No. 88, February 13, 2008

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









Yellow River restoration aims to curb desertification

A long-term restoration project involving millions of dollars of investment has been launched at a key source of the Yellow River, China’s second longest waterway, in the northwestern Gansu Province to curb environmental degradation in the area. The water supplement in Gannan accounted for about half the river’s total runoff at the source region. However, growing population and excessive grazing had led to the desertification of large areas of pasturing farms in the past 30 years and a 25 percent reduction of water to the Yellow River. The 4.45 billion yuan (US$609 million) project, involved both the banning of grazing and construction of fixed houses for herdsmen that would be relocated, according to the Development and Reform Commission of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Gannan has a 433-kilometer stretch of the Yellow River. A 220 km sand dune that covers 53,000 hectares has already emerged along the banks of the river’s Gannan stretch, the commission said. It added that experts warn the area would become a new source of spring sandstorm if it is not treated as soon as possible. The 5,464 km Yellow River originates in Qinghai Province and runs west to east through nine provinces before entering the Bohai Sea, and feeds water to about 12 percent of the country’s population.

(Xinhua, “Restoration at Yellow River source aims to curb desertification,” Ministry of Water Resources, P.R. China, 02 January 2008.)


After seven decades, ocean water flows into San Dieguito Lagoon

Ocean water flowed into the San Dieguito Lagoon for the first time in seven decades on January 23, as part of a lagoon restoration project. Excavating the temporary earthen dam took several minutes before the barrier was open and seawater flowed in from the west. Project Manager Samir Tanious says connecting the San Dieguito River to the ocean is a major step in recreating a coastal lagoon that attracts wildlife. It will be a good nursery for all the types of fish, and also provide bird habitat. The San Dieguito Lagoon restoration project is the largest project of its kind in California. Southern California Edison is paying for the $86 million project to compensate for fish killed at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Edison is restoring 160 acres of the 450-acre site. The lagoon project is expected to be completed in 2009.

(Joyce, Ed, “After 7 Decades, Ocean Water Flows into San Dieguito Lagoon,” KPBS News
23 January 2008.)

Update: Former foes unite to solve Klamath crisis

After over two years of negotiation among 26 diverse stakeholder groups, the Klamath Settlement Group has produced a draft agreement to settle many of the key issues that have for years divided the Klamath Basin’s diverse communities. If adopted, the agreement would represent the largest river restoration effort in US history. The Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe and Klamath Water Users Association convened the meetings producing the agreement. According to Maria Tripp, Yurok Tribal Chair, “This is a historic moment for the Yurok people and all other Klamath Basin communities. For many generations, the Yurok people have witnessed a steady decline in the health of the river and the life that it sustains. Implementation of this agreement, coupled with removal of the four PacifiCorp dams from the Klamath River, turns the tide from degradation to restoration. These agreements will enable our children’s children to have the same cultural experiences and memories of the river and fish that our families enjoyed a hundred years ago.” Proponents of the agreement see it as a giant leap forward in the effort to restore the entirety of the Klamath basin.

(Bacher, Dan, “Former Foes Unite to solve Klamath Crisis: Tribes, Farmers, Conservationists, and Fishermen propose historic river restoration plan; Dam Removal Agreement with PacifiCorp final hurdle,” San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center,, 15 January 2008.)

Update: Long-dry Owens river gets, and gives, new life

One of the largest river-restoration projects in the country has sent a gentle current of water meandering through what just a year ago was largely a sandy, rocky bed best used as a horse trail and barely distinguishable from the surrounding high desert scrub. The river, 2 to 3 feet deep and 15 to 20 feet across, will not be mistaken for the mighty Mississippi. Yet the mere fact that water is present and flowing in the Lower Owens River enthralls residents nearly 100 years after Los Angeles diverted the river into an aqueduct and sent it 200 miles south to slake its growing thirst. Los Angeles agreed to restore the river as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Owens Valley Committee, a local group, and the Sierra Club over what it called the excessive pumping of groundwater in the valley in the 1970s and 1980s to increase drinking water supplies beyond what the city was taking from the river. Under the settlement, Los Angeles, working with Inyo County on the $24 million project, has also taken steps to restore the cottonwoods, willows and wetlands that flourished along the river decades ago and drew an array of wildlife. Near the river’s delta, the released water is recaptured, with most of it used to control dust on Owens Lake, which the diversion had dried up, and the rest sent back into the aqueduct and on to Los Angeles.

