No. 52, September 29, 2003

River Revival Bulletin

Produced by: River Revival, International Rivers Network (International Rivers)
1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94703 USA

Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvorak

table of contents












Efforts to restore flow stressed river

Moorabool River is one of the most flow-stressed rivers in Victoria, according to a new draft document. Released by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, it says 70 percent of the river’s water is removed for domestic use, farm dams and irrigation. Plans to improve its health have been outlined in the document. About 30 people, including Moorabool landowners whose properties border the river, will be involved in short-listing options considered viable for improving environmental flows. The authority’s water resources manager David May said the huge volume of water removed from Moorabool River was damaging fish populations and vegetation. Studies had shown increased flows were needed to improve aquatic life and to maintain other river systems, he said. The river flows into Barwon River and Lake Connewarre, an area significant for migrating birds. Options to increase flows include adopting more water efficient irrigation practices, increasing flows into the river from Lal Lal, Moorabool and Bostock reservoirs and investigating the potential to source other water supplies. “Because (Moorabool River) is so flow stressed, we want to find where the water is used and then implement options and have better water use,” Mr May said. The final report, containing short-listed options, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

(Griffiths, Julie, “River strained: report,” Melton Moorabool Leader, 2 September 2003.)


**Coursier Dam, Cranberry Creek, BC**
Update: Approvals received for Coursier Dam decommissioning

BC Hydro has announced it has received approval from the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) and the Provincial Environmental Assessment Office to decommission Coursier dam, located near the outlet of Coursier lake about 30km south of Revelstoke, Canada. Due to an ongoing history of dam safety deficiencies and various remedial works over the years, BC Hydro conducted a thorough review of options related to the future operation of Coursier dam and concluded that the dam should be decommissioned.
‘ With the key regulatory approvals in place, we have started site preparation and field office set-up while the final construction contracts are being tendered,’ said BC Hydro project manager Bill Seyers. ‘The decommissioning work will be done over the summer and fall of 2003, with revegetation work planned for 2004.’ The Coursier dam decommissioning project has an estimated cost of $4.6M, and will consist of dam removal and excavation, channel restoration, site cleanup, revegetation, and monitoring. A comprehensive environmental management plan is being prepared for the project to ensure that all environmental conditions and permitting requirements are met, and environmental impacts are avoided or addressed in a timely way. Coursier dam was built in 1963 by the City of Revelstoke. The height of the dam was raised in 1969, and the dam was purchased by BC Hydro in 1972.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, “Approvals received for Coursier dam decommissioning,” 31 August 2003.)


The communist dam that was never built

Hungary is the kind of place where every little village lost on the shores of the Danube River has its part in the 20th century tragedy, and, in some instances in the late-century recovery. Nagymaros, a modest place on the northern bank of the river just opposite the imposing ruins of the castle at Visegrad, built by the first Hungarian kings in the 13th century, is where a dam, planned in the 1980’s by the Communist government, was never built. And in not being built, it changed not the course of the river but the course of recent history. “The harmony of nature would have been harmed by the dam,” Mihaly Zoltay, the former mayor of Nagymaros, said, showing some visitors the broad, verdant spot on the river where the dam would have been. The dam question is not entirely over even though after huge popular protests throughout Hungary, the government abandoned its plans to build it here. The dam came to symbolize for many Hungarians what Krisztian Szabados, a director of a policy research and consulting company in Budapest, called “the real meaning of communism.” “There were two ways to protest in Hungary in the 1980’s,” he said. “One was protesting the dam; the other was to deface one of those big statues of Communist heroes that used to be all over the place.”

(Bernstein, Richard, “Hungary’s historic pain, and the river that reflects it,” New York Times, 11 August 2003.)


