No. 37, May 29, 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









Dam safety and the seismic dangers of older existing dams

Martin Wieland, chairman of ICOLD's (International Commission on Large Dams) Committee on Seismic Aspects of Dam Design has called for increasing the safety of existing dam projects. To date, the failure of well-engineered dams during an earthquake event has not resulted in any reported fatalities. However, this does not guarantee inherent safety against earthquakes. During the Bhuj earthquake on 26 January 2001 in Gujarat Province in India, about 200 earth dams were damaged and needed repair and/or strengthening. Due to low water levels at the time of the earthquake, there was no catastrophic release of water from the reservoirs of the severely damaged dams. The water stored behind these earth dams is used mainly for irrigation and water supply. Although earthquake regulations exist in most countries, if they are followed properly they only apply to new structures. The earthquake safety of many old structures is essentially ignored. The majority of older dams were built using methods of seismic analysis and seismic design criteria which, today, are considered as obsolete or outdated.

(Water Power & Dam Construction, 'Risk assessment; taking up the call ... improving seismic dam safety,' 31 March 2002.)

south korea

Activists rekindle debate over dam construction

In the face of protests, the Korean Ministry of Construction and Transportation (MOCT), together with the Korea Water Resources Corp, has been actively promoting plans to build 12 small- and medium-sized dams around the country. The ministry maintains that additional dam construction is unavoidable in order remove the threat of possible water shortages amid rising water consumption and severe droughts. But groups are fiercely opposing further construction of dams, saying that a demand-orientated approach is urgently needed regarding the issue of water use. 'Additional construction of dams is a colossal waste of taxpayer money,' Yum Hyung-cheol of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, the largest environmental group in South Korea, said yesterday. 'The government currently has no comprehensive plan for effectively managing its water resources, and instead has focused on building dams on the pretense that an extreme water shortage is inevitable,' he said. Yum's remarks were timed with the 10th annual World Water Day in March, an occasion designated by the United Nations to raise global awareness of the usage of one of the most valuable natural resources of humankind. The activist urged the government to adapt other environment-friendly policies, such as expanding usage of underground water and reducing the amount of water waste through intensified management of the nation's existing dams.

For more information, visit the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement at

(Korea Times, 'Activists Rekindle Debate Over Dam Construction As South Korea frequently suffers from floods and droughts due to irregular rainfall, effective management of water resources has always been a primary issue of concern,' 22 March 2002.)


Torrens weir, Torrens River, Australia
Weir removal necessary to save river

Removing the Torrens weir is crucial to the river's future - even if it is reduced to 'a little stream' beside the city, an Adelaide academic believes. Researcher Martin Lambert, a senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide, says removing the weir, which dams the river to form the Torrens Lake next to the city, is the best option for saving the Torrens.

Dr Lambert, a specialist in water engineering and hydraulics and president of the SA Institution of Engineers, is critical about the stagnant state of the Torrens Lake, which has again been invaded by blue-green algae. If the lake were returned to be part of the river flow by removing the weir, the blue green algae problems would be minimized.

Dr Lambert is part of a team researching an alternative and relatively cheap method of controlling blue green algae.

Dr Keith Walker, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide specializing in ecology of inland waters, also agreed the state of the Torrens was going to get worse. He believed the waterway could be saved by opening it up or by introducing logs, plants and other structures to attract native animals and to encourage plant growth.

(McPherson, Tracie, 'Expert says it has to be done, even if city lake reduced to 'a little stream',' Messenger - The City, 3 April 2002.)

us - california

Celebrity-soaked Malibu is welcoming the beleaguered southern steelhead trout.

