Home > Uncategorized > Undoing of the Dos Rios dam

Undoing of the Dos Rios dam

Dos-Rios-damThe Rare Earth News blog looks back 40 years at the dam that could have dried up the Eel River.

The Dos Rios dam would have flooded rich ag and ancestral land in Mendocino County, but was stopped by ranchers, Native Americans and ultimately Governor Ronald Reagan.

Rare Earth includes a link to a 1995 New York Times letter to the Editor by Peter Hannaford — author of those twice-weekly editorials for the Eureka Reporter page in the Times-Standard.  Hannaford wrote to defend Reagan’s role in stopping the dam.

A key opponent of the dam was Richard Wilson, who later headed the California Dept. of Forestry, and recently blew the whistle on Maxxam in Federal Court.

Hannaford’s letter is below the fold.

Killing the Giant Dam
Published: Sunday, May 7, 1995

To the Editor:

As a former director of public affairs for Gov. Ronald Reagan, I would like to reply to Marc Reisner’s review of “The River Stops Here” (March 26), Ted Simon’s book about Richard Wilson’s campaign to save Round Valley in California from a giant dam. Mr. Reisner describes Governor Reagan as “the one person who could kill the project at a stroke.” He then refers to Mr. Reagan’s “ambivalence about the dam’s fate.”

In fact, Ronald Reagan did kill the Dos Rios dam with a stroke. On May 13, 1969, he directed California’s Department of Water Resources “to work with the U.S. Corps of Engineers to make further analyses of possible water development plans on the Eel River watershed.” He thus withheld his approval of the proposed dam. He was upset that a Corps of Engineers report had offered no alternatives to the huge dam, and he was already sympathetic to the plight of the Indian ranchers of Round Valley, whose property and ancestral burial grounds would have been flooded.

Mr. Reagan’s action was widely understood at the time to have killed the Dos Rios dam. The San Francisco Chronicle’s account carried the headline “Governor Refuses to O.K. Dos Rios,” and an editorial was entitled “Reagan Shelves Dos Rios Dam.”


  1. May 23, 2009 at 7:03 am

    I’m sorry, did you say: “…could have dried up the Eel River.” That river looks pretty bad around August, and sometimes earlier.

  2. longwind
    May 23, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Thanks for this blast from the past, Heraldo. For regional history buffs, “The River Stops Here” ranks with “Genocide and Vendetta” as brilliant foundational explanations of where and who we are.

    Killing the Round Valley dam affected us even more locally. The whole length of the Eel River had been doomed to water LA until Reagan’s call for more studies. The Yellow Jacket dam downstream from Alderpoint also evaporated back into dreamtime, after lakeside subdivisions had already been platted and sold. The Palo Verde lakeside subdivision became the Heartwood massage school, where meat lockers planned for wealthy hunters became massage studios in the clubhouse-turned-school. A few miles downstream the Rancho Sequoia subdivision soon became a tweaker Manhattan of amenity-free ranchettes.

    Plus, Richard Wilson’s daughter is the boss boss of the Marjo Wilson Band! Now that’s a life well spent.

  3. anonymous
    May 23, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Is it true that the Eel used to have a flow similar
    to the Trinity? In the dead of summer the main fork
    of the Eel is just a slow moving swamp full of moss
    and stinging bugs not even good for swimming.

  4. beel
    May 23, 2009 at 8:07 am

    52% of the Trinity’s flow is exported to the Central Valley, so it’s not a good comparison.

  5. May 23, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I read the Ted Simon’s book back in 2007. It is a good read.

    Marc Reisner’s book, Cadillac Desert, is an incredible book about just how precious water is to people who are living where there is not enough of the resource to sustain population growth.

  6. longwind
    May 23, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Just look in the Russian River for your answer. The Russian used to dry up into disconnected pools every summer, until the Potter Valley Project intercepted Eel water to make electricity for Ukiah. The Project is now legally required to deliver 150 cubic feet per second of flow past Guerneville. Imagine 150 cfs more flow in August in the main stem Eel, where it came from. It would be a different river.

  7. May 23, 2009 at 8:33 am

    When I read Ted Simon’s book (I am trying to recall here) I think there was a part of the book where dam consultants were called in, and those consultants literally took a map of Nor Cal rivers, and had made plans on how they could divert each river. One of their proposals was to literally re-direct the Klammath River to flow into the Central Valley.

    Just think of what might have been.

  8. May 23, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    When a project is named in another language, it’s your first clue someone is trying to pick your pocket.

    es bueno para mí

  9. May 23, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Water will be/is the cause of all future conflict. we know that already. But what to do to protect our human rights? Question is..what “human rights.”

  10. May 24, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    “Whisky’s fer drinkin’, Water’s fer fightin'”.

  11. Confused
    May 25, 2009 at 9:29 am

    water wars, the county will sell our water.

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