DECOMMISSIONING OF DAMS
Map of dams removed since 1916 Dams cause considerable harm to rivers. Dams have depleted fisheries, degraded river ecosystems, and altered recreational opportunities on nearly all of our rivers. Today, many dams that were once at the epicenter of a community’s livelihood are now old, unsafe or no longer serving their intended purposes. Learn how USA is working to remove dams and restore the rivers. (Map above is from Ameerican Rivers website, depicting the location of decommissioned dams in USA.) https://www.americanrivers.org/threats-solutions/restoring-damaged-rivers/dam-removal-map/
Dam Busters This provides some insight about how American rivers got killed by unplanned and ill conceived dams hundreds of years ago. In 1680, the town of Andover, Massachusetts, offered free timber and real estate to any citizen who would put up a sawmill, gristmill, or fulling mill (for preparing cloth) on the Shawsheen River. And to put a particularly ironic point on it, many of these early dams were thrown across rivers to create ice ponds to service the burgeoning seafood industry—and in the process killed off the very seafood for which all that ice was needed. And this is how decommissioning of one such dam happened: “The process to free the Jeremy River began in the fall of 2011. Harold negotiated the complicated government funding mechanisms—programs to restore the health of waterways or mitigate storm damages—to raise the nearly half a million dollars required to take down the Norton Mill dam. For the past 15 years, Harold and Gephard have worked together on numerous projects and have removed five dams from Connecticut waterways. Harold says they have a wish list of dozens more dams in the state that they’d like to see come down. But apart from raising necessary funds, which can range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars for the removal of a single dam, Harold and Gephard spend most of their time meeting with owners whose ties to their dams can go back centuries. (April 4, 2017: https://www.hakaimagazine.com/features/dam-busters/)
California Positive impact of dam removal on Carmel river system Positive and promising signs of removal of 106 ft-high San Clemente Dam on Carmel River bio diversity and steelhead trout populations.
– The decision was made by the dam’s owner, California American Water, in consultation with federal and state agencies, to demolish the decrepit structure, making it the largest dam-removal project in California’s history.
– The demand for water for Monterey County led to the construction of the dam in 1921. The decision to remove the dam came to a head after state officials decided the dam had outlived its usefulness. Engineers determined the structure was seismically unsafe in 1991, and by 2002 it was full of sediment and no longer supplied water to Monterey residents.
– The removal project began in 2013 when engineers rerouted a half-mile section of the river above the dam. Remnants of the dam were removed and a series of cascading pools were installed to enable oceangoing fish to swim upstream to the tributaries where they spawn. At this point, the river is in the process of redesigning itself and it’s “super-exciting” to observe, Chapman the regional manager for the California Coastal Commission said. In 2017, the river has the building blocks for a healthy ecosystem, sediment flows downstream and steelhead can move upstream. “Honestly, the river can build a far better river than we do. It’s so much more complex,” she said.” https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/articles/2017/10/30/two-years-after-californias-biggest-dam-removal-fish-rebound
Four Hydropower Dams on Klamath River to come down Meanwhile in a Los Angeles Times, Op-Ed, titled Four dams in the West are coming down — a victory wrapped in a defeat for smart water policy, Jacques Leslie says that when a top Interior Department official acknowledged recently that the Trump administration wouldn’t try to block removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, he signaled a monumental victory for local Native American tribes, salmon fishermen and the national dam removal movement.
Yet this development is less momentous than it would have been in 2015, when dam removal was just one component of a broad plan for the Klamath Basin, which straddles the California-Oregon border. That plan included salmon habitat restoration, the return of tribal land and water-sharing among farmers, ranchers and tribes. It was the product of a decade of trust-building and honest negotiation among representatives of the basin’s constituencies, whose efforts turned one of the nation’s most contentious water basins into a model of collaboration. It helped that big money didn’t skew the process: Most of the basin’s residents are far from wealthy, and the only corporation involved is PacifiCorp, the utility that owns the dams. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-leslie-klamath-dam-removal-20171102-story.html
Aging dams in need of repairing As per Bob Irvin, the president of American Rivers, “the very fact that you are blocking a river and allowing a reservoir to fill up with millions of gallons of water presents a risk”. The group has partnered with the State of Maryland to remove the Bloede Dam, built in 1907, where several people have drowned over the years. According to American Rivers Nationwide, 1,384 dams had been removed from 1912 through 2016. A majority of those dams were removed within the last two decades, with 72 removed in 2016. Also see, Move to ease the pressures on aging dams This discusses how dams and embankments are likely to respond to changing climate in California and how institutions and society needs to respond in turn.