The National Park Service this week is tearing down one of several small barriers blocking the wily fish from swimming up Solstice Creek into the Santa Monica Mountains. Thousands of steelhead once traveled from the mountains to the sea, and back again, in the area's streams. There are at least 15 unique populations of steelhead along the West Coast and 11 of them have suffered serious declines in recent decades. The southern steelhead is the worst off with current estimates counting only a few hundred between the Santa Maria River in Santa Barbara County and San Mateo Creek in northern San Diego County. 'We know that Solstice Creek by itself isn't going to recover steelhead,' park service resource specialist Ray Sauvajot said. 'But this is the kind of project that can serve as a model for similar efforts across Southern California.' The park service is replacing a roadway barrier with a bridge and removing parts of two old dams; the California Department of Transportation plans to renovate two road culverts. The project will cost about $1.5 million and officials hope that it will be completed by December 2003.

(Associated Press, 'News briefs from Southern California,' 15 April 2002.)
(Hymon, Steve, 'Making Steelhead Welcome to Creek; Wildlife: The U.S. Park Service will tear down barriers keeping the endangered fish out of stream in Santa Monica,' Los Angeles Times, 15 April 2002.)

Fresno and Madera Counties back dam

A new dam above Friant Dam drew support at a joint meeting of the supervisors of California's Fresno and Madera counties. The counties' battle with federal and state governments -- along with environmental groups -- for water from the San Joaquin River dominated the meeting. Supervisors agreed to establish a joint task force to keep local control over the river's water. Supervisors discussed new storage sites -- including a dam and reservoir -- at Temperance Flat above Friant. In an effort to restore the river's habitat, four separate government studies are in the works. Federal and state officials are seeking to double the average summer release of 8,000-cubic feet-per-second into the river below Friant Dam. Part of the plan for the new river includes underground water collection where the bluffs flatten along the sides of the channel.

(McCarthy, Charles, 'Counties back dam: Fresno and Madera counties' supervisors agree to set up joint task force to maintain control of water,' The Fresno Bee, 11 April 2002.)

us - northwest

New study links delayed mortality to stress from dams

A group of four biologists have published an independent study in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management linking delayed mortality of Snake River salmon to their having to pass around or through as many as eight hydroelectric dams during migration. While other factors such as ocean conditions can also contribute to delayed mortality, this new study represents the most comprehensive review of data yet making the link with the hydropower system, and the study could color the 2003 check-in on the federal salmon recovery program that so far has squelched dam breaching. The study is called, 'Evidence Linking Delayed Mortality of Snake River Salmon to Their Earlier

Hydrosystem Experience.' When out-migrating juvenile salmon pass the four lower Snake River dams and then the four mainstem Columbia River dams, they pass or attempt to pass in one of four ways: by falling over the dam as a result of water purposefully spilled from the top; swimming through a looped fish bypass tube that brings the salmon down near the bottom of the dam first, then up near the surface to a collection channel, then down again and finally out the bottom on the other side of the dam; traveling in a barge; or navigating a turbine. Theoretically, the fish that make it to the last dam, Bonneville, without dying inriver (which is called direct mortality) will return in several years to navigate their way up the river, back over the dams and into their natal streams to mate. But many of them do not return to their natal streams and are said to have experienced delayed mortality.

(Henry, Natalie M., 'Salmon: new study links delayed mortality to stress from dams,' Greenwire, 10 April 2002.)

Conservation groups change tactics in salmon campaigns

Gone are the public hearings where environmentalists wearing salmon costumes called on Congress to breach dams. But while an energy shortage and a new administration have pushed salmon from the headlines, environmental campaigns against Snake River dams are still active. A substantial part of the effort has shifted to Washington, D.C., where groups such as Save Our Wild Salmon are patiently gathering votes in Congress and counting the ways that federal salmon recovery plans are being shortchanged. 'We are very deliberately building national support around this issue,' said Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon. The coalition of sports fishing and conservation groups was among the most vocal advocates of dam breaching in the late 1990s. The effort also appears to have become more defensive after a mounting string of administrative rulings and court victories for water-use advocates. The campaign is focusing on national energy policy and the role of hydropower, large Columbia River salmon returns and decisions by the National Marine Fisheries Service to review the need for its Endangered Species Act listings. 'The next big point of reckoning is coming ... in 2003 and that is when we are going to see whether or not the nonbreach plan is being implemented,' said Rob Masonis, a lawyer for American Rivers in Seattle.

