No. 42, November 5, 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









Coursier Dam, Cranberry Creek, BC
BC Hydro proposes dismantling Coursier Dam

The River Recovery movement in British Columbia continues to gain momentum with more plans announced to dismantle or decommission obsolete dams. 'Restoring rivers and rebuilding fish stocks are just some of the exciting benefits of removing old dams,' says Mark Angelo, Rivers Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC. The most recent example is BC Hydro's proposal to dismantle the Coursier Dam on Cranberry Creek. Dismantling the 19-meter high Coursier Dam would eliminate safety concerns, restore natural flows to Cranberry Creek, and enhance fish and wildlife values. Draining the reservoir behind the dam will return the lake to historic levels and improve habitat for inlet streams that will benefit resident trout. Removing the Coursier Dam is more economical than renovating or rebuilding the structure. The Council is hoping that the province, as part of its upcoming Living Rivers Strategy and as recommended in the River Recovery Project, will undertake a more thorough analysis of all BC dams in an effort to identify additional decommissioning candidates.

For more information on restoring BC rivers through dam decommissioning, visit the River Recovery project at, or contact Mark Angelo at 604.432.8270.


Economic feasibility of Ebro water transfer in doubt

The Spanish National Hydrological Plan's (SNHP) Ebro river transfer is proposed to reallocate 1,050 cubic hectometres per year of water from the Ebro River basin to another four river basins in the north, south-east and south of Spain. The overall cost of the construction of the infrastructure of the overall Plan across Spain has been estimated at 24 billion Euro (one third of which will be paid by EU funds), of which the Ebro river transfer will be 4.2 billion Euro. But to form a realistic picture of the costs and possible benefits of the Ebro river transfer, additional economic factors must be considered, but to date have not been. The cost of transporting water, desalinisation, and the potential effects of climate change must all be taken into account. A new report from WWF shows that once these factors have all been calculated, even using conservative estimations, it is impossible to arrive at a positive cost benefit figure for the SNHP.

For more information on the October 2002 study from WWF, 'Analysis and Economic Valuation of the Ebro river transfer in the Spanish National Hydrological Plan,' visit them on the web at:'uNewsID=2753

Contact Tania Paschen, WWF European Freshwater Programme, mobile: +33 680 73 70 33, email: or Angelina Hermanns, WWF European Policy Office, +32 2 740 09 25, email:

us - california

PBS features Butte Creek dam removals

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), two of its member agencies, and the CALFED Bay-Delta Program are being featured on a new episode of 'American Environmental Review,' and rebroadcast on The segment tells the story of what is possible through cooperation and collaboration. This piece focuses on Western Canal Water District, in Northern California, which removed four dams on Butte Creek to improve fish passage and built a siphon under the creek to improve water delivery to its irrigator customers. This project was initiated prior to the launch of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program and was funded in large part by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and other urban water agencies. It serves as a model of the type of efforts that can be accomplished through partnerships. The filming for the show was done just outside of Chico near Honey Run on Butte Creek. ACWA is a statewide association whose 440 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California.

For more information, visit ACWA at or contact Jennifer Persike at 916.441.4545 or 916.296.3981.

(Business Wire, 'California Water Agencies' Efforts Subject of PBS Show,' 2 October 2002.)

us - northwest

Northwest Salmon spending estimates use some fishy figures

In a reverse image of Enron-type accounting gimmicks, the newest calculations of Northwest salmon recovery spending claim as much as $6 billion has been spent over two decades. Rather than hiding debts and expenses to keep stock prices afloat, two reports have inflated the outflow of tax dollars or ratepayer money. Both relate to the dozen Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead runs that are stuck on the endangered species list, not counting coastal or Puget Sound stocks, which have declined in more recent years. But the cost is spread throughout the Northwest in utility bills. The differing computations are aimed at influencing Congress and public policy-makers on the issue of who ought to pick up the ever growing tab: all federal taxpayers or one region's electricity users. In August, the congressional General Accounting Office concluded that about a dozen federal agencies have spent $3.3 billion on Columbia Basin salmon recovery since 1982, with no solid evidence of more fish. 'We are sending billions of dollars down the river with no clear results and no accountability for how these agencies spend our money,' Autumn Hanna of the pro-environment budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense commented. Although the group advocates dam removal as a cheaper long-term solution than barging and spilling fish, she could also be speaking for members of Congress from the Northeast and Midwest.

