No. 53, October 30, 2003
River Revival Bulletin
Produced by: River Revival, International Rivers Network (International Rivers)
1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94703 USA
Editors: Elizabeth Brink and Wil Dvoraktable of contents
US - NORTHWEST
- Cedar River chinook get big breakthrough after 100 years
- Update: Former Idaho governor addresses Snake River dams issue
- Update: Bush is urged to back salmon plan
- Update: Extinction risk drops for salmon, court told
- Bonneville Dam officials count a record number of fall-run chinook
US - SOUTHWEST
US - MIDWEST
- Book proposes removal of Upper Missouri River dams
- Dam removal a renaissance for fish
- Rivers at heart of land war in Michigan
- Time to blast Iowa’s useless dams?
US - NORTHEAST
- Freeing the Conococheague
- Health returning to Pennsylvania rivers
- The Penobscot River Restoration Project gets broad based praise
- Update: Winterport selectmen fail to take dam by condemnation
Salmon farms threaten Wild Atlantic Salmon stocks
Wild Atlantic salmon have been in steep decline for decades. The industrial revolution with it the dams and pollution had, by the mid-20th century, rendered rivers like the Thames and Rhine uninhabitable to salmon. Today the North Atlantic is dominated by the salmon one finds packed into sea cages in the lochs of western Scotland. There, about 50 million farmed Atlantic salmon swim round and round in pens as they are fed pellets to speed their growth, pigments to mimic the pink hue of wild salmon flesh, and pesticides to kill lice. Today in Scotland--as in many North Atlantic countries--farmed salmon outnumber wild salmon by 300 or 400 to one. Indeed, in Norway, whose long coastline harbors the world’s largest population of wild Atlantic salmon, a single fish farm produces as many salmon a year as the estimated 600,000 wild salmon that migrate up the country’s 650 salmon rivers to spawn. Now there is growing evidence that pen-raised Atlantic salmon are threatening their wild brethren. If so, aquaculture would be the latest in along line of insults that have whittled down the once great numbers of wild salmon, whose presence has lent magic to rivers on both sides of the North Atlantic.
(Montaigne, Fen, “Everybody loves Atlantic Salmon: here’s the catch ... as wild populations falter and salmon farms go global, this noble sport fish has turned into the chicken of the sea,” National Geographic, 1 July 2003.)
Army Corps caught in violation of Clean Water Act
More than a year after the Army Corps of Engineers was lambasted for dumping concrete and other debris in Hansen Dam reservoir, Corps officials have said that removing all the material would further damage the habitat. Corps officials are still finalizing an environmental review of the cleanup, but want to remove only the debris above the water line. Neighbors and the Los Angeles City Council have pushed the Corps to remove all the debris it dumped in the lakes. The final decision rests with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, who issued a notice in May to the corps for dumping materials in the lake without permission and in violation of the Clean Water Act. To fix the problem, water regulators allowed the corps to apply for a dumping permit - after the fact. The corps admitted dumping 1,300 cubic yards of reeds, soil and garbage dredged from Whittier Narrows and Sepulveda Basin in the small lake in April 2002. The following month, the corps said, it used the large lake as a repository for 2,200 cubic yards of soil and 1,650 cubic yards of concrete and rebar left from repairing the swim lake. The corps now admits the dumping was a mistake and has spent $125,000 studying the problem.
(Cavanaugh, Kerry, “Full cleanup could damage Hansen lakes,” The Daily News of Los Angeles, 2 October 2003,)
Reno creating kayaking parks on the Truckee
More than 3,500 tons of boulders have been added to Wingfield Park in downtown Reno and along the Truckee River, lining the island park and creating a series of four pools in the main channel. It’s the first half of the city’s new whitewater kayaking park - being built on time and within its $1.5-million budget, said Jim Litchfield, hydrologist for Kennedy/Jenks engineers hired to oversee construction. “I’m too close to it,” Litchfield said. “But I think it will become an icon for the city.” Completion is expected in early November. A more challenging course will be built in the river’s south channel. On the north channel, staircases of boulders rim Wingfield Park, giving people a place to sit and watch paddlers in the pools. Six or seven similar projects are planned to make the river safe for kayakers and rafters. Those projects, totaling $4.5 million, would involve removing two dams and concrete barriers.
