No. 51, August 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









Three Gorges dam, Yangtze River, China
Update: Three Gorges second phase relocation program completed

The second phase of the relocation program for the Three Gorges Project has been reported complete in preparation for the scheduled filling of the Three Gorges Reservoir up to the 135-meter level. A State Council expert team inspected and approved the final report on the resettlement program. Over 100 experts from central departments made on-site studies in the reservoir area to check the progress in the relocation of people, factories, institutions and towns to be affected by the multi-billion-dollar dam project. The experts also inspected the environmental and cultural relics protection work as well as control of geological risks and the management of documents and files. So far, over 700,000 people have been relocated, 28.45m sq. meters of buildings constructed, and 1,043 factories removed from the dam area.

To learn more, visit International Rivers's China campaigns at China

(Financial Times Information, 'China: Second-phase relocation programme ends in Three Gorges area,' New China News Agency, 20 June 2003.)

us - general

57 US dams scheduled for removal in 2003

Each summer, American Rivers surveys government and private conservation organizations to determine how many dams and other obstructions have been removed or are scheduled to be removed in that calendar year. They are reporting that 57 dams in 15 states and the District of Columbia that are scheduled for removal this year. More than 114 dams have been removed removal of the Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River made a big splash in 1999. 'Communities across the country are experiencing a new beginning on their local rivers,' said Serena McClain of American Rivers' Rivers Unplugged campaign. 'And while many regard these efforts as dam removals before they happen, afterwards they are remembered as river restorations."

Visit American Rivers' Rivers Unplugged campaign at

('Dam Removal Allows Dozens of U.S. Rivers to Flow Free,' Environment News Service, 19 August 2003. Full text accessed at

us - california

Truckee River floodplain; a successful riparian restoration

Throughout the 20th century, the Truckee River that flows from Lake Tahoe into the Nevada desert was progressively dammed and dewatered, which led to the collapse of its aquatic and riparian ecosystems. The federal designation of the endemic cui-ui sucker as endangered prompted a restoration program in the 1980s aimed at increasing spring flows to permit fish spawning. These flows did promote cui-ui reproduction, as well as an unanticipated benefit, the extensive seedling recruitment of several native trees. The woodland recovery produced broad ecosystem benefits, as evidenced by the return by 1998 of 10 of 19 riparian bird species whose populations had been locally extirpated or had declined severely between 1868 and 1980. The dramatic recovery along this severely degraded desert river offers promise that the use of instream flow regulation can promote ecosystem restoration along other dammed rivers worldwide.

(Rood, Stewart B.; Gourley, Chad R.; Ammon, Elisabeth M.; Heki, Lisa G.; Klotz, Jonathan R.; Morrison, Michael L.; Mosley, Dan; Scoppettone, G. Gary; Swanson, Sherman; Wagner, Paul L., 'Flows for floodplain forests: a successful riparian restoration,' BioScience, 1 July 2003.)

Old foes unite to tear down obsolete dam

Dam removal picked up momentum significantly in the late 1990s and then slowed when the second Bush Administration came to power and California was walloped by the 2001energy crisis. Now, the crusade to un-dam rivers is rolling again. In early August, employees for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. used a giant jackhammer to bust open a 16-foot-high hydropower dam near this Amador County town, allowing West Panther Creek to flow freely for the first time in 70 years. It won't be the last dam demolished on creeks of the upper Mokelumne River or elsewhere in the state. From the Klamath to the Merced Rivers and beyond, restorationists have set their sights on dams deemed obsolete or needlessly harmful to fish and recreation. 'This is a big day for us,' said Foothill Conservancy Vice President Pete Bell, moments before crews started obliterating 250 cubic yards of concrete. 'I look at this not as the destruction of a dam but the rebirth of a stream.' PG&E officials say they agreed to take down the dam as part of a restoration settlement that helped them obtain a new federal hydropower license in 2001. To avoid a lawsuit, PG&E agreed to restore natural flow patterns to the Mokelumne River, build new campsites and recreation facilities, and decommission three dams - all at a cost of about $40 million