(Swisher, Larry, 'Salmon spending estimates use some fishy figures,' Lewiston Morning Tribune, 29 September 2002.)

Giving the Snake a break: the Salmon Planning Act

Wisconsin Reps. David Obey and Paul Ryan could be key players in bringing to an end a significant drain on taxpayers' wallets and a serious threat to the salmon population of the Northwest. That is, they could be if the two signed on soon to the Salmon Planning Act, a measure introduced last year by their colleague, Rep. Thomas Petri. The act requires planning studies to ascertain the impact of removing four dams on the lower Snake River in Washington and an engineering study on how to partially remove the dams. The act is an intermediate step to make sure people understand the consequences if partial dam removal becomes necessary to recover salmon that have been endangered by the dams. The Snake River dams - built between 1961 and 1975 - have turned into a costly mistake. Because the dams interfere with salmon migration, the federal government and others have been forced to spend more than $3 billion on various ways to mitigate that interference. Nothing has worked, and experts predict the fish could disappear by 2017 if the dams are not at least partially breached. Wiping out the fish is bad enough, but U.S. treaties with Northwest Indian tribes could require compensation that could run into billions of dollars.

(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 'Giving the Snake a break,' 25 September 2002.)

Marmot Dam and Bull Run Hydroelectric Project, Sandy River, OR
Update: Agreement reached to remove 2 dams to revive the Sandy River

Two hydropower dams will be removed from Oregon's Sandy River, opening unhindered access for threatened salmon and steelhead from the Pacific Ocean to the southwest slopes of Mt. Hood. Under an agreement between Portland General Electric, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and representatives from 21 other organizations, the dam removals will help create a 5,000 acre wildlife and public recreation area in the Sandy River Basin. The agreement culminates four years of negotiations between Portland General Electric (PGE) and the Oregon government. Under the agreement, over the next seven years, PGE will remove the Marmot Dam as well as its Bull Run Hydroelectric Project, donating its water rights to the public and contributing more than 1,500 acres of its related lands - about 30 percent of the planned conservation area - to the Western Rivers Conservancy. 'Removal of these dams represents a quantum leap in the quality of the Sandy River Watershed, for improved wildlife habitat and for enhanced recreational opportunities for Oregonians,' said Governor Kitzhaber. 'I salute the perseverance of PGE and the diverse group of organizations in bringing this decommissioning agreement to fruition.'

(Lazaroff, Cat, 'Oregon Dam Removals Set Stage for New Wildlife Area,' Environmental News Service, 28 October 2002. Full story available at:

Update: Legal battle over Montana's dam initiative

Opponents of a measure that would let the state buy a dozen hydroelectric dams are appealing a judge's decision rejecting their effort to remove the initiative from the November ballot. Aidan Myhre, spokeswoman for Taxpayers Against I-145, said the group and other plaintiffs had appealed District Judge Sherlock's ruling to the state Supreme Court. Sherlock rejected all the arguments from the opposition, saying he has an obligation to broadly read the constitution so as to protect citizens' power to enact laws through initiative. Taxpayers Against I-145, a group funded largely by dam owners PPL Montana and Avista, had argued the ballot measure was illegal on a number of grounds. Don Judge, campaign coordinator for Dam Cheap Power, sponsors of I-145, responded, 'These giant utilities will do everything within their means to prevent Montanans from exercising their right to vote on I-145.' The initiative would create an elected five-member Montana Public Power Commission that would determine whether it was in the state's interest to buy the dams. The measure would allow the state to negotiate with the utilities to buy the dams. If the utilities refuse to sell, the state would have authority to condemn the dams and buy them for fair market value.

