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SNAKE RIVER DAMS: The environmental group
American Rivers has warned that
northwest salmon runs will fail to get the immediate help they need, and the government will no longer be able to hold out any hope of avoiding dam
removal on Washington state's lower Snake
River unless changes are made to
the Bush budget announced this week. Meanwhile, the Northwest is facing a
death rate forecast as high as 95% for many of the runs of spawning salmon
this spring, because Columbia Basin hydroelectric dams have been operated to capacity in order to serve California's energy crunch, leaving insufficient water in the rivers for salmon. Scientists say dam removal will be an essential component of any successful plan to restore Snake River salmon populations, although President Bush opposed it in his campaign. The estimated cost of efforts short of dam removal is an additional $175-$190 million this fiscal year, and in future fiscal years, as much as $1 billion a year. American Rivers’ President Rebecca Wodder voiced these concerns about the budget in a letter to two key members of the Bush administration:
Marcus Peacock, associate director for natural resources, energy and science at the Office of Management and Budget, and John Howard, of the Council on Environmental Quality. She copied the Northwest governors and members of Congress. She reminded them that the federal salmon rescue plan put forward in December requires a series of salmon survival measures, as part of a framework to avert extinction of remaining wild chinook salmon and steelhead runs: Improvements in salmon spawning and rearing habitat; - Improvements in water quality, quantity, and flow; - Better management of hatcheries and harvest; and - Operational improvements to the Snake and Columbia rivers' dams. (American Rivers press release 02/26/01).
NW SALMON: Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has said that he will ask the Bush administration to spend an additional $438 million on Northwest salmon programs next year to meet the goals of federal recovery plans. The plan to be proposed by Kitzhaber would more than double the funds already spent for fish restoration for protection, habitat and hatcheries at all federal agencies other than the Bonneville Power Administration. That agency spends about $435 million a year on salmon programs. As reports the Oregonian (02/27/01), about $183 million - the largest chunk of money requested - would go to the National Marine Fisheries Service for hatchery and habitat programs run by Northwest tribes and five western states including Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and California. While Kitzhaber is requesting more funding, he does not include breaching of the four Lower Snake River dams in his proposal. He does ask for about $5 million to study breaching the dams if evidence shows that is necessary to recover the salmon.
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SAN JACINTO RIVER: In an effort to control
flooding, Riverside County in
California is considering spending millions to channel the San Jacinto
River. Though Los Angeles and Ventura counties pay tens of millions to
restore once-wild waterways to their natural states, Riverside County
officials want to channel their river, saying their current ancient
flood-control system endangers people, puts property at risk, and limits
growth in the flood plain. Environmentalists say the proposed channeling
would “jeopardize the endangered plants, flood a nearby wildlife refuge and
clear the way for subdivisions to pave over wildlife habitat -- an ironic
idea for a county whose rural areas serve as a refuge from city sprawl.”
Though floods complicate life for residents and emergency services, they
also nurture a complex web of plants and animals on the valley floor, says
the LA Times (02/25/01). If officials decided to channel the river,
landowners in the floodplain would be assessed an estimated $40 million on
property tax bills.
MISSOURI RIVER: The state of Missouri is
increasing its efforts to keep the
federal government from changing the flow of the Missouri River to rescue
endangered species with appeals to the White House last week. The state also sent representatives to meetings in Iowa and Nebraska, arguing that changing the operations of dams on the river would disrupt farming, barge navigation and potentially the ability to generate electricity. As reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch (02/26/01), Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo. has been attempting to “make sure that folks in the new administration are reminded of Missouri's strongly held views about the Clinton-Gore approach to river issues.” The current plan by the Fish and Wildlife Service is to boost the flow of the Missouri in the spring and then dramatically lower it in summer to mimic the river's natural conditions before it was altered by dams and deepened for barge traffic.
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ELIZABETH RIVER: The mud at the bottom of the
Elizabeth River in Maryland
has sediments that are 18 times more poisonous than those under Baltimore
Harbor, says the Baltimore Sun (02/26/01). Testing of fish from Scuffletown
Creek, a tributary of the river near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, show
that more than half have liver cancer, with most having lesions that could
lead to cancer. The pollutants in the river are oil-based toxins known as
polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are believed to have come from
logging operations that treated the lumber that was transported down the
river with creosote, allowing oils and contaminants from partially burned
wood to leak into the water. A resident’s group in the area called the
Elizabeth River Project persuaded leaders from four nearby cities and the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to risk $6 million to dredge 60,000 cubic yards of contaminated muck from about 3 acres under the creek as part of a
demonstration project. The project is perhaps
the first in the country
initiated by a community group instead of by legal action. If that goes
well, dredging might take place in other nearby spots, including the
Anacostia River in Washington and Baltimore Harbor. Some are concerned that
dredging will stir contaminated mud and allow it to settle elsewhere.
Instead, they say it is better to cover the sediment with thick layers of
clean sand, or do nothing and let new sediments coming into the river cover
the old, says the Sun. The Elizabeth River moves slowly and doesn’t carry
much sediment, however. The Corps of Engineers is planning to complete a
feasibility study by July 1.