(The Associated Press State & Local Wire, 'Conservation groups change tactics in salmon campaigns,' 10 April 2002.)

Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, Montana
Milltown Dam's new owner reacts strongly to 'unsafe' report

The Milltown Dam's new owner reacted strongly Thursday to a report characterizing the facility as unsafe. The dam is safe, structurally sound and Missoula County is frightening the public unnecessarily by questioning its stability, said officials of NorthWestern Corp., successor of Montana Power Co. 'We strongly disagree with the notion that the dam is unsafe,' said Mike Manion, vice president and chief legal counsel for NorthWestern. A report released earlier this week by Missoula's City-County Health Department overstated concerns about the dam's safety and inaccurately suggested it is an accident waiting to happen, Manion said. 'That simply is not true,' he said. 'They are creating unfounded fears.' Written by G&G Associates of Seattle, the report said that no section of the dam fully meets the federal government's minimum safety standards, and that the spillway is moving slowly down the Clark Fork River, inches at a time. Engineer Dennis Gathard said a moderate earthquake could crumble the dam. Missoula County will 'fight vigorously' any attempt by NorthWestern to relicense Milltown as a hydropower plant, said Peter Nielsen, an environmental health officer who commissioned Gathard's report. Nielsen wants the dam removed. An estimated 6.6 million cubic yards of reservoir sediments are contaminated with arsenic and heavy metals washed downstream from mines and smelters in Butte and Anaconda. The dam is five miles east of Missoula, at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers.

(The Associated Press State & Local Wire, 'Milltown Dam's new owner reacts strongly to 'unsafe' report,' 12 April 2002.)

Tribes ask government to order removal of Milltown Dam

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes want the federal government to remove the Milltown Dam and the toxic mining sediments behind it to restore a fishery they have rights to under an 1855 treaty. In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, tribal chairman Fred Matt said the river is 'a natural resource of importance to tribal people. We drink its water. We dig bitterroots in its floodplains. We harvest basket reeds in its sloughs. We gather pottery clay and pigments from its banks. We hunt deer and elk on its surrounding mountain forests. We take its fish where they still thrive. 'And, on almost any given day, some of our people are simply praying in its sacred and powerful places, seeking solitude, guidance and peace from its waters.' Milltown manager Russ Forba said the tribes' comments are taken 'very seriously. We recognize that they have certain treaty rights.' The Hellgate Treaty of 1855 gave the tribes 'in perpetuity the right to fish at all of their usual and accustomed places and to hunt, gather plants, and pasture stock in open and unclaimed lands located throughout their aboriginal territory,' Matt said. Matt also believes the tribes' interests exceed those of the state's even though both are considered responsible for managing the river. 'The treaty was signed before there was a state of Montana,' Matt said. 'Our people were here from the beginning of time.'

(The Associated Press State & Local Wire, 'Tribes ask government to order removal of Milltown Dam,' 28 March 2002.)

Horrendous survival rates for in-river salmon and steelhead smolts last year in the Columbia basin

The spring migration season for salmon and steelhead smolts begins today. The young fish will face much friendlier flows on their way to the Pacific Ocean this year than last year when the Columbia River Basin received just 50 percent of its average snowpack. To make up for last year's low flows, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service collected as many of the young fish as possible at dams like Lower Granite, 35 miles west of Clarkston and shipped them to the Lower Columbia River on barges. At the same time BPA declared a power emergency and opted not to spill water at the dams to help the fish that were not collected. The corps says 90 to 95 percent of the collected fish were safely transported to the lower Columbia River. But fishery officials at the Fish Passage Center in Portland estimated the young salmon and steelhead that remained in the river suffered horrendous survival rates. Just 5 percent of the in-river steelhead were estimated to have survived the trip from Lower Granite to Bonneville Dam and 24 percent of spring chinook were estimated to have survived the journey.