Rebuilding Iraq’s Mesopotamian marshlands

Canals and dams built during Saddam Hussein’s regime drained more than 90 percent of the Mesopotamian marshlands, the birthplace of civilization. The loss of water displaced an estimated half-million Marsh Arabs, descendants of the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians. Several species of birds and fish are extinct. Irvine resident Issam “Sam” Ali, a hydrologist, works with a group called Eden Again to remove dams and diversion canals from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to replenish the marshlands. One of my passions is to restore the Mesopotamian marshlands. That’s an Iraqi heritage. It’s the cradle of civilization, and it’s important for the region and the whole world. There are two reasons why the marshes were drained. The majority of the damage was done from 1991 to 1994. There were dams built upstream. There was a drainage project by the government of Saddam conducted to build dikes and drainage canals to reroute the water and bypass the marsh area. They wanted to control the area. They wanted to punish the Shiites after the uprising in March 1991. They destroyed their villages and houses. People fled. One challenge we’re facing is bringing these people back. It’s a heritage that survived thousands of years; to see it destroyed in 10 years is very sad.

(Bernhard, Blythe, “Rebuilding Iraq // Environmental dream for his homeland,” Orange County Register, 7 September 2003.)


Musharraf calls for dam construction

President Pervez Musharraf said all available sites for water reservoirs would have to be constructed in the next 50 years to meet the water requirements of the country. The feasibility report of Kalabagh Dam is ready and the feasibility of Bhasha Dam will be available next year and then the government can take a decision on which dam to construct first. The government is trying to remove apprehensions of the Sindh Province regarding water distribution and construction of dams. Representatives have already visited Sindh and interacted with a cross-section of the society on the water issue.

(PTV World, Islamabad, “Pakistan TV reports president’s comments on opposition, Islamic world,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 5 September 2003.)


**San Clemente Dam, Carmel River, CA**
Update: San Clemente structure could fail

San Clemente Dam, two miles south of Carmel Valley Village at the end of San Clemente Drive, is under scrutiny because tests have determined that it could be severely damaged and possibly fail in a major earthquake or flood, according to engineer Paula J. Landis, chief of the San Joaquin District of the state Department of Water Resources in Fresno. California-American Water Co., which owns the dam, drilled six holes through the dam’s concrete face in June to lower the water level by 10 feet, taking some of the pressure off the dam, said Cal-Am operations manager Charlie Kemp. But Kemp said the dam still could give way. The two alternatives, he said, are taking it down at a cost of $60 million to $70 million, or shoring it up at a cost of $28 million. The San Clemente Reservoir behind the dam has largely silted up and is no longer functioning as a water source, Kemp said. Years of mud piling up behind the dam, he said, have made San Clemente “a diversion point, not a reservoir.” Meanwhile, the prospect of dealing with the dam offers an opportunity for developing ways to restore or enhance habitat for endangered fish and frogs in the river, Landis said, and these possibilities will also be discussed at the meeting.

(Howe, Kevin, “Dam may be taken out; San Clemente structure could fail,” Monterey Herald, 9 September 2003.)

**Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA**
Humboldt County asks PacifiCorp to consider Klamath dam removal

Officials in Humboldt County, Calif., plan to ask PacifiCorp to consider removing hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. The board of supervisors for the county located at the mouth of the Klamath River voted earlier this week to join a handful of California state agencies that have already called for consideration of removing the dams. The county is drafting a letter asking PacifiCorp to include dam removal as an option in its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the series of dams on the river. PacifiCorp has a 151-megawatt hydroelectric project that includes seven dams on the Klamath River. The company’s existing license expires in 2006. The deadline for the license renewal application is March 1, 2004. Iron Gate Dam, the project’s biggest dam, blocks salmon and other fish from migrating up the Upper Klamath River in Northern California. Earlier this year the California Resources Agency, California Department of Fish and Game and California State Water Resources Control Board called on PacifiCorp to consider removal of some or all of the dams. In July, the California Energy Commission released a report saying power production lost by removal of dams could be replaced by existing and proposed gas-fired power plants in Klamath County, including the 484-megawatt Klamath Cogeneration Plant. Copies of the draft application are available online at the PacifiCorp Web site and in public libraries in Northern California and Southern Oregon.
For more information visit and

