No. 95, March 30, 2009

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

Table of Contents









Dam use in the US has passed its prime

Civil engineer Andrew Straz has spent his entire career working on dams. Most of the work over that three-decade span has been dismantling them. Environmental concerns have shifted over time, Straz explained, and fish passage issues, in particular, have recently taken precedence over either the hydroelectric power generated or the recreational uses created by the 78,000 dams that sever many of America’s rivers. Consequently, many more dams are being demolished than built in the US. Dams block fish from completing their natural migration patterns and, as societal priorities have changed, dam removal has become a primary business for engineers like Straz. "Most of the activity is taking dams out," said Straz, who is based in Maine. That’s been the case since the mid-1980s, when new dam construction fell off sharply both for environmental reasons and the simple fact that many of the prime locations for dams had already been exploited. And it’s a complete reversal from the 1960s, when nearly 19,000 dams were built in the US, more than any other decade, according to data from the US Army Corps of Engineers.

(Prial, Dunstan, "Dam Use in the US Has Passed Its Prime; More dams are being demolished than built in the U.S. these days," Entrepreneur,, 02 February 2009.)

Changing the way people measure the value of rivers

Environmental economist Lynne Lewis is changing the way people measure the value of rivers. "Hundreds of small dams around the country will come up for relicensing over the next decade," she says."It is a contentious topic, and people who are considering dam removal want some numbers." The numbers that Lewis produced show that when a small hydroelectric dam is removed the value of nearby homes goes up. It's a landmark study because it's the first such hedonic analysis, one that tries to estimate what people are willing to pay for "various attributes of housing choice, including environmental quality," says Lewis. In this case, the question is what people will pay to be near a free-flowing river. Lewis' findings appeared in the April 2008 issue of Contemporary Economic Policy. While most people agreed on other improvements since removal of a dam on the Kennebec River – the return of striped bass and Atlantic salmon and a spike in recreational use – only in the last decade has there been any movement to understand the economic consequences of dam removal.

(Lewis, Lynne Y; Bohlen, Curtis; Wilson, Sarah, "Dams, Dam Removal, and River Restoration: A Hedonic Property Value Analysis,: Contemporary Exonomic Policy, 01 April 2008)
(Wright, Virginia, "What's the Dam Point?" Bates magazine online,, Fall 2008.)


Kayaking the Los Angeles River

For nearly 40 years, the Los Angeles River – the reason the Spanish chose the site that became LA – has been almost completely paved over and mercilessly straightened into an artificial canyon. A fence runs along both sides of the riverbanks, and a wall separates the river from twelve lanes of highway and the four million people that make LA proper the country’s second largest city. Many LA residents can’t even identify it. What’s more surprising is that the herons, the fish on which they feed, and various other parts of this functioning ecosystem, exist here at all. When the US Army Corps of Engineers announced in the spring of 2007 that the river wasn’t a navigable waterway and therefore not eligible for full Clean Water Act protections, a trip planned by intrepid kayakers for sheer adventure suddenly became a cause. They hoped to create a grassroots uproar that would force the EPA to supersede the Corps and secure those protections. Not only was clean water at stake but so was the recently adopted $2 billion river-revitalization plan – the efforts of a city notorious for ignoring nature to reconnect with its natural history.

(Reimers, Frederick, "Kayaking the Los Angeles River; Who knew you could paddle from the Burbank Airport to the Long Beach port? But you can," Plenty Magazine,, 22 December 2008.)

Update: Klamath dams take a step closer to removal

After years of negotiations with tribes and conservation groups, dam owner PacifiCorp signed on to an Agreement in Principle, which includes provisions on removal of four mainstem dams in 2020. According to Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers, "This will be the world’s biggest dam removal project. But ultimately, this isn’t about tearing down dams. It is about restoring one of the most important rivers on the west coast, boosting local economies, and revitalizing fishing, tribal and farming communities." Critics argue that, rather than providing a road map for dam removal, the tentative agreement is the dysfunctional product of a Bush-led Department of Interior - an agency that has failed the Klamath time and again over the last eight years. There is no doubt that dam removal is necessary to restore the Klamath River's salmon runs, and the cultures and wildlife that depend on a healthy river. While the delay until 2020 is troubling, even worse is the provision that allows PacifiCorp to bypass Clean Water Act certification, a process viewed as an insurmountable hurdle on the road to dam relicensing. There is concern that the agreement is not a final dam removal deal; but rather a commitment to talk about a deal. There is still no guarantee PacifiCorp will be required to remove the Klamath River dams.