Learn more about California dam removal from Friends of the River at

(Leavenworth, Stuart, 'Old foes unite to tear down obsolete dam,' Sacramento Bee, 6 August 2003. Full article with map at

Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA/OR
Update: Foul play revealed in Klamath fish kill

The decision that killed 33,000 salmon in the Klamath River in 2002 was made to help Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith get re-elected, according to the Wall Street Journal. The story said Karl Rove, a top political strategist for President Bush, pressured US Department of Interior heads to ignore scientific recommendations and release more water to Klamath Falls' conservative farmers despite the threat to salmon. 'The largest fish-kill in America's history could have, and should have, been avoided if it were not for the political pressure put on scientists by administration officials looking for political gain,' said Representative Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena). Placating the farmers likely curried favor for the Bush as well, the story indicated. Water flows to the lower Klamath were not increased this year despite claims by the Yurok Tribe that treaties with the federal government give them senior water rights. Further evidence of back-room finagling was outlined in the story, including a biologist for National Marine Fisheries Service, Michael Kelly, asking for protection under federal whistle-blower laws. Kelly said 'he was subjected to political pressure to go along with the low-water plan and ordered to ignore scientific evidence.'

(Henion, Jennifer, 'Foul play revealed in Klamath fish kill,' Daily Triplicate, 31 July 2003. Story on-line

us - northwest

Capitol Lake dam, Deschutes River, WA
Squaxin Island Tribe says restore Deschutes estuary with dam removal, not poison

Squaxin Island Tribe officials say restoring the Deschutes estuary is the only non-chemical way to rid a lake of noxious weeds. The Deschutes River was dammed 50 years ago to transform the estuary into Olympia's Capitol Lake, which is now freshwater. State officials are considering poisoning the lake to kill the invasive plants that choke the lake; one of the chemicals is classified as a 'moderately hazardous' herbicide and was a component of Agent Orange. Squaxin Island Tribe officials are concerned because the lake drains into Budd Inlet in southern Puget Sound. 'If the label on the chemical warns for it not to be used in saltwater, then why are they using it in a body of water that drains immediately into saltwater,' said Jeff Dickison, policy analyst with the Squaxin Island Tribe. 'The real problem isn't milfoil. The problem is Capitol Lake's shallow and warm water that creates prime growing conditions for milfoil and other invasive species. The only way to eliminate the problem and permanently remove milfoil is to restore the Deschutes estuary.' That would mean removing the dam. Capitol Lake was created in 1951 when an earthen dam was built between the banks of the lower Deschutes River.

The Squaxin Island Tribe has launched a Web site about the restoration of the Deschutes River estuary:

(Walker, Richard, 'News from the Northwest Column; Estuary restoration: Shelton, Wash.,' Indian Country Today, 30 June 2003.)

Columbia River dams, Columbia River, WA
Swimming the salmon river

Christopher Swain saw the Columbia River for the first time six years ago. He said he fell in love and became 'one of those irritating people who won't shut up' about the river that was once the world's premier salmon highway. In July, Swain became the first person to swim the 1,240-mile length of the river, from headwaters in the Canadian Rockies to the Pacific. The venture took nearly 13 months, and it was not a fun swim. The weather was often cold and windy, and the river is sliced into vast puddles of slackwater between 14 big dams. Swain says he swam it to compel people to care about a resource that has been denatured by concrete and pollution. 'I am trying to put a clean, free-flowing river back in the discussion,' Swain, 35, said. He rushed home from the river's mouth to be with his wife, who was expecting their second child. Swain said he spent about 130 six-hour days in the water in a wetsuit. In between, he talked to anyone who would listen about how dams kill salmon and how pollution is harming water quality.

(Harden, Blaine, 'He Loves Salmon So Much That He Swam Their River,' Washington Post, 6 July 2003.)

(Editorial, 'Opinion - In Our View: Strokes For Swain,' The Columbian, 3 July 2003.)