(Darling, Dylan, Humboldt County asks PacifiCorp to consider Klamath dam removal: Company says it’s done enough to compensate for dams’ impact,” Herald and News, 9 September 2003.)

us - northwest

Farmers, salmon advocates duel

Idaho farm and irrigation groups are warning salmon advocates to drop the threat of a lawsuit they say could devastate Idaho’s economy. The Coalition for Idaho Water said environmental groups should withdraw a 60-day notice to sue filed a week ago against federal dam operators on the Snake River in Idaho and Wyoming for violating the Endangered Species Act. If the environmental groups sue and win, the federal agencies could be forced to release water from storage reservoirs such as Lucky Peak to help salmon, said the coalition, which represents irrigation agriculture groups like the Idaho Potato Growers.
Justin Hayes of the Idaho Conservation League, one of the groups that filed the notice, said the farm groups’ concerns are justified because the federal government is operating the dams illegally and environmentalists have a good chance of winning on the merits of the case. ”The status quo is harming the salmon and the families who depend on the fish,” said Hayes, ICL program director. Specifically, the salmon advocates say Reclamation’s biological opinion, a document that explains how the agency protects endangered salmon, is out of date and inadequate. They threatened to sue Reclamation and National Marine Fisheries Service. The environmental groups who filed the notice include American Rivers, the ICL, Idaho Rivers and the National Wildlife Federation.

(Barker, Rocky, “Farmers, salmon advocates duel; Irrigators say release of reservoir water could dry up crops,” The Idaho Statesman, 5 September 2003.)

Update: Dammed lake-versus-tidal estuary debate in Olympia

A study to determine whether it’s possible to convert Capitol Lake into a free-flowing Deschutes River estuary is inching toward the starting line. The $875,000 project, expected to take at least a year, would try to answer an array of questions about what would happen if the river was allowed to empty
into Budd Inlet unimpeded by the Fifth Avenue Dam. The Capitol Lake management committee - consisting of local governments, state agencies and the Squaxin Island tribe - has endorsed the study, but its
fate hinges in part on the ability of those partners to secure money for the study. At stake is the first comprehensive look at how a Deschutes River estuary would function and look over time. It’s the latest chapter in the lake-versus-estuary debate that has split the South Sound community - and lake management group - down the middle for years. An estuary is a place where saltwater and freshwater mix in a biological community important to fish and wildlife. Some community members find the idea distasteful and want the lake maintained as a reflective pool for the state Capitol. ”A properly functioning estuary is something we shouldn’t be afraid of,” said Bob Barnard, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife engineer. “We’re not forcing an estuary option down anybody’s throat.”

(Dodge, John, “Capitol Lake study hinges on financing,” The Olympian, 5 September 2003.)

us - midwest

Columbus rediscovers the Chattahoochee

“ Cities throughout this country are rediscovering their rivers,” Columbus architect Ed Burdeshaw, chairman of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce Riverfront Committee said. “The original uses for the river -- power, transportation and shipping -- have gone away. As those old mills and factories are converted to other uses or demolished, the river is being discovered anew. The city is spending $1.8 million in federal grant money to complete a half-mile section of Chattahoochee Riverwalk. It will be finished this fall, leaving just three spots in the river where the 15-mile path is disconnected. Bill Turner, retired chairman of the W.C. Bradley Co., credits the Chattahoochee Riverwalk with rediscovery of the river and riverfront. W.C. Bradley Real Estate President Mat Swift said the progress is directly related to the Riverwalk, which opened almost 11 years ago. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also studying the feasibility of a river restoration project that would remove parts of two downtown dams and create a 2.3-mile section of whitewater flowing into the city’s central business district. This project could cost between $5 million and $10 million in a combination of public and private funds. With proper approval, this could begin happening in just two years. It could create a whitewater that would draw rafters and kayakers to Columbus.

(Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, “Flowing to the river; As the mill generation fades away, Columbus rediscovers the Chattahoochee,” 7 September 2003.)

