation introduced on dam removal in Maine

Prompted by the ongoing process that could lead to the removal of Fort Halifax Dam on the Sebasticook river in the US, two legislators in the state of Maine have introduced bills that would ensure local communities get a stronger say in the fate of dams. Both politicians argue that the state failed to inform and include municipalities in the initiative that could culminate in the breaching of the dam this year. Under their proposal, Legislative Document 709 to be introduced in the state legislature, 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. The two are cosponsoring a related piece of legislation to renegotiate the fish passage timetable at Fort Halifax, Benton Falls and Burnham dams.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'New legislation on dam removal,' 30 April 2003.)

West Winterport Dam, Marsh Stream, ME
Update: Dam feud back in County Superior Court

Backers of a plan to tear down the 90-foot West Winterport Dam to help clear the way for spawning wild salmon were back before a judge, arguing that two towns have illegally tried to take the property by eminent domain. The issue before the county Superior Court involves legal technicalities. The broader struggle involves two sides. The dam's owner and a group known as Facilitators Improving Salmonid Habitat, or FISH, want to restore the fish runs along the Marsh Stream, a Penobscot River tributary. The stream serves as the boundary between the towns of Winterport and Frankfort. Restoring the runs means tearing down the dam. The two towns have paid a combined $140,000 to fight the removal because the dam's 50-acre impoundment serves as flood control and as a water source for firefighting and recreation. Their strategy involves taking the dam property through eminent domain. In March, the state's highest court, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, rebuffed the owner's attempt to begin demolition, and sent the case back to Superior Court. The case was one of five pending actions involving the matter of the dam. FISH attorney Nathaniel Rosenblatt of Bangor argued that a taking would be illegal on technical grounds.

(Griffin, Walter, 'Supporters of salmon habitat argue spawning case in court,' Bangor Daily News, 5 June 2003.)

us - southeast

Dam failures hit the Carolinas

In late May 2003, more than a dozen dams failed in southeastern North Carolina, including two high-hazard ones, state officials said. The dam failings prompted evacuations. Hurricane Floyd damaged more than 100 dams in Eastern North Carolina. Of the 50 high-hazard dams hit by the storm, 16 failed. South Carolina requires each of its approximately 200 high-hazard dams to have emergency notification plans, with telephone numbers for emergency officials and residents living downstream who might need to evacuate. Dam officials, though, estimate only 150 of the state's almost 1,000 high-hazard dams have emergency plans. Lawmakers started requiring all dams with potential to cause loss of human life be labeled high hazard and inspected by the state. Dams fail for a variety of reasons. Pipes can rust and leak. Spillways can become clogged by debris, leaves and tree branches. Tree roots can weaken earthen berms, even dislodge chunks of the dam if the tree is blown over in a strong windstorm. Animals burrow into earthen berms, weakening them. Concrete wears over time. Heavy rains push lake levels over the dam's edge. Dams are most tested in extreme conditions.

(Hall, Kerry, Bell, Adam, Glassberg, Ronnie, 'Charlotte region has 200-plus dams where failures could threaten lives,' Charlotte Observer, 1 June 2003.)

Embrey Dam, Rappahannock River, VA
Update: Fish ladder won't work for shad and herring at Embrey Dam

Proponents of the removal of Embrey Dam on the Rappahannock River in the state of Virginia, US, say the removal of the structure will not cause an increase in the likelihood of flooding at the historic cities of Falmouth and Fredericksburg. The removal of the dam is now expected to commence in 2004, with federal funding provided in this year's budget. The 6.7m high, 326.1m wide dam was originally constructed in 1910 for the development of hydropower. The City of Fredericksburg owns the dam, which was acquired in 1968 from the Virginia Electric Power Company (VEPCO). Embrey Dam was constructed to increase the level of backwater and provide hydroelectric power. The generation of hydropower was discontinued in the late 1960's. The existing dam prevents the access of migratory fish to over 112km of historically verified spawning ground in the mainstem Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers - and perhaps an additional 160.9km of spawning habitat on tributaries. Because shad and herring are not highly adept at jumping, the state of Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has concluded that a new fish ladder at Embrey would not be effective in conveying shad over the dam. In 1998, a study of fish passage options for the dam was conducted by DGIF and later by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which recommended the best option was dam removal.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'Embrey Dam removal debate goes on,' 30 April 2003.)

Rodman Dam, Ocklawaha River, FL
Update: Jeb Bush vetoes Rodman Dam bill

Florida Governor Jeb Bush vetoed a bill that would have created a state reserve around Rodman Dam, making it more difficult to demolish the structure as part of the restoration of the Ocklawaha River. Bush has long stated his preference for tearing down the dam, draining Rodman Reservoir and restoring the Ocklawaha River to its natural state. The bill, which passed the Senate 39-0 and the House 92-26, meant to establish a reserve that includes all of the state lands in the floodplain of the Ocklawaha River, from Eureka Dam in Marion County to the Buckman Lock in Putnam County. The Legislature would have had to approve any substantial change in the area if the bill became law, which would have prevented Bush from removing the dam without lawmakers' approval. 'Gov. Bush is to be commended for standing by his commitment to restore the Ocklawaha River and vetoing a bill that was strongly supported by the leadership of both houses in the legislature,' said Nick Williams, executive director of Florida Defenders of the Environment (FDE).

Learn more about the fight to restore the Ocklawaha at:

(The Tallahassee Democrat, 'Bush considers veto of Rodman Dam bill,' 29 May 2003.)