No. 36, April 9, 2002

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








State owned media claims Three Gorges Dam resettlement proceeding smoothly

The Three Gorges Dam project will require the resettlement of 1.9 million people in the reservoir area. Most of the people to be moved live in the Chongqing Municipality. The city, one of the four municipalities directly under the jurisdiction of the State Council, had already relocated 330,000 residents by the end of last year. They have been either moved to economically developed coastal cities or to higher locations. Bao Xuding, mayor of the municipality, claimed 'most of the migrants have settled in and are integrating with local society.' Bao said the city has invested 16.7 billion yuan (US $2 billion) in moving residents so far, and is to spend a further 3.5 billion yuan (US $423.2 million) this year. While project officials and government media claim resettlement is proceeding smoothly, four villagers remain in prison for their attempts to petition the state government over resettlement grievances. International Rivers has written to US investment firm Morgan Stanley, which is closely tied to financing and underwriting the Three Gorges Dam to refrain from financing the project until the economic and civil rights of project affected people are secured. International Rivers has received no response from the company. More information and action alerts can be found at

(Xie, Xiao, 'Dam migrants to move on schedule,' China Daily, 15 March 2002.)

united kingdom

Council recommends removing farmland flood defenses in Severn

Barriers to protect farmland in Gloucestershire from flooding should be pulled down to stop the waters reaching householders, according to a new report. It says halting subsidies to farmers to stop them growing crops on fields alongside riverbanks is the best way of protecting homes. Natural water meadows would then soak up billions of gallons of floodwater in times of heavy rain, say council leaders. The suggestion to abandon flood defenses for farmers who grow cereal crops along the Severn is contained in the county's response to the draft flood management plan being drawn up by the Environment Agency. County council chiefs say building massive dams on tributaries of the Severn is not sustainable and the way forward is to remove obstructions. Encouraging farmers on flood plains to allow their land to revert to grassland is the best way of preventing flooding of homes and businesses, the councilors argue. But they say any shift away from man-made to natural flood defenses would require major changes to the way the Common Agricultural Policy is administered.

(Western Daily Press, 'Pull down Severn farmland flood defences, says council,' 18 March 2002.)

us - california

Cascades Dam, Merced River, CA
Yosemite restoration plan removes Cascades Dam, restores watershed habitat

The Yosemite restoration plan, unveiled in late 2000, was designed to take some of the visitor pressure off the valley by restoring open space and riverbanks and moving some facilities. Environmentalists were awaiting release of the project list to see whether the park service was retreating from more controversial facets of the plan. Jay Watson, California director of the Wilderness Society, noted that the hardest decisions are yet to be made but said he was generally pleased with the work schedule. The timetable calls for the park service to have finished $105.1 million worth of projects in the next three years. Among them:

  • Removal of the only dam on the park's stretch of the Merced, the Cascades Dam, built in the 1920s to provide power for the valley but unused for decades.
  • Development of plans to restore to natural habitat the 374 campsites washed out in the flood.
  • The installation of about 70 campsites in the valley, which lost 374 of them in the floods.
  • Construction of employee dormitories to replace flood-damaged housing.
  • Construction of cottages to replace the 200 Yosemite Lodge cabins destroyed in the flood.

(Boxall, Bettina, 'Timetable Set for Work at Yosemite; Parks: Plan calls for more cabins, employee dorms, but sidesteps parking, campsite issue,' Los Angeles Times, 15 March 2002.)

Matilija Dam, Matilija Creek (Ventura River), CA
Matilija Dam poses biggest threat to Ventura River

Every month, dozens of volunteers monitor the health of the Ventura River by taking water samples, and measuring its flow and sources of pollution. The study, directed by the city of Ventura, is providing the public with a picture of the river's present condition. The study is providing an invaluable road map in helping to clean and restore the river, said Jessica Altstatt of the Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper, who is helping to organize the study. The river faces a number of threats, including the giant cane, a hardy weed that is native to Asia and that is abundant along the river. Altstatt said the weed consumes a lot of water and is difficult to eradicate in part because of its deep roots. Cattle pollute the river through their urine and feces, and pesticides and herbicides from nearby farms, golf courses and homes contaminate the river. But the biggest threat is a massive concrete structure built in 1948 about 16 miles upstream from where the Ventura River empties into the sea. The aging dam has caused tremendous damage to the river and to the fish that depend on it, including the endangered steelhead. Oldtimers say the river was once filled with steelhead swimming upstream to spawn. The dam has also robbed Ventura's beaches of needed sand and cobblestones, which the river once carried downstream. Without the sand and stone, the beaches are much more susceptible to erosion from the sea.