Barker may be contacted at

(Barker, Eric, 'March was good for snowpack; Bountiful late snows, cold temps boost depth,' Lewiston Morning Tribune, 3 April 2002.)

us - midwest

Removal of dams on Baraboo River improves habitat

Scientists have removed all the dams along the 120-mile Baraboo River for the first time in more than a century, creating what a state agency believes is the longest undammed river in the country. The state Department of Natural Resources has been monitoring the river for several years, and DNR researcher Tom Pellett reports a host of changes since the final dam was removed last fall. Fish are moving more, more species are showing up, and researchers are finding caddisflies and mayflies insects that are a sure indication of improving water quality, he said. Pellett has been amazed at how quickly the river has responded to the removal of the dams. Those changes, he said, have been most pronounced in the immediate vicinity of the former dams. Baraboo's Waterworks Dam, for example, was removed in 1997, and researchers found the number of fish species along that stretch of the river doubled from 11 to 25.

They also collected 87 smallmouth bass, feisty game fish that need clean water and good habitat. Before the dam was removed, they had found only three bass. Dave Marshall, a DNR water resources biologist working on the project, said removing dams should improve habitat for fish by increasing the flow of the river. The faster current also will scour silt from the river bottom, creating places where fish can deposit their eggs and build nests.

For more information visit River Alliance of Wisconsin at, or call Helen Sarakinos at 607.257.2424.

(Associated Press, 'Removal of dams on Baraboo River changes habitat,' 31 March 2002.)

Dam on Red River tributary being removed

Fish habitat on another Red River tributary is about to get a little better. A lowhead dam on the Buffalo River at Buffalo River State Park east of Moorhead is being removed. The removal will allow fish to pass upstream to reach spawning habitat.

(Herald Staff and Wire Reports, 'Prairie chicken season likely in NW Minn,' Grand Forks Herald, 14 April 2002.)

Rapidan Dam, Blue Earth River, Minnesota
Army Corps provides funds to repair dam near Mankato

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed Wednesday to pay for repairs to Rapidan Dam, which has been found to have holes in its base. The dam was built in 1910 on the Blue Earth River south of Mankato. It's been targeted in the past for removal by conservationists who want the river to go back to its natural state. Blue Earth County officials were overseeing its repair, but the Corps will take over with its infusion of $600,000. A contractor was previously hired to repair the dam for $510,000. But the holes have been found to be larger than first thought and repair costs may rise. Repairs are expected to be complete in a few weeks.

(Associated Press, 'Army Corps provides funds to repair dam near Mankato,' 10 April 2002.)

us - northeast

West Winterport Dam, Marsh Stream, Maine
FISH group plans to help salmon over stream dam

While the group working to remove the West Winterport Dam waits for the project to win federal approval, it is preparing to hand-lift spawning fish over the dam. Facilitators Improving Salmonid Habitat, known as FISH, notified the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month that it intends to use college students and volunteers to carry the spawning anadromous species over the dam on Marsh Stream in 5-gallon buckets. The state Department of Environmental Protection has approved FISH's plans to remove the dam, but FISH is still fighting to win federal approval. Bill Townsend, a Skowhegan lawyer and president of FISH, noted that the teams of volunteers would use dip nets or seines to collect the spawning fish in the pool below the dam before transporting them over the dam in buckets filled with river water. FISH plans to transport fish from May 1 to June 30.

(Griffin, Walter, 'FISH group plans to help salmon over stream dam,' Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine), 15 April 2002.)

Massachusetts rivers at risk from old dams

Half of the 3,000 or so dams on Massachusetts waterways no longer serve any purpose, yet harm water quality by reducing the volume and strength of stream flow. Mr. Thomas J. Christopher summed up the situation: 'Old mill dams, no longer used for manufacturing, clog the state's waterways, reduce stream flows, prevent fish passage and act as barriers which destroy the natural functions of free-flowing rivers.' Meanwhile, as time passes, lack of maintenance compounds the risk of failure and increases the danger to lives and property. That prompted state Secretary of Environmental Affairs Robert A. Durand to set up the River Restore Program in 1999, under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement. 'We have over 3,000 dams in the commonwealth,' Mr. Durand said. 'At least a third are a threat to public safety. (Just) as important, many of them that were built during the Industrial Revolution are at the end of their lifespan. They were made to last 50 or 60 years and are well past that. 'These dams impede fish passage, which probably was not as important when our rivers were so polluted, but as we've done a fairly good job of cleaning up rivers and streams across Massachusetts, we've seen anadromous fish return- salmon, alewife, herring and shad,' he said.