(Associated Press, 'Initiative opponents file notice of appeal,' 26 September 2002.)

Condit Dam, White Salmon River, WA
Update: New study ordered on removal of Condit Dam

Washington State has ordered further study of the environmental effects of PacifiCorp's plan to remove Condit Dam from the White Salmon River. The Portland-based utility needs a state water-quality permit before it can proceed with its plan to demolish the 125-foot-high dam in the fall of 2006. The Washington Department of Ecology must decide by June 1, 2003, whether to issue the permit. In 1999, 21 parties, including the National Marine Fisheries Service, environmental groups and the Ecology Department, reached an agreement supporting the project. That agreement expired in September. At that time, any party may walk away from the agreement and be free to oppose the project, although none of the parties has said it will do so, said Gail Miller, PacifiCorp's project leader. A consultant for the Ecology Department said the agency needs more information about dealing with the 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment and debris left after the 89-year-old dam is blown up. Not all the sediment behind the dam would be flushed away when the dam is removed and what remains would continue to erode.

(The Seattle Times, 'New study ordered on removal of state dam,' 21 September 2002.)

(Durbin, Kathie, 'State agency wants another look at utility's plan to remove Condit dam,' The Columbian, 20 September 2002.)

us - southwest

Let the river run; flooding the Grand Canyon

In March 1996, floodwaters raged through the Grand Canyon for the first time in over thirty years. For a week, the entire Colorado River was transformed into a turbulent monster. The water had been released from an upstream dam to reproduce the sort of flood the Grand Canyon would have experienced every year during winter and spring rains, before the river was dammed. Dams have been on the Colorado River for nearly a century. However, there were no dams upstream of the Grand Canyon until 1963, when the Glen Canyon Dam was built. The reason for the controlled flood was not nostalgia. It was an attempt to undo years of environmental damage caused by the dam. The flooding experiment didn't go entirely to plan, but proponents of the scheme suggest that the lessons learned will be invaluable in planning the next flood, which is scheduled for later this year. Several groups say the latest plan is too little too late, especially for the chub and other species struggling to survive in their altered environment. Owen Lammers, executive director of Living Rivers, called the proposal 'the latest act in a six-year-long charade' by the Bureau and water and power interests whose inattention has threatened the river's ecosystem.

For more information on restoring the Colorado River watershed, visit Living Rivers at

(Kaplan, Matt, 'Let the river run,' New Scientist, 28 September 2002.)

Albuquerque City Council works to improve Rio Grande flows

City councilors adopted a resolution calling for the city to engage in 'mediated discussion' to come up with long-term solutions that help the Rio Grande and endangered species. The resolution, sponsored by Councilor Miguel Gomez, mentions more water conservation as one strategy to help the river. Other solutions could include re-introducing the minnow up and down the river and removing dams, Gomez said. The bill says the city should have discussions with 'water rights holders and other stakeholders.' Drought is threatening to dry up the Rio Grande through Albuquerque, putting the endangered silvery minnow in jeopardy. The council voted 7-0 in favor of Gomez's bill. The proposal goes to Mayor Martin Chavez for consideration. Deb Hibbard of Rio Grande Restoration, a river advocacy group, said she had hoped the council would approve stronger language in the bill by calling for 'minimal water flows' in the Rio Grande. 'This is about more than the minnow,' she said Gomez's proposal was a substitute for a measure directing the city not to release more of its stored water to help the Rio Grande this year.

(McKay, Dan, 'Solutions Sought To Help River,' Albuquerque Journal, 17 September 2002.)

us - midwest

Dam removal and waterfront walkway fuel a housing boom in Milwaukee

Scarcely 8 years old, the city's downtown RiverWalk by all measures has been a remarkable urban success story.

