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NFC: Fw: RiverCurrents for the Week of March 16, 2000

Title: RiverCurrents for the Week of March 16, 2000
RIVERCURRENTS, March 16, 2001

Brought to you by www.americanrivers.org: The online community for river
activists and river friends

In this week's issue...

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here's a snapshot of three Green Rivers--
and one that's only green once a year

Report card gives dams a D grade

       Little Snake River (Wyoming)
       North Platte River (Wyoming, Nebraska)
       Fox River (Wisconsin)
       Freshwater Creek (California)
       Prefumo Creek (California)
       Iowa water pollution
       Missouri River
       Northwest salmon
       Klamath Basin (Oregon)
*       Deschutes River (Oregon)
*       American Whitewater names new executive director


This week's gear deal
Cool winter trips and the gear you'll need: visit www.altrec.com 10% of
your purchase supports American Rivers conservation



LITTLE SNAKE RIVER: State environmental regulators in Wyoming are
preparing to issue the first water discharge permit for coalbed methane wells in the Little Snake River basin of south-central Wyoming.

As reports the AP (03/14/01), such a permit would allow Double Eagle
Petroleum and Mining Co. of Casper to develop a six-well pilot drilling project in the Dry Cow Creek drainage about 23 miles north of Baggs, and send up to 166,500 gallons of water daily into Dry Cow Creek.  Double Eagle claims that the reservoir is able to absorb or evaporate three times the amount of water that could be discharged into it, and the DEQ seems satisfied with that claim.

A DEQ spokesperson said that only very rarely might a discharge reach
the Little Snake River 40 stream miles away. The DEQ is accepting comments on the proposed permit, which must be received by March 31. If no objections are filed, the DEQ plans to issue the permit.

NORTH PLATTE RIVER: After a 15 year battle, the states of Nebraska and
Wyoming have agreed to settle their 15-year, $20 million legal battle
over water in the North Platte River.

Had the case gone to trial, Nebraska officials estimated that they would
spend $500,000 a month over a likely 18 months just on legal expenses, above and beyond the $20 million they have already spent over the last 14 years. As reports the Lincoln Journal Star (03/15/01), Nebraska sued Wyoming in 1986 to stop it from building Deer Creek Dam and other water projects on tributaries of the North Platte River, arguing that the water should be allowed to cross the border through the North Platte River under the terms of a 1945 Supreme Court decree.

The agreement must still be approved by Owen Olpin, who was appointed
special master for the case by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987, as well as by the governors and attorneys general in both states and the U.S. Departments of Interior and Justice.

FOX RIVER: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced this
week that it has suspended a proposed $7 million settlement with Fort James Corp. for projects to repair damage to the Fox River in Wisconsin.

The suspension is meant to allow more time for discussion by the state
Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, tribal leaders and other parties to agree on how best to handle damages done to the Fox River by the paper company Fort James, among others. However, the damage issue is separate from the cleanup of Fox River sediment contaminated with PCBs from paper companies, and a final cleanup plan is expected to be released in May.

The agreement had called for the papermaker to provide $51 million worth
of recreational resources, restored wetlands and improved fisheries to the
state for damage done to the river by pollution from its plant in Green
Bay. The state would then agree not to sue the company for damages from the release of PCBS into the river.

As reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
<http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/mar01/dnr14031301a.asp> (03/14/01),
"under that proposed agreement, Fort James actually would spend only $7
million on specific projects in the Green Bay area but get credit, under a
complicated formula, for repairing $51 million in resource damage." But
federal and tribal officials have been working to design their own plan
for Fort James and five other papermakers to pay for damages. Now that the
settlement has been suspended, all concerned parties will work together
on the same plan. The DNR has extended the public comment period on the
agreement until June 20.


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FRESHWATER CREEK: A recent analysis by the Pacific Lumber Company of
Freshwater Creek in California gives "mostly positive findings" on the
state of water creatures and their habitats on the land owned by the company. However, some environmental groups question the report's credibility, saying that the company "had to try and find a way to represent the information that would let them continue logging there."

