No. 85, August 7, 2007

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




Restoration of Welland River on the Niagara Peninsula

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority is pouring funds into the flow of the Welland River. With a $3 million check it received recently from Ontario Power Generation, the NPCA will continue to implement practices to restore the river. Over the next 5 to 10 years, the NPCA plans to use a majority of the funds to acquire land along the river, as well as continue restoration work along the watershed and proceed with community outreach programs. Restoration projects, which focus on the improvement of local water quality and habitat diversity such as wetland rehabilitation, are needed. When a generating station on the river first began to produce power in the early 1920s, engineers reversed the flow of the Welland River and built a new channel through the city of Niagara Falls and cross-country to feed the new plant and generators with water. Today, the river still flows erratically, depending on whether the channel is open for flow. “The environment wasn’t high on the priority list when the Beck plants were built,” said John Murphy, the OPG’s executive vice president. “Today, we had the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the environment.”

(Bell, Alison, “OPG donation will help with restoration of Welland River,” Niagara this Week,, 06 June 2007.)


Update: Tribes, fishermen talk Klamath dam removal

Tribes and fishermen of the Klamath River Basin converged in May in Omaha, Nebraska in an attempt to convince the corporate owners of several Klamath River dams that the structures must go to improve salmon stocks. The Karuk, Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribal members, fishermen and other environmental groups working together to raise awareness of the issue also held a rally in Sacramento. The groups hope to take their dam removal message straight to the investors of PacifiCorp’s parent company Berkshire Hathaway. At issue are several of PacifiCorp’s aging hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River that are widely blamed for deteriorating water quality. Dam removal advocates say economic analyses completed by state and federal energy agencies show dam removal is less expensive than the numerous mitigation measures required for relicensing. Nevertheless, a PacifiCorp spokesperson claimed the licensing process is moving along and the final environmental impact statement is expected from FERC soon.

(Rushton, Nathan, “Tribes, fishermen talk dam removal,” The Eureka Reporter, 16 May 2007.)

Update: Klamath River conditions ripe for another fish kill

As Klamath River temperatures rise and the region’s below average snow pack continues to recede, the Klamath River’s salmon are again in trouble. These conditions, coupled with increased observation of disease, mortality, and average run size predictions have prompted the Klamath Fish Health Assessment Team (KFHAT) to increase its fish kill readiness alert level to yellow. The 2002 fish kill was referred to as the largest in U. history, an estimated 68,000 Chinook died of diseases after entering the Klamath River to spawn. “These diseases are particularly lethal in combination with increased temperature and static flow conditions caused by the Klamath Dams. Citizens monitoring the river have already reported seeing dead fish,” according to Regina Chichizola, the Klamath Riverkeeper.

(Bacher, Dan, “Klamath River Conditions Ripe for Another Fish Kill,”, 20 June 2007.)

Update: Move to cut San Joaquin River funding dropped

An ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan cleared one potential hurdle, as conservative skeptics decided not to press an amendment cutting off funding. With an estimated federal price tag of $500 million, the San Joaquin River restoration plan is one of the biggest environmental proposals now facing Congress. The money would pay for channel improvements and other work necessary to prepare the depleted riverbed below Friant Dam. By 2009, additional water would flow from the dam. By 2014, salmon would be reintroduced. The plan would settle an 18-year-old lawsuit filed by environmentalists. Water districts on the San JoaquinValley’s west side favor the plan as a way to end litigation and uncertainty. Ecologists favor the plan as a way to bring the San Joaquin River back to life.

(Doyle, Michael, “Move to cut San Joaquin River funding dropped,”, 21 June 2007.)

Update: Restored Owens River showing signs of life

The Lower Owens River, a 62-mile-long stretch, was left essentially dry in 1913 after its flows of Sierra snowmelt were diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. After decades of political bickering, water was directed back into the riverbed in December 2006, launching the largest river restoration effort ever attempted in the West. Most water from the Upper Owens continues to pour into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, but some now heads into the Lower Owens and travels 62 miles to Owens Lake, which was left dry after the aqueduct opened in 1913. Groundwater has recharged and risen faster than anticipated and oxygen levels remain high, creating hundreds of channels and ponds that will soon become ideal habitat for waterfowl and fish. If all goes according to plan, within a decade, willows will cloak the banks, creating shady canopies over pools that would become prime bass and catfish real estate.

(Sahagun, Louis, “Restored river showing signs of life; Wildlife makes return to stretch left dry in 1913,”
San Mateo County Times,, 19 July 2007.)


EPA grant studies climate change effects on watersheds

Western Washington University (WWU) received a grant for almost $900,000 from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a model to determine the consequences of climate change on sea-level rise and river flow alteration in two of the most ecologically significant estuarine systems in Puget Sound, Padilla Bay and Skagit Bay. Researchers are developing a predictive landscape simulation model to guide the course of restoration and management efforts, given climate change, as they relate to salmon habitat in Puget Sound. “This advanced computer modeling tool will enable scientists to adjust estuary recovery goals as more erosion occurs over the next century,” said Miller. “This will allow them to focus more sharply on effects in estuary areas most vulnerable to climate change.”

