No. 43, December 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










List of potential dam sites worries Newfoundland conservation groups

When former premier Brian Tobin stopped a pair of small hydro projects in their tracks four years ago, salmon conservation groups figured their days of battling proposed hydro developments on salmon rivers were over. Leo White of the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador isn't so sure anymore. That's because the provincial government maintains an inventory of 189 rivers, which include some of the best salmon rivers on the island, and their potential for generating a total of 1,900 megawatts of hydroelectricity. 'While other countries and other jurisdictions are removing dams, here is our Department of Mines and Energy identifying dams on all of our rivers, including salmon rivers, and in huge numbers,' he said. 'The only reason I can think of is that they want to get small hydro and larger hydro back on the map. They want to have plans ready.' If Tobin's small-hydro moratorium is lifted, White fears the conservation group will again face protracted battles each and every time a developer wants to generate electricity on a salmon river. More than 200 dams already dot the interior of the island. White said more dams means dedicating more than two-thirds of the province's water to producing electricity. But the provincial Department of Mines and Energy says the list of hydro sites is just that - an inventory of possible sources of hydroelectricity, not a plan to develop every river on the island.

(Baird, Moira, 'Dam moratorium busted? Potential projects could endanger salmon rivers, advocate says,' St. John's Telegram, 2 November 2002.)

Abandoned dams cause flood of problems

Waterfront property could end up as a mud pit if no one wants to take responsibility for three Nova Scotia dams. Dam owner Annapolis Group, Inc. has told the Environment and Labour Department it doesn't want to renew licenses for dams on Kearney, Quarry and Paper Mill lakes when they expire in December. To abandon the licenses, though, the company would have to comply with government regulations that could include dismantling the dams. Annapolis Group has no use for the dams, said vice-president Archie Hattie, and the license means assuming liability for the dilapidated structures, and paying to bring them up to Canadian Dam Association standards. Hattie wouldn't speculate on the cost of refurbishing them, but said 'it's not in the millions, let's put it that way.' Hattie said the likelihood of removing the dams is remote. 'I can't imagine it would come down to that, but then, it's not my decision to make. It's really up to the province.' The regulations give the province a range of options, but in the end, someone will have to maintain them, or the dams will have to come down.

(West, Jerry, 'Abandoned dams would cause flood of problems: Ritzy Paper Mill Lake may become mud field: Kearney, Quarry also threatened,' Halifax Daily News, 26 October 2002.)

us - general

Hydro proponents want to revoke FERC's decommissioning policy

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is attempting to improve the process for licensing hydroelectric dams. Although everyone agrees the current procedure is too often mired in needless delay, groups are divided on how to make relicensing quicker and more efficient. The National Hydropower Association, the American Public Power Association and Edison Electric Institute are lobbying FERC to allow applicants to prepare their own draft environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, and to limit the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Service, US EPA and other federal agencies to conduct their own environmental reviews. Further, the groups hope to revoke FERC's decommissioning policy, in which the agency retains the right to order removal of a dam at owner expense when it deems the dam is no longer providing benefits to society. Those who see dam decommissioning and removal as a valuable way of improving ecosystems, chafe at the groups' suggestions. 'They seem to have forgotten that Christmas isn't until December 25,' said Andrew Fahlund of American Rivers. 'We've been working with states, tribes and moderates within the industry to develop proposals that will be acceptable to all, but their letter goes way beyond that and puts people into different camps. ... Anything that would diminish federal agencies' ability to protect fish and wildlife is not going over.'

(Franz, Damon, 'Hydropower: public meetings on FERC licensing overhaul begin today,' Greenwire, 16 October 2002.)

us - california

Free-flowing Klamath River 30 times more valuable than irrigated farmland

Returning water to the Klamath River for fishing and recreation could provide a far greater economic benefit in the Klamath Basin than the current practice of diverting it for farmland irrigation, a draft US Geological Survey report says. USGS estimates restoring historic water flows to the Klamath River would generate an economic benefit 30 times greater than providing the water to farmers. The measures include: the purchase of all Klamath Irrigation Project farmland; acquiring sensitive forestland; removing dams; and increasing Trinity River flows by 500,000 acre-feet annually by taking irrigation supplies from California's Central Valley. Those actions would cost about $5 billion, the USGS report said, but recreation and fishing activities could create about $36 billion in economic activity. The USGS study of the Klamath Basin began in the late 1990s, before the spring 2001 drought ignited furious debates over how much water should be delivered to basin farmers. However, environmentalists, fishermen and Indian tribes who are fighting the Bureau of Reclamation's plan to give full deliveries to farmers through 2012 claim the report was likely suppressed by the Bush administration to stifle opposition. 'The reason this is so significant is the administration has said their policy in the Klamath Basin is putting people and the economy first, and it turns out that they're doing the opposite,' said Steve Pedery of Oregon's WaterWatch. 'We've heard a lot about 'sound science' from this administration. It's increasingly clear that when they say 'sound' science, they mean science that 'sounds good' to their political allies and contributors,' added Jim Waltman of the Wilderness Society.

