No. 41, October 3, 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











Germany to review river developments after floods

In response to floods that swept through eastern and southern Germany in August, the German government presented a package of measures in aimed at preventing future disasters. The floods swept through eastern and southern Germany last month killing at least 16 people and causing 15 billion euros of damage. They were blamed in part on the fact there has been so much construction along rivers they have no room to flood without causing disaster. Government proposals include calling a halt to all construction projects designed to improve rivers for shipping traffic until the government has completed a review of the environmental consequences. The plan also proposes an end to building on flood plains and removing some dykes and other structures so rivers can swell naturally, removing pressure downstream. 'Every building of flood defences increases the flood risk for those further downstream. That is why a national effort must give rivers back their natural flood plains in uninhabited areas,' the plan said. The government recommended reviewing all river projects by early 2003 to assess their environmental consequences including those on the Elbe River that submerged historic Dresden and many other towns last month.

(Reuters News Service, 'Germany to review river developments after floods,' 17 September 2002)


Kotopanjang Dam, Kampar Kanan River, Indonesia
Update: Indonesians sue Japan over dam, demand decommissioning

Nearly 4,000 residents of Indonesia's Sumatra Island filed the first-ever lawsuit over the use of Japanese foreign aid seeking 19.3 billion yen for damages caused by a dam it funded with official development assistance (ODA). As many as 20,000 local residents were forcibly resettled when the 31 billion yen Kotopanjang Dam was completed in 1996. The resettled plaintiffs have been left without proper living facilities or job opportunities. In addition to compensation, they demanded that the defendants urge the Indonesian government to restore their living conditions and natural environment by removing the dam. Meanwhile, a group of Japanese supporters, consisting of scholars and citizen activists, said they expect the lawsuit to be an opportunity to review the use of ODA. They said Japanese ODA-funded development projects are increasingly seen as inefficient in improving the living conditions of residents of recipient countries, while only Japanese consulting firms and construction companies involved in them benefit. Yoshinori Murai, professor at Sophia University, said, 'Given cozy relations among politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders, Japan's ODA destroys culture, the environment and way of living of local residents under the pretext of assistance.'

(Hirano, Keiji, 'Indonesians sue Japan over ODA-funded dam,' Japan Economic Newswire, 5 September 2002.)


Dam removed to restore salmon and trout spawning areas

A human-built dam over the Vikmeste River in north-eastern Latvia was removed in September to allow salmon and trout to gain access to their former spawning areas on this river and thus contribute to preservation of these fish species. Plans of the administration of Gauja National Park include dismantling the dam and the concrete bridge over Vikmeste, building a new wooden bridge across the river and strengthening the riverbanks in the area.

(Baltic News Service, 2 September 2002.)

us - general

Impacts of dam removal

Emily Stanley, a river ecologist at UW-Madison's Center for Limnology, has found that dam removal in Wisconsin allows not just fish and canoes, but also damaging nutrients, to flow through the water system. Results of the study appear in the August issue of 'BioScience.' There are almost 4,000 dams in Wisconsin, and several million throughout the United States. Fewer than 60 rivers in the country retain more than 62 miles of free flowing channel. The nation's network of dams transformed ecosystems by blocking the movement of organisms, worsening water quality and altering downstream flow and channel formation. 'Many of the dams are getting old,' said Stanley. 'Time has taken its toll on these structures and transformed them from productive sites of commerce to safety risks.' 120 dams were razed last year in the United States, and more than 60 total dams have been torn down in Wisconsin. 'Very few quantitative studies have been done on the effects of dam removal,' Stanley said. 'It's surprising how little we actually know about how the system will respond.' 'There are always going to be tradeoffs, and what we want to do is maximize the gains,' she added. 'When the day is done, I'd much prefer to see the dams go.'

See 'A Special Section on Dam Removal and River Restoration,' BioScience, Vol. 52, No. 8, August 2002.