Important messages from multiple spillway failure of USA’s the tallest dam in Feb 2017 Citing a “long-term systemic failure” at the California Department of Water Resources, independent forensic investigators released their final report on the nearly-catastrophic emergency last February at Oroville Dam. In a 584-page dissection of the disaster at America’s tallest dam, the investigative team said Oroville Dam was designed and built with flaws from the beginning, which were exacerbated by inadequate repairs in the years that followed. The panel also said the Department of Water Resources, which runs the dam, has been “somewhat overconfident and complacent” and gave “inadequate priority for dam safety.” At the same time, the investigators said the entire dam industry, including federal regulators who oversee the facility’s operations, needs to heed the lessons learned at Oroville. http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article193151499.html (Sacbee, 5 January 2018)
State now facing cascade of litigation More than 40 farmers and business owners in the Oroville area sued the state over the effects of the Oroville Dam crisis, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. The giant lawsuit against the California Department of Water Resources was filed by the same law firms representing the city of Oroville in a suit it filed in early January against DWR. It accuses DWR of harboring a “culture of corruption and harassment” that compromised dam safety and led to last February’s near-catastrophe. http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article197739424.html (The Sacramento Bee, 31 Jan. 2018)
$51 billion lawsuit for RIVER “Butte County’s district attorney sued the Department of Water Resources on Feb. 7, 2018 for the environmental damage created by last February’s crisis. In particular, District Attorney Michael Ramsey said DWR should have to pay between $34 billion and $51 billion for the tons of concrete, rock and other debris that fell into the Feather River below the dam. Ramsey filed the suit on behalf of “the People of the State of California,” according to court documents.” The Butte DA’s lawsuit, however, appears to be the first one focused on the debris that went into the Feather River. The suit says the river was inundated by “concrete, lime, slag and substances and material deleterious to fish, plant life, mammals and bird life.” It seeks $10 for every pound of material dumped into the water. http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article199190934.html (The Sacramento Bee, 8 Feb. 2018)
After Oroville Dam scare, California water officials questioned Despite broad public interest, Brown’s administration is using federal security regulations designed to protect us from terrorism to keep key documents private. Given the serious nature of February’s near failure, the fair question for the public to ask now is this: Why should we trust state officials to do this work with little public scrutiny? Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar asks tough questions.
3 dams in Santa Clara County have similar spillway problems Recently completed technical reports show that the spillways at three dams located near densely populated communities around San Jose have structural problems that are similar to the flaws that led to the failure of the main spillway at Oroville Dam in February 2017. https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/21/oroville-dam-three-dams-in-santa-clara-county-have-similar-spillway-problems/
Another giant California dam has downstream residents worried Deep in the Trinity Alps, 130 miles northwest of the troubled Oroville Dam, local officials are raising alarms about another earthen dam with documented weaknesses and limited capacity for releasing the water that has poured in from storms and melting snow. Trinity Lake, the state’s third-largest reservoir, was filled to 97 percent of its storage capacity April 25, 2017 and a snowpack estimated at 150 percent of normal still looms over the watershed.
Texas Dam regulation in desperate need of repair Texas boasts 81 percent (% of dams that have emergency action plans), but still lag behind a state such as New York, which touts a near-perfect 97 percent of dams with emergency action plans. Texas has had a mixed, at times unacceptable, history with dam safety and oversight. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gives Texas a D for dams.