Download the USGS draft economic report: from

(Berman, Dan, 'Recreation could provide greater economic benefit than farmland - USGS report,' Land Letter, 7 November 2002.)

Dennett Dam, Tuolumne River, CA
City seeks to take out dam on Tuolumne

The city of Modesto is seeking a $200,000 state grant to pay for the removal of the remnants of Dennett Dam. The low, concrete structure, built in 1933, created an artificial lake for summer recreation on the Tuolumne River. The dam fell into disuse and the concrete has been eroding. The remaining concrete structure impedes the river's flow and makes it difficult for migrating salmon to swim upstream to spawn. 'Not only do the remnants of Dennett Dam pose an obstacle to fish migration, but they are also an impediment to recreational use of the river,' said Doug Critchfield, a manager in the city's parks department. The grant money is being sought from the Habitat Conservation Fund, part of the California Wildlife Protection Act of 1990. The conservation program provides money to buy and rehabilitate wildlife habitats. Total cost of the Dennett Dam removal project is estimated at $520,000. The rest of the money would come from other government sources.

(Modesto Bee, 'City seeks to take out dam on Tuolumne,' 16 October 2002.)

us - northwest

American Indian tribes seek restoration of upper Columbia salmon

Six decades after Depression-era workers plugged the upper Columbia with 550-foot-tall Grand Coulee Dam, American Indian tribes have successfully lobbied a key regional organization to consider returning seagoing salmon to their historic range. Though most observers see the plan as far-fetched, the fish would have to be captured and hauled around the Northwest's two largest dams, or engineers would have to build the mother of all fish ladders, the Northwest Power Planning Council is at least willing to take a look at it. A single line buried in a 68-page document included this intriguing suggestion: 'Evaluate the feasibility of reintroducing anadromous fish into blocked areas, including above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams.' With Grand Coulee's completion in 1942, the huge concrete monolith effectively wiped out a storied population of upriver summer chinook, along with steelhead and coho that spawned more than 500 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Evolution enabled only the biggest and heartiest of fish to make it so far upriver to spawn, and many summer chinook tipped the scales at nearly 100 pounds. Salmon and steelhead were once so plentiful in the upper Columbia that tribal fishermen could not see the bottom of the river, said Adeline Fredin, manager of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation's history and archaeology department.

(Robinson, Erik, 'Chinook in upper Columbia is vision,' Columbian, 11 November 2002.)

Injunction filed to stop dredging on the lower Snake River

Environmental groups have moved to halt planned dredging of the lower Snake River that they warn will harm migrating salmon and steelhead. The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition filed for a preliminary injunction in US District Court in Seattle, aimed at stopping the work to deepen the channel scheduled to begin in December. If granted, the injunction would prevent dredging of ports, the shipping channel and recreation areas until a lawsuit filed by the coalition is decided. Dredging by the US Army Corps of Engineers is intended to maintain the shipping channel between McNary Dam on the Columbia River and Lewiston that allows barge traffic to reach Idaho. Port of Lewiston officials say another winter without dredging will make operations very difficult. 'Our main concern here is to make sure the corps gets it right and to really seriously look at options that don't include dredging,' said Bert Bowler of Idaho Rivers United. The corps plans to spend $3 million removing 319,000 cubic yards of silt from the river. The salmon advocate groups support breaching the four lower Snake River dams to help recovery of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout. They say dredging downstream of the dams could disturb fall chinook spawning nests, and dumping dredge spoils in deeper areas of the reservoirs may expose fish to toxic materials in the sediments.

(Associated Press, 'Fish advocates go to court against dredging,' 8 November 2002.)

Update: EPA flooded with comments about Milltown Dam; people want it out

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was flooded with over 10,000 public comments about the future of Milltown Dam before the public comment period even started. Area residents, who have recently formed a coalition called Friends of Two Rivers, told the federal agency to rid Milltown Reservoir of its metal-polluted sediments and take out the dam. 'It's huge,' said Diana Hammer, of the EPA. 'It's very rare, unheard of actually, to get this kind of response outside of a formal public comment period.' About 9,500 of the comments support removal of both the tainted sediments and the dam. She said the message is clear: 'We want a restored (Clark Fork) river. We want a clean, drinkable aquifer.' Milltown Reservoir is at the end of the nation's largest Superfund cleanup site at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers. The metals pollution was created during a century of mining and smelting in Butte and Anaconda, then washed up to 100 miles down the Clark Fork River, collecting along the river bank and in the reservoir. Atlantic Richfield Co. is responsible for the cleanup costs because of its 1977 merger with Anaconda Copper Co. The company has financed the formation of Bonner Development Group, which is lobbying to leave the sediments and dam in place. The EPA is expected to release a cleanup plan for Milltown Reservoir soon, possibly by the end of the year.