For more information, visit the Matilija Coalition at:

(Scheibe, John, 'Council told Matilija Dam poses biggest threat to Ventura River,' Ventura County Star, 5 March 2002.)

us - northwest

Condit Dam, White Salmon River, WA
Conflict over Condit Dam removal

If FERC approves, 125-foot-high Condit Dam would become one of the highest U.S. dams ever removed. The dam, which has blocked upstream migration by salmon and steelhead since 1913, is owned by Portland-based utility PacifiCorp. PacifiCorp would rather breach the dam and give up its small generating capacity than build a $30 million fish ladder. Speakers at a hearing in early March split into two factions: 1) Those who favor a 1999 dam removal plan negotiated by PacifiCorp with environmentalists, tribes and regulatory agencies; 2) Those who argue the dam should remain, retrofitted with fish passage facilities, or if it is breached, that PacifiCorp should be required to dredge the 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment behind it to prevent a huge flush of sediment that would silt up the pool at the mouth of the White Salmon River. Opponents of dam removal have attempted to derail the settlement in recent months. Foes include the Klickitat and Skamania county commissioners, some residents of the town of White Salmon, and cabin owners who lease land on Northwestern Lake, a reservoir that would disappear if the dam were destroyed.

(Kathie Durbin, 'Crooners, critics weigh in on dam removal plan,' The Columbian, 15 March 2002.)

Lewis River dams, Lewis River, WA
Interests compete for attention in relicensing of Lewis River dams

Embarking on the complicated process of relicensing a series of hydroelectric dams on the North Fork of the Lewis River, dozens of regulators, utility executives and local residents vowed to reach agreement within a year. That settlement, in turn, will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. PacifiCorp and the Cowlitz Public Utilities District, which owns the four hydroelectric projects on the North Fork, agreed to negotiate with environmental groups, residents and state and federal regulators. Even though PacifiCorp has agreed to remove another Southwest Washington dam the 14-megawatt Condit Dam on the White Salmon River it promises to do nothing of the sort on the North Fork. Four powerhouses linked to Yale, Swift and Merwin dams generate 570 megawatts of electricity between them, and the negotiations will revolve around the question about how best to live with them. The dams, built between 1931 and 1958, have no fish ladders. The sizes of the dams ranging from 512 feet tall for Swift to more than 300 feet for Yale and Merwin promise to make fish ladders a costly proposition even if engineers could design a workable system. Instead, company officials talk about the possibilities of restoring salmon habitat below the dams, or trapping and hauling fish around the dams in trucks. Cowlitz PUD and PacifiCorp intend to submit relicensing applications to FERC in April of next year, in time for the federal commission to issue new licenses for the projects in 2004.

(Robinson, Erik, 'Interests compete for attention in relicensing of Lewis River dams,' The Columbian, 14 March 2002.)

Restocking rivers with dead salmon

On a gray, gloomy day last November in Oregon, the skies opened over the Mt. Hood National Forest and it began to rain fish. The thousands of fish that fell were dead long before the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service deposited them into the rivers. The agencies had initiated the carcass drop--using excess fish taken from hatcheries--because of a growing body of scientific evidence showing that dead salmon are precisely what's missing from many river ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. Before Europeans settled the region, tens of millions of salmon migrated from the ocean each year to spawn and then die in the same rivers where they were born. Some of the fish were caught by the region's Native Americans, but millions simply perished in the rivers, where the decaying bodies turned into a feast for insects, eagles and, perhaps surprisingly, young salmon. Today, human activities--including dam building, logging and hatcheries that dilute the genetics of wild stocks--have greatly reduced salmon numbers, and many of the historic runs are endangered. What scientists now want to know is how the removal of that once-abundant food source has altered river ecosystems.

