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NFC: Fw: [currents] RiverCurrents Online -- Week of September 17, 1999
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River News for the Week of September 17, 1999
DAM REMOVAL: In the wake of the removal of the Edwards Dam on the
River in Maine, "the nation's 75,000 dams, once almost universally viewed
marvels of technological prowess, are increasingly regarded as river and
fish killers," reports the Washington Post (9/12). The four federal dams
the Lower Snake River in the Northwest continue to receive national
attention as the Corps of Engineers prepares to come out in December with
its long-awaited draft of a massive study on removal of the dams. Removal
the dams will ultimately be a congressional decision. As states Margaret
Bowman of American Rivers, "I think economics is driving it [dam removal]
many places. We understand better than we did two decades ago how dams
affect rivers. It's quite expensive to mitigate for those impacts and for
many rivers it is cheaper to remove dams than mitigate."
* * *
HYDROELECTRICITY: California Utility PG&E has announced its intention to
conduct an auction to dispose of its hydroelectric plants and dams in
northern and central California. Total inventory includes 68 power plants
and 94 dams on 16 rivers that produce enough electricity to power 4
homes. As reports the Contra Costal Times (9/15), the plants could fetch
somewhere around $5 billion, but that "any buyers will likely have to
provide assurances of reliability operations and preservation of
areas as a condition of buying the plants."
* * *
SALMON RECOVERY: Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) is recommending that the
governors of four Northwest states form a new entity that would oversee
Bonneville Power Administration and coordinate fish and wildlife
efforts in the Columbia and Snake River basins, reports the Portland
Oregonian (9/16). The new group would take over the duties currently
by the Northwest Power Planning Council. Kitzhaber believes the new group
might eventually take over teh BPA from the federal government, which
result in the end of congressional efforts to privatize the BPA and would
assure continual spending on salmon and wildlife habitat restoration.
Washington Gov. Gary Locke (D) has mixed feelings on the proposal,
the likely increase in electicity rates to Washington state customers who
currenly use 61% of BPA power.
In another salmon story, scientists have decided that Caspian terms that
live on the man-made island Rice Island, a 220-acre lump of dredged sand
located about eight miles from the mouth of the Columbia, have got to go.
Making up the world's largest colony at 20,000, they consumed some 20
million salmon and steelhead, or about 25% of the total number of fish.
problem is, however, that no one else wants them either. As reports the
Tacoma News Tribune (9/13), more than $3 billion has been spent trying to
restore dwindling Pacific salmon populations that have to fight through
"gantlet of hydroelectric dams, with their grinding turbines and long
stretches of slackwater filled with hungry northern pike minnows, only to
swooped down upon by 20,000 screaming terns" as they near the ocean.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists are considering
the birds to some islands in Grays Harbor and perhaps in southern Puget
Sound. The object is to create several smaller nesting sites up and down
coast so that the impact on fish at each site will be small.
* * *
CALIFORNIA GROUND WATER: 11 companies will pay $200 million to remove
dangerous chemicals in San Gabriel Valley ground water--one of the
offers in Superfund history to clean up a drinking water supply, reports
LA Times (9/16). Two decades ago industrial chemicals were discovered in
ground water beneath Azusa, Baldwin Park and Irwindale in California,
causing local residents to pay more for their water since it had to
be imported or undergo treatment. The site was declared a superfund site
1984 with nineteen companies later named as potentially responsible for
contaminants. As reports the Times, "EPA officials say that Aerojet and
other companies have agreed in principle to pay for construction of an
$85-million treatment facility in Baldwin Park, as well as the
estimated annual operating cost of the plant over the next three
* * *
CALIFORNNIA WATER PLAN: CalFed, the state and federal plan to protect the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is under attack throughout the state by
farmers, environmentalists, and the Metropolitan Water District of
California. The plan was put together in an attempt to improve the
of the delta, which supplies water to 22 million people, by cleaning up
tributaries and controling flooding and siltation. But as reports the LA
Times (9/16), farmers say the plan favors birds and fish too heavily and
would be "ruinous to agricultural interests in the Central Valley by
tens of thousands of acres out of production by taking away water."