Snake River dams, Snake River, WA
Update: Bush and Northwest hydro

A coalition of northwestern hydropower groups warned President Bush that key federal agencies are 'poised to take actions' that could lead to the breaching of major hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The coalition claims that the EPA and others are burdening dam operators with the costs of requirements that have little to do with hydropower. 'Surprisingly, this trend appears to have accelerated under your administration,' the coalition wrote to Bush. The group noted that mandatory conditions offered during the relicensing of the 72-megawatt Box Canyon project would impose $500 million in new costs on the project's operator, the Pend Oreille Public Utility District. The letter was signed by members of the Northwest Hydroelectric Association, which warned Bush that his own administration 'is acting contrary to [Bush's] pledge' not to remove the Columbia and Snake River dams.

In related news, Bush reiterated his aversion to dam removal and took credit for salmon recovery in a speech delivered at the Ice Harbor Lock and Dam. The administration says a major increase in the salmon runs of the past few years is due to a combination of its own efforts to boost funding for salmon conservation, the previous decade's steady advances in management and cyclical improvement in ocean conditions. But activists say most of the 1.7 million fish that returned last year are not prized wild salmon but farm-raised fish. They say Bush has implemented fewer than one third of the measures and allocated just over half of the funding called for in a federal salmon plan for the Columbia and Snake Rivers. 'If your administration continues to encourage destruction of our forests, pollution of our rivers and management of our rivers without considering our fish and wildlife, the salmon will never be restored," Washington state lawmakers wrote to Bush this week, urging him to take stronger action.

Learn more about the fight to restore the Snake River at

Visit the Northwest Hydroelectric Association at

Read Bush's remarks at

(Holly, Chris, 'Northwest Hydro Group to Bush: Rein In EPA, Resource Agencies,' The Energy Daily, 30 June 2003.)

(Ling, Christina, 'Bush Rejects Razing Dams to Make Way for Salmon, Yahoo News, 22 August 2003. Text at

Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, Elwha River, WA
Update: Dismantling of two dams on Elwha River slowed

Planned removal of two dams that have choked off once-legendary salmon runs in the Olympic Peninsula's Elwha River for most of the past century will come later than expected. Dismantling of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams is expected to begin in 2007, two years later than was projected a year ago, and will take up to three years to complete, said Brian Winter, Elwha project coordinator for the National Park Service. Once home to some of the most bountiful native salmon and steelhead runs in the nation, the Elwha River boasted chinook weighing more than 100 pounds among an estimated 360,000 wild fish that returned to its waters each year. And then came the dams. Built more than 70 years ago, neither of the dams had fish ladders, despite state laws at the time that required them. The dams now block about 70 miles of salmon habitat, mostly within the Olympic National Park. Today, only about 3,000 salmon and steelhead return to spawn in the five open miles of river between the lower dam and Strait of Juan de Fuca. At least one native species - the sockeye - has gone extinct, and two others have reached the brink of elimination. The federal government acquired the privately owned dams in 2000. Once they are removed, planners estimate it will take 30 years to return salmon runs to historic levels.

(Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 'Dismantling of two dams on Elwha River slowed,' 10 July 2003.)

us - southwest

Deficient dams diminish water storage and pose public threat

Nearly 200 Colorado dams can't hold their water. That's because these dams, 193 in all, are damaged and operating under storage restrictions that are depriving Colorado of 144,670 acre-feet of water storage, according to Dick MacRavey, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress. The restrictions were imposed by the State Engineer's Office over the past several years after each dam's structural integrity was evaluated in the interest of public safety and water conservation, deputy engineer Jack Byers confirmed last week. 'The current dam infrastructure is aging, and development below existing dams has increased over the last decade,' Byers said. If deficient dams were filled to capacity, they would pose safety hazards; capacity restrictions bring the water level down to a point where safety hazards are eliminated. Such restrictions are imposed because of structural deficiencies including 'significant leakage, cracking and sliding of embankments, and inadequate spillways,' according to a dam safety summary. Byers emphasized that the capacity unavailable because of the deficient dams is a tiny fraction of the state's total storage capacity of 6.5 million acre-feet, held back by about 3,000 dams. But the problems at the damaged dams are serious and, in some cases, long-standing.