(Voyles, Susan, ”Empty river refills; Work will continue on Wingfield Park white-water course,” Reno Gazette-Journal, 23 September 2003.)
**Landsburg Dam, Cedar River, WA**
Cedar River chinook get big breakthrough after 100 years
For the first time in more than a century, chinook salmon are getting access to prime spawning areas on the Cedar River. Since construction of Landsburg Dam, designed to divert municipal drinking water, chinook have been barred from 17 miles of the river and its tributaries southeast of Seattle. Twenty-five generations of chinook have migrated in and out of the stunted waterway since the dam went up in 1900, shutting them out of pristine upper stretches shaded by overhanging maples and towering firs, and frequented by great blue herons. Thanks to a $3.7 million fish ladder recently completed by Seattle Public Utilities, the native chinook will be able once again to spawn in their home waters. While chinook and struggling coho and steelhead are being granted passage, scientists are doing their best to close the door to the river’s abundant sockeye to avoid potential problems for the city’s largest source of drinking water. Thousands of sockeye spawning and dying could trigger algal blooms and attract birds and other scavengers, mucking up water quality. The number of chinook returning to spawn in the river has dwindled to about 240 a year, earning “threatened” status under the federal Endangered Species Act.
(Stiffler, Lisa, “Cedar River’s Chinook get big breakthrough after 100 years, unique fish ladder opens up prime spawning areas,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1 October 2003.)
**Snake River dams, Snake River, WA**
Update: Former Idaho governor addresses Snake River dams issue
The dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers may be the main obstacle to salmon recovery in the Northwest, admits former Idaho governor Cecil Andrus. But he said the time wasted fighting over dam breaching may be the final nail sealing the endangered species in the coffin of extinction. “If the dams were not there it would be the best for the salmon, but they’re there,” Andrus said in an address to about 300 people at Washington State University. “Should they (the dams) be removed, is that the answer? I think not. We have to be practical,” Andrus said, noting it would take an act of Congress to breach them. But if the two sides keep fighting, all the species threatened by the dams will soon be extinct, he said. Andrus noted the increased numbers of returning salmon this year, but said it was a false sign of recovery for a species that needs nothing less than the retrofit of dams and different water management policies to ensure its future. “We need a way to simulate a free-flowing stream,” he said.
(Mills, Joel, “Andrus talks environment; Former Idaho governor addresses concerns of salmon recovery, new director of EPA,” Lewiston Morning Tribune (Idaho), 26 September 2003.)
Update: Bush is urged to back salmon plan
About 120 members of the House - including 12 Republicans - sent a letter to President Bush asking him to consider a scientifically valid approach for saving salmon, including possibly tearing down four dams on the Snake River. The letter asks the president to support a plan “guided by the best available economics and science” to replace an approach deemed unworkable by a federal judge in May. The letter to Bush amplifies concerns voiced many that current practices have not produced results despite costing $3.3 billion. The lawmakers urged “that all scientifically credible options, including partial removal of the four dams on the lower Snake River, be considered.”
(Pope, Charles, “Bush is urged to back salmon plan; proposal could include removal of 4 snake river dams,” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 15 October 2003.)
Update: Extinction risk drops for salmon, court told
Federal fisheries officials filed their first quarterly status report on the Columbia River Basin with the judge who rejected the government’s salmon-recovery blueprint in May. Judge Redden said the government’s attempt to compensate for the harm caused by dams fell short of the standards required by the Endangered Species Act. He gave the government one year to reshape the plan. The status report said improved prospects for threatened fish “by no means” amount to recovery. Rather, the National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies characterized the gains of recent years as a temporary reprieve from catastrophic collapse of salmon numbers in the mid-1990s and an opportunity to build on. In a separate report filed with the court, federal biologists said many wild spawning groups are not reproducing quickly enough to achieve population growth. The report, a preliminary draft, said population growth rates remained negative for nearly all spawning groups of chinook and steelhead in the lower Columbia, upper Columbia and upper Willamette rivers.