(Environmental News Service, 'Dam removal can create new problems,' 5 September 2002,)

us - california

Ben Lomond Summer Dam, San Lorenzo River, CA
Temporary swimming hole dams verses steelhead

The old swimming hole, a piece of Americana that has inspired sentimental paintings and poetry for generations, is running afoul of modern times in the bucolic Santa Cruz Mountains town of Ben Lomond. A five-year state Fish and Game permit for the Ben Lomond Summer Dam runs out after this season. And it may not be renewed unless Santa Cruz County or some other organization can come up with as much as $100,000 to study whether the dam is harming steelhead trout, a threatened species. Ben Lomond began putting in summer dams in the 1920s. Damming a river dries up the stream bed in the spring, when the swimming hole is filling, and floods it in September, when the dam is removed, wildlife officials say. In between, the impounded water warms to temperatures that force the fish to feed more, while at the same time reducing their potential food supply. There may be as many as 23 dams up and down the San Lorenzo River at various times of the year.

(Beck, David L., 'Swim spot in hot water,' San Jose Mercury News, 2 September 2002.)

More state funding for California steelhead trout restoration

The California state legislature passed AB 2783 in August, providing additional funding to 'monitor, restore, or enhance steelhead trout' throughout California. The Steelhead Trout Catch Report-Restoration Card ('Card') bill was authored by Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin and sponsored by California Trout (CalTrout). It is anticipated that the Card will generate an additional $1 million over the next five years. Once populating the majority of California's 1,100 miles of coastal rivers, statewide native steelhead numbers have fallen to less than half their populations of 30 years ago. In Southern California, steelhead have declined 99 percent, with many runs now extinct. 'California's steelhead populations are vital components of our coastal watersheds. When our steelhead are healthy, our waters are healthy. The additional funding for monitoring and restoration provided by AB 2783 will help to sustain their future the future health of our coastal rivers and streams,' said Strom-Martin. CalTrout Executive Director, Gary Seput, stated, 'This bill forwards our mission of protecting and restoring wild trout and steelhead and their waters throughout California.'

For more information, contact: Tom Weseloh, Northcoast Manager, California Trout, 707.839.1056, e-mail:

(AScribe Newswire, 'State of California Approves Much-Needed Funding for Steelhead Conservation,' 28 August 2002.)

Seeking a renewal of Arroyo Seco

It's been more than 60 years since flood control engineers converted the Arroyo Seco stream into a concrete flood channel. Now, a group of nonprofits suggests, the time has come to restore the channel to its natural state. A new study outlines how local, state and federal agencies, in partnership with private organizations, could restore the Arroyo Seco and its tributaries. The proposal suggests the creation of a flood plain system to handle periodic flooding, protecting native habitat and improving recreational opportunities along the corridor. The Arroyo Seco Watershed Restoration Feasibility Study, in the works for two years, was produced by North East Trees and the Arroyo Seco Foundation.

(Dimassa, Cara Mia, 'Seeking a Renewal of Arroyo Seco; Plan: A proposal eyed by government agencies and private groups would remove some of the stream's concrete lining and boost its flood plain,' Los Angeles Times, 24 August 2002.)

O'Shaughnessy Dam, Tuolumne River, CA
Update: San Francisco's water bond measure raises the opportunity to restore Hetch Hetchy

Ron Good, executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, and a cadre of conservationists are campaigning to remove the dam that flooded John Muir's sacred Hetch Hetchy Valley. The activists, including the Sierra Club, are now opposing a $3.6-billion seismic retrofit (including a $1.6 billion bond measure on November's ballot) of the city's water delivery system due to unwillingness by officials to explore alternatives that could lead to removing O'Shaughnessy Dam. Some San Francisco supervisors have termed the proposal 'intriguing.' Said Supervisor Aaron Peskin: 'People say this dam is the sin of our ancestors. For me, taking it down is definitely worth exploring.' Supervisor Tom Ammiano agrees that San Francisco has a chip on its shoulder when it comes to Hetch Hetchy: 'There's pride involved here. People feel very proprietary about this dam.' In 1987, Donald P. Hodel, secretary of the Interior under President Reagan, challenged city officials to tear down the dam and restore Hetch Hetchy Valley. Calling the request political gamesmanship, Democrat Dianne Feinstein--the city's mayor at the time--referred to Hetch Hetchy as 'a San Francisco birthright.' Hodel says his challenge to San Francisco to do right by Hetch Hetchy still stands.