(Miniclier, Kit, 'Deficient dams rob state of water storage 193 facilities pose public threat if filled,' Denver Post, 29 June 2003.)

us - midwest

Rice Creek dams, Rice Creek, MI
Dam removal a good idea on Rice Creek

Several dams located on Michigan's Rice Creek are failing (dams tend to do that every 50 years or so) and they have to be repaired or removed. The original dams were built by to power a sawmill in the early 1800's. For many communities small dams are a bad deal. They are expensive to properly maintain and have to be rebuilt about once a generation. Dams block upstream and downstream movement. Fish and other animals that use the river corridor need barrier free access to different types of habitat to live, grow and reproduce. Soil and woody debris are also moved downstream as the river meanders through its flood plain creating new channels and habitat. The impoundments above dams are notorious for filling with sediment, burying streambed habitat, raising water temperatures and lowering oxygen levels, turning that part of the stream to a stagnant pond. Communities have found the value of the natural flowing stream is of far greater value then the dam and impoundment that it replaced. In addition the city's financial responsibility for maintaining the dam and the impoundment would be reduced.

(Editorial, 'Dam removal a good idea,' Battle Creek Enquirer, 22 June 2003.)

Brewster dam, Brewster Creek, IL
Brewster dam loses 18 more inches

Tiny Brewster Creek continued to carve a new path as workers sliced away another 18 inches of the dam that has slowed its waters for 74 years. The cut was the second in an innovative dam removal project that environmental experts say should take a year to complete and will eventually restore the creek to its natural state. In an area where dam removal has spawned so much debate that the issue made it to the ballot in Batavia, the Brewster Creek project is drawing a big audience. When the Elgin YWCA bought the camp that is split by Brewster Creek in 1929, leaders constructed the dam to create a canoeing pond. But decades later, the dam had deteriorated to the point of being dangerous. The state said it had to be removed or replaced. Because of costs involved, removal became the best option. That's when the Brewster Creek Stream Restoration Project and the first-of-its-kind method came to life. It was decided the dam would be cut out section-by-section, 18 inches at a time

(Waldron, Patrick, 'Brewster dam loses 18 more inches,' Daily Herald, 17 July 2003.)

Once vanishing, ancient fish swims back into view

At a lonely bend on Wisconsin's Wolf River, Jane and Lloyd Merkel balance on some rocks and peer down into the tea-brown water. 'Look, Lloyd!' Mrs. Merkel says. 'Isn't she a beauty?' A gray fish as long as a fence post swims past, its big tail making slow undulations. There are dozens and perhaps scores of the big fish in the river. They appear and disappear, rising out of the deep to nuzzle and splash in the shallows. They have spiky backs, barbed snouts, and mouths like vacuum cleaners. They are like nothing else the Merkels have ever seen. Sturgeons are struggling to survive the world over, from the Caspian Sea in Central Asia to Chesapeake Bay and the Missouri River. Dams, pollution, and the appetite for caviar - raw sturgeon eggs - have made life difficult for a fish that has endured since the Cretaceous period, the age of dinosaurs. Eastern Wisconsin is one of the few places where sturgeons thrive, thanks in part to the enthusiasm of ordinary people like the Merkels. Each spring, hundreds of 'sturgeon guards' volunteer to spend a 12-hour shift watching over spawning areas to discourage poachers. To aficionados, sturgeons have many charms. They have an ancient pedigree, a bizarre appearance, and immense size.

(Mertens, Richard, 'Once vanishing, ancient fish swims back into view,' Christian Science Monitor, 31 July 2003.)