(Rojas-Burke, Joe, “Extinction risk drops for salmon, court told,” The Oregonian, 2 October 2003.)
**Bonneville Dam, Columbia River, WA/OR**
Bonneville Dam officials claim a record number of fall-run Chinook
Federal officials watching the counts at Bonneville Dam said they are elated by record-setting numbers of returning salmon this year, including more than a half-million fall-run chinook. Single-day totals were highest in mid-September, when counters recorded three consecutive days when more than 40,000 fall chinook passed the crowded viewing window. Those were the highest daily counts in 65 years of record-keeping. A single-day record of 45,884 chinook was set Sept. 11. Officials with the Federal Caucus - the nine federal agencies responsible for salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin - said they are optimistic about the high numbers. ”We know that favorable ocean conditions have substantially boosted these adult returns,” said Witt Anderson, the chief of the Army Corps of Engineers fish management office. “But, we also believe that the money and effort the region has invested in salmon recovery have appreciably contributed to these numbers. ”We also know that while most of the fish are hatchery-reared, the wild fish also are making a good showing.”
(Statesman Journal, “Salmon return in big numbers; Bonneville Dam officials are witnessing a record number of fall-run Chinook,” 14 October 2003.)
**Glen Canyon Dam, Colorado River, AZ**
Lake Powell: Half empty or half full?
Much reduced from its historic high-water level, the question can be posed: Is Lake Powell half empty or half full? And the answer depends upon whom you ask. Those who live and work near the huge reservoir straddling the Utah/Arizona border worry that the outside world’s perception, at least, is that the half-empty desert “lake” is drying up, like many much-shallower reservoirs in the drought-stricken West. “Some people think we’re just a mud puddle,” says Bob Seney, vice president of operations for Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas. The low-water stigma and the stagnant economy are both to blame for business that’s down 15 percent to 20 percent for his company, he said. Some environmentalists, on the other hand, seem energized by Lake Powell’s declining depth. The Colorado River’s Glen Canyon and its tributaries have been mostly submerged beneath the lake’s waters for decades -- “full pool” was achieved in 1980 -- and the falling water level has revealed long-lost caverns and red-rock formations, most whitewashed by the rising-and-falling reservoir’s “bathtub ring.” The revelations are increasing public awareness of what treasures generally lie below the water, says Chris Peterson, director of the Glen Canyon Institute of Salt Lake City.
(Arave, Lynn, “Lake Powell: Half empty or half full?” Deseret News, 9 October 2003.)
**Missouri River dams, Missouri River, SD**
Book proposes removal of Upper Missouri River dams
In “Big Sky Rivers: The Yellowstone and Upper Missouri River,” author Robert Kelley Schneiders writes, “Establishing a sustainable economy across the Upper Missouri requires the reopening of ancient migratory routes through the removal of dams and reservoirs and the elimination or modification of other human constructs that block species migration, such as roads, towns, or cities in the Missouri Valley bottoms.” The author proposes removing the main-stem dams on the Missouri River to promote bison recovery, among other benefits. And he does so in a scholarly work published by a prestigious regional publisher, the University Press of Kansas. Do it gradually, Schneiders says. Some dams would go right away. Oahe and Fort Randall would have to remain for a while, until all cities and buildings could be removed from the flood plain, and then they could be punctured, too. These are ideas the people of the plains need to consider and digest. We need thinkers who broaden the continuum of possibilities.
(Isern, Tom, Professor of History North Dakota State University, “Plains folk standing head; Reshape region in favor of buffalo,” Aberdeen American News, 3 October 2003.)
