|California River Awards: Friday, October 25
Don’t miss the river party of the year!
Next Friday evening, river advocates from around the state
will gather at the California River
Awards to celebrate two heroes of California’s rivers – David “Chicken”
Nesmith and Representative Jared Huffman.
David Nesmith, known fondly as “Chicken,” has been a driving
force in environmental and river conservation communities for more than 30
years. He directed the Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club and has led campaigns at Friends
of the Earth, Save the Bay, and National Land for People. Most recently, as
Facilitator for the Environmental Water Caucus, David championed ecosystem
restoration and limits to water exports from the Delta. While his work and
accomplishments are legion, none is greater than his leadership in the
successful decade-long effort working with California Sportfishing Protection Alliance,
Foothill Conservancy, Sierra Club, and Friends of the River to convince the
East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Board of Directors to reverse the
decision to raise Pardee Dam, saving, at least for now, a significant stretch
of the Mokelumne River from inundation.
Representative Jared Huffman is an avid angler and member of
the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Budget Committee. In a
remarkable feat for a freshman in Congress, Huffman successfully steered his
bill adding Point Arena and the Garcia River estuary to the California Coastal
National Monument out of the Natural Resources Committee in June. He has also
ably opposed several environmentally destructive bills considered by the
committee, including the bill to remove federal protection from a segment of
the Merced Wild River. He is working closely with Friends of the River and
other conservation groups to identify for protection potential Wild &
Scenic rivers and other wild places on public lands in his district.
Delta Tunnels Plan to
be released on November 15
Katy Cotter, Legal Counsel
After many delays and stopped starts, the Natural Resources
Agency has announced that it will release the public draft of the plan
proposing the construction of giant twin tunnels beneath the Delta on November
15, 2013, though the lead agencies have already predicted yet another delay in
its release due to the federal government shutdown. Once it is released, there
will be a 120-day comment period on the so-called Bay Delta Conservation Plan
(BDCP) EIS/EIR, during which the public can write letters or emails expressing
concern with the project. While we
cannot be sure what the new draft will contain, if it resembles recent drafts
it will continue to be a death sentence for Delta fish species and will be the catalyst
for new upstream dams and increased political pressure to expand existing reservoirs
to fill the proposed tunnels.. See for
example our fact sheets on the Shasta Dam and the Sites Offstream
Reservoir project and their intimate connection with the BDCP.
Plan proposes construction of three new intakes on a stretch of the Sacramento
River near Hood. Twin tunnels 150 feet
deep would convey water to the existing pumping plants in the south Delta near
Tracy. From there, water would be lifted
into the canals that supply Southern California, the Santa Clara Valley, and
the San Joaquin Valley. In other words, under the Plan, a large volume of water
that currently flows down the Sacramento River and through the Delta will now
be siphoned off near Hood (just south of Clarksburg). Taking this freshwater flow out of the Delta
will impair the habitat of multiple endangered species, including the
Sacramento River Winter-Run Chinook Salmon, the Central Valley Spring-Run
Chinook Salmon, the Central Valley Steelhead, the Southern Distinct Population
Segment of the North American Green Sturgeon, and the Delta Smelt. Agencies
such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Fish
and Wildlife have also criticized the analysis, noting among other things, that
the analysis of Plan’s benefits is overly optimistic. Notably, the Plan does
nothing to improve Delta outflows even though there is broad scientific
agreement that current outflow conditions are insufficient for protecting the
Delta’s aquatic ecosystem. The most
recent version of the Plan aligned the tunnels to pass under Staten Island,
which serves as key habitat for the beloved Sandhill Crane.
Friends of the River has submitted three letters to the fish
agencies that are charged with approving the BDCP, detailing the many ways in
which the BDCP fails to pass muster under the Endangered Species Act and other
environmental laws. As these letters articulate, the BDCP must not just
maintain endangered fish populations, they must recover declining populations,
and the current BDCP has failed to demonstrate that it meets this standard.
These letters have been posted on the BDCP web site (see letters dated September
25th, August 13th, and June 4, 2013).
These letters further explain why even the reduced footprint
version of the Plan that was announced this past summer still fails to
adequately protect threatened and endangered fish habitat and why CEQA and NEPA
require much more rigorous analysis.
Stay tuned for more announcements on the BDCP.