(Archibold, Randal C., “A Long-Dry California River Gets, and Gives, New Life,” Independence Journal
12 January 2008.)

Update: Nature Conservancy key to Truckee River restoration

The latest effort to return the Truckee River to its wild, meandering ways is expected to get under way this summer if county officials approve an agreement with the Nature Conservancy. The agency has restored the river and wildlife and built meanders in the river and wetlands to provide natural areas for flooding. The Nature Conservancy would oversee a $3.8 million project at the former Lockwood mobile home park, including a $2.1 million state grant to Washoe County for river work and a $1.7 million federal grant obtained by the conservancy. Work is expected to start in late summer. The Nature Conservancy would obtain a permit for building new meanders, riffles and pools in the river, create new wetlands in the old riverbed and re-vegetate most of the rest of the land. Plans are to move and raise the river into the former mobile home park to re-connect with the historic flood plain. A trailhead with parking, a launch portal for kayaks and rafts and several benches and picnic tables are planned.

(Voyles, Susan, “Nature Conservancy key to river restoration,” Reno Gazette-Journal,, 9 January 2008.)


**Kinzua dam, Birch Creek, OR**

Terrace-step pool structure replaces dam on Birch Creek

Miles of Birch Creek have been reopened for endangered fish, thanks to the recent removal of a decades-old irrigation dam at the north end of Pilot Rock. After years of preliminary footwork from landowners and government employees, workers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife demolished a 51⁄2-foot-high concrete structure in late October and since have worked to redesign the streambed and stabilize the banks. “It’s a long, slow process,” said Mike Montgomery, ODFW fish habitat technician. “By the time you’ve applied for all the permits and grant money, do the survey work and the design work, the actual implementation and construction part of it is the easy part.” In place of the dam, workers engineered a terrace-like step-pool structure, gradually sloped with the use of cross vanes - lines of angled boulders that help direct the flow of water toward the center of the stream. As a result, ODFW officials say they have opened up about 38 stream miles for migrating juvenile fish. The dam isn’t the only barrier targeted for removal on Birch Creek, identified as the highest-producing steelhead tributary for the Umatilla River. For more than 10 years, ODFW and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have been working toward removing other barriers.

(Espe, Flynn, “Dam goes down in Pilot Rock,” The East Oregonian,, 05 January 2008.)

RFK Jr. visits Ogden, extols virtues of waterfront restoration

“The best improvement you can make is to restore your waterfront,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said of the Ogden River, as the keynote speaker at the River Restoration Celebration Day luncheon in the American Can Building. The vice chairman of the Riverkeeper Alliance said that previous river restorations have greatly enhanced such major cities as Baltimore, Boston, New York and San Antonio. He said the Hudson River went from being so polluted in 1966 that fish caught from it were not edible, to the richest river in the North Atlantic today. The Riverkeeper group was also born out of that restoration effort. “It’s an investment in (environmental) infrastructure,” Kennedy said. “The river is the infrastructure of the community of Ogden.” Ogden is located where it is because of the waterway, though people in the past have simply used it as a waste converter. “Pollution makes a few people rich and everyone else poor.”

(Arave, Lynn, “RFK Jr. visits Ogden, extols waterfront restoration,” Deseret Morning News,, 8 December 2007.)