**Chair Factory Dam, Milwaukee River, WI**
Dam removal a renaissance for fish
Nearly three years after removing the Chair Factory dam on the Milwaukee River, state environmental researchers have more proof that such a move improves water quality and boosts fish populations. The most recent evidence is a greater variety of fish than ever before found in the now shallow, fast-flowing water upstream the former dam site. Where carp once dominated a sluggish, murky artificial lake that had formed behind the dam, few of the nuisance aliens remain in this stretch of river. Their place has been taken by hundreds of smallmouth bass, and more than a dozen additional fish species, including the rare greater redhorse and others not tolerant of muddy water. The transformation of the fish population they found here is to be expected within several years of eliminating a dam and restoring a more natural streambed and flow, according to local fisheries biologists. The 8-foot-tall concrete wall was declared a safety hazard in June 2000, and it was demolished at a cost of $96,000 in December of that year.
(Behm, Don, “Dam removal a renaissance for fish; Milwaukee River stretch thriving, DNR finds,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 29 September 2003.)
Rivers at heart of land war in Michigan
A program to curb development along major rivers has sparked an emotional battle over state land use policies in a scenic corner of northwestern Michigan. Republicans in the House are upset that the Granholm administration has decided to enroll swaths of two of Michigan’s best-known recreational rivers -- the Manistee and Pine -- under the state’s Natural Rivers Act. Streams are given that designation to make them more appealing for public use, not always popular with local officials, who often want the benefits of development. So the GOP-controlled House Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Committee has approved two bills that would give local officials greater authority to reject any such designation by the state. On the other side are Granholm, the Department of Natural Resources and environmental organizations. They say the Natural Rivers program allows Michiganians to adopt consistent plans for protecting waterways that meander across township and county boundaries and are treasured by all state residents. DNR spokesman Brad Wurfel said the agency held 100 public meetings and took testimony from thousands of people before proceeding with the Natural Rivers designation for the Pine and Manistee this month. DNR officials had worked on the proposal since 1994 and say comments ran 3-1 in favor of it.
(Heinlein, Gary, “Rivers at heart of land war; Plan limits development; land owners want rights,” The Detroit News, 25 September 2003.)
Time to blast Iowa’s useless dams?
Like the Pacific salmon that battle to return upstream to their spawning areas, game fish in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers get the yen to return to Iowa’s placid streams where they first got their gills wet. And they face the same obstacles, on a smaller scale. It’s tough enough fighting the current without also fighting the dams. There’s talk of blasting some of the huge dams of the Northwest, and even the giant Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona. In Iowa, the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are in the early stages of researching the possibility of knocking out some of the 203 river and stream dams. Some may still serve a good purpose, but let’s get rid of those that don’t. It will take time and money. Some of the dams are owned by the state, but most are private or community-owned. State and federal money would pay some owners for losses, as well as paying removal costs. Another problem: Sediment inevitably backs up behind the dams, and some of it contains poisonous farm chemicals that would be released in quantity if the dam were broken. In Wisconsin, where removal of the dams on some rivers has been under way for years (100 dams are already gone), that has meant dredging out the sediment before the river is opened.
(Editorial, “Time to blast the dams?; It might improve the fishing,” Des Moines Register, 13 October 2003.)
**Siloam Dam and Wolf Lake Dam, Conococheague Creek, PA**
Freeing the Conococheague
A $20,000 state grant is a first, small step toward making the Conococheague Creek a free-flowing stream. The state hopes to breach the Siloam and Wolf Lake dams to return the stream to a more natural flow. The Borough of Chambersburg will use the initial grant for design and permitting of the Siloam Dam project. The cost of demolishing the center portion of 8-foot-high Siloam Dam will be estimated during the design process. A sign at the 65-year-old dam warns visitors to keep away. The pond had been an early water source for the borough which owns the 10 acres at the dam. It’s been more than 30 years since water was drawn from the pond for industry. The borough has the support of Wilson College to breach Siloam Dam, Oyer said, and in return, the borough is supporting the college’s hopes of breaching the dam at Wolf Lake. The college borders Wolf Lake and is downstream of Siloam Dam.
(Hook Jim, “Freeing the Conococheague,” Public Opinion, 29 September 2003.)