– In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 677, which exempted lower-risk, smaller dams in mostly rural counties from safety regulation… As a result, roughly 45 percent of Texas dams are now exempt from state safety regulation. Texas has three hazard classification levels: low, significant and high. Low means that loss of life is unlikely and minimal damage is expected. Significant means one to six deaths possible and appreciable economic losses expected. High means seven or more deaths and excessive economic loss anticipated… Lawmakers opted to exempt some dams at the significant hazard classification level from any oversight, those dams making up about 10 percent of the overall number exempted.
– Federal standards set by FEMA state that “one or more” deaths rank as a high hazard classification. The federal significant hazard classification is assigned to dams whose breach would probably not cause loss of life but may cause economic losses. Texas’ standards fall outside of FEMA standards, setting a seemingly arbitrary choice of six people as an acceptable cutoff. In effect, we’re saying six deaths isn’t that bad; seven, however, is extremely bad. Texas should adopt FEMA classifications. Texas dams are a ticking time bomb; it’s only a matter of time before state action comes too little, too late. http://dailytexanonline.com/2018/01/30/texas-dam-regulation-is-in-desperate-need-of-repair (The Daily Texan, 30 Jan. 2018)
As sediment builds, one dam faces its comeuppance Sediment accumulation is also an issue that US dam operators face, like in this case of Paonia reservoir in Colorado river. http://www.hcn.org/articles/water-as-sediment-builds-a-colorado-dam-faces-its-comeuppance-paonia-reservoir
Solar-wind cuts Hydro Revenue in California The success of solar and wind energy in California is having a surprising side effect: It may be undercutting revenue for hydroelectric dams, the longtime stalwart of “green” energy in the West. “These utilities are going to have to look hard at how much they want to spend maintaining a hydroelectric project they know is really not economically viable.”
– As a result, there were long periods this year in which market pricing for electricity in California actually turned negative. That means producers had to pay the market to take their energy. The situation is good for energy consumers, who benefit from lower prices. It’s also good for the planet, because it means solar and wind energy have at last become major contributors to the grid.
– The hydro industry may eventually find that some generating units no longer pencil out. And the effects aren’t limited to California: The duck curve influences utilities all over the West. In a PowerPoint presentation, he illustrated how electricity pricing has declined by a dramatic 55 percent over the past six years in the mid-Columbia energy market in central Washington, a region dominated by hydropower. The first victim of this trend in the hydroelectric sector may be the Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s DeSabla-Centerville facility, a small hydroelectric system on Butte Creek in California. https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/articles/2017/11/06/why-hydroelectric-utilities-are-endangered-by-soaring-solar-and-wind
USA House approval of bill for using exiting dams for hydropower criticised Only 3 percent of the US’s 80,000 dams now produce electricity. Electrifying some of the larger sites – primarily locks and dams on the Ohio, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas Rivers that are operated by the Army Corps of Engineers – would generate electricity for millions of homes and create thousands of jobs, an Energy Department report said. The bill would make the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the lead agency on hydropower licensing and require states, tribes and other federal agencies to defer to the commission.
– Opponents said the bill turns over public waterways to industry at the expense of fishermen, boaters and Native American tribes. “This bill is an industry wish list and it’s facing major opposition by states, tribes, conservation and recreation groups,” said Amy Kober, a spokeswoman for American Rivers, an environmental group. The legislation weakens protections for clean water and wildlife and strips states and tribes of their authority to ensure crucial environmental safeguards, Kober said.
– Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said a major cause for licensing delays was due to incomplete applications submitted by power companies rather than bureaucratic bungling, as Republicans charge. “We cannot allow hydropower facilities to claim a monopoly over our public waterways without mitigating the negative impacts of these facilities … and without complying with modern environmental laws,” Rush said. The Bill will now go to senate.