Please visit for related documents and information.

(Bacher, Dan, “New Reports Show Dam Removal Will Benefit Klamath River Salmon, Water Quality,” San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center,, 28 January 2009.)
(Kame'enui Ani, “Agreement to take down Klamath dams? Not likely,” SFGate,, 31 December 2008.)
(Kober, Amy, "Klamath dams to be removed under new deal; PacifiCorp, US, California and Oregon sign agreement - American Rivers response,", 13 November 2008.)
(Reece, Neva, “‘Upstream Battle’: the movie,” Indian Country Today,, 30 January 2009.)

Update: Federal legislation will help restore San Joaquin River

After the US Senate postponed action on a big public lands bill last November, legislation to restore the San Joaquin River was passed in January. The ambitious San Joaquin River plan is one of about 150 bills folded into an omnibus public lands package that's designed to attract widespread political support. The Senate voted to set aside 2 million acres as protected wilderness. Acreage in nine states will become wilderness, including 730,000 acres in California. Part of that set-aside will be used to implement a legal settlement to restore the San Joaquin River. The idea is to bring water back into the river that in stretches is dry and, in the process, to bring back salmon runs. Those plentiful runs were a yearly occurrence before the opening of Friant Dam in 1949, which changed the San Joaquin River from the Valley's main liquid artery into little more that an irrigation ditch. At certain times during the year, 63 miles of the once-teeming river dry into a sandy gravel bed, home mainly to lizards and jackrabbits rather than fish. The idea is to restore river flow and salmon runs by 2013.

(Doyle, Michael, "San Joaquin River restoration bill postponed until 2009," McClatchy Newspapers,, 17 November 2008.)
(, “Healing the waters; Federal legislation will help restore San Joaquin River, end lawsuit,”, 22 January 2009.)

**Wildcat Diversion Dam, Battle Creek, CA**

Update: Battle Creek salmon finally get a break

Despite a budget crisis that has left many California state-funded conservation projects high and dry, Battle Creek's chinook salmon and steelhead may finally get a break. After 10 years of hard work by the Greater Battle Creek Watershed Working Group, the Five Dam Removal Project is going forward, opening 48 miles of habitat to the endangered fish. "We're lucky that everything is in place," says Sharon Paquin-Gilmore, coordinator of the Battle Creek Watershed Conservancy. Most watershed conservation projects hit a wall this month, but the Battle Creek project had jumped through all the necessary bureaucratic hurdles before the bond freeze. Throughout the process, Paquin-Gilmore says, her group remained open to "views and beliefs on all sides of the spectrum. We weren't fisheries biologists or agency people," but the government "saw how serious we were." The project's first phase, which will include installing fish screens and ladders and removing Wildcat Diversion Dam, could begin as early as this summer.

For more information, visit the Battle Creek Watershed Conservancy at

(Underwood, Emily, “Battle Creek salmon finally get a break,” SFGate,, 1 February 2009.)


**Bonneville Dam, Columbia River, WA**

Ruling could allow removal of sea lions to resume at Bonneville Dam

A federal judge has denied a request by the Humane Society for a stay of his order allowing three Western states to resume capturing or killing sea lions that feed on salmon at the Bonneville Dam. US District Judge Michael Mosman ruled against the Humane Society last fall and did so again in January. The states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho want to remove or kill 425 sea lions over a five-year span to relieve pressure on the spring chinook salmon run. Humane Society spokeswoman Sharon Young says Mosman's ruling was disappointing, but not unexpected. An appeal will be filed. The Humane Society contends that the number of salmon taken by sea lions is insignificant compared to the amount killed by dams or taken by fishermen or birds.

(Associated Press, “Ruling could allow removal of sea lions to resume,”, 30 January 2009.)

Lawsuits help clean up Puget Sound

In a burst of litigation over the past 2 1/2 years, the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance has done battle with about 60 food processors, factories, recyclers, timber yards, local governments and others. Most are violating requirements to control runoff from Western Washington's relentless rains that carry heavy metals and other contaminants into Puget Sound and its tributaries. Defendants say the suits get in the way of stopping pollution efficiently and quickly, and that the companies targeted aren't big contributors to the overall pollution problem. The state Department of Ecology, however, welcomes Soundkeeper's legal onslaught simply because Ecology inspectors can't possibly keep up with the myriad polluters the agency is supposed to watch. This wave of lawsuits makes Soundkeeper one of the most prolific litigators in the nation, using the citizens-enforcement powers of the Clean Water Act. "It's Ecology's job, but when they're not enforcing the Clean Water Act, that's the absolute brilliance of the law – it allows citizens to step in," said Sue Joerger, executive director of the group. "We come along and it's, 'Oh, my God, this is serious.'"

