No. 87, December 7, 2007

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










**Three Gorges Dam, Yangtze River, China**

Update: Three Gorges Dam will displace even more people

For years, China steamed ahead with construction of the world’s largest hydropower project, dismissing most warnings of perils ahead. But in October, the state media and local governments signaled rising concern, saying as many as several million more people will be moved from areas adjacent to the dam’s reservoir. While the true numbers remain unclear, the report follows unusually candid statements by officials that China faces a potential catastrophe if it fails to quickly stop riverbank erosion and other environmental problems caused by the dam. The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Chongqing Vice Mayor Yu Yuanmu as saying that the reservoir area “has a vulnerable ecological environment, and the natural conditions make large scale urbanization or serious overpopulation impossible here.” Promoted as a cure-all for Yangtze River flooding and an alternative to coal-fired power generation, the dam is already starting to exact a price beyond its US$23.6 billion construction cost. Anticipated problems include serious pollution from the submergence of hundreds of factories, mines, and waste dumps, and runoff from heavy industry upstream. Seasonal variations in the reservoir’s water level will create filthy swamp conditions, while the dam’s very presence blocks migration routes, leading to a crash in fish stocks.

For more information, visit: /zh-hans/node/2316.

(The Associated Press, “China’s giant Three Gorges Dam to require more people to move over environmental concerns,” The International Herald Tribune,, 11 October 2007.)


NOAA awards more than $800,000 to American Rivers

The US Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and American Rivers announced an $800,355 grant to renew their joint effort to restore streams and rivers in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Northwest, and California. American Rivers and the NOAA Restoration Center will kick off the first year of the new three-year partnership by committing to distribute funds to remove barriers to salmon, striped bass, American shad, and other species that migrate between fresh and salt water. For the past six years, the collaboration between NOAA and American Rivers has resulted in more than $2 million being invested in almost 100 projects that provide passage for migratory fish through dam or culvert removal, as well as through traditional and nontraditional fish passage methods. Partnership funds will focus on stream barrier removal projects that help restore riverine ecosystems, enhance public safety and community resilience, and have clear and identifiable benefits to diadromous fish populations in the four target regions.

Learn more at:

(Paddling Instructor, “NOAA Awards More Than $800,000 To American Rivers,”, 09 October 2007.)

Craig down, fish up?

Groups that have relentlessly but futilely fought US Senator Larry Craig’s stubborn protection of dams over the survival of salmon have been cautiously buoyed by the possibility that Craig might soon be gone from the senate. However, they are already celebrating Craig’s removal from key committees by colleagues, which has reduced his influence and power over legislation that affects salmon and dams. They are delighted with moves by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, both Democrats, to advance the cause of salmon during Craig’s fall from Senate grace. Reid has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure passage upriver for migrating salmon before relicensing three Hells Canyon dams, and Cantwell has asked the Senate Interior Committee to delete Senator Craig’s attempt in an appropriation bill to overturn a federal court’s protective order for salmon.

(Idaho Mountain Express, “Craig down, fish up?”, 3 October 2007.)


California Republicans insist on new dams

Republicans in the California Assembly has pledged to reject any water deal that doesn’t include new dams. The promise comes as legislators plan their first hearings in a special session called to improve the state’s water supply, seen as one of the state’s most pressing problems. Republican lawmakers want the state to help fund at least three proposed dams. They say it isn’t enough that dams could qualify for state money under a proposal by majority Senate Democrats. The debate comes as the Assembly plans its first water hearing and the Senate sets its first hearing of the special session. Both sides want to put a borrowing plan before voters in February.

(Associated Press, “Republicans pledge no dams, no water deal as negotiators huddle,”,
3 October 2007.)