– According to another report, of those 80,000, 54,000 could be retrofitted at a megawatt or more, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Incidentally, this is also true for India. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/house-approves-bill-to-expand-hydropower/61570954, http://www.brinknews.com/dammed-if-you-dont-why-u-s-will-lose-big-without-investing-in-hydropower/
Regulators reject hydropower project over tourism concerns VERY INTERESTING DECISION by regulators in New Hampshire in USA against a transmission line project to bring 1100 MW of hydropower from Canada to Massachusetts in USA since the project would affect forests, landscape and tourism, and property values. After eight-year long process. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/regulators-reject-hydropower-project-over-tourism-concerns/62753918 (Energy World, 2 Feb. 2018)
The fight to save hydro power environmental reviews Last month, at an event described as a “White House CEO Town Hall,” President Donald Trump told an astonished public that he wants to trim the permitting process for new dams down to four months. That’s less than half the time that a sixteen-year-old needs to have a Learners’ Permit before applying for a Maryland Driver’s License. Luckily, the President’s advisors appear to have talked him down from this position, and he’s settled on a one-year permitting process for building new dams.
Dilution of regulations to reverse restoration work of last 3 decades Environmentalists fear Donald Trump’s plan to roll back regulations to “1960s levels” is poised to make things worse. “She knew the stories about the Cuyahoga River (which empties into Lake Erie, one of the great Lakes) catching on fire, having become so polluted that its surface was literally flammable. She watched too, after the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act helped turn things around and let nature flourish.” (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/news/lake-erie-pollution-margaret-brouwer-oratorio-cleveland-a8117426.html The Independent 18 Dec 2017)
Groups sue EPA to protect wild salmon from climate change U.S. fishing and conservation groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Feb. 23, 2017 seeking to protect wild salmon threatened by rising water temperatures attributed in part to climate change in two major rivers of the Pacific Northwest. The groups’ legal bid on behalf of salmon runs in the Columbia and Snake rivers hinges on the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate excessive temperatures in those rivers as pollutants. The lawsuit seeks to compel the EPA to thus require dam operators in the Columbia and Snake watersheds of Washington state, Oregon and Idaho to control river flows in such a way as to keep water temperatures cool enough for the salmon to survive. LAND MARK PETITION.
Does a River have Rights? Interesting law suit on Colorado River This is the essential question in what attorneys are calling a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit, in which a Denver lawyer and a far-left environmental group are asking a judge to recognize the Colorado River as a person. The suit was filed in Federal District Court in Colorado by Jason Flores-Williams, a Denver lawyer. It names the river ecosystem as the plaintiff — citing no specific physical boundaries — and seeks to hold the state of Colorado and Gov. John Hickenlooper liable for violating the river’s “right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored, and naturally evolve.” If a corporation has rights, the authors argue, so, too, should an ancient waterway that has sustained human life for as long as it has existed in the Western United States. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/us/does-the-colorado-river-have-rights-a-lawsuit-seeks-to-declare-it-a-person.html
Los Angeles debates River’s future This is a fantastic piece delving into the messy realm of river restoration.. or beautification… or riverfront development. This is the Los Angeles River, but issues are same as South Asia, Channelised River, Little land for reclamation, poorer settlements along the river, tussle for the correct “vision” for the river. Some of the most basic questions regarding the river: Should the concrete that defines its channel, and its image, be removed? How much water should flow through it? Should it be used to support plants and animals, or to provide the city with drinking water? Should the river be a park, an ecosystem, a commercial space, a reservoir? And who decides?
– Bimal Patel, the architect of Sabarmati River Front Development and its various clones, would call it GOING BACK!
– The corps has approved a plan to remove the concrete from the river bottom along an 11-mile stretch. This plan is primarily intended to restore the native riparian habitat that was lost when the channel was concretized. https://www.kcet.org/shows/earth-focus/the-bigger-picture-competing-visions-of-the-los-angeles-rivers-future (KCET.ORG, 20 Feb. 2018)
Groundwater pumping drying up Great Plains rivers Interesting study more than half a century of groundwater pumping from the aquifer has led to long segments of rivers drying up and the collapse of large-stream fishes in the Great Plains of Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and the panhandle of Texas. If pumping practices are not modified, scientists warn that these habitats will continue to shrink, and the fish populations along with them. The findings have implications for watersheds around the world, because irrigation accounts for 90 percent of human water use globally, and local and regional aquifers are drying up. https://phys.org/news/2017-07-groundwater-great-plains-streams-fish.html
California Tribe to save river & stop a suicide epidemic Deep in California’s coastal woods near the Oregon border, the reservation straddles the mighty Klamath River, the tribe’s lifeblood for centuries. But over the last 50 years, the yearly migration of salmon from the Pacific dwindled, and poverty, addiction and lawlessness gripped the reservation. Last year, a rash of suicides pushed the tribe, California’s largest and one of its poorest, into an existential crisis. SAD story of how abnormally high suicide rate was related to death of a river.