Visit the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance at

(Robert McClure, "Group uses lawsuits to help clean up Sound; Citizens take aggressive stand against pollution," Seattle Post-Intelligencer,, 4 January 2009.)


Native fish restoration program on lower Colorado River

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has set a public hearing to ease fears that a native fish restoration program will force an end to sport fishing on the Colorado River north of Yuma. Small pockets of the river may be closed to allow for reintroduction of the bonytail chub, the razorback sucker and the flannelmouth sucker, but the river for the most part will remain open to fishing, according to officials. The native fish species, now considered endangered, are preyed upon by sport fish such as trout and bass. As part of the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program, 360 acres of backwater are set aside for preservation of these three species – 180 acres on the California side of the river and 180 acres on the Arizona side. Bureau of Reclamation fishery group manager Tom Burke says there has been a substantial change in habitat conditions. "Development downstream from Hoover Dam has destroyed a lot of habitat," he said in a recent phone interview. "Our job is to maintain habitat, and this conservation plan allows us to take a broad look into what is happening and apply actions."

For a complete copy of the management plan, go to

(Weber, Dennis, "Game and Fish to host hearing on its native fish restoration program," Yuma Sun,, 25 December 2008.)

Colorado River Restoration Initiative in Texas

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation announced a $250,000 donation from Wal-Mart Foundation to provide catalytic funding for a new watershed restoration initiative. Through this Water for Texas initiative, Wal-Mart hopes to help offset its own water footprint in Texas, help restore native habitats resulting in healthier, more abundant wildlife and fish populations and help provide more and better water for the citizens of Texas. "By itself, this grant from Wal-Mart Foundation is significant," said Will Beecherl, Chairman of the TPW Foundation's Board of Directors. "It will enable the leveraging of other contributions, recruit many partners and multiply the conservation impact to reach heretofore-unattainable goals. With the help of other stakeholders, this will easily be a million-dollar plus project every year." It is hoped this program will be on going and will eventually help restore several key watersheds, but it will begin in 2009 on the Colorado.

(Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation, Press Release, "Wal-Mart Contribution to Launch Colorado River Restoration Initiative,", 18 November 2008.)


**Lyons Dam, Grand River, MI**

Lyons Dam on Michigan's Grand River might soon be history

The Village of Lyons has been tiding the ebb and flow of the Grand River for 150 years, but its dam may not be around too much longer. An Inlands Fishery Grant approved in January has provided $68,750 toward the planning stages of removing the dam. “It's been a long time coming; it's been a long process,” said Ionia Conservation District Executive Director Melissa Eldridge, noting that the process to remove the dam started five years ago. “We'd been looking for ways to try and fund this project and take the dam out, and finally everything seems to have fallen in place.” The dam - purchased by the Village of Lyons more than 50 years ago for $1 from Consumer's Energy has developed a large crack and recently received an unfavorable dam safety report from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. An unsafe dam forces the decision between repair and removal, but lately the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has pushed for dam removal because it's a more cost effective, environmentally friendly method. Eldridge said removing dams like the one in Lyons contributes to improved fishery and less erosion while also transforming the ecosystem back to its natural state.

(Konkel, Frank, “Lyons dam might soon be history,” Sentinel-Standard,, 02 February 2009.)

Salmon, trout prove Rouge River no longer on brink of death

Mention the Rouge River to some people in these parts and their thoughts are likely to conjure up images of industrial pollution, smelly logjams or, perhaps, even an open sewer. After a generation of restoration efforts, the Rouge River is steadily coming back to life.  This river (like all of nature) is resilient and full of surprises. Author Kurt Kuban witnessed three salmon trying to spawn and one dead female without a clipped fin, meaning it was a naturally reproduced fish and not the product of a fish hatchery. The Rouge watershed, one of Oregon's most urban watersheds, is also home to trout. Many people had written the Rouge off as a dead river a long time ago, an army of volunteers, spearheaded by Friends of the Rouge, were not ready to write its obituary. Thanks to US District Court Judge John Feikens, who has forced local governments to uphold the Clean Water Act, these volunteers have been buoyed by a commitment from local, county and state government to change the Rouge's fortunes.

(Kuban, Kurt, "Salmon, trout prove Rouge no longer on brink of death,", 30 November 2008.)