For more information, visit the Clark Fork Coalition at

(Associated Press, 'EPA flooded with comments about Milltown Dam; people want it out,' October 30, 2002.)
(Associated Press, 'Milltown Dam group formed to press for taking dam out,' 24 October 2002.)
(Missoulian, 'New group to back Milltown Dam removal,' 24 October 2002.)

Study advises less reliance on hydropower

The Northwest must wean itself from hydroelectric dams as a major source of power, according to the author of a study that suggested the region's economy would not suffer if four Snake River dams were removed. Conservation and renewable resources such as wind can be as economical as new natural gas-fired turbines, said Mark Bernstein, senior policy analyst for the Rand Corp. Alternative energy also provides a hedge against increases in gas prices that drive up the cost of electricity from gas turbines, Bernstein told members of the Northwest Power Planning Council. 'Dam removal is not the main point of the report,' Bernstein said after discussing Rand's conclusions. The Rand Corp. is a consulting and research firm known for its work on complex subjects. Council members faulted the study for failing to acknowledge conservation efforts already made in the Northwest and questioned the economics of some of Rand's proposed conservation measures. A response to the Rand report prepared by council economic analyst Terry Morlan noted the region has developed 1,600 megawatts in conservation in the past 20 years. The region also receives about 500 megawatts from wind generation, he said. But the Northwest requires about 20,000 megawatts of electricity, 82 percent of which is hydropower, he said.

(Caldwell, Bert, 'Electricity sources discussed Council faults Rand Corp. report; author says main point overlooked,' Spokesman-Review, 18 October 2002.)

(Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 'Study advises less reliance on hydropower,' 19 October 2002.)

us - southwest

Las Vegas could experience water cutbacks

After three years of drought, 'Lake' Mead - the reservoir behind Hoover Dam, is approaching record low levels. The lake surface is now at about 1,155 feet above sea level, and a US Department of the Interior decision to release 260,000 acre-feet for California farms would bring the reservoir closer to a point that would trigger water cutbacks in Las Vegas. Officials with the Imperial Irrigation District, which takes the greatest share of Lake Mead water for agricultural use, said the additional water could be critically important over the next six weeks to meet the nation's demand for fresh winter vegetables. 'We are the nation's winter salad bowl,' district spokeswoman Susan Giller said. 'There are times in the winter where virtually the only lettuce produced in the country comes from the Imperial Valley.' Other winter crops from California include carrots, broccoli, tomatoes and onions. The amount authorized for the California farmers by Interior Secretary Gale Norton equals about as much as Las Vegas' basic allotment from the reservoir. Under the terms of river law known as the Interim Surplus Guidelines, the farmers will have to pay back the extra water by cutting consumption over the next four years.

(US Water News Online, 'Las Vegas could experience water cutbacks,' December 2002. Full text on-line at:

us - midwest

Dam on the Cuyahoga River will remain for now

A dam on the Cuyahoga River won't be torn down - at least for now. Removing the 14-foot-high dam is under consideration as part of a new state plan for cleaning up the Cuyahoga River from Munroe Falls through Cuyahoga Falls and Akron to Cleveland. There have been preliminary discussions about the feasibility of removing the state-owned dam in an effort to boost water quality in the river, said Bill Zawiski of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. But ordering the removal of the dam that diverts water to the adjoining Ohio & Erie Canal won't be part of the federally mandated cleanup plan due to concerns that the dam is needed in order to keep water in the canal. But its removal remains a possibility, perhaps in the next three to four years, and will be part of the state plan. Also spared are the 57-foot-high Gorge Dam between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls and two other dams on the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Falls. Combined sewers and storm runoff will be identified as the main threats to water quality because of their impacts on the Lower Cuyahoga River and its tributaries.

(Downing, Bob, 'Dam won't budge in federal cleanup; Structure diverts water into Ohio & Erie Canal. Officials decide not to demolish it at this time, Cuyahoga River goes with flow,' Akron Beacon Journal, 24 October 2002.)