The reports show that while high levels of sediment are still found in the Creek, fish and amphibian habitats are getting healthier. The high sediment levels come mainly from roads and logging practices of years past. The company was required to carry out the analysis of its 211,000 acres of forest 250 miles north of San Francisco due to an agreement between Pacific Lumber Company and federal negotiators. As reports the San Francisco Gate (03/12/01), the analysis "must be done to create site-specific protective measures to fit each watershed in the forest, eventually replacing the blanket protective measures the company now uses."

PREFUMO CREEK: Texaco Refining and Marketing Inc, a subsidiary of
Texaco, pleaded guilty this week to two felony charges of violating the Clean Water Act by discharging high levels of waste water at the company's

Wilmington, Calif., refinery.

The company was fined $4 million for discharging millions of gallons of polluted waste water into the Dominguez Channel and the Prefumo Creek in San Luis Obispo. The guilty plea follows a four-year investigation by 15 federal, state and local agencies into operations at the company's Wilmington refinery. The company was permitted to release 15 parts of oil and grease per million gallons of water into the channel based on local environmental regulations, but ended up discharging 940 parts of pollutants per million, about 62 times the allowed limit.

Assistant U.S. Atty. William W. Carter said the violations occurred in
1995 when Texaco experienced problems with a new waste-water treatment system at the refinery, reports the Los Angeles Times (03/13/01). But even then, the company did not shut down its operations, but continued to send millions of gallons of waste water into the channel. However, Carter also says that the illegal discharges have caused no long-term damage to the already severely polluted Dominguez Channel. Under a plea agreement, the company will pay $4 million as a fine and up to $30,000 in restitution.


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IOWA WATERS: A new report by John Downing, an Iowa State University
researcher, estimates that Iowa's list of seriously polluted rivers and
lakes will grow tenfold in the next three years. And taxpayers,
especially farmers, will carry the cost of repairing the water bodies as they are forced to pay for buffer strips and other techniques to keep pollutants from running off farms.

At this point, Iowa already has 157 river stretches and lakes on a federal list of waters that have special pollution limits and cleanup plans. That list will grow to 1,000 when tougher limits on fertilizers are implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Another 500 waterways will be added to the list because of high levels of fecal bacteria. Iowa State has some of the most fertilizer-polluted lakes in

the world, according to the report. "Federal regulators suggested that
seven of 10 Iowa lakes and nearly all the state's rivers would violate new
limits on nitrogen and phosphorus, two common fertilizers," says the Des Moines Register (03/12/01).

MISSOURI RIVER: The US Army Corps of Engineers has decided to delay
until May the release of its controversial plan to alter the flow of the
Missouri River to benefit endangered species. The Corps says the delay is due to the need to closely examine more than 2,000 public comments about the proposed "spring rise," reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch (03/15/01).

Missouri's elected officials are celebrating the decision, and have been
lobbying extensively to keep the Missouri's flow as it is. In a recent letter to President Bush, Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond of Missouri said that "it is imperative that the White House direct the Corps of Engineers to stop all activity immediately until your new team is in place and has an opportunity to review this matter in full." Conservationists are troubled by the Corps' decision, fearing that any delays continue to threaten species that are already on the brink of extinction.

Read more about the Missouri River:

NW SALMON: The year 2001 could be the lowest water year of all time in
the Northwest, leaving salmon high and dry, according to the Bonneville
Power Administration and other agencies responsible for hydropower operations and fish recovery in the Northwest.  As reports Greenwire (03/13/01), BPA may have no choice this year "but to not fully implement the water requirements of the biological opinion (BiOp), a document drafted under the Endangered Species Act detailing salmon protection measures, especially the amount of water that must be spilled over dams and held in reservoirs to aid salmon survival." The region is expecting 55% of its normal water expectations this year - about 58.6 million acre feet (MAF), perhaps beating the record set in 1977 when 53.8 MAF was received.