(Hymon, Steve,' Adding to the Circle of Life; Biology: Restocking rivers with dead salmon--a food source for some creatures--may aid ecosystems,' Los Angeles Times, 11 March 2002.)

Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT
Feds asked to force Montana Power to disclose plans for Milltown Dam

The Clark Fork Coalition wants federal regulators to force Montana Power Company to disclose its long-term plans for Milltown Dam. The Missoula-based river watchdog group said Montana Power should not be allowed to use the hydropower relicensing process to delay an ongoing Superfund cleanup at Milltown Dam and reservoir. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to decide on how best to clean up pollution created by high concentrations of metals and arsenic in Milltown Reservoir sediments. The coalition believes 'Montana Power should be required to declare up front whether it intends to conform its plans' to the EPA's decision. Montana Power has asked FERC to extend its operating license at Milltown Dam for another two years, while the Superfund decision-making process continues. The cleanup decision has been narrowed to two choices: remove contaminated sediments and Milltown Dam, or leave the sediments and make improvements that allow the dam to pass ice and flood waters that could scour sediments from the reservoir. Stone-Manning said the coalition fears that Montana Power will use the dam relicensing process to fight a remove-the-dam decision by the EPA, pitting two federal agencies and two decision-making processes against one another.

For more information, visit the Clark Fork Coalition at:

(Associated Press, 'Feds asked to force Montana Power to disclose plans for Milltown Dam, for fish's sake,' 8 March 2002.)

Massive victory on two Bear River dams

Lawmakers gave up on two proposed dams on the Bear River, removing them from the state's list of projects to deliver future water to the Wasatch Front. SB92, sponsored by republican state senator Michael Waddoups, pulls the proposed Honeyville dam and another near Amalga Barrens off the list of possible dam sites. The Utah Rivers Council backed the legislation, arguing the dams would inundate 15 miles of farms, ranches, Shoshone burial grounds and wetlands along the Bear River. 'Passage of this bill is a massive victory,' said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council. 'Passage of this bill allows Box Elder and Cache County residents to get on with their lives without worrying what the Division of Water Resources is going to do next.' Utah lawmakers also passed a law to allow ranchers, miners and oil developers to file countersuits and recover damages including legal costs, lost wages and materials from anyone who delays projects on state and federal lands through 'improper' litigation. Lawmakers are aiming their bill at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which routinely appeals federal decisions to grant grazing, mining and oil and gas permits, and the Sierra Club, which has challenged the state on Legacy Highway.

For more information, visit the Utah Rivers Council or the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance at

(Spangler, Jerry D. and Spangler, Donna Kemp, 'Environmentalists could face damages,' The Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT), 7 March 2002,)

Lower Granite Dam, Lower Snake River, WA
Corps set to test spillway weir on Snake River's Lower Granite

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hopes that $390 million worth of modifications to four Lower Snake River dams will make breaching unnecessary in the fight to restore endangered Pacific Northwest salmon populations. Next month's spring salmon run will provide the Corps' first test of a 2-million-lb, 115-ft-tall prototype removable spillway weir built last summer and currently undergoing testing at Lower Granite Dam, 140 miles above the Snake's confluence with the Columbia River. Environmentalists want the four Lower Snake dams. The Corps considered that option but hopes to avoid it. The dam modifications are part of a six-year, $5.3-billion fish recovery plan for the Columbia River Basin. If the removable spillway weir proves successful at 100-ft-high Lower Granite, three more will be installed over the next two years at the other run-of-river dams. The weir is designed to pass juvenile salmon and steelhead over a ''raised'' spillway crest similar to a waterfall. Existing spillways use gates 50 ft beneath the surface, and fish passing through them suffer from both pressure and velocity. The Lower Granite weir replaces another prototype, a surface bypass collector. It enables the Corps to reduce spillway volume during fish passage.