For more information, visit Restore Hetch Hetchy at:

(Carroll, Chuck, 'Groups see chance to restore key valley,' Mercury News, 11 August 2002.)
(Garcia, Ken, 'S.F.'s largest bond may get dammed up: Hetch Hetchy measure faces enormous hurdles,' San Francisco Chronicle, 27 August 2002.)
(Glionna, John M., 'Dam dispute looses a flood of emotions,' Los Angeles Times, 11 August 2002.)
(Sample, Herbert A., 'Dam's foes see chance to pull plug: Activists are using their clout on a S.F. water bond to push for a study of draining Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Reservoir,' Contra Costa Times Sacramento Bee news service, 11 August 2002.)
(Sward, Susan and Finnie, Chuck, 'Sierra Club takes on S.F.: It opposes bond measure that would to repair Hetch Hetchy,' San Francisco Chronicle, 3 October 2002. Full text found on-line at:

us - northwest

Cheap power gone, Montana is to vote on buying dams

In a populist campaign, Montanans are to vote this fall on a measure that could lead to a public takeover of 12 hydroelectric dams owned by out-of-state corporations. The proposal would set in motion a process by which the state might buy the dams, through negotiation with the owners or condemnation. Opponents say the proposal amounts to brazen property confiscation that would do little to ease high power rates. The push to buy the dams is part of a broader reaction to the energy and telecom deals hatched on Wall Street that changed the face of utilities across the nation. When companies like Enron and WorldCom expanded by buying one utility after another, their customers were mere observers. Now, in the aftermath of those companies' collapse, and with electricity bills moving steadily higher, the public in far-flung American towns is clamoring for a say.

(Egan, Timothy, 'Cheap Power Gone, Montana Is to Vote on Buying Dams,' New York Times, 4 September 2002.

$3.3 billion spent on salmon recovery with little to show, says GAO report

The United States has spent $3.3 billion to recover Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead over the past 20 years and the result has been less than conclusive, according to a General Accounting Office report released in late August. Of that $3.3 billion, $1.5 billion was spent in the last five years, from 1997 through 2001, largely by the Army Corps of Engineers. The corps spent nearly $590 million since 1997, mostly on measures to move fish up, down and around dams. The GAO concluded that 'little conclusive evidence' exists to quantify the effect of recovery actions. Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon, a coalition of environmental groups, fishermen, taxpayer advocates and businesses, said he agrees with the GAO's assessment. 'They can't really say all of this spending has had a positive beneficial effect that is measurable. We put it a bit more forcefully: A lot of it has been wasted and has not led to the recovery of wild salmon,' Ford said.

Visit the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition at

(Henry, Natalie M., 'Salmon: $3.3 billion spent on recovery with little to show, GAO,' Greenwire, 3 September 2002.)

Lower Snake River dams, Snake River, WA
Update: Snake River dams loss won't hurt economy, new Rand study says

A new study suggests that replacing the four lower Snake River dams with conservation, gas-fired generators, solar stations and wind farms would have a negligible effect on the Northwest economy. The study compiled by the Rand Corp., a California-based think tank, indicated the effect on the states of Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon would be 'plus-or-minus fewer than 20,000 jobs,' or less than one-third of 1 percent of all potential jobs. The environmental lobby called the development 'an important volley' in the dam removal debate.' According to Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited's vice president for conservation programs 'This issue has not gone away, and it's not going to go away.' The $75,000 study, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, uses data from existing federal energy studies to develop a series of economic outcomes should dams be breached and more money be invested in conservation, solar projects and wind farms.

Find more information, including the full report by visiting the Columbia and Snake Rivers Campaign at:

(Electricity Daily, 'Bonneville Downplays New RAND Dam Report,' 12 September 2002.)
(Mulick, Chris, 'Dam loss won't hurt economy, new study says,' Tri-City Herald, 5 September 2002. Full text at:
('Pacific Northwest Can Diversify its Electricity Sources Without Causing Major Harm to its Economy,' 4 September 2002.
(Providence Journal-Bulletin, 'Saving the salmon,' 10 September 2002.)

Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, Elwha River, WA
Update: Surveying the Elwha: A 'before' picture of the river

Taking out both dams on the Elwha River is a restoration project without peer: No bigger dams have been removed anywhere. Surveys will continue throughout the removal and for years afterward to track the river's recovery. 'It's critical to see how the river responds. This is a large-scale experiment, a great opportunity,' said Mike McHenry, fish-habitat manager for the Lower Elwha Tribe. The dams were built nearly a century ago to generate hydropower to fuel economic development of the Olympic Peninsula. Many regard the Elwha as the best chance for chinook, coho, pink, chum and sockeye salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. The river's headwaters are the snowmelt of Mount Olympus. Scientists hope that once the dams are out in 2007, salmon runs will recover enough to allow limited fishing within five to 10 years. They predict booming returns by 2027.

(Mapes, Lynda V., 'Surveying the Elwha: A 'before' picture of the river,' Seattle Times, 19 August 2002. Full story found at:

Update: Yakama Nation seeks to halt work on dam, ensure fish passage

The Yakama Nation has asked a federal judge to halt repairs on Keechelus Dam until it can be determined if fish ladders should be included in the work. The tribe contends that the $32 million repair project adopted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violates the Endangered Species Act and could harm threatened steelhead, which are protected under the federal law. The Yakama Nation sued the bureau, which operates the dam, and the National Marine Fisheries Services, which is responsible for protecting steelhead. The lawsuit contends the two agencies failed to consider the full range of possible effects the project could have on the fish. Fish ladders would provide access to the reservoir behind the dam and Yakima River Basin tributaries for steelhead, spring chinook, coho and sockeye salmon. Building ladders with the dam repairs would be more cost-effective than coming back and doing it later, the Yakama Nation lawsuit contends.

(Associated Press, 'Yakama Nation seeks to halt work on dam,' 20 August, 2002.)

us - midwest

Undoing 100 years of undoing on the Illinois River

The 273-mile-long Illinois River and its valley once provided a haven for wildlife. However, more than a century of use has dramatically changed the river's quality. It has been leveed, channelized, dammed, and joined via a series of canals. It has served as a highway between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and also as Chicago's sewer system. Habitats along the river were converted to agricultural fields. With these changes, the river's aquatic life largely disappeared, and much of the wildlife vanished. Three years ago, The Wetlands Initiative identified the Hennepin Drainage and Levee District as the site to begin undoing 100 years of undoing. Beginning the $5.3 million acquisition and restoration package, the pumps that had drained the land were turned off and water levels began to rise in spring 2001. By fall, about one-half of the acreage was under water, and flocks of thousands of migrating waterfowl had discovered the partners' handiwork. Meanwhile, The Wetlands Initiative, in consultation with partners, continues to work on a long-term management plan to make this site a showpiece for wetlands restoration. The Hennepin and Hopper Lakes' restoration represents one step taken toward the revitalization of the Illinois River Valley, a crucial corridor for wildlife and fish. It will be a long but satisfying journey.

Learn more by visiting The Wetlands Initiative at:

(Stotz, Doug, 'Undoing 100 years of undoing,' 8 August 2002. Full text at:

Ohio 82 Dam, Cuyahoga River, OH
Debate over dam on the Cuyahoga River

Ohio 82 Dam on the Cuyahoga River poses a quandary. On the one hand, it creates problems. It's a barrier. Fish that swim far up river from Lake Erie to lay their eggs can only access four tributaries, which are the river's most polluted. It blocks fish from reaching the river's cleanest tributaries. Above the dam, water is slowed and backed up, creating an oxygen-poor habitat. On the other hand, it stops unwanted, non-native aquatic creatures, such as zebra mussels, sea lamprey and gobies, from spreading into those very same clean tributaries. The dam also provides water to the eight-mile stretch of the Ohio & Erie Canal. Remove the dam and the water level in the Cuyahoga drops and the canal goes dry. Stakeholders met in September to discuss the future of the 162-year-old dam. All sides in the debate were presented, from park leaders' interest in the canal and the dam's cultural heritage to environmentalists interested in water quality and fish movement.

(Kuehner, John, 'To dam or not to dam, that is the question at the Cuyahoga,' The Plain Dealer, 6 September 2002.)