Delaware River Basin Commission bans drilling-fracking near River A commission that oversees drinking water quality for 15 million people took an initial step on September 13 to permanently ban drilling and hydraulic fracturing near the Delaware River and its tributaries, drawing criticism from the natural gas industry as well as from environmental groups worried that regulators would still allow the disposal of toxic drilling wastewater inside the area. The Delaware River Basin Commission voted 3-1, with one abstention, to begin the lengthy process of enacting a formal ban on drilling and fracking, the technique that’s spurred a U.S. production boom in shale gas and oil. Besides other locales, the watershed supplies Philadelphia and half of New York City with drinking water.
– The resolution approved by the commission says that fracking “presents risks, vulnerabilities and impacts to surface and ground water resources across the country,” and directs the staff to draft regulations to ban it. “Today, we are acting to protect a watershed that supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people in one of the most densely populated areas of the country,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. Environmentalists were infuriated by provisions they said would allow the industry to draw water from the river and its tributaries for hydraulic fracturing outside the region, and to dispose of fracking wastewater within the Delaware watershed. http://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/oil-and-gas/regulators-take-step-to-ban-hydraulic-fracking-near-delaware-river/60510629
Lafayette River Oyster Survey shows thriving reefs It’s just amazing to see oysters growing so thickly, especially in an urban river that was polluted for decades. “If oysters can come back in the Lafayette, they can come back anywhere they used to be in the Bay,” said CBF Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager Jackie Shannon. In India too, many Western Ghat rivers are rich repositories of Oysters rivers like Aghanashini and even Vashishthi. http://www.cbf.org/news-media/newsroom/2017/virginia/lafayette-river-oyster-survey.html
How Glacial Rivers (Alaska) Function, different that non glacial rivers Interesting insights on how Glacial rivers function, how they are different than non glacial rivers and how this affects the biodiversity. Though the piece is about Chinook Salmon, it applies to Himalayan rivers as well. http://glacierhub.org/2017/12/28/alaska-glaciers-shrink-salmon-populations-may-also-decline/ (Glaicier Hub 28 December 2017)
Trump’s border wall could have lasting impact on rivers The giant wall that President Donald Trump wants to build on the border with Mexico will cost billions of dollars, disrupt numerous communities and sever the migration routes of hundreds of wildlife species. The wall, intended to halt illegal immigration, would also block many rivers and streams. This consequence has not yet been discussed much. The wall itself could restrict water flow important to farms and cities on both sides of the border. This could worsen water pollution and lead to flooding disasters. It might also change groundwater recharge in areas fed by rivers. All this, in turn, could affect treaties and water-sharing agreements along the border — both internationally and between neighboring communities within the U.S.
Feasible to treat waste water for groundwater recharge Los Angeles County in Southern California has come out with a study that says that it is feasible to treat wastewater sufficiently to recharge into groundwater. A 150 MGD facility would cost USD 2.7 Billion to establish and USD 129 million to operate annually, cost of water coming to USD 1.3 per 1000 litres, which is found competitive with fresh source water. The county has managed to reduce per capita water use by 25% since 1990. The next step is to build a demonstration plant of 0.5 MGD capacity, which will be operated for a year and based on that experience, they would decide the next steps.