Ward Paper Mill Dam (removed), Prairie River, WI
Update: Dam removal triggers creation of wildlife park

Hikers, bikers, walkers and joggers will be able to enjoy a wildlife park on the site of the former Prairie Lake by next summer if all goes as planned by city officials. In 1994, International Paper closed the Ward Paper mill and later removed an adjacent dam that was deemed unsafe and too costly to maintain, leaving a millpond. The pond has since been drained and by next summer, residents and visitors will find up to three miles of hard-packed granite trails along the river. In conjunction with the city's plan, the DNR began restoring the Prairie River to what it was like before the dam was built and the reservoir filled. Although it is known as the City of Parks, Merrill lacks a wildlife park. 'A lot of parks focus on a lot of competitive sports,' said Dan Wendorf, Merrill's parks and recreation buildings and grounds supervisor. 'What other cities can say they have a 99-acre park with a trout stream running through it?'

Learn more from the River Alliance of Wisconsin at

(LaFrombois, Rick, 'Merrill starts wildlife park; Prairie River restoration to be finished in two years,' Wausau Daily Herald, 26 June 2003.)

Cuyahoga River dams, Cuyahoga River, OH
Update: Ohio EPA says dam hurts water quality

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency wants to remove or modify the dam that spans the Cuyahoga River between Sagamore Hills and Brecksville. This is one of many recommendations the Ohio EPA has made in a plan to clean up the Cuyahoga River from Munroe Falls to Lake Erie, a 44-mile section of the river that does not meet federal clean-water standards. Federal law requires that communities have a plan to make waterways clean enough that people can swim and fish in them. The 14-foot-high dam hurts water quality for about 10 miles upriver in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, said Bill Zawiski, an EPA scientist. 'Ideally, we want it removed,' Zawiski said. Water backs up behind the 163-year-old state-owned dam so that the Cuyahoga there is no longer a river but not quite a lake. Algae and decaying matter build up, depleting the oxygen in the water, which makes it hard for fish to survive. The dam blocks migrating fish altogether. Removing the dam would open up almost half the river to free-flowing conditions and allow fish from Lake Erie to lay eggs in some of the Cuyahoga's cleanest tributaries, Zawiski said.

(Kuehner, John C., 'Ohio EPA says dam hurts water quality,' Plain Dealer, 10 July 2003.)

us - northeast

Dam removal part of Neponset River restoration

The state is moving forward with plans to remove a dam on the Neponset River in Hyde Park and another in Dorchester, which would make the river more friendly to canoes and kayaks. While the Neponset River's lower end has become something of a showpiece in recent years, the section just upstream gets no respect. From Central Avenue in Milton through Mattapan and Hyde Park, the river is all but invisible, shrouded with vegetation and chain-link fence. Meanwhile, the lower end is graced by the Pope John Paul II Park and the Neponset Greenway bike path, both of which opened in the past two years. While the Charles has long been known for its paths, parks, and boating, the Neponset was largely neglected until about a decade ago.

Visit the Neponset River Watershed Association at

(Preer Robert, 'City weekly / Hyde Park; Catching a peek, where the river goes into hiding,' Boston Globe, 29 June 2003.)

Merrimack Village Dam, Souhegan River, NH
Town to study dam ownership

Two town committees will examine the ramifications of accepting responsibility for the 100-year-old Merrimack Village Dam on the Souhegan River. The planning board and the conservation commission will study the matter before the town makes a decision on whether to preserve the dam or allow it to be removed. The Merrimack Village Dam was the first dam built on the Souhegan River. It is 20 feet high and 140 feet long. Pennichuck Water has owned the dam since 1964 and would consider giving the dam to the town to reduce the company's liability and maintenance expenses. State and federal experts gave a detailed presentation on the benefits of removing dams during a public hearing. Dick Hinch, chairman of the selectmen, said he thought there was a sentiment conveyed by residents during the hearing to keep the dam as a centerpiece to the envisioned town center plan. Board members agreed to learn more about the possible ramifications of accepting responsibility of the dam.

(Mclean, Dan, 'Town to study dam ownership,' The Union Leader, 23 July 2003.)