No. 84, June 11, 2007

Produced by: River Revival, International Rivers

Editors: Elizabeth Brink & Wil Dvorak

table of contents









Springbank Dam, Thames River, Canada

Troubled waters in Ontario

When the old Springbank Dam in London, Ontario was damaged, the local conservation authority had a choice: rebuild it and please boaters, or scrap it and give in to the environmentalists. The dam is now the focus of an ongoing controversy in the southwestern Ontario city. It’s undergoing an over-budget of $7 million rehabilitation after a flood in 2000 caused major damage. Some insist the dam should be removed altogether, since it serves little purpose other than providing canoeists and rowers with urban waters. They argue that dismantling it would improve water quality while removing a major barrier for fish. Most officials, aside from environmental activists and fishermen, seem to agree the river would be better off without the dam, but they defend the decision to keep it anyway because of its historical significance to the city and the demand for boating in the park. In the course of the debate, Springbank Dam has emerged as a test case for the role and independence of the province’s conservation authorities, who are charged simultaneously with both watershed conservation and providing public recreational settings. What happens, as in this case, when those two mandates collide.

(Chung, Andrew, "Troubled waters," Toronto Star,, 08 April 2007.)


Update: The not-so-blue Danube

WWF recently released a report naming Europe’s longest river, the Danube, among the world’s top 10 most endangered rivers. The river may be at serious risk unless restoration efforts improve, according to the WWF report released in March. Of particular concern are the major alterations that have been made to the Danube’s natural flow to generate power, control floods, improve shipping and provide irrigation. Altogether, the report warns, some 80 percent of the watershed’s wetlands, floodplains and forests have been destroyed. "What remains of the basin’s integrity is under intense threat from shipping infrastructure developments," says the report. Pollution, invasive species and climate change are also cited as major threats. According to the report, despite the river basin’s massive influence on industry, agriculture, transport, power generation and tourism in the region over which it spans, only 6.6 percent of the basin is currently protected. The report also sites other endangered rivers, including the Yangtze, Mekong, Ganges, Nile and Rio Grande, amongst others, stating that only 21 of the planet’s 177 longest rivers run unhindered by dams and other human alterations.

(Spiegel Online, "Troubled Waters; The Not-so-Blue Danube,", 21 March 2007.)


$6 billion plan for saving Salton Sea

A state official unveiled a $6 billion draft plan in March intended to save the shrinking Salton Sea in the Southern California desert. The proposal calls for the construction of a 40-mile barrier to create a 34,000-acre open-water habitat in the northern area of the lake and the construction of 62,000 more acres of habitat to the south. The plan also calls for 109,000 acres of exposed lakebed, with a drip-tubing system to feed drought tolerant plants and aid air quality. Increasing salinity plagues the Salton Sea, which stretches across the border of Imperial and Riverside counties. Studies have shown that if nothing is done, the lake could shrink by more than 60 percent in the next 20 years. The lake is also a key North American stopover for several species of migratory birds. The proposed plan released by California Secretary of Resources Director Mike Chrisman was the result of a three-year effort that included residents and the state departments of water resources and fish and game. Chrisman submitted the final plan to the state Legislature in late May. The restoration would be a 75-year effort, if approved by lawmakers.

(The Associated Press, "California official unveils $6 billion plan for saving Salton Sea Effort would take 75 years; full plan to go to Legislature in April,", 27 March 2007.)

Restoration on track for San Dieguito Lagoon

It will still be almost 20 months until the day high tides fill San Dieguito Lagoon and restored native plants and animals begin to flourish. But efforts to get there are well under way. Contractors have already dug 400,000 cubic yards of land for use in contouring areas to shape a 440-acre expanse between Del Mar and Solana Beach, in the Southern California region. Clogged by sediment from the San Dieguito River and often cut off from the Pacific tides over the years, the lagoon had degenerated in areas to a fetid place. Southern California Edison is spending $86 million to re-create a lagoon where sea life can spawn, to compensate for loss of fish eggs and larvae at its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, where two nuclear reactors each use about 1 billion gallons of seawater a day as a coolant. According to City Council member Jerry Finnell, beyond supporting the ecosystem and aquatic life, a lagoon will make the area "much more attractive" for visitors and homeowners.

(Graham, David E., "Restoration on track for San Dieguito Lagoon," Union-Tribune, 18 April 2007.)

Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA

Update: California Energy Commission refutes PacifiCorp study over Klamath dams removal

The California Energy Commission (CEC) claims dam removal on the Klamath River basin is an even better economic option to protect fisheries than first thought, therefore refuting PacifiCorp’s most recent consultant-backed argument. PacifiCorp, the owner of the 169MW Klamath hydro scheme said recently that CEC’s economic analysis for dam removal was