Selling it: all
things to all people
Ron Stork, Sr. Policy Advocate
Friends of the River is not exactly deep into the councils
of the south-of-delta water contractors, so much of what we know of the big
water grab (sometimes known as BDCP) is
from press accounts, conferences, planning documents, and other traditional
sources of closely guarded information.
What you hear seems to depend on marketing targets.
Environmentalists and anglers hear that the big Delta
tunnels are being built to restore fisheries and recover endangered species
(although what we've seen from government fish agencies means average exports
from the Delta have to go down, even with the big tunnels).
The Bureau of Reclamation tells us that operations from a
raised Shasta Dam (and flooding part of the protected McCloud River) will
prioritize fisheries over deliveries to contractors (although the tunnels EIR,
designed in part to sell the tunnels to the water contractors, seems to model
the reverse priority).
California’s Deputy Resources Agency Secretary Jerry Meral
is on a talking tour selling the tunnels to the far ends of the state, and the
press from it is disturbing.
For example, we read in The Desert Sun that Craig Ewing,
vice-president of the Desert Water Agency says, " 'Noting that water
levels have declined over the years in the aquifer that stores water for the
Coachella Valley,' he said: 'We need the Delta supply,' " and 'The Delta
tunnels plan would bring the area significantly larger flows of water and would
make deliveries more reliable year after year,' Ewing said."
Kind of reminds me when Rep. John Doolittle, desperately
trying to find some buyers for Auburn dam water, told a Palm Springs gathering
that the big dam on the American could and should be used "to sweeten the
Frankly, selling it is all about raising expectations. In
this case, "water for everyone" is a dangerously unrealistic
expectation to be selling in a state that has already reached "peak
water," let alone "peak environmental water." Yes, that means
that many California water sectors have already lived beyond their means and
are going to have to conserve water.
However, that’s not what we are hearing. Instead, the
unhealthy level of expectation from the tunnels selling-it campaign is best
reflected in the news from the Porterville Recorder earlier this summer. There,
the Tulare County Board of supervisors, eyeing the prospect of the big tunnels
to the north state, noted, "The continued over-drafted groundwater basins
of the Central Valley are also a very serious threat to the economic future of
California agriculture, and the Central Valley is in dire need of the
development and importation of more surface water to eliminate mining
groundwater. The legislature should revisit Wild and Scenic Rivers status of
the North Coast waters, where nearly one-third of California's water supply flows
to the ocean, when there is such a demonstrated need to put available resources
to their highest and best use."
California’s northcoast rivers are arguably the crown jewels
of our combined state and national wild and scenic rivers. I'm hoping that the
tunnels and the selling-it campaign don't lead there, but I fear it already
Ron Stork, Sr. Policy Advocate
It does seem a little odd to some: fighting off a
government-proposed dam on a beautiful mountain river. Perhaps even more so for
the citizens of Japan accustomed to the disciplines of the civic harmony of
their culture and the overwhelming power of their Ministry of Construction.
Thus it was no surprise to me that I had been invited to
spend the day talking about Auburn dam to some professors and students of
Kumamoto University in Japan.
I have done this several times before. The first time was in
Washington, D.C. in the 1990s during one of the Auburn dam campaigns of that
era. U.N. style translators with
headphones. Members of the Japanese Diet, river activists, academics. It was an
NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corp.) TV even did a documentary of
the Auburn dam fight back then. Views of Traci Sheehan (FOR American River
Campaign director then, now director of the Foothill Water Network) collecting
EIS documents from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for review and public
comment. Then telling the story of Rep. John Doolittle’s unmistakable
misrepresentation of facts in one of his Dear Colleague letters. Congress
failing to back the Corps. It must have been fascinating TV in Japan.
This time it was a more quiet discussion amongst a Corps
representative, a longtime local flood-control agency official, Sacramento
State University folks, the visitors from Japan, and me. We heard of the fight
to stop their Ministry of Construction from building another dam on the Kawabe
River. We told the history of our struggles on the American.
Both dams are on hold, stalled for the indefinite future,
the rivers still not protected.
Although there was much discussion about the formal
institutions of government decision-making, for me the discussion brought home
the vital role that all of us play in saving rivers.
May there be many Friends of the River, all over the world.
And may we take time to be ambassadors for rivers whenever the opportunity
There’s some counter river ambassadors in the world too.
The Auburn Dam Council is the local civic booster club for
the construction of the Auburn dam on the American River. Their last meeting
was about raising money for another feasibility report for Auburn dam. The last
one didn’t turn out very well, so they want to do another one.
