No. 81, January 25, 2007

River Revival Bulletin

Produced by: River Revival, International Rivers
Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Wil Dvorak

table of contents









Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA/OR

Update: PacifiCorp’s revised Klamath proposal no help to fish

The same day that a report was released describing how dam removal would save billionaire investor Warren Buffet’s PacifiCorp millions of dollars, the company proposed changes to federal agencies’ mandatory fish passage plans. "PacifiCorp is billing this revised plan as some sort of compromise when their proposal falls far short of what federal agencies are mandating and does little to stop the wholesale destruction of Klamath salmon," according to Leaf Hillman, Vice Chairman of the Karuk Tribe. According to Erica Terence of the Northcoast Environmental Center in Arcata, CA, "This is nothing but a corporate spin job. The joint state/federal study concludes that PacifiCorp would save over $100 million by removing the dams instead of bringing the antiquated complex up to modern standards. These savings would not be passed to ratepayers. Instead, the company will try to bill ratepayers for the cost of relicensing plus a little extra as a bonus for shareholders. While our fish go extinct, Buffet will get even richer and power rates will go up," explains Hillman.

(Bacher, Dan, "PacifiCorp’s Revised Klamath Proposal No Help to Fish; Buffet’s PacifiCorp more interested in PR than substance,", 5 December, 2006.)

Update: Removal of Klamath dams approved by Board of Supervisors

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution supporting the removal of four dams on the Klamath River. PacifiCorp operates the Iron Gate, Copco I, Copco II and J.C. Boyle dams, and the resolution aims to allow the county to officially weigh in during the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement as part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s re-licensing review of the dams. Supervisor Jill Geist said there is increasing awareness - particularly in the upper Klamath River areas - that the dams don’t provide much flood control or electricity. Tom Weselow of California Trout said the dams, which block more than 300 miles of fish habitat upstream. "The cost-benefit of the electricity versus what it does to our society - from everything to our local communities to the statewide economy - has been analyzed and it is a slam dunk," Weselow said. "These dams need to come down." Larry Evans, of the Environmental Protection Information Center, said of the West Coast’s major salmon-producing rivers, including the Sacramento, Columbia and Klamath, the Klamath River is the least "urbanized" and has the greatest potential for recovery if dams were removed.

(Rushton, Nathan, "Supes approve dam removal," Eureka Reporter,, 15 November 2006.)

Daguerre Point and Englebright dams, Yuba River, CA

Update: Feds sued over fish obstacles on Yuba

The federal government is illegally dawdling on changes to a pair of Yuba River dams that could help preserve threatened salmon and sturgeon species, two groups allege in a federal lawsuit. The South Yuba River Citizens League, a Nevada City group, and the Sacramento-based Friends of the River are suing the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The action charges the federal agencies failed to properly account for the loss of salmon caused by the Daguerre Point and Englebright dams. In 2002, the federal fisheries service released a report on the Yuba River dams ahead of a Corps of Engineers project to clear some of the river’s obstacles to fish. But the lawsuit claims the federal report did not contain useful figures on the numbers of threatened fish species, or how any dam repair work would affect them. The suit seeks a fresh review of local salmon populations, a new study of the dams’ effects on fish migration and the release of NMFS records the groups have sought since July through the Freedom of Information Act. The 24-foot-high Daguerre Point Dam, is a century old; the 65-year-old Englebright is 12 miles upriver. Both dams originally were built to catch floating debris from mines upriver.

(Yune, Howard, "Feds sued over fish obstacles on Yuba," Appeal-Democrat, 20 December 2006.)

Update: Restoring Alameda Creek

Alameda Creek drains nearly two-thirds of San Francisco’s East Bay. This huge watershed boundary falls under the jurisdiction of several water and flood control agencies. The challenges involved in restoring it are both numerous and complex, but not insurmountable, says Jeff Miller, who founded the non-profit Alameda Creek Alliance in 1997. Miller has seen a huge shift in agency attitudes about the creek" at one point the biggest barrier to restoration" since he first began advocating for restoration and was told by some regulatory agencies to forget even trying, that any steelhead in the stream were probably hatchery strays. For 10 years, Miller’s group has rescued fish blocked from moving upstream at what is known as "the BART weir"; the group also had DNA testing performed on fin clips. Those tests showed that the fish were most closely related to other wild steelhead in the central California coast region, as well as to resident trout in Alameda Creek. This suggests that returning adult steelhead may, in fact, be native to Alameda Creek (see "People," ESTUARY, August 2006.)