The $16 million waterfront walkway fueled a housing boom that has added hundreds of millions of dollars in property value, it has spawned a slew of new restaurants and watering holes, and it has built a broader constituency for cleaning up the Milwaukee River. The rediscovered beauty of the river parallels improvements in its physical health. Bill Wawrzyn, a fisheries biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources, says that thanks to better wastewater treatment, the removal of the North Ave. dam and other cleanup activity, sections of the downtown river now support game fish such as small-mouth bass, walleye and northern pike. 'We were leaving a lot of real estate value on the table by not taking advantage of a beautiful river,' said Mayor John O. Norquist, who launched the first segments of RiverWalk in 1994 through a partnership that has used $12 million in city money and $4 million from downtown property owners. The results, he said, 'show that the urban form is popular once again, that we're no longer trying to suburbanize the city and turn it into an office park.'

(Gould, Whitney, 'City extends path that helped bring downtown to life as architect designs refinements,' Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10 October 2002.)

It's time to restore Wisconsin's natural waterways

Since European settlers first immigrated to Wisconsin, the state's streams and rivers have been put to hard use. Dams were constructed throughout the state to power mills that produced food, clothing, lumber and countless other goods for our growing society, as well as to turn turbines for the production of electricity. As we have come to better understand the water cycle and the interconnected water processes, we have learned that our historic actions to 'de-water' our landscape, although well intended, have often had serious and negative consequences. Based on this new knowledge and understanding, our challenge throughout this century is to reverse many of the problems we have created by restoring our waterways and wetlands back to healthy and productive systems. An ambitious program by the River Alliance of Wisconsin, a statewide nonprofit conservation group, advocates for the selective removal of these old and obsolete dams as one of the best river restoration tools currently available to communities. Our ambitious but achievable challenge for today and for the rest of his century, therefore, is to re-water our Wisconsin landscape by restoring our wetlands, re-creating the meanders of our streams, removing unnecessary dams, and rehabilitating our lake shorelines. By doing so we'll be restoring our vital and dynamic water and wildlife legacy for future generations.

For more information, visit the Waters of Wisconsin Forum website at: . Also visit the River Alliance of Wisconsin at

(Luthin, Charlie, Capital Times, 2 October 2002.)

Update: Dam removal on Cedar Creek

A 56-year-old concrete dam on Cedar Creek crumbled on October 1 under the blows of a hydraulic hammer. By noon the next day, the creek likely was flowing free for 25 miles from Little Cedar Lake to the city of Cedarburg, no longer restrained by the 30-foot-wide dam downstream of Scenic Drive. Six years ago, Ben Pencikowski and his wife, Mary Jo Hirsch, contacted the state Department of Natural Resources about demolishing the 10-foot-tall dam so they could drain a shallow, stagnant, carp-filled pond upstream of the structure. They were the dam's owners at that time. The impoundment had become choked with so much Eurasian water milfoil, a nuisance weed, that no one could row a boat through the water, Pencikowski said. Muck had accumulated to depths of nearly 6 feet. In December, the DNR and two local conservation groups paid the couple $215,000 for the dam, the 9.75-acre impoundment and 8.75 acres of adjoining land. The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and the Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation each contributed $10,000, and the DNR paid the remaining $195,000. The DNR's goals for the property include restoring the original stream corridor, improving fish habitat and water quality, and providing public access.

(Behm, Don, 'Workers set to finish removal of concrete dam in Polk today; DNR hopes to improve Cedar Creek,' Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2 October 2002.)

us - northeast

17 more Growing Greener projects completed in PA

On behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary David E. Hess today announced 17 watershed-restoration projects in Northwestern Pennsylvania recently have been completed through the Growing Greener program. 'Now in the fourth year of this historic investment in Pennsylvania's environment, watershed groups, local governments, county conservation districts, farmers, business people, students and teachers all over Pennsylvania continue to respond enthusiastically to the opportunity Growing Greener offers,' Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary David E. Hess said. So far, 179 projects have been completed statewide totaling more than $13.8 million in Growing Greener funding. The grants have been used to create or restore wetlands, restore stream buffer zones, eliminate causes of nonpoint-source pollution, plug oil and gas wells, reclaim abandoned-mine lands, and restore aquatic life to streams that were lifeless due to acid mine drainage.