They have the sympathies of the two Congressmen (Reps. McClintock
and LaMalfa) who represent the Congressional districts that the NF American
We probably need to be watchful there.
In the meantime, we need to be sharing the American River
(as well as the other rivers in California) with others in as many ways as
possible: river trips, field trips, writing about them, talking about them,
press and elected-official outreach, photos, histories, maps, videos,
recruiting new members. And yes, we could use the money and people power
necessary to commission our own reports. In a nutshell, we all need to find
ways of accomplishing our mission better. After all, rivers without friends are
rivers that may only have a short future.
And even on the Smith
America’s leading wandering river ambassador, Tim Palmer,
needs no admonishment to tell the stories of American rivers---and make public
pleas to save them. This time it is about the mostly protected Smith River (right: picture by Tim Palmer of the Smith River featured on FOR's website banners) in
the very northeast tip of California. When you think of the Smith, you think of
redwoods and pristine, clear, clean water.
Tim is concerned about the threat to part of the Smith River
headwaters from a huge potential corporate nickel mining venture on an Oregon tributary
of the Smith.
Help Protect Gray Wolves And Bring Them
Back To California!
Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic River Program
The gray wolf was extirpated from California more than 90
years ago. It almost became extinct in the United States due largely to
over-hunting and trapping. But thanks to the Endangered Species Act, the gray
wolf has made a dramatic come-back in the western Great Lakes, northern
Rockies, and parts of the Pacific northwest. Today, more than 5,000 wolves live
in the lower 48 states, about 2,000 of them in west, including 100 wolves in
the eastern regions of Washington and Oregon.
Astoundingly, a lone male wolf, identified by wildlife
biologists as OR7 (pictured to the left) and knick-named “Journey” by Oregon school children, wandered
into California and spent much of 2012 exploring the wild lands of the northeastern
region of the state. OR7 has since returned to eastern Oregon but his visit
raised the hopes of wild river, wilderness, and wildlife advocates that gray
wolves will soon return to live in our state’s wilderness areas. OR7 has since returned to eastern Oregon but
his visit raised the hopes of wild river, wilderness, and wildlife advocates
that gray wolves will soon return to live in our state’s wild places.
OR-7 proved that northern California has high quality
habitat for gray wolves. In a futile search for a mate, this young male
wandered through some of the least developed and most pristine lands found
anywhere in our state (see map of OR7’s travels from the California Department
of Fish and Wildlife). OR7 must have found the Lassen National Forest to be
particularly inviting, since he spent several weeks exploring the proposed Wild
& Scenic River canyons of Antelope, Mill, and Deer Creeks (pictured below). He even traveled
as far west as the proposed Sacramento River National Recreation Area (just
north of Red Bluff).
Scientific studies have shown that as top-of-the-food-chain
predators, gray wolves are vitally important to the functioning of healthy
ecosystems. They cull sick animals from deer and elk herds, keep in check
rabbits and other small mammal populations, and they are also opportunistic
scavengers. Research has also shown that gray wolves have been part of
California’s cultural heritage for thousands of years. Native American
linguistic and cultural evidence indicates that the wolf was found throughout
the state before it was extirpated by hunters, trappers, and ranchers.
If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has it way,
the recovery of the gray wolf could falter and we may never see this important
predator return to California. In June, the agency announced its intention to
eliminate Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves and abandon all
restoration efforts except for the Mexican gray wolf in the southwest.
Delisting means that once again gray wolves can be hunted and trapped with
impunity. Without federal protection, it is unlikely that the gray wolf will
recover sufficiently to re-inhabit California and their overall population in
the west will likely decline.
The USFWS is soliciting public comments on its delisting
proposal until Oct. 28, 2013. Please send an email today to urging the agency
to retain Endangered Species Act protection for the gray wolf and to work to
restore gray wolves to California. Below is a sample email. Feel free to cut
and paste and add your own personal comments.
To comment on the proposed delisting of gray wolves, go to:
You may also mail a hard copy of your comments (postmarked
by Oct. 28, 2013) to:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Policy and Directives
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203
(Sample Comment Letter/Email below)
I’m writing to oppose the USFWS’ recommendation to remove
Endangered Species Act protection for most of the gray wolf population in the
United States. Although the gray wolf is doing well in much of its current
range, the recovery of this important predator species is not complete. This
decision could derail wolf recovery efforts in northern California and other
areas where there is plenty of suitable wild habitat but currently no wolves.