For more information on this project, Sustainable Coastal Habitat Restoration in the Pacific Northwest: Modeling and Managing the Effects, Feedbacks, and Risks Associated with Climate Change:

(Web Wire, “EPA awards WWU nearly $900,000 to study climate change effects on Pacific Northwest Estuaries,”, 06 June 2007.)

Update: Largest dam removal in Oregon history

Planning for the largest dam removal in Oregon history is underway and it’s good news for fish and consumers’ electric bills. Portland General Electric will soon demolish two dams near Sandy. When PGE demolishes 80-year-old Marmot Dam this summer, it will be the largest dam removal in state history and the first for PGE. It’s less expensive to demolish the dam than it is to re-license it. “When you estimate bringing up all the fish issues, the maintenance for a project this age, it was considered to be a less expensive option to decommission it and get the benefits to the environment,” said John Esler with PGE. During demolition, fish and wildlife workers plan to protect fish by trapping them, then trucking them a few hundred yards around the worksite. “It’s really exciting -- this stream has been cut off almost a century. Once it’s reconnected, salmon and steelhead will discover this stream, and there’s nearly ten miles of high quality habitat,” said Josh Kling with Western Rivers Conservancy.

(KGW-TV Staff, “Two dams in Oregon set for demolition; environmentalists excited,”, 23 May 2007.)


Cargill contributes $80,000 for Missouri River restoration work

Meatpacker and ethanol producer Cargill has given 80-thousand dollars to restore wetlands along the Missouri River. The donation is one of four grants planned under the company’s agreement with the U-S Environmental Protection Agency to resolve alleged environmental violations in Nebraska and Iowa. Restoring wetlands along the Missouri River will help habitat for fish and wildlife, improve water quality and reduce soil erosion, among other things. The Nature Conservancy will handle the donation. It has committed one million dollars to restore wetlands on private lands located along the Missouri River in Nebraska.

(KGAN TV, “Cargill contributes $80,000 for Missouri River restoration work,”, 01 June 2007.)


Dam removal best route to shad restoration

Over the past 22 years, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has stocked more than 15 million shad fry in the river at Northampton -- an average of more than 680,000 a year. Despite that, the number of adult shad making successful spring spawning runs up the river averages just 693 fish a year. That’s a bit short of the agency’s restoration goal, which calls for an annual run of 165,000-465,000 shad. There are many possible reasons for the lackluster shad returns, but the most obvious explanation is the presence of two large dams that virtually eliminate the shad’s ability to reach historic spawning areas. The dams in question are the Easton Dam and the Chain Dam. Smacking into the concrete bases of those dams is a heck of a reward for shad, which must swim 183 miles upstream from the Atlantic Ocean just to reach the Lehigh. Although fish ladders were installed on both dams in 1993, and modified in 2000, they have never worked the way fisheries biologists hoped. The commission acknowledged as much in its new Lehigh River Management Plan, which states: ‘‘The best way to ensure unrestricted passage of adult American shad and other riverine species is the removal the Easton and Chain dams.’’

(Berg, Christian, “Dam removal best route to shad restoration,” The Morning Call, 29 May 2007.)

Maine river restoration bill

There was a time when diadromous fish - those with life cycles in both salt and fresh water, including alewives, shad and Atlantic salmon - abounded in Maine. Those fish were important parts of the state’s early economy - until dams came along. Paper mills and hydroelectric power companies capitalized on the tremendous energy of water flowing through turbines rather than freely through its natural channel. Unfortunately, turbines, dams and fish did not mix, and many species were decimated as spawning runs became impassable. A bill before the Legislature aims to restore Maine’s diadromous fish populations by requiring that owners of dams in fresh and estuarine (salt-and-fresh) provide “safe and effective upstream and downstream passage” of diadromous fish. The bill also allows hefty fines and the ability of citizens to sue by alleging noncompliance. A recent federal mandate calls for fish passages to be added to five Sappi-owned hydropower dams on the Presumpscot River. Another proposal is looking at a passage on the Cumberland Mills Dam in Westbrook.

(Editorial, “River restoration bill would entail many costs; Fish-friendly dams are a laudable goal, but LD 1528 pushes too hard,” Blethen Maine Newspapers,, 21 May 2007.)

