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NFC: Fw: RiverCurrents: September 14, 2001
RiverCurrents: September 14, 2001
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AOL KEYWORD: American Rivers
American Rivers extends its sympathy to all of those
who have been touched by the terrorist attacks this week.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
In river news this week...
* MISSOURI RIVER
-- Over 1,000 letters submitted as comment period opens
* ENDANGERED SPECIES
-- Judge rules on Oregon salmon
-- Klamath Basin farmers apply for aid
-- Lawsuit on the Potomac
* WATER QUALITY
-- Mining pollution in Kentucky
-- Arsenic in drinking water
-- Superfund status for Washington's Duwamish
-- Contaminants in the Rio Grande
-- New dam proposed on Sulphur River in Texas
-- Corps, BuRec tighten security at western dams
In your own words...
"I don't see the need to put property that's used for farming, logging,
hunting, and fishing under water just so folks in Dallas can water their
--Max Shumake of Dekalb, Texas, on a plan to dam the Sulphur River
This week's river news
1) Missouri River dam reforms
Since the Army Corps of Engineers opened the comment
period on Missouri River dam operations, over 1,000
people have spoken, supporting the recommendations
of the Fish & Wildlife Service.
From the Missouri River basin and across the country,
people are logging on to www.savethemissouri.org and
emailing their comments to the Corps.
Dam reforms are needed to save the river's endangered species.
Re-operating the dams to provide more natural water flows
would also boost recreation and tourism in local communities.
"Reforming dam operations on the Missouri River is as much about
people as it is about fish and wildlife," said Rebecca Wodder,
president of American Rivers.
"River species, recreation, floodplain farming, hydropower, and all
other uses of the Missouri River can coexist if we choose to let them."
The comment period will run through the fall. You can send your
comment to the Army Corps by visiting www.savethemissouri.org.
2) Wild vs. hatchery: no distinction?
Saying that federal biologists were incorrect in making a distinction
wild and hatchery fish, a federal judge has thrown out the threatened
listing for Oregon coastal coho salmon.
As reports the San Francisco Chronicle (9/13/01), "the judge wrote in his
Monday ruling that NMFS acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner when
it decided to protect fish spawning in the wild, but not fish spawned in
when they could breed together as part of the same group known as an
evolutionarily significant unit, or ESU."
The lawsuit was brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation, after a video
the Department of Fish and Wildlife clubbing hatchery fish on the Alsea
so they would not breed with wild fish.
According to Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries
"Theoretically, this (ruling) could affect all listings" of salmon in the
In its ebbTIDE email, www.tidepool.org states, "the distinction between
hatchery and wild fish has
been the underpinning of just about every salmon and steelhead listing in
decade. Hogan's decision undercuts more than twenty West Coast salmon and
steelhead listings...The basis of the $4 billion effort to save Pacific
Salmon may now be in doubt."
"There is significant evidence that hatchery salmon are different from
both genetically and behaviorally. There is also some argument that
pose a threat to wild salmon survival. The argument that hatchery and
are the same has been made mainly by those fighting land use and
regulations originating from salmon listings. Hogan's ruling is a
for their cause."
3) Klamath Basin famers apply for aid
Klamath Basin farmers who have been denied irrigation water started
for $20 million in emergency aid this week.
As reports the Klamath Falls Herald and News (9/10/01), "the aid program
provide per-acre payments for irrigators that didn't receive their
of water when water was denied to farmers on the Klamath Reclamation
Estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that payments will
from $90 to $110 per acre. The sign-up period lasts until Oct. 5.
In a related story, protesters at the headgates of the Klamath Project
system withdrew this Wednesday, saying they did not want to cause more
for the federal government in the wake of terrorist attacks on the East
Bill Ransom, a local businessman and member of the protest group
known as the Klamath Relief Fund said, "We made an agreement with them
that in light
of our national emergency, we'd call a truce on this thing for right
(San Francisco Chronicle 9/12/01).
4) Imperiled shrimp in the Potomac
This week the National Wilderness Institute filed a third
lawsuit against the federal government for violating national
on the Potomac River.
According to Greenwire (9/13/01), "the institute filed a notice of intent
under the Endangered Species Act on Aug. 30, charging the Fish and
Service with violating ESA when it failed to make a finding on a petition
three freshwater shrimp species."
Jim Streeter of the institute says the shrimp are highly endangered, and
only in a few wells near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Their survival will
further endangered by the new bridge construction. The Institute's main
stopping the Army Corps of Engineers' dumping of sludge into the Potomac,
which violates the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
The Corps denies the allegations, saying it has the required permits for
5) Mining: Shedding light on top-polluters
Last year, the Massey Energy Company sent about 250 million gallons of
slurry into Kentucky rivers. Now, a review of five years of environmental
actions against West Virginia coal companies shows Massey has a history
violating water pollution laws.