(Engineering News-Record, 'Corps set to test spillway weir on Snake River's Lower Granite,' 4 March 2002.)

Columbia salmon recovery efforts stall

The U.S. government has fallen behind in carrying out ambitious measures designed to save Columbia Basin salmon while keeping in place four massive hydropower dams on the Snake River, an assertion made by conservationists that goes undisputed by federal officials. The salmon-saving effort is guided by a blueprint released in December 2000, which says that if the plan is not being properly carried out by 2003, or if salmon are not returning in sufficient numbers by 2005 and 2008, the federal government must again consider breaching the dams. Save Our Wild Salmon, a conservation group, evaluated progress made on 129 separate measures in the blueprint that it said should be partly or completely accomplished by the end of 2001. The group gave the federal government a passing grade on 28 of those 129 measures. It gave an 'incomplete' on 56 measures; and it failed the federal government on 45 measures. Erich Bloch, one of two representatives of Governor John Kitzhaber on the Northwest Power Planning Council, agreed with conservationists that the federal government has fallen behind on its salmon plan. 'If you read (the salmon plan) it looks good,' Bloch said. 'But if you look behind the rhetoric you find that many of the federal agencies neither have the authority or funding to do the work.'

For more information, visit Save Our Wild Salmon at:

(Brinckman, Jonathan, 'Columbia salmon recovery efforts stall,' The Sunday Oregonian, 3 March 2002.)

Keechelus Dam, Yakima River, WA
Keechelus Dam safety work scheduled to start in April

'The Bureau of Reclamation announced the Modification Report for Keechelus Safety of Dams has cleared the Office of Management and Budget and been transmitted to Congress,' the U.S. Department of the Interior said in a press release. The release also said: 'Following Congressional approval and the obtaining of the necessary permits from the State and the Corps of Engineers, construction is scheduled to begin in April 2002.' Keechelus Lake is one of five Yakima basin storage reservoirs. Safety of Dams legislation requires that the irrigation water users on the Yakima Project repay 15 percent of the total project cost for the modifications. Total project cost is estimated at $32 million. Located at the headwaters of the Yakima River, Keechelus Dam is an earth fill structure completed in 1917. It has a structural height of 128 feet with an active capacity of 157,700 acre-feet at a full pool elevation of 2517 feet.' Following discovery of internal erosion within Keechelus Dam in 1998, the structure was determined to be unstable and Reclamation began the process to request modification of the dam under Safety of Dams legislation.

For more information, contact: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation; Diana Cross, 208/378-5020; Kathryn Puckett, 509/575-5848, ext. 205; TDD: 800/735-2900.

(States News Service, 'Keechelus safety of dams work scheduled to start in April,' 17 March 2002.)

us - midwest

Small towns deal with expense of replacing or fixing dams

Aging dams once built for private profit are now getting replaced or repaired at taxpayer expense, a costly endeavor for some small towns. It recently cost $100,000 to fix an 88-year-old dam owned by the city of Clintonville on the Pigeon River. Some of the projects cost communities more than $1 million, said Meg Galloway, the state's chief dam inspector. In the past decade, according to the state Department of Natural Resources, 83 communities spent $22.4 million on failing dams under a DNR grant program to help pay some of the costs. During that time, the DNR paid out nearly $12 million in matching grants to communities for projects that included dam repair, removal and renovation, Galloway said. But those days are over. There is no money left in the grant fund and the funding was cut from the DNR's budget last year, Galloway said. According to a DNR inventory, about 340 of Wisconsin's 3,700 dams are owned by municipalities. The count constantly changes as municipalities abandon some dams and take over other private dams. Dams are failing because they are getting old. The average age of a municipal-owned dam in Wisconsin is 55 years, the DNR says.

For more information, visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at

(Associated Press, 'Small towns deal with expense of replacing or fixing dams,' 18 March 2002.)