San Diego will recycle sewage into drinking water Soon San Diegans will be sipping and bathing in water recycled from sewage. A deal between local environmental groups and city officials to pursue a plan known as Pure Water San Diego, in lieu of upgrades to an aging wastewater treatment facility, seems to be coming to fruition after more than two decades of brainstorming, formal planning and small-scale testing of water purification technologies. The Pure Water project is expected to break ground next year and ultimately generate a third of San Diego’s drinking water by 2035.
Officials patched and prayed while pressure built on Houston’s dams GREAT, detailed article about floods in Houston in 1992 and 2016-17 and the role of dams and other options. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Officials-patched-and-prayed-while-pressure-built-12425719.php
Ohio River Floods Basements Recently flood event along the Ohio River and on nearby rivers and streams has left many homeowners struggling with flooded basements. That water can do thousands of dollars in damage & some of it might not be covered by insurance. https://www.cincinnati.com/videos/news/2018/02/21/watch-birds-eye-view-local-flooding/110653212/
Here is aerial footage of Tristate flooding on Feb. 20, 2018. The floods affected businesses and communities alongside the river. Video by Enquirer/Phil Didion.
https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/02/25/flooded-basement-some-dos-and-dont/371203002/ (Cincinnati, 25 Feb. 2018)
What does a ‘500-year flood’ really mean? Since 2015, the Southeast Texas region has been through at least three significant floods – Memorial Day in 2015, Tax Day in 2016 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Officials said the Memorial Day and Tax Day floods, when the region picked up more than 20 inches of rain, represented a 500-year flood event. Contrary to popular belief, the intervals do not mean that type of flood, for example, only happens once every 100 years. So, a region can experience, for example, multiple 100-year floods in any year. According to the USGS, water levels that constitute a flood interval can fluctuate based on changing climate. https://www.click2houston.com/weather/what-does-a-500-year-flood-really-mean-
New approach to flood control DETENTION or store stormwater safely within the city limits, NOT DRAINAGE, not pumping water out is the new mantra of new water and flood management plan of New Orleans city. This has been learnt from the Netherlands experience in dealing with floods. The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan became a multi-pronged template to transform the city into a semi-aquatic landscape by 2050. http://www.nola.com/weather/index.ssf/2017/08/new_orleans_flooding_living_wi.html#incart_river_index
Wetlands hugely help flood mitigation This study calculates the financial benefits that coastal wetlands provide by reducing storm surge damages from hurricanes. It offers new evidence that protecting natural ecosystems is a cost-effective way to reduce risks from coastal storms and flooding. It shows that during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, coastal wetlands prevented more than US$625 million in direct property damages by buffering coasts against its storm surge. Across 12 coastal states, from Maine to North Carolina, wetlands and marshes reduced damages by an average of 11 percent.
– These benefits varied widely by location at the local and state level. In Maryland, wetlands reduced damages by 30 percent. In highly urban areas like New York and New Jersey they provided hundreds of millions of dollars in flood protection. Just as we would not build in front of a seawall or a levee, it is important to be aware of the impacts of building near wetlands.
– Wetlands reduce flood losses from storms every year, not just during single catastrophic events. We examined the effects of marshes across 2,000 storms in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. These marshes reduced flood losses annually by an average of 16 percent, and up to 70 percent in some locations. Even after suffering years of damage, Florida’s mangrove wetlands and coral reefs play crucial roles in protecting the state from hurricane surges and waves. And yet, over the last six decades, urban development has eliminated half of Florida’s historic mangrove habitat. https://theconversation.com/as-communities-rebuild-after-hurricanes-study-shows-wetlands-can-significantly-reduce-property-damage-83935
Utah’s Great Salk Lake at historic low In more than 170 years of water records and a comparison of how much water flows in and out of the lake, consumption of freshwater is likely to blame for the shrinking of Utah’s Great Salt Lake—and of similar lakes around the world. Since 1847, the Great Salt Lake has steadily shrunk, reaching its lowest recorded level in 2016. The lake now is 3.6 mts below its 1847 level and just half its original volume. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/utah-s-great-salt-lake-has-lost-half-its-water-thanks-thirsty-humans
Compiled by SANDRP (firstname.lastname@example.org)