On Wednesday of this week, Washington Gov. Gary Locke declared an
official statewide drought emergency. Record low flows were experienced by more than 30 rivers this week, including the Columbia River at the Dallas dam. As reports Greenwire (03/15/01), "the emergency declaration will allow the state Department of Ecology to use the $5.1 million drought account and issue emergency water permits, financial assistance and temporary transfers of water rights."

Finally, fishing and conservation groups have joined Oregon Governor
John Kitzhaber in requesting more funding for Northwest salmon and called on the region's elected leaders to seek enough money to properly carry out the federal Columbia Basin salmon plan.

A letter was sent to Congress this week by American Rivers, Friends of
the Earth, Idaho Rivers United, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, National Wildlife Federation, Save Our Wild Salmon, and Trout Unlimited which said, "The failure to provide sufficient funds will undermine the plan and likely require more drastic recovery measures."  Federal and tribal officials estimate that the new salmon plan will require three to five hundred million dollars a year over current spending.

A detailed Bush Administration budget is due in early April, as is an Implementation Plan that should lay out specific salmon recovery measures and timelines. The salmon budget is particularly important because, as General Carl Strock of the Army Corps of Engineers said, "If we do not get the funding to implement this [new salmon plan], then dam breaching may turn out to be the only thing that we can do." With significant numbers of migrating salmon likely to die in hot, low river conditions this year, it is vital that the Administration institute aggressive salmon recovery measures immediately. (American Rivers press release 03/12/01)


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KLAMATH BASIN: This week the US Fish and Wildlife Service said the
"Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Irrigation Project violates the federal
Endangered Species Act by jeopardizing the continued existence of Lost River and shortnose suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, both added to the endangered species list in 1988."

As reports the Oregonian (03/15/01), the agency is asking that the water level in Klamath Lake be raised by one foot, that irrigation canals be screened, and that fish ladders be built at some locations. At the same time, the National Marine Fisheries Services is considering recommending increased flows in the Klamath River. However, farmers in the region depend on the water as well, and are encouraging officials to ask Secretary of the Interior Norton for an exemption from the

Endangered Species Act.

"Klamath Basin potato farmers suffered their sixth season of below-production-cost prices last year, and continued uncertainty about water and markets has taken a toll on the region's agricultural sector," reports the Oregonian (03/15/01).

DESCHUTES RIVER BASIN: Biologists have come up with a plan to restore
salmon and steelhead runs to the Deschutes River Basin in Oregon, that will likely cost Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation $30 million.

As reports the Oregonian (03/11/01), a 400-foot tall dam called Round
Butte Dam holds back a river that forms Lake Billy Chinook. The current Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Project alters currents in the reservoir so juvenile fish cannot find their way out.

Three rivers -- the Deschutes, Metolius and Crooked -- feed the lake, with the Metolius being the coldest and the Crooked the warmest. Upon entering the lake, the cold Metolius water rests on the bottom, the Deschutes water remains in the middle and the Crooked River water lays on the surface. Scientists theorize that migrating smolts stay in the upper layer of water instead of finding the "skimmer" that traps ocean-bound smolts and sends them downstream.

The new plan focuses on a new intake tower, the structure that funnels water from the reservoir through the generators' turbines, which would draw water from both the warm top layer and cooler lower levels and mix them as they go through the turbines. This would result in an altered current while preventing big changes in the downstream water temperature. There are no guarantees the plan will work, but scientists are hopeful and the tribes and PG&E are willing to pay the price.

WHITEWATER: Risa Shimoda, a twenty year river runner and competitive
freestyle, squirt and slalom paddler vetran, has been named Executive
Director of the conservation and access organization American
Whitewater. As reports the organization (03/13/01), Shimoda will be responsible for leading American Whitewater's staff and volunteers, and implementing the Strategic Plan developed by the Board of Directors. She has served on boards for the Conservation Alliance, Trade Association of Paddlesports, and the Stanford Alumni Association, and is Past President of the American Whitewater Board and a founding member of whitewater institutions that include the National Organization of Whitewater Rodeos (NOWR) and the Gauley Festival Marketplace.


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