**Alameda Creek dams, Alameda Creek, CA**

Update: Five Alameda Creek Steelhead and Salmon restoration projects move forward

Five Alameda Creek restoration projects are moving forward due to years of pressure by the Alameda Creek Alliance and other conservation groups. This progress comes at a time when four species of California Delta fish - delta smelt, longfin smelt, juvenile striped bass and threadfin shad - are in collapse because of increasing water exports by the state and federal governments. The Alliance hopes to bring steelhead and salmon back to the creek in good numbers by removing dams and doing other habitat improvements. “These projects will help improve migration of the federally threatened steelhead trout, salmon and other migratory fish into the Alameda Creek watershed,” said Jeff Miller, Director of the Alameda Creek Alliance. “These and other planned restoration projects will make up to 20 miles of Alameda Creek and its tributaries accessible to ocean-run fish for the first time in over half a century.” The group is pushing for the project to include instream flow releases from Calaveras Reservoir to help spawning, rearing and migration of steelhead in Alameda Creek below the dam, and the removal of the Alameda Diversion Dam from upper Alameda Creek.

For more information, visit or contact: Jeff Miller, Alameda Creek Alliance,, or call +1 510 499 9185.

(Bacher, Dan, “Five Alameda Creek Steelhead and Salmon Restoration Projects Move Forward,” San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center,, 05 October 2007.)

**Klamath River dams, Klamath River, CA/OR**

Update: Debate over Klamath dam removal

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to the governor expressing their opposition to removing dams owned by PacifiCorp on the Klamath River that have come up for their 50 year relicensing. In their letter to the governor, Siskiyou’s supervisors state, “While the underlying assumption is that dam removal will enhance our fishery resource, there are serious, and as yet unanswered questions as to what impact unleashing decades of unknown sediment currently lodged at the base of these dams will have on water quality... Moreover, removing carbon neutral, inexpensive hydro power without an equally environmentally acceptable and cheap replacement source of power is contrary to your leadership on global warming and energy initiatives.” However, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Klamath hydropower project, concluding that dam removal would improve water quality, reduce fish disease and increase fall chinook spawning by more than 20,000 fish in the project area alone, and that removing all four dams and replacing their generation would result in the lowest cost electricity to PacifiCorp’s customers.

For information on why hydropower is not carbon neutral, visit: /zh-hans/node/441.
To learn more about the Klamath Campaign, visit American Rivers’ Klamath web pages at:, or contact Craig Tucker, Klamath Campaign Coordinator, Karuk Tribe of California, at +1 530 627 3446 x3027,

(American Rivers, “It's official: Removing Klamath dams is cheapest, most effective option,”, 16 November 2007)
(Boerger, Paul, “Supervisors state case against dam removal on Klamath,”, 3 October 2007.)


**Marmot Dam, Sandy River, OR**

Update: Sandy River runs wild and free for the first time in a century

The Sandy River heaved with rediscovered force, as it rushed unimpeded through a channel blocked for years by the Marmot Dam. The rain-soaked morning of October 20 found the river in a free-flowing state for the first time in a century. Mounds of gravel blocked sections of the streambed, and eroded sandbanks protruded over the water in sharp relief, scant but telltale signs that something dramatic just occurred. The Marmot Dam generated enough electricity for about 12,000 homes. The dam’s removal was the largest of its kind in Oregon, and it symbolized a historic shift in the way society assesses its industrial resources. Crews had demolished the official Marmot Dam months earlier - a 47-foot concrete affair - leaving only a temporary earth-and-gravel berm upstream. The removal plan developed by Portland General Electric, the dam’s owner, called on heavy autumn rains to raise the river and make the final assault on the temporary dam. PGE’s decided 10 years ago not to re-license the hydroelectric project that includes the Marmot Dam because maintenance and fish-recovery costs had become too high.

For more project information and photos, visit:

(Hill, Gail Kinsey, “Rain helps Sandy River run wild, free,” The Oregonian,, 21 October 2007.)

**Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, OR**

Update: Clock ticks for Savage Rapids Dam

Construction crews have entered a key summer window of work that will determine whether Savage Rapids Dam gets removed from the Rogue River, and out of the way of migrating salmon, as early as next year. Over the next few months, the pace of construction of the new water intake to feed irrigation needs could allow for the long-awaited removal of the 86-year-old dam a year ahead of schedule, officials said. But any delays in construction could push the dam’s demolition back to late 2009 as planned. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” said project manager Bob Hamilton of the US Bureau of Reclamation, which is overseeing the project. “If they can do it, I’ll be the first to stand up and cheer.” Hamilton’s cheers could be drowned out by those from Bob Hunter, the WaterWatch of Oregon attorney who for two decades has championed the dam’s removal and the switch to electric pumps as providing the best future for the district and the river’s salmon runs. Federal studies over the years have estimated that the dam’s placement, style, antiquated fish ladders and water intake screens cumulatively represent the single greatest impediment to the Rogue’s wild salmon and steelhead runs.

(Freeman, Mark, “Clock ticks for Savage Rapids Dam,” Mail Tribune, 03 July 2007.)


**Proposed Crow River dam, Crow River, MN**

Update: Rock ladder dams allow fish passage in Minnesota

It might look like just a pile of rocks, but the planned new Crow River dam is a special project requiring a special skill. Park Construction of Hampton has worked on several natural rock ladder dams, including one near Owatonna and one on a tributary to the Red River of the North. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources prefers the design because it allows fish to migrate upstream easier than the existing solid wall dam. “The art is knowing how much material you need and how much silt you have to remove,” Exner said. “You don’t really know for sure until you draw the water level down.” Since then, area residents have taken the opportunity to clear trash from the riverbed. An increasing number of similar dams are in place across Minnesota, especially along the Red River and its tributaries. “They are all working great, and many of the rivers have much more flow than we have in Hutchinson,” said Rob Collett, the hydrologist at the Department of Natural Resources’ Hutchinson office.

(Davis, Terry, “New dam requires skillful rock placement,”, 3 October 2007.)

Low-head dams dangerous, unmarked by state

Unlike larger dams that are clearly visible, low-head dams are often covered by water and difficult to spot. The unique construction of low-head dams can create hazardous water currents that can trap and drown people. Pennsylvania and Illinois have focused efforts toward locating, marking and, in some cases, altering low-head dams to eliminate the turbulent currents they create. Despite the dams’ deadly reputation, Indiana doesn’t have an inventory of its low-head dams. And while most officials acknowledge low-head dams are the culprits behind near-drownings and deaths, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement Division says that no hard data are available to indicate how many times the dams have caused accidents. The DNR Division of Water estimates that Indiana has about 100 low-head dams. “Typically, these low-head dams, they don’t present the downstream hazard that other kinds of dams are, so they aren’t dams that we have put a lot of staff resources toward identifying,” Smith said.

(Manley, Becky, “Low-head dams dangerous, unmarked by state,” The Journal Gazette,, 21 October 2007.)


Pace of dam removals accelerating across Chesapeake Bay watershed

Dam removals are becoming commonplace as biologists seek to open historic spawning areas for migratory fish and help return streams to a more natural condition. State and federal agencies, national conservation groups and grassroots organizations now champion removing dams where possible over the historic emphasis on constructing fish passage. The Chesapeake Bay watershed alone has more than 2,500 dams, shutting most of the watershed to spawning runs of migratory species that once numbered in the millions. Giant elevators were previously built at some dams on the Susquehanna River to hoist fish over the obstructions. While those passages theoretically opened more than 2,100 miles of Bay tributaries to migratory fish, biologists have often been disappointed by their performance. On the Susquehanna River this year, 25,464 American shad were lifted over the Conowingo Dam-the first obstruction on the river. But only 192 made it past all four hydroelectric dams in the first 80 miles of the river to reach spawning habitat. Such problems highlight that even the best-designed passages can still pose significant hurdles for fish. Now we see a shift in strategy, and this was the first year in which Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia each removed multiple dams. In contrast dam removal is “basically 100 percent effective at fish passage.”

(Blankenship, Karl, “Pace of dam removals accelerating across watershed, The Bay Journal,, October 2007.)