Three deaths raise profile on low heads’ danger

Three drownings this summer at low-head Great Miami River dams underscore the perils of structures called “drowning machines” by some for their deadly hydraulic undertow. Despite hazards that have taken at least six lives and caused uncounted injuries since 1998, the state of Ohio has adopted no standards for warning signs or buoys at public and private low-heads. The state of Ohio doesn’t have an official count of how many low-head dams exist. Low-head dams earned the moniker “drowning machines” because of how they capture and push objects below the surface of the water as it churns in its hydraulic flow, Dillon said. “If an engineer set out to make something to drown people, they couldn’t have come up with something better.” An emergency worker echoed Dillon. Three local legislators say it’s time to examine low heads. Three additional low head-dam drownings occurred in Ohio from 1998 through 2002, said Nancy Gogle of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Watercraft Division. Statistics don’t give the full picture, she said, as 85 percent to 90 percent of nonfatal accidents are not required to be reported. In Columbus, some dams have been modified to help anything trapped slide out, said Emily King, public information and education manager in the ODNR’s Division of Watercraft. Unneeded dams are being removed from rivers when financially feasible, she said.

(Ullmer, Katherine, “Safety measures urged at low dams; Three deaths raise profile on low heads’ danger,” Dayton Daily News (Ohio), 1 September 2003.)

**Batavia Dam, Fox River, IL**
Update: State moving ahead with Batavia dam, Fox River plans

State officials are pressing forward with a plan to improve the Fox River by removing most of a Batavia dam and installing islands and rocky areas to regulate water flow. For three years, state and local officials have been seeking ways to correct problems caused by a rupture in the Batavia North Dam, while wrestling with issues like funding, local sentiment and rights of ownership. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources wants to lower the height of the overflow dam to 2 feet from river bottom. Water flow will be regulated by the construction of two small islands upstream and two more areas where “riffle structures,” consisting of boulders and rocks, will span the river. Additionally, the Depot Pond, a backwater area of the river, would be fully enclosed by a concrete berm. Despite warnings that the dam might catastrophically fail and studies that show declining health of the river, residents overwhelmingly voted to keep the structure in an advisory referendum this year. “Politically, it’s a very cloudy picture as to how the community acts and reacts to this thing,” said Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke. “They re-elected the vast majority of the aldermen who voted to remove the dam in the same election they voted to keep the dam.”

(Gibula, Gary, “State moving ahead with Batavia dam, Fox River plans,” Chicago Tribune, 12 September 2003.)

Update: Missouri River dams threaten Pallid Sturgeon with extinction

Most Midlanders might never see a pallid sturgeon, one of the endangered species at the heart of the debate over the Army Corps of Engineers’ management of the Missouri River. There are only a few of them around. Estimates contained in a recent Billings Gazette series on the fish, which can grow to 80 pounds or more, indicate that only a couple hundred of the primitive-looking creatures still inhabit the Missouri River system, where they used to swim in large numbers. They are found nowhere else, though their smaller cousin, the shovel-nosed sturgeon, seems to be thriving. The pallid, a flat fish that also has a shovel-shaped nose, has a back lined head-to-tail with bony plates called scutes. The species liked the Missouri system the way it used to be - muddy and turbid, full of sandbars and deep holes, with varying fast and slow currents. It depended on spring floods to warm the chilly water to spawning temperature and to stimulate it to swim upstream to good breeding grounds. Human intervention has removed both cues - dams thrown across the Missouri both control spring flooding and block upstream migration. As a consequence, the pallids that remain in the system rarely spawn. For the past 35 years, biologists searching the river system have not found any young, wild-bred hatchlings surviving to adulthood. In 2002, searchers netted two tiny pallids, and those were hatchery raised.

