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NFC: Fw: [currents] RiverCurrents Online -- Week of August 13, 1999

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River News for the Week of August 13, 1999

DAMS: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been ordered by the
US Circuit Court of Appeals to increase protection for fish before
licenses for two hydroelectric dams on Oregon's McKenzie River, reports
Portland Oregonian (8/12). According to the environmental groups American
Rivers, the Pacific Rivers Council, the Oregon Natural Resources Council,
WaterWatch of Oregon and Friends of the Earth, water diversions from the
Walterville and Leaburg dams are threatening populations of wild chinook
salmon and bull trout. In the decision, however, the court decided
requiring a broad review of the dams' overall environmental impact. As
reports the Orgonian, “The most important measures will require the
commission to delay construction of new diversion dams at Walterville
fish screens are in place, and will reduce flows into power canals if too
many fish are still being killed.”

In Washington state, environmentalists and others disagree about removal
Condit dam on the White Salmon River. The hydropower dam owned by
creates an ice-cold teal blue lake fed by glaciers and home to rainbow
and a multitude of birds and other species. But as reports the Oregonian
(8/12), if PacifiCorp reaches a deal with conservation groups, tribes and
federal regulators, the dam would be removed, causing the lake to
and allowing the White Salmon to again flow free, opening at least 12
of habitat to salmon and steelhead trout blocked by the 125-foot-high
Removing the dam would cost PacifiCorp half (15 million) of what fish
ladders and other devices to allow fish to navigate the dam would cost,
would restore traditional tribal fishing to the Yakima nation. Others
however believe that removal of the dam would harm trout and other
that make the lake their home. As reports the Oregonian, “conservation
leaders and PacifiCorp officials declined to discuss negotiations about
Condit Dam.”

     *     *     *

SNAKE RIVER: The Lands Council, Idaho Conservation League and Idaho
United have sued the Potlatch Corporation, a pulp and paper mill, to keep
the mill from releasing warm water into the Snake River in the path of
migrating fish. The mill discharges more than 35 million gallons of
92-degree water into the river daily under a permit that expired in 1997
has been extended indefinitely while the EPA considers renewal. Elevated
water levels are one of the greatest threats to the health of migrating
salmon and steelhead and bull trout, according to the environmental
Potlatch claims to have spent $500 million in recent years to upgrade its
pollution control technology, reports the Associated Press (8/10).

     *     *     *

MOST ENDANGERED FISHERIES: The Federation of Fly Fishers has announced
five most endangered fisheries in the nation, including: Wolf River,
Wisconsin (potential new mining hazard), Crooked Creek, Arkansas
Gravel Mining degrading water quality), Big Spring Run, Pennsylvania
(improper Hatchery operations creating poor water quality), Snake River,
Idaho (federal Dams impeding the migration of salmon and steelhead), and
Juaquin River, CA (devastation of steelhead by development, logging and
mining). As reports the Federation (8/5), “these endangered fisheries
represent a snapshot of the appalling state of many of America's fish
habitats.  The threats to species like bass and salmon, and their
ecosystems, are urgent and steps must be taken now to prevent further
irreversible decline.”

     *     *     *

CHESAPEAKE BAY: Though improved water quality, regrowth of underwater
grasses and rebounding marine life are now being seen in the Chesapeake
one of the bay’s greatest threats – waste runoff from factory farms – is
only now being addressed. As reports a New York Times editorial (8/11),
runoff from these (poultry) farms is devastating to the bay because such
waste is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, which encourage algae growth,
choke underwater vegetation and rob aquatic life of necessary oxygen.”
Collaboration between scientists, private organizations and the
will be required if the bay is not to take another step backwards, states
the editorial.

     *     *     *

SALMON: The Atlantic Salmon Federation and Trout Unlimited have filed a
lawsuit to force the federal government to immediately protect Maine's
Atlantic salmon under the Endangered Species Act, reports a TU press
(8/12). As a “last resort attempt to save the United States' remaining
Atlantic salmon runs from extinction,” the lawsuit was filed in response
a mere 100 wild salmon which returned last year to the seven rivers
currently the focus of Maine's restoration effort.

     *     *     *

HOG FARMING: Seaboards Farms, Oklahoma’s largest hog producer, has been
denied a water permit for a huge facility in the Oklahoma Panhandle by
Oklahoma Water Resources Board. As reports the Daily Oklahoman (8/11),
Seaboard will be going to court to verify if it can be stopped from
operating a Beaver County hog farm in which it already has invested $10
million. The water permit was turned down based on a state law
prohibiting a
hog farm within three miles of a nonprofit group’s recreation facility
this case, a church).