South Batavia Dam, Fox River, IL
Update: State officials opt to remove Batavia dam

The crumbling dam on the Fox River in Batavia is going to be removed and the river allowed to run unimpeded, state officials decided. 'Considering the water quality and recreation still available on the river, we decided to go with the city's recommendation and move forward with dam removal,' said Mel Allison, a planning division manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. In 1978, the river broke through a small portion of the concrete structure. Since then, the 10-foot breach has been effectively clogged with tree logs and debris. Meeting in joint session late last month, the Batavia City Council voted 11-2 in favor of removing the dam while the city's Park District Board was 3-1 in favor of installing a half-height dam. The department also is looking at a dam across the Fox River in Yorkville. 'They've had some drownings there and what we're looking to do is improve some safety issues,' Allison said. 'We're using the same model we used with Batavia.'

(Gibula, Gary, 'State officials opt to remove Batavia dam; Plan aims to boost Fox's water quality,' Chicago Tribune, 4 September 2002.)

us - northeast

Edwards Dam, Kennebec River, ME
Update: Kennebec River flows cleaner

With higher levels of oxygen in the Kennebec River, the state wants to upgrade the classification for a 25-mile stretch of the river from Augusta to Bowdoinham to reflect cleaner water conditions. 'The upgrade shows improvements that have been made in the river. Wastes have been eliminated,' said David Courtemanch of the state Department of Environmental Protection. Closed factories and paper mills, and advances at sewage treatment plants have resulted in a cleaner-flowing Kennebec. Courtemanch said another factor contributing to the upgrade is the 1999 removal of Edwards Dam. The 917-foot-wide structure, which cost about $3 million to dismantle, had blocked the river's flow in Augusta for 162 years. 'Removing Edwards improved aeration (oxygen levels) in the river,' said Courtemanch, the DEP's director of environmental assessment in the Bureau of Land and Water Quality. Silt and other material that had accumulated behind the dam and that flowed through the gates had robbed the water of oxygen.

(McGillvray, Dan, 'More O in H2O, DEP says Kennebec River flows cleaner from Augusta,' Kennebec Journal, 4 September 2002.)

us - southeast

Saving the Gulf Sturgeon

For thousands and maybe even millions of years, the Gulf sturgeon has made its way from the Gulf of Mexico to freshwater streams and lakes where it breeds. But this mammoth fish, which can reach 9 feet in length and live to be 70, is in decline partly because it can't reach its breeding grounds. A proposed federal plan seeks to remedy that situation by designating waterways from Louisiana to Florida as critical habitat for the Gulf sturgeon. The plan includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Borgne and sections of the Bogue Chitto and Pearl rivers. Federal agencies would be required to determine whether dredging or construction projects on those waterways would hurt the sturgeon. If so, they would not be allowed to proceed. Those restrictions would offer meaningful protection to the Gulf sturgeon and help rebuild populations that have dropped because of loss of habitat and overfishing. The species has lost access to 90 percent of its breeding areas because of sills, dams and pipelines.

(The Times-Picayune, 'Saving a species,' 12 September 2002.)
(Kuriloff, Aaron, 'Fishers share goal of habitat renewal; But extent of sturgeon protections debated,' The Times-Picayune, 9 September 2002.)

New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, Savannah River, GA
One of Savannah River's oldest dams needs costly facelift

One of Savannah River's oldest dams turned 65 this year, but instead of retiring, it's going to need a costly facelift. Two years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers created an uproar when it recommended that the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam be decommissioned and removed. The dam was erected in 1937 to aid in commercial shipping. The lock and dam needs substantial repairs before it can be turned over to the coalition that will manage it. Local governments concerned about water levels in the Savannah River agreed to assume ownership and responsibility for the aging structure, provided Congress finance the pricey renovations first. This year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are collaborating with Georgia and South Carolina to include a fish ladder in the renovations. The alternative now favored by the Corps involves building a horseshoe-shaped channel on the South Carolina side that would allow fish to swim around and bypass the dam.

(Associated Press, 'One of Savannah River's oldest dams needs costly facelift,' 18 August 2002.)
(Pavey, Robert, 'Repairs include fish passage,' Augusta Chronicle, 18 August 2002.)