Visit Alameda Creek Alliance at:

(Estuary Magazine, "For Fish and Folks," December 2006.)

Update: Owens River making comeback

Mike Prather whooped as he ambled through the tumbleweed and salt grass for a look. There it was, bubbling and oozing like lava, as it inched down the valley floor. The object of his search was nothing more or less than water. Water, which has not flowed in the Owens River for 93 years, is now, almost miraculously, there again. Water was returned to the Owens River, when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Inyo County Supervisor Susan Cash symbolically concluded the most celebrated water war in American history. Almost a century after Los Angeles diverted the Owens River into the city’s aqueduct, Villaraigosa and Cash opened a gate and allowed some of that water to return to the river, starting a reclamation effort (62 riparian miles, 30 air miles)

rivaled only by the Kissimmee River Restoration Project in the Florida Everglades. "By restoring the lower Owens River, the city of Los Angeles will do more than right an historic wrong," Villaraigosa said at a ceremony marking the beginning of the project. "In a deeper sense, we will affirm a literal truth: that when it comes to protecting our environment, it is time for all of us to change course."

(Promfret, John, "Owens River making comeback; Deal with L.A. will resurrect valley habitat," Washington Post, 21 December 2006.)


Center Hill Dam, Caney Fork River, TN and Wolf Creek Dam, Cumberland River, KY

Limestone causes dams to leak, slowly

If either the Center Hill Dam or Wolf Creek Dam were to fail, the resulting floods would be devastating. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, towns and cities in Middle Tennessee would be underwater if the dams breached. The Wolf Creek Dam is scheduled for a seven-year multi million-dollar renovation, but despite that, it may be just a matter of time before there is a catastrophic failure. The limestone in Tennessee is almost 100% calcium carbonate and it is alkaline. Acidic rainwater reacts with it causing a chemical reaction that actually producing heat, water and hydrochloric acid. In time, the rock dissolves. Called karst geology, the limestone produces the caves that are famous in Tennessee; great for spelunkers but problematic for dams. Center Hill Dam and the Wolf Creek Dam were built in a karst geology or limestone full of holes. Water allows finds its way, both dams leak. Center Hill leaks about 200 cubic feet a second. The Corp of Engineers will start a $240 million rehabilitation project on the dam starting next year. It will last seven years as they try to plug the seepage by filling in areas next to the dam. The project will only bide time as dams in limestone are temporary structures.

(WKRN Nashville Tennessee, "Limestone Causes Mid-State’s Dams To Leak, Slowly,", 18 December 2006.)

Restoration of oxbow on Rouge River

The five-year project to restore a portion of the long-polluted Rouge River to its natural state is nearly complete. The $5 million project, primarily funded through state and federal grants, will restore a natural habitat for fish, bald eagles and other animals to live in and near an oxbow, a term used to describe an U-shaped bend in a river, or the land within such a bend. The restoration comes 34 years after the US Army Corps of Engineers sealed the land behind the museum with concrete to control flooding and pollution. The Rouge River Oxbow Restoration project began in 2001 and is a collaborate effort by Ford Motor Co., The Henry Ford Museum, the city of Dearborn, and federal and state environmental authorities. Greenfield Village will utilize the oxbow for summer camps and recreation programs. There are also plans of opening the area to the public by 2008. He added the project has brought back 17 different types of fish since its restoration. The Rouge had been so clogged and polluted that the Army Corps diverted the river into concrete tunnels so it wouldn’t carry all the pollution into the Detroit River and Lake Erie.

(Nichols, Darren A., "Project revives habitat; Restoration of oxbow on Rouge River almost done," The Detroit News, 20 December 2006.)