**Milltown Dam, Clark Fork River, MT**

Update: Milltown Dam Removal project will offer a new view for the public

The public will soon have a new way to view the Milltown Dam Removal project. The plan will give people a bird’s eye view of the progress. The Clark Fork Coalition and three Missoula-based Washington Corporation companies have teamed up to create the “eyes on Milltown” partnership. The group hopes to provide live video footage of the Milltown Dam removal with a web cam the public can view online. The camera will display the most recent 100 hours of footage of the Milltown Dam cleanup. It can be viewed on the Clark Fork Coalition website and any of the Washington Corporation company web sites. People can also download still pictures taken every five minutes. Eyes on Milltown hopes to have the camera up within the first few weeks of the new year. Halligan says this will be just in time to watch the upcoming dam removal and the river restoration that will follow.

Follow the progress of Clark Fork restoration at:

(WorldNow, “Milltown Dam Removal project will offer a new view for the public,”, 02 January 2008.)


**Gruendyke Dam, Musconetcong River, NJ**

Removal of obsolete dam on the Musconetcong River

The Musconetcong Watershed Association and Trout Unlimited have something extra to celebrate this week: After enduring a long series of hassles and disappointments, they will soon begin dismantling the re mains of an obsolete dam on the Musconetcong River. The New Jersey state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued the final necessary permit for the project, said officials with the MWA and TU. Gruendyke Dam will be only the second old dam removal project in recent state history (the other was the Pursel’s Mill Dam removal on Lopatcong Creek that took place in 2006). Conservation groups have their eyes on other unnecessary impoundments along the Musconetcong. Their goal is to return the scenic river to the free-flowing state it had before 18th- and 19th Century industrialists and farmers impeded its current for gristmills and other water-energy projects. Removing the structures that clog streams keeps the water cooler during the summer, making life easier on coldwater fish, particularly trout. It also benefits paddlers and cuts down on the growth of invasive species that blossom in the still, warm waters behind the dams.

(Aun, Fred J., “Blockage removed, so dam can be, too,” Star-Ledger, 23 December 2007.)

Update: Penobscot restoration reels in new funding

In October of 2003, a group of industrial, conservation and state and federal agencies - along with the Penobscot Indian Nation - announced a bold plan to restore the Penobscot River by buying dams, eliminating them or adding fish passages and reopening the watershed to migrating fish. The Penobscot River Restoration Project was heralded at the time as an effort that could serve as a model for future conservation plans across the country. In January, the project received another piece of good news, as one of the nation’s leading outdoor companies announced an ambitious campaign that will benefit the river and restoration efforts. The Orvis Co. has teamed up with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to raise another $150,000 to help remove dams on the river. by matching donor contributions, turning every dollar donated into three dollars in the restoration fund. “The Penobscot River is the second largest river in New England and the only remaining stronghold for the nation’s struggling runs of wild Atlantic salmon,” Penobscot River Restoration Trust executive director Laura Rose Day said in a statement. “Yet multiple dams still prevent the migration of Atlantic salmon and several other species of sea-run fish to key habitat. By selectively removing dams and improving access to nearly 1,000 miles of habitat, Orvis and its customers will help give Atlantic salmon their last, best chance to rebound.”

Learn more about Penobscot restoration and the matching grant at:

(Holyoke, John, “Penobscot restoration reels in new funding,” Bangor Daily News,, 19 January 2008.)


Gulf dead zone grows with ethanol demand

Scientists believe that an oxygen-depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is growing rapidly as a result of Americans’ increasing appetite for ethanol, a carbon-neutral biofuel derived from corn that can be used as a gasoline additive or as E85, a gasoline alternative in automotive engines. Dead zones form when vast swaths of ocean water are inundated with nitrogen-based fertilizers - such as those used to grow corn in states along the Mississippi River (which empties into the Gulf). Marine life cannot survive in dead zones, and Gulf fishermen are now forced further and further offshore to net marketable catches. Experts estimate that the Gulf dead zone now stretches across some 7,900 square miles. Just as groups were starting to make some headway convincing farmers in states along the Mississippi River to grow crops less dependent on nitrogen fertilizers, the price of corn doubled due to ethanol demand. Environmentalists are lobbying the federal government to step in and provide subsidies for farmers to use less nitrogen-based fertilizer, but decision-makers more concerned with boosting the economy than protecting marine ecosystems have ignored such requests. And with the Bush administration making a big push to increase ethanol production over the next decade, a full-blown fisheries crisis might be imminent.