Health returning to Pennsylvania rivers
Efforts to restore shad to the Schuylkill River appear to be working. Fish and Boat Commission biologists say that juveniles stocked three and four years ago returned this past spring. Two dozen sampled showed evidence (in body tissue) of the chemical tracking solution they were immersed in as fry in 1999. American shad are the largest member of the herring family. They spend most of their life in the ocean and return to freshwater to spawn. Though they sustained George Washington’s troops at Valley Forge through the winter of 1776, shad were all but wiped out by dams and pollution by the late 19th century. To supplement stockings, the state and water companies are replacing old fish ladders and building new ones on the river and removing some dams. Some surprises surfaced during the final phase of the Fish and Boat Commission’s September Monongahela River survey. For the first time in 35 years, smallmouth buffalo, a threatened species, and silver redhorse and white perch were found at Braddock, while river carpsucker and paddlefish, both extirpated species, and silver chub, mooneye and skipjack herring, all endangered species, were found at Maxwell. While the Monongahela River is its healthiest in a century, threats of imminent mine drainage make the documentation of species all the more critical.
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Fishing from page d-22; Shad-owing the Schuylkill,” 12 October 2003.)
**Penobscot River dams, Penobscot River, ME**
The Penobscot River Restoration Project gets broad based praise
A unique partnership announced plans to revitalize the Penobscot River watershed with a project that would have a variety of spin-off effects. The Penobscot River Restoration Project calls for the purchase and removal of two dams, the installation of a state-of-the-art fish bypass on another, and improved fish passage at four more dams. The benefits: The restoration of sea-run fish. Improved water quality. Expansion of recreational activities including fishing, boating and wildlife viewing. New opportunities for tourism and business. Tribal members may be able to utilize fishing rights. Gaining a balanced and cooperative dam relicensing process. When the project was announced, I asked readers for their thoughts. As usual, it didn’t take long for the e-mail in-box to fill up. Every response I got told me what a great idea the Penobscot River Restoration Project is. A few excerpts follow. “The historic agreement on the future of the Penobscot River by so many diverse groups is truly phenomenal. “In the long run this agreement has the potential of being one of the most significant improvements to the environment in Maine history. “I hope this gives hope and encouragement to other river watersheds throughout the country.” “Last week’s news describing restoration of native fisheries on the Penobscot River is the happiest thing I’ve read in years.”
(Holyoke, John, “Our readers praise river restoration,” Bangor Daily News, 16 October 2003.)
(The New York Times, editorial, “Saving Salmon,” 14 October 2003.)
(Engineering News-Record, “Compromise Will Shut Three Dams, Allow Work on Others,” 13 October 2003.)
(Richardson, John, and Murphy, Beth “Reviving a river’s heritage; Penobscot Indians and fishermen welcome plans to revitalize the Penobscot as a link to the past,” Portland Press Herald, 12 October 2003.)
**West Winterport Dam, Marsh Stream, ME**
Update: Winterport selectmen fail to take dam by condemnation
It appears that the town leadership is having second thoughts about taking the West Winterport Dam by eminent domain. The Board of Selectmen declined to pass a condemnation resolution that would have set in motion the legal taking of the dam from owner John Jones. The lengthy effort was prompted by Jones’ original plan to sell the dam to a conservation group that wants to remove it to restore spawning runs by wild Atlantic salmon. Winterport and neighboring Frankfort have raised a combined $140,000 from their taxpayers to fight the project because some fear removal and loss of a 50-acre impoundment would harm firefighting and recreation. The effort to take the dam by condemnation collapsed when Winterport Selectman James Patterson moved to take the dam and a portion of Jones’ property for $20,000. After the motion died for lack of a second, Town Manager Leo LaChance asked, “Does this mean that the town does not want the dam now?” The selectmen made no effort to answer. Instead, they sat silent. When it was suggested the board table the matter until its next meeting, Chairman Sam Butler observed, “If we ain’t got the guts to do it tonight, we ain’t got the guts to do it two weeks from tonight.” However, the board eventually agreed to table the matter.
(Walter, Griffin, “Winterport selectmen mum on dam,” Bangor Daily News, 2 October 2003.)