Ballou Dam, Yokum Brook, MA

Removal of Ballou Dam promises easier flow for Westfield River fish

In the 1800s, when the Ballou Dam spanned Yokum Brook to power grist mills, it was seen as a symbol of economic progress in western Massachusetts. But it’s been nothing more than an obstacle for the past four decades, blocking Atlantic salmon and brook trout making the eight-mile swim upstream from the Westfield River. Now the dam is coming down, which hopefully will restore the area’s natural habitat and spare town officials an unnecessary liability. "Over time, these old dams that don’t serve a purpose are just going to cause problems," said Bill Toomey, the Westfield River program director for the Nature Conservancy, one of the groups pushing for the dam’s removal. "The fish can’t get past them, and the dam owners are responsible for their maintenance and repair." Several hundred fish die each year as they head upstream to spawn because they get stuck at the base of the 60-foot-long, 14-foot-high dam. After doing a survey of the road crossings and dams throughout 1,000 miles of rivers and streams in the Westfield River watershed, the Nature Conservancy identified 300 structures that they blame for impeding the area’s wildlife. The agency listed 31 of them as top priorities for removal.

(Gorlick Adam, "Becket dam removal promises easier flow for Westfield River fish,", 20 December 2006.)

Governor invests $27 million to protect Pennsylvania’s natural resources

Continuing his work to improve Pennsylvania’s economic and environmental health, Governor Rendell announced a $27 million investment to clean up streams and rivers, address serious environmental problems at abandoned mine sites and revitalize communities across the state. The money will finance 153 projects through Pennsylvania’s traditional Growing Greener Program and bond initiative. "Growing Greener allows us to leverage state dollars with Pennsylvania’s natural capital; protecting the resources that draw people to live, work and play in the commonwealth," Governor Rendell said. "Our natural resources are and will continue to be valued as economic, recreational and environmental assets. It is this scenic and wild beauty that makes Pennsylvania so unique." Since 1999, DEP has supplied $181.7 million in watershed grants for 1,592 projects in all 67 counties of Pennsylvania through the traditional Growing Greener Program. The grants are 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.

(Press Release Source: Office of the Pennsylvania Governor, "Governor Rendell Invests $27 Million to Protect PA’s Natural Resources; 153 Projects Funded Through Historic Growing Greener Programs," 29 November 2006.)

Update: There’s still hope for the Anacostia in spite of all the strikes against it

Raw sewage is just one of the insults hurled at the muddy, polluted Anacostia River, which was once so clear that legendary explorer John Smith described it as a "crystal" river. Long considered one of the most polluted rivers in the watershed, and even the nation, the Anacostia also suffers from urban runoff after every rainfall, a legacy of toxic pollution and an overwhelming amount of trash. When Smith reached the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers nearly 400 years ago, he found a busy commercial center (Anacostia is a Nanchotank word meaning trading center)

and a tidal river with an abundant supply of shad, herring, perch and catfish. Lush forests bordered fields of wild rice and wetlands. But Smith’s "discovery" of the Anacostia unleashed a wave of settlement that by the Civil War had replaced the region’s forests with corn, cotton and tobacco and, more recently, buildings, roads and shopping malls. Long hidden in the shadow of the Potomac, the Anacostia, which drains much of the District of Columbia and two neighboring Maryland counties, had been mostly neglected for decades. Local activists and some political leaders have rediscovered the river in recent years, bringing new hope for its future.

(Faber, Scott, ‘There’s still hope for the Anacostia in spite of all the strikes against it," The Bay Journal, December 2006,)


Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA/OR

Update: Oregon coastal communities’ consensus: All four Klamath dams should go

Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson along with about 20 others, at a public hearing, called for dismantling all four dams of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project - an alternative not featured among the options described in the DEIS, which include removing the two tallest dams, building fish ladders, trucking fish around the dams, or maintaining the status quo. FERC’s original list of public hearing sites excluded the Oregon coast’s top fishing communities. During prior public hearings, opponents said the "outdated dams" (built in the late 1950s and early 60s)

provide little power, no flood control, miniscule water storage, and serve no irrigation purpose, while simultaneously blocking hundreds of miles of former salmon habitat, creating river conditions hostile to salmon downstream, and negatively impacting ocean fisheries and downstream fishing communities. They urged FERC officials to consider other options - chief among them, dam removal or full fish passage - to achieve the greatest benefit for salmon and fishing communities, and said FERC has ignored mandates from NOAA Fisheries and other agencies.