(Leo, Roger, 'Rivers at risk; Public safety, water quality threatened,' Sunday Telegram, 14 April 2002.)

GE submits dredging plan, company to fund cleanup on Hudson

General Electric Co. agreed to design and fund the $500 million dredging project to clear 150,000 pounds of PCBs from a 40-mile stretch of the upper Hudson River in New York. By releasing its 'good faith offer' the company essentially ended its two-decade battle against the U.S. EPA being waged in and out of the courtroom. It is the largest attempted dredging in history. GE's plan is not without loopholes, government regulators said yesterday. 'We are having discussions with GE about their responses and have asked the company to provide additional information and some clarifications,' said an EPA-issued statement. GE's proposal does not commit the company to an immediate cleanup; instead GE would finalize an agreement during the three-year design phase (Dina Cappiello, Albany Times Union, April 10). In GE's proposal, which the company filed on the last day of an EPA deadline, it offered to collect more than 25,000 sediment samples beginning this summer, design the project's scope and perform or fund the actual dredging. The EPA would be responsible for finding a site for the contaminated dirt, setting performance standards and overseeing public participation. GE released approximately 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls into the Hudson during the decades it manufactured capacitors and other components at its Hudson Falls and Fort Edward plants north of Albany, N.Y.

(Greenwire, 'GE submits dredging plan, company to fund cleanup,' 10 April 2002.)

Introduction of wild salmon to Kennebec delayed pending management plan

The Atlantic Salmon Commission has delayed stocking of wild salmon into the Kennebec River while agencies come up with a plan for restoring salmon runs following the removal of the Edwards Dam. This spring was the soonest the state could have begun stocking wild salmon, but the commission's board wanted a comprehensive fisheries management plan before moving forward with stocking. There's no time frame for completion of the process, he said. Talk of restoring sea-run salmon on the Kennebec River was spurred by the removal of the 162-year-old Edwards Dam in 1999, which opened a 17-mile segment of free-running river to the Atlantic. Another obstacle to fish getting upstream will be removed in 2006 when operators of the Lockwood Dam in Waterville will be required to capture the fish, which will be trucked past the dam to tributaries. The decision to delay the stocking of wild salmon won the unanimous support of an independent panel appointed by the National Academy of Sciences to review the status of wild salmon in Maine.

(Associated Press, 'Introduction of wild salmon to Kennebec delayed pending management plan,' April 8, 2002.)

Fort Halifax Dam, Sebasticook River, Maine
State surprised by decision to remove Fort Halifax dam

A Maine State Planning Office official was surprised when FPL Energy disclosed its plans to remove the Fort Halifax dam. FPL Energy spokesman F. Allen Wiley said earlier this week that his company sees dam removal as a better option than spending the estimated $3 million to $4 million needed to build a fish lift for the hydroelectric facility on the Sebasticook River. 'We were aware (dam removal) was possibility, but all options to date indicated they were opting for fish passage,' said Betsy Elder of the State Planning Office. But Winslow resident Kenneth Fletcher, who heads a group that opposes dam removal, argues that 'environmental groups have control of the government and the state agencies because they are the ones who have pushed this to this point.' Kennebec Coalition spokeswoman Laura Rose Day has denied that charge. Day said the Kennebec Coalition wants to see the goals of sea-run fish passage achieved and has no objections to the installation of a fish lift to accomplish this goal.

Contact Laura Rose Day of the Kennebec Coalition at 207.622.3101.

(Hickey, Colin, 'State surprised by decision to remove Fort Halifax dam,' Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 22 March 2002.)