Environmentalists on the other hand feel the plan signifies a "retreat"
the effort to save endangered wildlife and to restore natural habitat,
does nothing to "curb the farmers' wasteful ways or to prohibit them from
planting super-thirsty crops like alfalfa." Finally, the Water District
the proposal "does virtually nothing to improve the quality or
of water that flows south from the delta through the California
* * *
PAGAN RIVER: Pollution of the Pagan River in Virginia from 1991 to 1997
cost pork processor Smithfield Foods Inc. $12.6 million, the largest fine
ever imposed under the Clean Water Act. As reports the Richmond Tiems
Dispatch (9/15), the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower
ruling for the willful pollution by Smithfield Foods of the Pagan for
"in order to avoid costly improvements to its own wastewater treatment
plants at its two slaughterhouses along the river."
* * *
TIMBER: A plan to log 2.1 million board feet of timber just north of
Yellowstone National Park will go forward, despite concerns on the impact
grizzly bears and the potential for soil erosion that would affect an
important spawning waterway for cutthroat trout. The US Forst Service
board upheld the Darroch-Eagle Creek timber sale plan, which is one of
sales to provide $4.5 million to fund the final 2,563-acre purchase of
Gallatin II land exchange," reports the Billings Gazette (9/14). Goal of
swap is to turn 54,000 acres of public land in southwest Montana over to
public ownership and to protect wildlife habitat. The review board says
environmental assessment for the sale was adequate.
* * *
SALMON: Wild Atlantic salmon populations have reached an all-time low,
though the reason remains a mystery to experts. As reports the New York
Times (9/14), the total population of wild salmon of North Atlantic
has dropped from about 1.5 million 30 years ago to fewer than 500,000.
Farm-bred salmon might be contributing to the problem, since
makes wild populations less diverse and less suited for survival in the
wild. Farm bred animals also compete with wild populations for food and
habitat. However, no scientific proof exists implicating farm-bred salmon
the decline of wild populations. Global warming might also be a factor
* * *
SOUTHERN US WATER: Water negotiations between George and Alabama are
at the wrong issues, says Lindsay Thomas, President Clinton's appointee
the proceedings. Instead of focusing on the impact of water allocations
rivers, lakes and wildlife, the states are only looking at low flow
The states have until October 31 to establish an agreement on sharing
from the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin, reports the Birmingham
In a related story, Harry West, Director of the Atlanta Regional
told business, community and government leaders this week that metro
is quickly exhausting its water resources and would have insufficient
for additional growth by 2030 or 2040, reports the Atlanta Journal
* * *
NEW YORK CITY WATERPLAN: New York City's billion-dollar plan to prevent
pollution of its most important reservoirs was given a mixed grade by a
panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences, reports the New York
Times (9/16). The plan was designed to clean up reservoirs in the
and the Delaware Valley by limiting development, fixing sewage problems
buying thousands of acres around the reservoirs. The Academy is concerned
that the plan does not provide better tracking of sources of water-borne
parasites and improved septic systems. The plan might provide a good
for water suppliers nationwide, but would not negate the necessity of a
filtration plant in case of emergency. To date, the city has received an
exemption from federal rules requiring drinking water to be filtered.
* * *
SANDY RIVER: The Portland Metro Agency is now the biggest landowner along
wild and scenic stretch of the Sandy River and its salmon-rich
reports the Portland Oregonian (9/13). The state of Oregon recently
purchased 1,017 acres along the river using money from a 1995
bond, setting the land off-limits to logging, homes, and other
Environmentalists favor the move, but some residents accuse the agency of
spending taxpayer money on land that is removed from the public.
* * *
POULTRY WASTE: Local Sierra Club leaders in Kentucky have called on Gov.
Paul Patton to "impose a moratorium on chicken houses until regulations
in place to prevent water from being contaminated by massive amounts of
manure," reports the Lexington Herald Leader (9/16). Concerned that hogs
not the only "mass-produced animals" harming the environment with poorly
managed waste, the Sierra Club has issued the report "Corporate Hogs at
Public Trough," highlighting chicken and hog operations in 10 states.
Club leaders are also asking legislators to take a stand against what
called corporate welfare for a polluting industr. Specifically,
Cagle's-Keystone Foods chicken plant in Clinton County, Kentucky, has
given millions of dollars in direct incentives and tens of millions in
breaks to build its processing plant northwest of Albany.
For more news, visit American Rivers at www.amrivers.org