In this week's issue...
1) MOST ENDANGERED RIVERS
On April 11, American Rivers will announce the Nation's Most Endangered Rivers of 2001
Read the media advisory:
2) ARMY CORPS REFORM
Army Corps of Engineers reform legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate yesterday. Read more:
3) COMMUNITY RIVERS
A crystal ball for your community? Learn about some new software that can help you plan your community's-- and your river's-- future
4) GROUP OF THE WEEK
Find out how this burgeoning group of river-lovers is fighting to save one of California's last wild rivers
5) NEWS BRIEFS
· Trinity River
· Powder River Basin
· Rio Grande
· Acid Rain
· Jarbidge River
· Iowa waters
· Northwest salmon
· Blue Creek, Montana
· Clark Fork River
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TRINITY RIVER: Due to the energy crisis in California, a federal judge in Fresno this week decided to limit water slated for Trinity River fishery restoration efforts. As reports the Record Searchlight (03/27/01), the judge's decision will cap the restoration of the river's flows to 29,000 additional acre-feet rather than the 113,000 acre-feet that environmentalists want. Redding Electric Utility officials and state Sen. Maurice Johannessen are pleased with the decision, saying that former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt's decision to send more water down the Trinity "would strip the state of power amid its worst energy crunch since the 1970s." Babbitt's Trinity decision would attempt to reduce by one-third the roughly 300 billion gallons diverted each year to the central San Joaquin Valley to irrigate crops and provide water to residents and businesses. Trinity County officials are disappointed, as are, naturally, salmon advocates. Also, U.S. Rep. Wally Herger, R-Marysville, and other members of Congress are pushing to overturn the decision.
POWDER RIVER BASIN: Water from coalbed methane production in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming is not toxic, but can cause problems as it is released into surface areas, reports the Billings Gazette (3/23/01). According to researchers from the University of Wyoming, the water can "cause problems if it is pumped on the surface to mix with soils, but if landowners and industry work together, methane production can continue without problems with high sodium adsorption ratios." The findings follow a $70,000, two-year study of Powder River Basin soils and coal bed methane water which was requested by and paid for by Campbell County Commission. The researchers also said that coalbed methane water does not harm native Wyoming Western wheatgrass.
RIO GRANDE: Local residents favor building an adjustable dam in the Rio Grande over two other, more expensive ways to collect drinking water, according to Albuquerque Water Resources Manager John Stomp. The 600-foot-dam would cost from $150 million to $170 million to construct, but is the cheapest diversion option under consideration. It would also have a host of environmental features, says Stomp, including a fish passageway and screen. However, Steve Harris of Rio Grande Restoration worries that the proposed passageway for fish might not be enough to protect young silvery minnows (an endangered species) or eggs, which float along helplessly with the water.
As reports the Albuquerque Journal (03/26/01), the proposed options are: 1) An adjustable-height dam, north of Paseo del Norte. The dam would be about three-feet high when fully raised. It also could be lowered to lie flat against the river bottom. 2) A set of pipes beneath the river bed near Paseo del Norte. The pipes would collect water and transport it to a treatment plant. or 3) Withdrawing water at the Angostura Dam, near Algodones. A canal and drain would carry the water to a treatment plant in Albuquerque. City officials have not decided yet which diversion method to use, but will announce their decision at a public meeting April 20. An environmental study will be released to the public in May.
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ACID RAIN: The Hubbard Brook Research Foundation in New Hampshire has released a study that shows that acid rain dissipates more slowly than expected, leaving acid levels high in Northeast lakes and soils. Though acid rain has decreased in the 30 years since Congress tightened air pollution standards, 15 percent of New England lakes still exhibit chronic or episodic acidity, as do more than four out of every 10 lakes in New York's Adirondack Mountains. As reports the Maine Press Herald (03/26/01), acid rain is created by coal-burning power plants that generate half the country's electricity, and high acidity can kill fish (such as Atlantic salmon, tiger trout, redbreast sunfish, bluegill, tiger musky, walleye, alewife and kokanee), frogs and trees. The Hubbard study found that sulfur dioxide emissions have declined significantly in the last 30 years, on a pace to be cut in half by 2010. "Power industry officials said the results were unremarkable because efforts at reducing pollution are still being phased in," says the Herald.