Take action to help rivers: check out our action alert center at http://www.americanrivers.org/takeaction
BLACKSTONE RIVER: Worcester area communities
have come to an agreement to
upgrade sewer plants along the northern third of the Blackstone River in
Massachusetts. The agreement will break a three-year deadlock over state and federal plans to restore the river to fishable levels, says the Worcester Telegram and Gazette (02/26/01). Lawyers for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and officials of area sewer districts have confirmed that they are nearing a final agreement that will establish new discharge standards to contain contamination of the river's upper reaches with treated sewage. To meet the new discharge limits will require a major expansion of the capabilities of the Upper Blackstone treatment plant, which will cost millions of dollars. Sewage treatment plants in Millbury, Uxbridge and Northbridge also were issued permits requiring better sewage treatment, says the Gazette.
YAKIMA RIVER: Washington State this week
imposed a cleanup plan for the
Yakima River, after Yakima dairy farms continue to soil the river. The river still carries 10 times the allowable amount of fecal coliform from cow manure despite a 10 year attempt to clean up the river. As reports the
Tri-City Herald (02/22/01), the river is one
of the most bacteria-laden
waterways in Washington. The state is focusing on the 43,000 dairy cows in
the drainage area, despite the fact that septic systems and hobby farms no
doubt contribute to the problem as well. Dairy farmers say they should not
bear the whole burden of drain cleanup since feedlots, horses and small
farms contribute to the problem as well. The state Ecology Department has
put together a Granger Drain TMDL that is available at:
You are invited...to put your group on the map! Help us build a directory for the river community. Go to <http://www.americanrivers.org/gateway/default.htm>
WACCAMAW RIVER: The North Carolina Division
of Water Resources will use the
results of a five-year study of the Waccamaw River basin to develop ways to
protect the watershed. The study conducted by researchers from East Carolina University found that ditches to drain timber land have reduced the Green Swamp's function as a huge sponge for water that flows into the river, says the Wilmington Morning Star (02/27/01). Nearby subdivisions and golf courses are removing groundwater from the watershed, and dirt continues to erode from farms and timber areas, shows the study. Since the river flows across the state line to South Carolina, one option is to create a commission that would involve representatives from both states to develop a plan to restore the river. The commission might also include representatives from International Paper, the largest timber company operating in the Waccamaw River area. A South Carolina group is hiring a riverkeeper to track the river, and two other environmental groups in North Carolina have been organized to address problems on the river.
COLES BROOK: A year-long monitoring program
will attempt to locate the
source of contamination in Coles Brook, a tributary of the Ten Mile River in Massachusetts. As reports the Providence Journal (02/27/01), the
contamination closed a Seekonk Water District
well field in 1998. The study
is being coordinated by members of the Ten Mile River Watershed Alliance in
conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection,
and is part of a collective project involving the alliance, the state
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the Riverways Adopt-A-Stream
program, and the Tellus Institute. A 1999 study failed to locate the source
of the contamination, possibly due to a dry spell at the time.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER: The US Army Corps of
Engineers has temporarily suspended
its eight-year, $60 million study of Mississippi River construction projects after a report detailed serious flaws with the economic and environmental analyses used by the agency. As reports the Washington Post (02/28/01), the report was released by the National Academy of Sciences, and says that the study was flawed by inaccurate projections and inappropriate methodologies. The review by the Academy raises serious questions about the scandal-plagued $1.2 billion Upper Mississippi River Navigation expansion, and further erodes the Corps' credibility as a provider of impartial analyses of its water resources development projects, says American Rivers (02/28/01). The National Academy of Sciences concluded that: The Corps significantly overestimated demand for waterway transportation, and inappropriately used economic models and data; The Corps failed to adequately assess non-structural alternatives to relieve traffic congestion, including scheduling of barge movement; The Corps failed to consider impacts of the existing navigation system on the environment; A study of this magnitude and controversy should be independently reviewed by an interdisciplinary team of experts; The Corps adaptive mitigation scheme is inconsistent with the principles of adaptive management accepted by resource managers nationwide, and; The Corps should put economic and environmental impacts of the entire navigation system on an equal footing.
HOG WASTE: Well-known national organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Humane Society as well as at least a dozen grass-roots coalitions such as People Opposed to Ruining Kansas and Families Against Rural Messes joined together this week to sue the nation's biggest hog processor for
deliberately fouling water, air and soil as
part of a strategy to drive
competing small farmers out of business. The coalition of groups led by
environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says Smithfield Foods Inc. is
violating clean water laws by allowing hog waste to pollute North Carolina
streams. Smithfield Foods produces about 6 billion pounds of meat a year,
and was also accused by the groups of lowering its production costs by
flouting federal and state environmental laws. The suit says that the
processor pollutes, rather than treating its waste, making it able to
produce pork so cheaply that independent farmers can't compete, says the Los Angeles Times (03/01/01). The groups are asking the court to award damages equal to three times the amount of actual harm done. Smithfield Vice President Richard J.M. Poulson says that the charges by the
environmentalists are “exaggerated beyond
belief,” and that the company has
a state of the art waste-disposal facility and a strict zero-tolerance
standard for environmental discharge.
FOX RIVER: This week nearly 20,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Fox River in Wisconsin after a valve was left open on a home heating fuel storage tank at the Hopson Oil Company. The spill is considered intentional, with authorities suspecting vandals or a disgruntled employee of the company. “The person who caused the fuel spill knew how to do it,” said police Lt. William Graham Jr. As reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal (02/28/01), more than likely much of the oil will stay on the surface of the water and will evaporate into the air. Officials say that Hopson's insurance will cover the cost of the cleanup, though it could be weeks or months before state biologists know for certain whether the oil will have an effect on aquatic life in the river.
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