High court says dam must be removed

A Chamberlain man has won a lawsuit seeking removal of a 1947 dam that crosses an unimproved section line and hampers access to the Missouri River. Ruling unanimously Thursday in favor of Robert Douville, the state Supreme Court said townships receiving complaints must eliminate obstructions that interfere with a public right of way. The decision is a blow to Brule and Chamberlain townships. Douville sued them over a stock dam that has flooded a stretch of an unimproved, 1.5 mile section line that extends to the east bank of the Missouri River, a couple of miles south of the city of Chamberlain. If the dam didn't block the section line, people could use it to get to public land along the river, said Douville, an avid outdoorsman whose grandfather homesteaded in the area. The dam is owned by Alvin Reuer, and it is used for watering livestock. Officials in both Brule and Chamberlain townships granted Reuer conditional easements for the dam in 1982 that were to continue until the townships are required to turn the section line into an actual road. The section line doubles as the boundary between the two townships.

(Kafka, Joe, 'High court says dam must be removed,' Associated Press, 7 March 2002.)

us - northeast

Owner says Halifax Dam removal is cheapest alternative

Energy plans to remove the Fort Halifax Dam rather than pay the estimated $3 million to $4 million to build a required fish-passage system, an FPL Energy spokesman said Tuesday. F. Allen Wiley, FPL Energy's director of business and regulatory affairs for the Northeast, said company officials determined the price of fish passage was too high. 'Everything we have been able to look at this point leads us to a decision that building a fish lift is not in our best interests and is not economically justifiable,' Wiley said. Under the terms of the Kennebec Hydro Developers Group agreement reached in 1998, FPL Energy, as owner of Fort Halifax Dam, is obligated to build a fish lift to allow sea-run fish - alewife, American shad, Atlantic salmon - to travel upstream on the Sebasticook River. But FPL Energy also may elect to surrender its FERC License to operate the Fort Halifax Dam and see to the dam's removal. Wiley said FPL Energy has stopped short of definitively saying dam removal is inevitable because the company continues to consider offers to purchase the dam.

(Hickey, Colin, 'Halifax Dam on way out' Owner says removal cheapest alternative,' Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 20 March 2002.)

Volunteers monitor passages that help herring, shad and perch bypass dams

Volunteers are needed to monitor dams to clear debris, measure water temperature and note the fish species they see, said Kim Donahue, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's regional manager of outreach and training. The foundation is trying to recruit at least 50 helpers who would adopt a passage at one of 10 sites - in counties including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Harford, Charles and Cecil - once or twice a week for about a half-hour each visit. Dams, along with water quality problems and recreational and commercial fishing, have contributed to declining fish populations on Chesapeake-area rivers for more than 150 years, said Carla Fleming, manager of DNR's fish passage project. Finding ways to help fish make their way around the dams that block the Patapsco and other rivers around the bay has been a daunting challenge but one that is vital to the future of the fish. Responding to sharp population declines, DNR established in 1987 the goal of reopening 388 miles of spawning habitat throughout the state, Fleming said. So far, 345 miles have been opened with funding provided through the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, a compact among Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia that aims to restore the bay's ecosystem.

(Cadiz, Laura, 'Giving a fin up to migrating fish; River: Volunteers monitor passages that help herring, shad and perch bypass dams on their way to Patapsco spawning grounds,' The Baltimore Sun, 19 March 2002.)

State, feds reach agreement on Allagash dam in Maine

A dam built on Maine's Allagash Wilderness Waterway without approval from the federal government can stay, but the state must make improvements to the waterway as mitigation. When the Allagash was first protected as 'wild' under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a wooden crib dam used to pen in elled logs was left in place as a relic of the river's historical importance as a timber transportation system. But the state Department of Conservation, which manages the waterway, replaced the wooden dam with a concrete one in 1997 without obtaining a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers and approval from the National Park Service, triggering critical scrutiny from the federal government. In July of last year, the park service issued its verdict on the dam: 'It is our determination that the dam constructed at Churchill Depot represents a direct and adverse effect on the values for which the Allagash was designated a 'wild' river under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1970,' wrote Marie Rust, regional director for the park service's Northeast office, in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over water projects.

(Reese, April, 'State, feds reach agreement on Allagash dam in Maine,' Land Letter, 7 March 2002.)