Groups urge Congress to invest in Great Lakes

Groups including the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes Commission say federal investment in environmental cleanup and infrastructure could put hundreds of thousands of people back to work. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter is one of two dozen representatives also supporting the idea. Cameron Davis is President of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. He says 200-thousand people could be put to work just fixing up leaky urban water mains and other projects to stop wasting water. Davis says Congress should put 10 billion dollars into the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which states and cities use to fund water main replacement and other conservation efforts. He says most Great Lakes cities have water systems that are over a hundred years old and are badly in need of replacement. Congresswoman Slaughter supports the 10 billion dollar investment in the Clean Water fund. She would also put 194-million dollars into the Great Lakes Legacy Act to help get rid of toxic sediments remaining in the lake and river bottoms. And she'd put 140-million into the Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act to fund restoration of wildlife habitats.

(Lowell, Bud, "Groups Urge Congress to Invest in Great Lakes," WXXI Newsroom,, 29 December 2008.)


Maryland’s South River Greenway targets restoration of forested watersheds

If the long-term goals for the South River Greenway come to fruition, the largest remaining contiguous forest in Anne Arundel could be protected in perpetuity and enjoyed by residents for years to come. The movement to preserve a patchwork of connected properties in the South River watershed, to improve river conditions downstream and to create a regional park in the center of the county, has been quietly building over a couple of years. "Ultimately we want to preserve land around all of the South River's headwaters," said south River Federation President Kincey Potter. "While most of the land already protected is around Bacon Ridge Branch, we are really trying to get a beach head in the North River basin." The upper watershed of the river covers some 16,000 acres. Areas of the targeted Greenway include 2,400 acres of interior forest, beaver ponds, 15 types of wetlands, and many steep slopes. Part of it has been designated an "Important Bird Area" by the Audubon Society after identification of 18 species of forest interior dwelling birds, including several at risk species.

(Furgurson III, E.B., “Forest acreage may be preserved,”, 26 January 2009.)

Three corporations face claims for Buffalo River contaminants

State and federal environmental agencies are pursuing a claim for damages against three corporations believed responsible for contaminants in the Buffalo River.  The state Department of Environmental Conservation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Tuscarora Nation have issued a "Notice of Intent" to Exxon Mobil, Honeywell and PV's Chemicals, companies that owned or, in the case of PV's Chemicals, still operate industrial facilities along the Buffalo River. The notice said the agencies had found significant harm to fish, wildlife, sediment and water quality from the discharge of toxic chemicals or oil into the waterway, and they intend to assess the scope of the environmental damage with an eye toward restoration. "[This] action is an important step in holding polluters accountable for the damage to the Buffalo River's ecosystem," DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in a statement. "With this action, we are serving notice that the public is due compensation for the losses resulting from the historical contamination of this river."

(The Buffalo News, “Three corporations face claims for Buffalo River contaminants,”, 19 January 2009.)

Forest Service honors Vermont groups for their river restoration work

The Batten Kill Watershed Alliance and the White River Partnership, along with the Green Mountain National Forest, were awarded the US Forest Service's Eastern Region Honor for their work to protect Vermont rivers. Cynthia Browning, executive director of the Alliance said, "We would not be able to do the work we do without the assistance and expertise of the Green Mountain National Forest. But they need us too. They need a grass-roots group that has ties to the local property owners and government." The White River Partnership has worked on 25 river restoration projects in the last 12 years with the Green Mountain National Forest, restoring almost 14 miles of the river. The Batten Kill Watershed Alliance has also spearheaded river restoration projects, completing about a mile over the last three miles with an eye toward restoring a full mile in 2009 to make a four-year total of two miles.

Visit the Batten Kill Alliance at and the White River Partnership at

(McCardle, Patrick, "Forest Service honors Vermont groups for their river work," Times Argus,, 01 December 2008.)

Update: Liberating the Penobscot River

Undoing the damage done by human beings to nature is not a novel idea any longer, not in the face of climate change. The Penobscot River and its tributaries form the largest river system of Maine. This area has been inhabited by the Penobscot Indians for the past 10,000 years. These tribes treated the river, its inhabitants and everything that depended on the river with respect and restraint. In the past couple of centuries, the new Americans dammed, polluted and poisoned the river and its tributaries, and over-harvested its aquatic wealth. Now, in a bold people’s initiative, Maine’s inhabitants, old and new, have agreed to restore a considerable part of the river’s health. Significant progress has been made to clean the river by enforcing pollution control measures in the paper mills on its banks and installing municipal wastewater treatment plants with the active involvement of the State and federal environmental agencies, backed by independent research by the native tribes and environmental non-governmental organizations.