JARBIDGE RIVER: Despite a recent settlement reached by the US Forest Service and Elko County, the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Nevada is concerned that a road cannot be rebuilt along the river without harming the threatened bull trout. Bob Williams, head of the USFWS in Nevada, says that rebuilding the road in its present location along the Jarbidge River would violate the Endangered Species Act. The settlement reached by the County and the Forest Service would allow the road to be rebuilt if the county pays for it and follows federal environmental laws in place protecting the trout. As reports the Salt Lake Tribune (03/22/01), at a price of $10 million, the road might not violate the Endangered Species Act if it is built higher up the mountain, but that amount is one-third of Elko's annual budget.
IOWA WATERS: Due to a shortage of money in federal programs designed to encourage Iowa farmers to protect the state's water, thousands of Iowa farmers have been kept from signing up for programs designed to keep silt and chemicals out of the water. As reports the Des Moines Register (03/26/01), at times the federal programs have run $100 million or more short of meeting demand. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, "about 2,500 applications in Iowa, representing $90 million in payments, have been turned away because of cash shortages." 157 Iowa waterways are polluted enough to require cleanups, and if tougher proposed guidelines are put in place, hundreds more would be added. Programs available (but often unfunded) in Iowa include turning cropland into wildlife habitat, forest and wetlands, planting grass along streams, and other pollution fighting strategies.
Also concerning Iowa waters, Iowa cattle producers and the state have reached an agreement requiring large feedlots to hold state permits. As reports the Des Moines Register (03/25/01), producers who register with the state before Jan. 1 will be exempt from fines that would be imposed when federal regulators inspect Iowa operators next month. Under the agreement, enforcement of environmental restrictions will be relaxed for five-year period, and cattle producers with more than 1,000 beef cattle or 700 dairy cattle will then be issued permits. If the producers continue to make progress toward runoff regulations, they will be exempt from fines.
NW SALMON: The Northwest Power Planning Council announced this week that the northwest will survive its electricity shortages this summer and fall only if it uses river water from the Columbia and Snake Rivers. As reports the Oregonian (03/28/01), the council added that using the water to drive turbines instead of assisting salmon would result in the death of up to 10 percent of the young salmon leaving the Columbia River for the sea. The alternatives to using the water for electricity would "include a high risk of rolling blackouts, or having the Bonneville Power Administration spend $1.4 billion to buy free-market electricity to meet the Northwest's demand, possibly pushing the agency into the red," says Larry Cassidy, chairman of the council. The water normally saved to help salmon reach the sea is enough to generate power for about 660,000 households. The council, which is responsible for balancing wildlife protection and electricity production in the Columbia River Basin, will finalize its analysis next week and advise the federal government on what to do.
BLUE CREEK: Local residents are opposing an attempt by the Briarwood Country Club to acquire a new water right for irrigating its golf course with water from Blue Creek in Montana. As report the Billings Gazette (03/29/01), the club is asking to pump and store excess water rather than letting it flow into the Yellowstone River during periods of high water. But after years of drought, the creek is barely a trickle, and allowing the action would intensify the existing water shortage, say local residents. However, a local water consultant says the water right "should be granted because it represents a beneficial use for the water." A decision could be reached by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation within 30 days.
CLARK FORK RIVER: The metals-contaminated sediments behind Milltown Dam are Missoula County's (Montana) greatest single threat to public health and should be removed, said the Board of County Commissioners this week. Removal of the sediments, as well as the dam, is technically feasible and would not be harmful to human health, show recent reports. The Missoulian (03/29/01) reports that leaving the 6.6 million cubic yards of toxic sediments contaminates ground water and the Clark Fork River downstream. The resolution released by the Board also called for "restoration of the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, restoration of wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat, and creation of a regional park in the area." The Bonner Development Group which must pay for the work (estimated to be from $100 to $200 million) says it is not feasible to remove so much water-soaked, metals-laden sediment, but both the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disagree. The EPA is expected to recommend a cleanup plan for the reservoir sediments this fall.
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