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Unique Opportunity! Rafting Trip in Costa Rica to benefit
American Rivers November 30--December 7, 2000
River News for the Week of October 13, 2000
VERDE RIVER: The Western Environmental Law Center this week filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and its leadership, to fight for the federal protection that Arizona's Verde River was supposed to get 16 years ago when a 40.5-mile section northeast of Phoenix was designated a wild and scenic river. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a number of local and national river conservation groups, alleges that the Forest Service violated the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by failing to prepare a comprehensive management plan for Arizona's Verde Wild and Scenic River-one of the state's few perennial, free-flowing rivers and the only one designated as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Congress designated the Verde a wild and scenic river back in 1984 due to the river's "outstandingly remarkable values." Of particular interest are the rare native fish species that inhabit the river and the unique population of desert-nesting bald eagles-a population comprised of fewer than fifty pairs in the world. The lawsuit names as defendants Eleanor S. Towns, Regional Forester for the Forest Service's Region Three (the Southwest region); Mike Dombeck, chief of the Forest Service; Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture, and the Forest Service itself. (American Rivers press release 10/10)
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MISSOURI RIVER: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should pay for any flooding damages the Missouri River may cause if managed as the Service would like, says US Senator Kit Bond of Missouri. The Service would like to manage the river so that water levels can be raised occasionally to improve habitats for three endangered species. Opponents fear raising water levels will cause flooding - specifically, flooding when allowing more water to enter the river from a dam in South Dakota at least once every third spring. Bond made his statement this week in an attempt to "come up with a compromise to help pass a $23.6 billion water and energy bill that President Clinton vetoed Saturday." As reports the Kansas City Star (10/11), Bond would work to revise the bill as Clinton wants, but says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should then be responsible for any flooding following the water releases. An official from the Service says that the risk of flooding from additional water is less than 1 percent, and that extra water would not be released if flooding was a concern. Scott Faber of American Rivers said Bond is "continuing to pander to farmers."
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TIMBER: This week the Simpson Timber Company in Washington State entered into a habitat conservation plan with federal agencies that addresses water quality. As reports Greenwire (10/13), the plan covers approximately 262,000 acres of land on the Olympic Peninsula and manages its logging operations so that the habitat of 51 fish and wildlife species is preserved. The company has also worked out a deal with the EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology to comply with the Total Maximum Daily Load program managed by that agency regulating water pollution under the Clean Water Act. The 50 year plan which took about four years to put together was negotiated with FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service to preserve the habitat of several threatened species, including the marbled murrelet, bald eagle, chinook salmon and Hood Canal summer-run chum salmon.
In Oregon, the conservation groups Ecotrust, Trout Unlimited and The Wild Salmon Center Conservation proposed sharply limiting or prohibiting logging along key streams and rivers covering 30 percent of prime state forests just west of Portland. As reports the Oregonian (10/12), the move was in answer to a plan by the Oregon Department of Forestry to allow logging across the 615,000 acres of Tillamook and Clatsop state forests. The state would like to allow logging in the area, but at a far slower pace than normal for timberland. The Board of Forestry adopted the plan last month, which will be the subject of public meetings this fall. The conservation goups have said that the state is not going far enough to protect the rivers and streams that support salmon, and have proposed that 16.6 percent of the land be set aside to preserve key salmon habitat, 6.4 percent to protect all stream sides and valley bottoms, and 7 percent to protect steep slopes and to prevent landslides.
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DAM REMOVAL: The nation's third most endangered river of 2000 will move a step closer to restoration when Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt removes a small section of the 200-foot tall Matilija Dam from the Ventura River in southern California. Ventura County, owner of the dam, will hold a demonstration project Thursday, October 12, 2000, at the dam site. "The construction of Matilija Dam led directly to the destruction of the Ventura River; its removal will lead to its rebirth," said Charles Price, the President of the grassroots group, Friends of the Ventura River. "The widespread endorsement of this project reflects the broad range of values that a free-flowing river has for people from all walks of life." Although there is overwhelming support for the entire removal of Matilija Dam, it is not a done deal. This demonstration will remove only a 5-foot-high rim along the top right section of the dam to test the effectiveness of this removal technique. But with this demonstration, the newly formed Matilija Coalition-an organization of local, state, and national conservation groups and businesses-hopes to educate the public, while integrating the resources of all levels of government toward removing Matilija Dam in its entirety. "This project is a significant milestone in our campaign, since it will provide not only a technical demonstration, but also a public demonstration of the support for removal of Matilija Dam," said Paul Jenkin, Coordinator of the Matilija Coalition. Total costs for the dam removal are estimated at anywhere from $20 million to $180 million, according to a study completed this spring by the Bureau of Reclamation. (American Rivers press release 10/12)
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FRENCH BROAD RIVER: The French Broad River in Tennessee is showing signs of recovery with the recent discovery of a hockey-puck-sized mussel called the pink mucket. As reports the Knoxville News-Sentinel (10/11), "in terms of aquatic biodiversity, the French Broad is a shadow of its former self." But modern water pollution laws and dam modifications are leading to the restoration of the river. Biologists have been transplanting freshwater mussels at three different sites in the French Broad tailwaters since 1997, though the pink mucket is not one of the species that has been transplanted - an exciting find for scientists. Though the lower French Broad is still affected by pollution mainly from agricultural run-off, "its habitat conditions have improved thanks to TVA's modifications to Douglas Dam that have increased oxygen and minimum flows." Scientists say that of the 41 mussel species that historically lived in the French Broad, only 11 of those species are found in the river today, with only a handful still reproducing.
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TROUT: Yellowstone cutthroat trout are losing ground to the imported rainbow trout in the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho, reports the Idaho Statesman (10/12). If rainbow numbers are not checked soon, few native cutthroats may survive, says the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. In 1986, rainbows made up about 1 percent of the total catch along the river. Today, they make up nearly 30 percent of the total catch. Cutthroats made up 79 percent of the catch in 1986, and today make up about half of the total catch. Brown trout, native whitefish and lake trout make up the rest of the catch. Several groups have petitioned to have the cutthroat listed under the Endangered Species Act, and the Fish and Wildlife Service might consider the request as early as this fall. If the fish is listed, fishing would likely be discouraged along parts of the river, causing local communities to suffer economically. In response to the crisis, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game now allows fishermen to keep as many as six rainbow trout, but only two cutthroat or brown trout. They are also removing rainbows and hybrid trout by electrofishing.
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ACTION ALERT: REFORM OF THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Several Corps projects have come under scrutiny, including lock expansion, channel and harbor deepening, and brownfield remediation project. We desperately need reforms to ensure future Corps projects have significant economic benefits and avoid unacceptably high environmental costs.
Call and e-mail House leaders NOW to reform the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers! With Congress counting the days until the end of session, we must act NOW to urge key Congressional decision-makers to include common-sense reforms.
Call or email Representatives Shuster, Oberstar, Boehlert, and Borski and urge them to include Army Corps reforms in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2000. To send an email directly from the web, visit
Phone numbers for calling House leaders directly:
Bud Shuster (R-9th PA) 202-225-2431
Sherwood Boehlert (R-23rd NY) 202-225-3665
James Oberstar (D-8th MN) 202-225-6211
Robert Borski (D-3rd PA) 202-225-8251
To access additional action alerts, please check out the action alert center at http://www.americanrivers.org/takeaction
For more news, please visit us at www.americanrivers.org