     *     *     *

OREGON CREEKS: Water samples taken from Indian Creek and Neal Creek in
Hood River Valley in Oregon show the presence of chlorpyrifos, a
used in area orchards to control insects that is highly toxic to fish,
reports the Oregonian (8/12). The source of the pesticide is still
and no decision to take action has been made at this time. Orchards are
certainly suspect but so are residential areas and a golf course through
which the creeks flow. The pesticide is considered "moderately toxic" to
mammals, but highly toxic to aquatic species, both fish and
Both Neal Creek and Indian Creek are home to resident cutthroat trout
populations, and Neal Creek is used by coho and other salmon for spawning
and rearing of juveniles.

     *     *     *

PATAPSCO RIVER: Pollution of the Patapsco River and Gwynn Falls will cost
the city of Baltimore, Maryland $500,000 to be paid to federal and state
environmental agencies, and a pledge of $2.5 million to improve two water
filtration plants along the waterways. The state was sued two years ago
the EPA and the Maryland Dept. of the Environment for discharging
levels of chlorine at the Ashburton Water Filtration Plant and other
pollutants at the Patapsco sewage treatment plant. As reports the
Sun (8/12), the city claimed that “while the plants might have released
effluents than allowed by law, no harm occurred to the public or
environment.” The city will pay the fines but does not admit wrongdoing.

     *     *     *

MINING: The new director of the Division of Environmental Protection in
Virginia, Michael Castle, is being accused of polluting streams when he
running the Big South Mining & Construction Co., a mountaintop removal
mining company. The company paid more than $17,000 in environmental fines
for 17 violations over a four-year period, reports the Charleston Gazette
(8/11). In an interview last week, Castle denied knowledge that his
was sited for any environmental problems. Press secretary for Governor
Underwood (R) defended Castle by saying "These seem to be typical
that happen to companies that regularly do mining in West Virginia, and
their scope has not warranted Mr. Castle from being employed by federal
regulatory agencies."

In a related story, the West Virginia state Division of Environmental
Protection has reversed itself to say that stream buffer-zone rules do
to coal-industry valley fills. As reports the Charleston Gazette (8/10),
“DEP lawyers filed new court papers that argued that coal operators can
streams beneath valley fills and meet the tests to qualify for a legal
variance from the buffer-zone rule.”  The DEP has permitted valley fills
without making companies show that streams will not be harmed, argues the
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other environmentalists and that
valley fills in most streams are illegal under the buffer-zone rule.

In Pennsylvania, state monitoring shows that strip mining is getting
cleaner, and that “a state and federal review has found that improved
methods for evaluating and predicting the potential hydrologic impacts of
new surface mining operations have resulted in few severe mine water
discharges after reclamation.” As reports the Pittsburgh Gazette (8/10),
only 2.9 percent of the 1,699 mining permits issued by the state
of Environmental Protection between 1987 and 1996 have current or past
post-mining discharge problems, as opposed to 17% of those issued between
1977 and 1983.

Finally, in Idaho, the state will be establishing the standard for how
metals contamination is unsafe for people. As reports the
(8/11), “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the Idaho
Department of Health and Welfare responsibility for the human health risk
assessment portion of a massive Coeur d'Alene Basin cleanup plan due out
this winter.” The standard established by the state will determine which
contaminated yards get cleaned up and which recreational sites merit
warnings or protections for users.

     *     *     *

OHIO RIVER: Over 60,000 gallons of gasoline were spilled into the Ohio
this week after four barges being pushed upriver collided with a barge
docked on the Kentucky shore. A two-mile stretch of the river was closed
the community of Mount Vernon was forced to shut down its pumping
with residents being asked to conserve water.

     *     *     *

TEXAS FISH KILL: About 20 million dead fish in the Arroyo Colorado have
washing ashore, reports the San Antonia Express News (8/10). Blamed on
low oxygen levels in their nursing grounds, the fish kills is one of the
largest in the past four years. The 2-3 inch long juvenile fish found
can grow as long as a foot as adults.

     *     *     *

NAVARRO RIVER: $200,000 has been pledged by the Coastal Conservancy in
to help improve habitat for coho salmon and other wildlife in the Navarro
River watershed in California. As reports the San Diego Union Tribune
(8/12), the funding was approved because of the degradation of habitat
the last 150 years through timber harvesting, agriculture and residential
development in the Mendocino County area.


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