Dam removed from Ohio's Olentangy River

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has started demolishing dams along the Olentangy, a central Ohio river, hoping to improve water quality for human and aquatic life. Removal of the Dennison Dam in October 2002 allowed the Olentangy River to flow more freely, eliminating undercurrents that can endanger canoeists, fishermen and swimmers. Removing the dam cost $17,000, and is expected to increase the diversity of fish and aquatic life in that stretch of the state scenic river. By creating stagnant pools of water and allowing sediment to build up, the 11 remaining low-head dams on the Olentangy are among the top threats to water quality in the river. If state officials are able to get permission from enough landowners, all five of the remaining dams on the river in Delaware County will be destroyed. 'There are a number of ecological benefits to getting rid of these dams,' said Tim Peterkoski, the state's scenic-rivers coordinator for central Ohio. 'Most have outlived whatever usefulness they once had.' The Dennison Dam was built around the turn of the last century to generate electricity for a nearby cottage abandoned years ago. Soon after workers took a jackhammer to the dam and cleared away the debris, a small waterfall appeared in the middle of the channel - a natural feature that had been hidden for nearly a century. Conservationists are looking forward to more challenging targets, such as removing the 5th Avenue Dam near Ohio State University in urban Columbus. 'Removing the dam has to be part of an overall restoration effort,' said Erin Miller, coordinator of Friends of the Lower Olentangy River Watershed, a stream-protection group.

(Associated Press, 'Dam removed from river to improve water quality,' 21 October 2002.)
(Hawthorne, Michael, 'Dam's removal helps river run,' The Columbus Dispatch, 19 October 2002.)

us - northeast

Update: Standoff may lead to removal of Winslow dam

Fort Halifax Dam appears headed for partial removal despite state support for a proposal that could preserve the 94-year-old hydroelectric facility. 'I don't know what else we can do at this point,' said George D. Lapointe, commissioner of the state Department of Marine Resources. 'We pushed and pushed (for the proposal) and we are where we are.' The 'where' to which Lapointe refers is a stalemate that Lapointe does not consider resolvable.

At issue is a long-standing requirement that dam owner FPL Energy provide passage for sea-run fish at the dam, either through a fish lift or by dam removal. FPL Energy ruled out the fish lift - estimated to cost $3 million to $4 million - as economically unfeasible and, instead, has filed to surrender its dam license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But FPL Energy subsequently proposed a third option for fish passage: an experimental fish pump the company deemed economically feasible. But the state is not the sole decision-maker in the matter. Several other signatories - the Kennebec Coalition and the US Fish & Wildlife Service among them - of a 1998 agreement also must give approval if the proposal is to become a reality. That approval appears increasingly unlikely.

(Hickey, Colin, 'Standoff imperils Winslow dam,' Central Maine Morning Sentinel (Waterville, ME), 29 October 2002.)

Update: Smelt Hill Dam demolished

Fishermen, hikers, birders and kayakers expect whitewater rapids, a teeming fishery and remarkable bird sightings once the Smelt Hill Dam in Falmouth no longer blocks the Presumpscot River. Nobody knows exactly what to expect after more than 250 years of hampered passage, but most feel assured everyone will benefit. Removal of the dam in October opened up seven miles of the lower Presumpscot River, allowing runs of alewife, shad, striped bass and blueback herring. The numbers of migratory fish returning are expected to be in the thousands. Ospreys, eagles, herons and kingfishers will feast. 'There have been dams there since the early 1700s. As soon as they started putting in dams there, the fishery population utterly collapsed,' said Pat Keliher, executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association, which was instrumental in pushing for the dam's removal. The 15-foot-high, 151-foot-long stone and timber structure is being removed by A.C.T. Abatement Corp. The project is an example of the national effort to increase passages for migratory fish that swim upriver to breed in fresh water. In Maine, it is the work of an army of organizations.

(Fleming, Deirdre, 'As the Smelt Hill Dam undergoes demolition this month, many people anticipate a free-flowing stretch of the Presumpscot River unseen in 250 years,' Maine Sunday Telegram, 13 October 2002.)

us - southeast

Update: Florida gives Kirkpatrick Dam to US Forest Service

The state Department of Environmental Protection has given control to the US Forest Service of the Kirkpatrick Dam that impounds the Ocklawaha River, creating the largest artifact of the ill-fated Cross Florida Barge Canal, the Rodman Reservoir. Faced with river restoration costs it could ill afford, the state declined recently to sign the special-use permit that would authorize continued state control of the federal land on which the dam sits. While the transfer won't immediately affect the dam, which remained after President Richard Nixon halted the barge-canal boondoggle in 1971, it nevertheless is resoundingly positive. Under federal control, breaching the dam and restoring the Ocklawaha's flow is now much more likely. Governor Jeb Bush has supported restoring the river, but North Florida legislators led by former Sen. George Kirkpatrick doggedly blocked restoration efforts in an effort to preserve the reservoir, which has become a popular fishing spot. The cost of the project has also been daunting: The state estimates that breaching the dam would cost $14 million; removing it entirely would cost many millions more. Restoring the Ocklawaha's flow will produce environmental and recreational benefits that could swamp the merits of Kirkpatrick's lost fishing hole. The state should do what it can, financially and otherwise, to ensure the timely demolition of the dam.

(Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 'Movement on the river; Federal control of dam is a step toward freeing the Ocklawaha,' 2 November 2002.)