(Scheer, Roddy, “Gulf Dead Zone Grows With Ethanol Demand,” MSNBC,, 2 January 2008.)


Update: Bush Administration not funding its share of Everglades Restoration

Seven years ago, the federal government announced plans to help the state of Florida restore the Everglades in what was to be the largest effort ever undertaken to restore an ecosystem in the United States. Since then, Florida has spent billions on restoration, while the federal portion of the project, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, has yet to get off the ground. This year, over President Bush’s veto, Congress passed its first water projects bill in seven years. That bill authorizes nearly $2 billion in federal funds for two projects in the Everglades - just a small portion of the total plan. Even so, it’s likely to be another year or two before the money is released. Seven years in, Florida has spent some $3 billion on Everglades restoration, 10 times the amount the feds have put in, according to Ken Ammon of the South Florida Water Management District. A report by the Government Accountability Office laid out in black and white what was already apparent to many - that six years after their scheduled start dates, none of the most important federal Everglades projects had begun. The Army Corps of Engineers is now looking at its list of 60 Everglades projects to see which it can get off the ground quickly.

(Allen, Greg, “Bureaucracy Floats Through the Everglades,”, 31 December 2007.)

** Dillsboro Dam, Tuckasegee River, NC**

Update: State approves Dillsboro Dam removal

Duke Energy has received clearance from the state to tear down the Dillsboro Dam but will be forced to dredge a backlog of sediment from behind the dam first. The mandate runs counter to Duke’s wishes. Duke has vigorously protested the suggestion that it should dredge the backlogged sediment. Instead, Duke wants to cut a notch in the dam and simply let the backlogged sediment escape downstream. To help flush out the sediment, Duke proposes opening the floodgates on its dams upstream to raise the river levels and carry the sediment away. That is a bad idea, however, according to the state water quality officers. “Too much sediment in the river clearly would impact water quality standards,” said John Dorney, a state water quality specialist. The state recently granted Duke a necessary water quality permit to tear down the dam, but on the condition Duke remove sediment first. Duke has tried to find a way to sell the sediment to offset the costs of dredging it. In fact, Duke has insisted it wouldn’t remove any sediment otherwise - and wouldn’t remove any more than it could sell. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has consistently sided with Duke.

(Johnson, Becky, “State gives dam removal a go; Duke to be forced to dredge sediment,”, 12 December 2007.)

Update: Grants worth $1.2 million propel Elizabeth River restoration

Funding to remove contaminated sediment from a river at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and help reduce toxics and nutrients in storm water runoff was presented to the Elizabeth River Project after the group was chosen in two separate grant competitions. EPA Regional Administrator Donald Welsh Thursday presented two grants totaling nearly $1.2 million to the Elizabeth River Project to improve water quality and create 10 miles of restored habitat along the southern branch of the Elizabeth River. The Elizabeth River Project is a community-based watershed group dedicated to restoring the Elizabeth River at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in southeastern Virginia. The Elizabeth River is one of the world’s largest natural harbors for military and commercial shipping and at the same time is an important tidal estuarine habitat for blue crabs, striped bass, and other species. Intensive restoration of river-bottom contaminates since 1997 has yielded some positive results according to the 2008 State of the Elizabeth River report.

Learn more at

(Environment News Service, “Grants worth $1.2 Million Propel Elizabeth River Restoration,”, 21 January 2008.)