As reports the Charleston Daily Mail (9/10/01), at least five of Massey's
have made the news in the last few months with blackwater or other water
pollution discharges. The paper analyzed the West Virginia Department of
Environmental Protection's records of sediment and effluent violations at
companies across the state, reviewing 2,654 permits and 2,214 violations.
It found that Massey leads the other coal companies in violations, with
permits and 531 citations over the last five years. The runner up for the
distinction is Arch Coal, Inc., which has 224 permits but only 121
6) Arsenic in drinking water
John Nugent, city manager for Bad Axe, Michigan, believes arsenic in
water is a bad idea. He says that it's not a good idea to ingest poison,
and that the arsenic needs to come out.
However, Clint Holmes, city manager in nearby Brown City, is more
about the costs involved in reducing arsenic levels.
"We're talking about a doubling of the property tax and a water-rate
that would be in the hundreds of percents,'' says Holmes.
As reports USA Today (9/9/01), the US EPA is trying to update the limit
on arsenic in drinking water for the first time since 1942. The agency is
concerned about setting a standard that protects public heath, but
bankrupt small towns.
According to EPA estimates, the cost to small towns (with water systems
serve fewer than 100 households) of purging their water systems of
be $300-$350 per household each year.
Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences is planning to publish a
detailing the health risks of drinking water contaminated with arsenic.
Since the 1940's, the EPA-imposed limit on arsenic was 50 parts per
but recent research indicates that level raises the risk of bladder and
7) Superfund status for Seattle's Duwamish
The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered that the heavily polluted
lower Duwamish River in Seattle, WA be added to the national Superfund
giving it cleanup priority. This listing officially places the river in
the company of some of the most polluted sites in the nation,
reports the Seattle Post Intelligencer (9/14/01).
The Boeing Corporation and the Port of Seattle are considered the major
polluters of the river, and failed to negotiate cleanup agreements with
For more than a century, the river has been the drainage system for one
Seattle's most heavily industrialized neighborhoods, and is loaded with
volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. Puget Sound chinook salmon
and coho salmon still live in the Duwamish.
8) Contaminants in the Rio Grande
They are called trihalomethanes, chemicals that are a product of the
chlorination process. And they've been found in at least 12 Rio Grande
water systems at levels exceeding federal standards.
The chemicals have been linked to cancer; liver, kidney and central
system problems; miscarriages; and neural tube defects.
As reports the San Antonio News-Express (9/8/01), in 1990 and 1991,
thirty-three Cameron County
children were born with neural tube defects, a rate three times higher
than the national average.
Sunny Philip, city manager of La Feria, one of the small cities with
exceeding the state's maximum level for trihalomethanes, says that though
the city plans to improve its water, the EPA would have issued a warning
if the water was not safe to drink. The EPA is requiring large water
keep their levels to a maximum of 80 parts per billion starting in
Smaller water systems serving fewer than 10,000 customers have until
January of 2004 to comply.
9) Dam proposed for Sulphur River
Local residents in Northeast Texas are opposing a plan to flood the
remaining bottomland and hardwood areas in order to supply water to the
Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area.
As reports ENN (9/12/01), the state of Texas wants to construct a $1.7
dam and reservoir on the Sulphur River. Some local residents say the dam
threaten not only their land and livelihoods but habitat and wildlife as
well. If completed, the
project would flood 72,000 acres of rural Texas, including farms, family
businesses, and ranches.
The Marvin Nichols Dam, one of several proposed dams, is scheduled for
from 2020 to 2030. According to Max Shumake of Dekalb, Texas, a landowner
citizen leader, "I don't see the need to put property that's used for
hunting, and fishing under water just so folks in Dallas can water their
The National Wildlife Federation says the dam would not be needed if
other regional communities would lower their water usage rates about 25
over the next 50 years. Dallas residents use about 235 gallons of water
per day, compared to the 150 gallons used by residents of San Antonio.
10) Federal agencies increase security at western dams
After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC this week,
the Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec) and Army Corps of Engineers have
tightened security at western dams. Because of the potential for power
disruption and flooding, large hydroelectric dams are seen as possible
targets for terrorists.
As reports Greenwire (9/13/01), no specific terrorist threats against any
nation's dams have been detected, but the BuRec has increased security
measures and has closed many of it big dams to visitors, including Hoover
in Nevada, Glen Canyon Dam in Utah and Grand Coulee Dam in Washington.
The Corps has put its dams at "high alert" status, according to spokesman
Homer Perkins. Public tours at those sites have been stopped, though
campgrounds, recreation areas and boat ramps remain open.
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