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NFC: Fw: [currents] RiverCurrents Online -- Week of March 17, 2000
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River News for the Week of March 17, 2000
SAVANNAH RIVER: The Southern Environmental Law Center filed suit in
court Tuesday on behalf of four environmental groups to stop a proposed
million dredging project to deepen Savannah Harbor, reports the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution (3/15). Fearing that the plan to deepen Savannah's
36-mile-long shipping channel from 42 to 48 feet will threaten wildlife
the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge by allowing more saltwater to creep
the river, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the National Wildlife
Federation, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the South
Carolina Wildlife Federation and the Coastal Georgia Center for
* * *
LOGGING: This week California state regulators unanimously passed
logging restrictions to be used as interim rules for the next six months
reduce logging near streams where endangered coho salmon and steelhead
live - despite demonstrations by loggers and members of the group Earth
First who are calling the rules a "one-size-fits all approach that could
bankrupt them," reports the San Jose Mercury News (3/15). The main
component of the compromise plan "creates a stronger, 150-foot buffer
around fish-bearing streams that severely restricts logging," reports the
San Jose Mercury News (3/16), and also imposes new regulations on logging
roads and timber cuts during winter months. Since the rules will expire
the end of the year, the forestry board still has to develop a permanent
plan. Environmentalists see the plan as a good start, but feel it does
go far enough.
* * *
POMPTON RIVER: The Pompton river in New Jersey is suffering from an algae
bloom, caused primarily by nutrients from sewage treatment plants and
from lawn fertilizers. As reports the Northern New Jersey Record (3/14),
algae bloom is "so bad that the Passaic Valley Water Commission, which
serves 28 towns in Bergen, Passaic, and Essex counties, stopped
water from the Pompton River last week." The commission has been forced
draw water for the first time in nearly two decades from the Point View
Reservoir in Wayne and from the Passaic River. Environmentalists say the
algae bloom is symptomatic of a larger problem with water quality in the
Passaic River basin.
* * *
HUDSON RIVER: Plans to build more than a dozen industrial plants along
Hudson River have environmentalists fearing that the development will
efforts to repair environmental damage in the area. Many would like to
an overall plan for development on the river finalized before any
development begins. However, Gov. George E. Pataki and some residents in
area feel that the development can be done without harming the
while bringing much needed jobs to the area. As reports the New York
(3/13), among the developments being considered are a $500 million power
plant in Athens, a $300 million cement factory in Greenport, and a $680
million paper recycling and power plant in Ulster.
* * *
CLEAN WATER: The Environmental Working Group and Friends of the Earth
week announced that more than 25 percent of the nation's 6,000 major
of water pollution are operating with expired control permits. In their
release of the "Clean Water Report Card," the groups warned that "some
states may allow more pollution than others, but none can operate an
effective water pollution program with more than 10 percent of their
expired at any one time." (Clean Water Report Card). Both the federal
government and the state of Texas received low scores in the report card,
which could have interesting ramifications for the presidential race.
the home state of republican candidate Bush, has the most factories,
plants and other water pollution sources working with expired permits.
Gore has headed up many of the current administration's environmental
initiatives - states with water quality programs run by the EPA are among
those with the most severe permit backlogs. The assistant administrator
the EPA's Office of Water says the backlog is due to the increase of
of pollution (Wall Street Journal 3/14).
* * *
WESTERN WATER: In what is being called a historic agreement crafted by
federal, state and local officials over water rights in Gunnison and Rio
Grande national forests, the rights of farmer and rancher to the Rio
Grande's watershed will be protected, and U.S. taxpayers will be saved
millions of dollars by avoiding court battles involving 303 streams in
two forests. As reports the Denver Post (3/16), the settlement is
the first of its kind in the nation, and addresses the discrepancy
federal water law, which requires "in-stream flow" claims to ensure water
flows during drought, and Colorado's own water law, under which those who
file first - usually farmers and ranchers - get priority. "Under the
settlement, the Forest Service relinquishes its 1976 claims and accepts a
1999 priority date," reports the Post.
* * *
OHIO RIVER: The Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc has agreed to pay $8.8
to settle federal charges that it violated the Clean Water Act and Clean
Act at its facility in Indiana, reports Reuters (3/14). $2.4 million of
amount is a fine, with the rest going toward studies for new air
pollution-reduction technology and a general reduction in the generation
hazardous waste at the plant. According to the Justice Department, the
company illegally discharged inadequately treated waste water into the
River between 1994 and 1999, and exceeding Clean Air Act limits on
from six aluminum-casting complex furnaces at the plant, reports the AP
* * *
DAM REMOVAL: Continuing what seems to be a trend crossing the nation, the
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced this week initial
toward tearing down two dams in Alameda County, CA on Alameda Creek. The
structures, a 12-foot high dam built in 1901 and a 6-foot high dam build
1885, block migration by threatened steelhead trout, and are no longer
considered necessary for flood control or water sources. Removal could be
avoided by the installation of fish ladders, and is not being ruled out.
reports the San Jose Mercury News (3/14), the removal process could take
to at least a year, allowing for environmental reviews, planning and
funding, and funding for the process might come from the CalFed program
Also concerning dam removal, protestors in the state of Washington
demonstrated this week against the Tacoma Power Plant's Cushman
Hydroelectric Project as part of International Rivers Network's "day of
action against dams and for rivers, water and life." The plant uses water
from the North Fork of the Skokomish River, reports the Tacoma News
(3/15). Protestors, including environmentalists and members of the
Indian Tribe, say the Cushman dams and power plants are " sucking the
dry, killing fish and causing floods because there isn't enough water to
wash away gravel." Superintendent of the plant, Steve Klein, says it's
to blame the Cushman project for the Skokomish Valley's problems.
Finally, also in California, the Sacramento Bee (3/16) reports that the
Bureau of Reclamation has reached an agreement in principle with a small
irrigation company to tear down Saeltzer Dam on Clear Creek, which flows
the Sacramento River a few miles south of Redding. The Townsend Flat
Ditch Co has agreed to the removal of the 93 year old dam that prevents
threatened salmon and steelhead trout from reaching their spawning
12 more miles of stream will be opened to spawning fish with the dam's
removal, providing enough additional habitat to produce another 2,000 of
each species each year and help stabilize their populations. The dam,
is about 18 feet tall and 60 feet wide, could be torn down as soon as
summer. As reports the Bee, "the bureau would pay the company $2.5
for agreeing to never build a new dam on the creek, remove its ditches
give up its right to divert water directly from Clear Creek."
* * *
SPOKANE RIVER: The EPA has announced this week that it will be
four upper Spokane River beaches to determine the level of contamination
potentially hazardous levels of mining wastes from Idaho. 14 other
located along the river downstream to Fort Spokane are safe for
use, says the agency. As reports the Spokesman Review (3/14), the beaches
be investigated are in the Spokane Valley at River Road near the Idaho
line and downstream at North Harvard, North Barker and North Flora roads,
and are suspected of containing elevated levels of arsenic, a human
carcinogen. Ingesting arsenic can lead to an increased risk of developing
skin cancer in children and adults.
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