(Kothari, Ashish, "Liberating a river; A project is under way in Maine, U.S., to revive the salmon run on the Penobscot river by decommissioning two dams built across it," Kalpavriksh – Environmental Action Group, Pune,, January 2009.)


Nature Conservancy protects 5,000-acre jewel in Altamonte Springs

The Nature Conservancy and Hatchineha Ranch LLC have protected 5,134-acres in Central Florida – a natural landscape strategically situated within one of the highest concentrations of threatened and endangered plant and animal species in the US. The protected site connects to the state’s 8,250-acre Catfish Creek State Park and other protected lands in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The Polk County Board of Commissioners and the South Florida Water Management District unsuccessfully pursued its acquisition for years. The land most recently was proposed as a development with 4,900 single- and multi-family homes." Acquisition by the Conservancy not only preserves an outstanding natural landscape from development, it connects a complex of conservation lands critical for protection of the headwaters of the Kissimmee River and the Everglades basin," said Jeff Danter, The Nature Conservancy’s state director. "We are grateful to the owner for helping us to implement our primary strategy for the northern Everglades, which is to protect natural landscapes with high biological diversity and opportunities for hydrological restoration. This is one of the most significant acquisitions in the Florida chapter’s history."

(Tampa Bay Nature, "Nature Conservancy protects 5,000-acre jewel in Altamonte Springs,", 30 November 2008.)

Update: Ten-year goal fails to clean Chesapeake Bay: two-year goals to be set

To accelerate progress toward cleaning up the nation's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Executive Council agreed to set restoration milestones every two years. These milestones will focus on achieving the Chesapeake Bay Program's goals to reduce excess levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that degrade water quality and damage habitats. The decision to set short-term goals comes after the Executive Council confirmed that the Bay Program partnership would not meet its commitment to clean up the Bay by 2010. Outside, about 200 activists in black shirts chanted "Don't Delay! Save the Bay!" as they slowly marched in black caps with pictures of skeletal fish. The event was organized by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which joined with allies in filing a notice of intent to sue the EPA for its failure to enforce the federal Clean Water Act and clean up the Bay by 2010 as it promised in a 2000 agreement. The Chesapeake Bay watershed stretches across more than 64,000 square miles, encompassing parts of six states - Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, and the entire District of Columbia.

(Environment News Service, "Two-year Milestones Set to Speed Chesapeake Bay Restoration." ENS,, 24 November 2008.)

Update: Demonstrators protest TVA’s irresponsibility in recent sludge dam disasters

Demonstrators held "non-violent demonstrations against the Tennessee Valley Authority's irresponsibility (its recent disasters and the whole concept of 'clean coal') in Chattanooga, Nashville, Johnson City and Knoxville in January. Chattanooga activist Amanda Cagle went on to say, "In the past three weeks, TVA has dumped toxic waste into the Emory and Clinch Rivers, the Ocoee River, and Widows Creek. Explanations and cleanup have been minimal and pathetic. Over 470 mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining, of which TVA is the biggest customer. The public demands accountability and change. It's time for TVA to clean up their mess and their act. No more land and life destroyed in the name of cheap energy. No more dangerous sludge dams. No more energy from Mountaintop Removal coal. We demand support for clean, renewable energy – now."

(The Chattanoogan, “Demonstrators Protest TVA Irresponsibility", 19 January 2009.)

Update: Historic land acquisition to restore Everglades

Governor Charlie Crist joined the chairman of the South Florida Water Management District, state environmental and economic officials, and leading environmentalists to celebrate the SFWMD Governing Board’s approval of an historic land acquisition for Everglades restoration. The $1.34 billion land-only agreement with the United States Sugar Corporation represents one of the largest environmental land acquisitions in the nation’s history. The 180,000 acres in Everglades National Park are the "missing link" that the South Florida Water Management District needs to protect Florida’s coastal estuaries and better revive, restore and preserve one of America’s greatest natural treasures – the Everglades. The vast real estate – roughly the size of New York City – will be used to reestablish a part of the historic connection between Lake Okeechobee and the River of Grass through a managed system of storage and treatment.

(Foster Folly News, "Governor Crist Celebrates Everglades Land Acquisition Vote; Praises South Florida Water Management Board’s support for land-only deal that will allow state to restore River of Grass,", 21 December, 2008.