(Omaha World Herald editorial, “For the pallid; Make the right decision for the future by preserving Missouri River habitat. 18 September 2003.)

us - northeast

** Bearcamp River Dam, Bearcamp River, NH **
Bearcamp River restoration success through public-private partnership

Removing the Bearcamp River Dam in South Tamworth will allow 28 miles of river to flow unobstructed by manmade structures. The dam’s removal is made possible by a diverse partnership of public and private sponsors with a shared dedication to restore the Bearcamp River and eliminate a public safety hazard. The N.H. Department of Environmental Services (DES) River Restoration Program is coordinating the project and the DES Dam Maintenance Crew is conducting the physical removal of the dam. The estimated cost of removing the dam is $124,000. Flowing from its headwaters in the Sandwich Range Wilderness of the White Mountains to its confluence with Ossipee Lake, the Bearcamp River watershed provides excellent habitat for native brook trout, wild brown trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon. Anglers already enjoy excellent fishing in the Bearcamp River. The dam’s removal will improve fish movement and further enhance fishing opportunities, as well as restore natural habitat conditions at the dam and impoundment site. The dam has also blocked the movement of woody material that would naturally have been distributed downstream, providing important habitat structure and nutrients to fish and other aquatic species.

Stephanie Lindloff, N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services, (603) 271-3406
Scott Decker, N.H. Fish and Game Department, (603) 271-2501
Bill Neidermyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (603) 223-2541
Dan Comer, Public Service of New Hampshire, (603) 634-2444

(New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, “Bearcamp River Dam to Be Removed: River restoration success through public-private partnership,” 10 September 2003.)

Dams to be removed in Pennsylvania

Eight dams in central and eastern Pennsylvania are among 57 slated for removal nationwide this year, according to the latest survey conducted by American Rivers, an environmental group that advocates removal of obsolete dams. In Western Pennsylvania, “there are at least half-a-dozen dams [that are obsolete] and that we know about,” said Sara Nicholas, a program associate, and thus might be candidates for removal. One example is Carter’s Dam on Conowango Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny River in Warren. The dam, which is more than 400 feet high, was built in the 1800s and rebuilt in 1910, she said. “Dams do not last forever and as they age they tend to move from being assets to liabilities,” said Leon Szeptycki, eastern conservation director for Trout Unlimited, based in Arlington, Va. By restoring free-flowing waters, communities can increase public safety, improve water quality, revitalize fisheries, and free land for parks and other public purposes. Statewide, there are 3,000 medium-size and 2,000 smaller dams, the earliest of which were built 200 years ago, Nicholas said.

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Tiny robots from ‘smart dust’ ?” 1 September 2003.)

Invoking river’s past to protect its future

In the years during and after the American Revolution, the Jones River hummed with shipbuilding activity.
To celebrate the river’s shipbuilding history and protect its future, the Jones River Watershed Association plans to convert the historic shipyard into the Jones River Marine Ecology Center. Once the three buildings at Jones River Landing are renovated, the center will host a boat-building operation and a store for boating and fishing equipment as well as a study center of the river’s ecology. ”Our idea is to become sustainable through mixed use - commercial, shipbuilding, science, historic study,” said Ron Maribett, the association’s director of development. About a mile inland from Kingston Bay, the landing overlooks the confluence of the Jones River and Stony Brook. One of the center’s primary goals is to restore the river’s ecosystem, especially the cycle of fish spawning and migration. Alewife, herring and other fish used to swim from the ocean along the Jones River to Silver Lake and local ponds to spawn. Today there are too many obstructions, such as dams, for the fish to make it upstream. Efforts are under way to remove some dams and build fish ladders on others. Restoring the fish population also requires improving the river water, which is becoming polluted by stormwater runoff. A recent study of Plymouth County
waterways found the Jones River to be one of the five most endangered.

(Trafton, Anne, “Invoking river’s past to protect its future,” The Patriot Ledger, 2 September, 2003.)

us - southeast

**Embrey Dam, Rappahannock River, VA**
Update: Army Corps prepares for removal of Embrey Dam

Beginning in mid-August 2003, a stretch of the Rappahannock river in the US will be closed to the public for more than two years, as the US Army Corps of Engineers will begin dredging silt from the river bottom to prepare for removing Embrey Dam. The dam is being taken down to allow migratory fish to return to the
upper river and its tributaries, and the dredging is step one in the project.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, “News in brief,” 31 August 2003.)