(Dillman, Terry, "Local consensus: All four Klamath dams should go," News-Times,, 6 December 2006.)

Goldsborough Dam, Goldsborough Creek, WA

Update: Goldsborough Dam gone, salmon back

For more than a century, salmon followed Goldsborough Creek as it passed through the grounds of a sawmill and toward the woods beyond -- before bumping into a 30-foot-high wall called the Goldsborough Dam. The salmon runs limped along, blocked from prime spawning grounds by the manmade barrier of wood and concrete. Then, five years ago, with the rumble of bulldozers and backhoes, the dam was taken down. Today the descendants of those earlier salmon now splash through a series of riffles and gradual stair steps where the dam once stood, free to pass on to spawn in a 25-mile network of streams. Along the way, scientists are getting a glimpse of what can happen when a dam is demolished: As fish gradually reclaim their former habitat, Goldsborough Creek is becoming a more important source of salmon for the southern tip of Puget Sound. Though small, this dam removal is a harbinger of things to come in the Northwest. Seven dams in Washington and Oregon, including two big dams on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, are slated for demolition in the next five years. That’s an unprecedented burst of activity.

(Cornwall, Warren, "Dam is gone, salmon are back," Seattle Times, 28 December 2006.)


Conservationists blast Corps for Mississippi River Gulf Outlet plans

Conservationists have criticized a report the US Army Corps of Engineers issued to Congress that advocated closing the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO)

but stopped short of providing complete restoration plans and delayed a final decision until late 2007. The groups called on the Corps to expedite wetlands restoration in Louisiana and praised Senator David Vitter for demanding the Corps use already appropriated funds to begin closing MRGO. Conservation experts said the report is a good first step but inadequate in light of New Orleans’ vulnerability to hurricanes. "The Corps often says that it doesn’t make the big decisions, Congress does," said Mark Ford, executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. "Well, Congress has made the decision that $75 million is available to start closing MRGO. Now all the Corps has to do is listen." In December 2006, environmentalists and local officials presented a report titled "MRGO Must Go." Environmentalists were disappointed the Corps report overlooked critical elements to be analyzed in next year’s Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration study.

(New Orleans City Business, "Critics blast Corps for MRGO plans,", 25 December 2006.)


Update: Will Kissimmee project ease pollution woes?

While the $57.5 million Kissimmee project will give wading birds, fish and other small animals more habitat in a section of Florida that’s increasingly attractive to developers, local environmentalists say river restoration won’t help Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades or the St. Lucie Estuary. The same can be said, they add, for the billions of dollars worth of other Central Florida restoration work happening against a threatening backdrop of massive home-building projects, toll-road proposals and wet climate predictions. Scientists and activists agree the Kissimmee River valley is the root of the vast majority of the algae blooms, fish lesion outbreaks and other water quality problems. But consensus is far from being reached on the best way to reduce pollution and restore natural water flows. "Water management problems cascade when they go downhill. It gets worse and worse," said Paul Gray, a biologist with Audubon of Florida. And the problem is massive: decades of negligent farming practices, a population boom and controversial water management decisions in the center of the state have resulted in a water system so polluted that experts believe the largest lakes in the Kissimmee River valley will be saturated with phosphorus within 15 years.

(Wentley, Suzanne, "Will Kissimmee project ease pollution woes?", 10 December 2006.)


Platte River water plan

A three-state agreement to protect endangered or threatened species took effect in January for the Platte River Basin. The agreement protects the ability of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska to use and develop water while seeking to recover endangered and threatened wildlife. For water users in Colorado along the South Platte River, there should be much more certainty about exactly how much water is going to be needed to benefit species including the endangered whooping crane, pallid sturgeon and interior least tern, and the threatened piping plover, all of which use the Platte River waterway or adjacent habitat in Nebraska. US Fish and Wildlife reports that over the past 20 years the agency has determined that many water projects in the Platte River Basin are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of these species by altering the river and nearby habitat. The proposal seeks to reduce shortages to target flows for the species by roughly 150,000 acre-feet on an average annual basis, primarily by retiming river flows, thereby increasing flows in the spring, summer, and early fall.

(Shoemaker, Will, "Platte River water plan creates compromise, certainty for Colorado users," Brighton Standard Blade,, 03 January 2007.)