New Jersey’s Woodbridge Creek restoration shines

When Ernie Oros’ family arrived in 1942, the salt hay in the marsh around Woodbridge Creek looked like endless fields of wheat ripe for harvest. Then in the 1950s, someone built a dike on the creek and began the process of filling it in. Years of neglect, illegal dumping and an invasive species of freshwater reeds called phragmites clogged the flow of water. “Whatever could be done to a river was done,” said Oros, an 84-year-old member of the Woodbridge River Watch and a former state assemblyman. “The headwaters were completely demolished by acid, and then it was filled in. “But now, thanks to local, state and federal agencies spending $7.2 million, 64 acres of salt marsh at Woodbridge Creek, Cove Creek and Wedgwood Brook have been restored to their original condition. “It’s been said marshes are lonely places,” said Carl Alderson, a coastal restoration specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, who helped lead the project. “But I’d say never so lonely as when they began to deteriorate over the last 50 years. Now that we’ve restored it to its historic health, I hope people will rediscover it.”

For more information, visit:

(Harrison, Rick, “Flowing with resurgence; Woodbridge Creek restoration shines,” Home News Tribune Online,, 17 October 2007.)

Access for fish on Pennsylvania’s Four Mile Creek

Efforts are underway to open more of Erie’s Four Mile Creek to both steelhead and anglers, although removing obstacles for fish may be easier than gaining access for people. The recent dismantling of two defunct utility dams went smoothly and funding approval is expected for construction of a fish ladder on a dam not far from the mouth, but once steelhead begin migrating further into the 8-mile tributary, anglers will have only two miles of public land on which to fish. The ladder - the first of its kind in the state - would mitigate the stream’s largest remaining impediment. The work on Four Mile brings to 80 the number of dams the Fish Commission has removed in recent years as part of a statewide habitat improvement initiative. Most dams no longer generated power or served any other useful function.

(Weisberg, Deborah, “Access for fish on Four Mile Creek,”, 21 October 2007.)


Dam removal in Virginia is becoming a growth industry

If recent events are any indicator, dam removal in Virginia is becoming a growth industry. On Aug. 9, the Quinn Dam on the Tye River was breached. Less than a week later, the Woolen Mills Dam on the Rivanna River in Charlottesville came crumbling down. The removals opened up almost 37 miles of river. The timing of the breaches was a coincidence, but it highlights efforts of groups large and small working for the removal of dams throughout the state. These groups all come from slightly different perspectives, but their cooperation is essential in bringing down these now-unused barriers to freshwater flow. Three hundred years ago, shad would travel up rivers such as the James, Rappahannock and Potomac, and then up tributaries such as the Tye and Rivanna, to spawn before heading back out into the ocean. Dams cut off the journey before they reached spawning grounds. The Chesapeake Bay Program’s “Chesapeake 2000” initiative identified 1,357 miles of blocked river habitat in its watershed that it hoped to have open by 2010. Virginia’s portion of the goal was 415. Weaver said they already have opened 789 miles, with 45 more miles in the immediate planning stages.

(Thompson, Andy, “Dam closings opening way for fisheries,” Richmond Times-Dispatch,, 26 September 2007.)

Project to restore St. Johns’ headwaters will serve as model for work in Everglades

For a decade, Malabar Road led to an empty parking lot, a field of grass and a boat ramp -- but no water. In October, federal officials broke ground on a $10.2 million, two-year project to create a lake the size of Lake Washington in this hinterland. The Three Forks Marsh Conservation area is the capstone to one of the largest environmental restorations in the world -- the $250 million St. Johns River’s Upper Basin project. The aim is to restore the headwaters of the St. Johns River as close as possible to the way they were before farmers began draining them in the early 1900s. The Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible for draining the area decades ago for crops to feed World War II troops, is paying to restore the waters. Officials promise that the nearly 22-square-mile marsh restoration will help to absorb hurricane flooding in Palm Bay, to store and cleanse drinking water supplies for several cities to the north, and keep farm fertilizers and excess fresh water from nearby Indian River Lagoon.

(Waymer, Jim, “Marsh making a comeback; Project to restore St. Johns’ headwaters will serve as model for work in Everglades,” Florida Today,, 16 October 2007.)