Update: Norwich dam removal

Half of the Canasawacta Dam is now a pile of rubble, and pretty soon, all of it will look that way. “It seems that some people think that it’s caused some flooding here in the last couple of floods that we’ve had in 2005, 2006. So, we’re going to remove the dam, and then we’re going to remove the gravel at about a two percent grade. So, it’s a nice equal downgrade for the water to keep going,” said Public Works Superintedent Carl Ivarson. Robert Wadsworth lives right across from the creek. His home and others in the area were severely damaged by the June flood. “We got water right up to the rafters in the basement. The freezer was floating, the furnace and hot water tank, thousands of dollars worth of damage,” Wadsworth said. They believe the dam held the water back and wanted it taken down immediately, but the city says it had to go through a process. Since the dam has been there since 1933, not everyone is glad to see it go. To make sure the dam and its history aren’t completely obliterated, officials say they’ll keep both ends of the dam as a monument for people here to look at.

(Lee, Karen, “Norwich dam removal gets underway,”, 12 June 2007.)

John Tippett of Friends of the Rappahannock receives conservation award

International Paper and The Conservation Fund recognized John Tippett, executive director of Friends of the Rappahannock, and Donald Sprangers, a secondary school educator at Washington Academy in Maine, for their outstanding efforts to protect natural resources through leadership in conservation and education at the International Paper Environmental Excellence Awards. John Tippett, the 2007 IP Conservation Partnership recipient, was recognized for his work to protect Virginia’s Rappahannock River. Mr. Tippett’s efforts include cooperative conservation programs and the education of stakeholders on key issues and the balance of environmental and economic benefits. His continuing initiatives on the Rappahannock include the removal of the Embrey Dam to restore more than 100 miles of spawning habitat for native fish species, mobilization of governmental agencies and real-estate developers for low-impact development, and the completion of two conservation easements on key river frontage.

(PR Newswire, “International Paper and The Conservation Fund Recognize Excellence at the 2007 Environmental Excellence Awards,” United Business Media,, 19 June 2007.)

Dam on Deleware’s Tohickon Creek could go

The state is considering removing a dam on Tohickon Creek, allowing it to again flow freely. The dam failed four or five years ago and hasn’t really been functioning since, said Rick Dalton, the manager of Delaware Canal State Park. State officials have long been considering the dam’s fate, spurred by interest from American Rivers, a conservation organization that hired a hydrology consultant to evaluate the proposal. The project would improve safety while helping water quality in the creek, Dalton said. Officials hope to complete the removal and restore the streambed by the end of the year. “The plan is to take the dam down,” Dalton said. “A free-flowing river is the goal.” Environmental groups push dam removal as a cheap and eco-friendly alternative to repairs. But it can be controversial, as residents often have a nostalgic connection to their dams.

(Yates, Riley, “Dam on Tohickon Creek could go,”, 26 June 2007)


Dam Break; Scale of disaster leaves North Carolina community reeling

A dam broke on an irrigation pond at Balsam Mountain Preserve in June, unleashing hundreds of tons of mud downstream. A sediment plume extended from the Balsam Mountains all the way to Fontana Lake 30 miles away for days following the disaster. The mud slurry killed all the fish and most other aquatic life in Sugar Loaf and Scotts creeks. Impacts to the Tuckasegee River - home to the endangered elktoe mussel - are still being assessed, but are considered serious. The earthen dam was built a year ago by Balsam Mountain Preserve, a 4,500-acre development in Jackson County, to create an irrigation pond for its golf course. The disaster came as a shock to many given Balsam Mountain Preserve’s status as an eco-development, a model even among hard-to-please environmentalists. No one was injured in the initial wave of mud and water, but damage was plentiful. The causes for the dam failure are still under investigation. In the meantime, state officials are questioning whether Balsam Mountain Preserve had obtained the proper permits.

(Johnson, Becky, “Dam Break; Scale of disaster leaves community reeling,” Smokey Mountain News, 20 June 2007.)

Update: Trouble Down South – The River of Grass has a long road to recovery

Recently the GAO (General Accountability Office) of the federal government released their findings as to the status of Everglades restoration and recovery. Their report speaks to the long road ahead for the River of Grass, and the legacy of over 100 years of poor policy decisions by those entrusted with protecting our natural resources. The battle over the Everglades has always been about water. When the water should flow, who it should flow to, and how clean it should be define the debate and the legacy of Everglades destruction and restoration. In some ways the progress towards protecting the Everglades has been significant and remarkable. In the early 1900’s Florida’s Governor’s race was defined by which candidate would pledge to do more to dredge and drain the Everglades. By 1947 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas had led a nation to establish Everglades National Park. In 2006 both major candidates for Governor in Florida ran as champions of Everglades restoration. Yet despite the flowery speeches given against the backdrop of sawgrass prairies or sloughs of cypress there is much to do to restore the Everglades. Generations of mistakes must be corrected. Policy makers and regulators who have always given the development and agricultural community the water whenever they wanted it, and allowed Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades to be the dumping grounds for polluted waters, must learn a new language and set new priorities.

(Murphy, Joe, “Trouble Down South – The River of Grass has a Long Road to Recovery” The Observer News,, 19 July 2007.)