Learn more about the Growing Greener program at: To see and hear how individuals and businesses are doing more to restore their watersheds, visit

(PR Newswire, 'Schweiker Administration Announces 17 More Growing Greener Projects Completed in Northwest PA,' 10 October 2002.)

Billington Street dam, Town Brook, MA
Earthen dam removed to aid herrings' passage upstream

Members of the US Army Reserves removed an earthen dam on Town Brook in Plymouth to help restore the stream to its natural state. It was the first removal of a coastal area dam in Massachusetts. State, local and federal officials marked the occasion with a dedication ceremony at nearby Jenney Park before walking a half-mile upstream to the dam removal site. The removal of the dam restores natural pools and riffles in the flowing stream, according to the agencies involved in the project. Town Brook empties into Plymouth Harbor, and the presence of flowing water was one of the principal reasons the Pilgrims decided to settle in Plymouth. Removing the dam also improves the passage for alewife and blueback herring. The project was a collaboration among three levels of government and nongovernment organizations. According to the environmental organizations who took part in it, the dam was the last major obstruction to the herring's passage up Town Brook. 'This dam kept thousands of alewives and other herring from returning to Billington Sea,' said an administrator for National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

(Robert, Knox, 'Earthen dam removed to aid herrings' passage upstream,' Boston Globe, 22 September 2002.)

Sennebec Dam, St. George River, ME
Demolition of Union dam means freedom for fish

Jack Tibbetts saw it as an omen. An expert in dam construction, he had volunteered to oversee demolition of the 1912-era dam that blocked the St. George River about 1,900 feet south of the mouth of Sennebec Pond. On September 25, when workers with H.E. Sargent took a break for lunch, after first breaking a hole near the dam gate, Tibbetts jumped back across to the west side of the river, where he lives. As he stepped across the now unfettered flow, a trout slithered by. That trout marked the first in 90 years of what Tibbetts and others hope is many fish making their way up and down the river. Some neighbors of the project are still unhappy. One man, who lost boat access to the pond from his riverfront land when the water level dropped, has signs of protest posted near the shore. His aluminum boat and dock are high and dry now, with 20 feet of mud separating them from the flow of the river. But the groups that sought and gained the permits for removing the old dam and constructing the new, low-profile gravel dam - the Sennebec Pond Association and Trout Unlimited - said they made the only choices possible.

(Groening, Tom, 'Demolition of Union dam means freedom for fish,' Bangor Daily News, 26 September 2002.)

Smelt Hill Dam, Presumpscot River, ME
Update: The Presumpscot River flows free for the first time since 1734

The Presumpscot River is a step closer to flowing freely into Casco Bay for the first time in 268 years. With raindrops rippling the water, a section of the Smelt Hill Dam was removed, allowing the water upstream to pass through the opening unencumbered toward the ocean. 'It's a resurrection of this river,' said Edward Kitchel, chairman of the Falmouth Town Council. Kitchel, plus a number of other dignitaries and representatives from the groups that worked to remove the dam watched the event, then held a press conference at Falmouth Town Hall. The removal of Smelt Hill Dam is significant because it will allow migratory fish such as alewives, herring, shad, Atlantic salmon and striped bass to make their way up river. The removal also opens up seven miles of the lower Presumpscot and frees 640 acres of watershed. The Army Corps of Engineers is paying about two-thirds of the total $1 million removal cost, including the dam's purchase price. The state of Maine and several federal agencies and private groups are paying the remainder. In one form or another, a dam has backed up water at the Smelt Hill site since 1734. The present Smelt Hill Dam was built in 1890. The stone-filled, timber-crib structure is 151 feet long, 31 feet wide and 15 feet high.

For more information visit the Friends of the Presumpscot River at:

(Blethen, Ryan, 'Dam's demise seen as river's 'resurrection'; The Presumpscot River flows free through Falmouth on Friday for the first time since 1734,' Portland Press Herald, 28 September 2002.)