Delisting will prematurely turn wolf management over to the
states. Many western states are promoting anti-wolf policies that promote
hunting and trapping and that could lead once again to the decline of this
magnificent creature towards extinction.
As we discovered with OR7, there is plenty of suitable
habitat in northern California for wolves. Californians strongly support
continued protection and recovery of the gray wolf. In a recent poll of 500
likely voters in California, 80% agreed that the gray wolf should continue to
be protected by the Endangered Species Act and 69% supported restoring wolves
to suitable habitat in the state.
Early delisting of a protected species is a major and
negative policy change. If similar early delisting actions had occurred for the
bald eagle, American alligator, or peregrine falcon, they might have never
recovered to the point they have today.
I demand that the USFWS retain full protection for the gray
wolf and work to re-establish wolves here in California.
Thank you for your consideration.
(your signature line)
Fine Art Fundraiser for FOR in Sacramento – November 6th 5:30 to 7 pm
Join local Sacramento artists and FOR staff for a fine art fundraiser for Friends of the River featuring outdoor
and river-themed works by artists from the Sacramento area will be held on Wednesday,
November 6, 2013 at The Art Studios behind Michelangelo's Restaurant (1725 I
Street). Admission is free and the fun starts at 5:30pm and runs until 7pm.
Works from over a dozen artists will be on display and light refreshments will be
served. Bring your checkbook - Fifty percent (50%) of any work sold that
evening will be donated to Friends of the River! For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
River in the
Spotlight: Kings River
Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Rivers Program
The Kings River has carved one of the deepest canyons in
North America, as it flows westward from the crest of the Sierra Nevada,
dropping more than 13,000 feet to the upper limit of Pine Flat reservoir. The
combination of excellent water quality, undisturbed shorelines, and distant
views of hills, cliffs, and high mountains make the scenery of the Kings unique
among Sierra Nevada.
The river provides one of California's most popular
whitewater boating experiences. The Kings' largely class III whitewater
attracts private and commercial boaters alike. But its natural flows,
unmodified by upstream dams, can challenge rafters and kayakers with Grand
Canyon-style hydraulics not found on other California rivers.
The Kings also offers numerous opportunities for camping,
swimming, and angling. Three developed campgrounds and several primitive camp
sites provide overnight accommodations. Hikers on the Kings River National
Recreation Trail enjoy abundant spring wildflowers and a view of spectacular
Garlic Falls. An anglers access trail follows much of the south side of the
This rugged river canyon supports a variety of plant
communities, including mixed conifer forests, oak woodlands and grasslands, and
chaparral. The diverse landscape provides habitat for many animal species,
including mule deer, wolverine, bald and golden eagles, and California spotted
owl. Fish biologists consider the Kings River to be one of the finest wild
trout fisheries in the state. The native fishery attracts anglers from all over
Congress added much of the Kings River and its upstream
tributaries to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System in 1987. It did not
formally designate the lower 12 miles of the river directly upstream of the
existing Pine Flat reservoir in the Wild & Scenic River System (although
much of it was placed in a special management area not intended to be dammed),
leaving the door cracked open for potential future construction of the proposed
Rogers Crossing dam if Congress turns bad. Some argue it has. This nearly 600
foot-high dam would drown virtually the entire remaining undesignated segment
of the Kings. In response to the recent energy crisis, the Kings River
Conservation District (a downstream irrigation district) is reconsidering its
Rogers Crossing dam proposal.
NEWSFLASH: River lovers have the opportunity to secure
protection for this threatened segment of the Kings in the upcoming revision of
the Sierra and Sequoia Forest Plans. The Forest Service is required to study
the Wild & Scenic potential of rivers as part of the agency’s land and
resource planning process. The Forest Service has already identified the
unprotected segment of the Kings as eligible for Wild & Scenic protection,
now all it has to do is make a recommendation to Congress that the Kings, like
its upstream segments, be added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers
System. Friends of the River has urged the Forest Service to recommend
protection for the river in the draft Forest Plan Revisions for the Sierra and
the Sequoia Forests (the river just happens to form the boundary between the
two Forests). The draft plans will be released for public review sometime in
late 2014. Visit the Kings River Page on FOR’s website.
October 16, 2013
Volume 3, Number 10
The Voice of California's Rivers
In this issue
River Awards Oct 25th
Draft BDCP and EIR/EIS to be released
on November 15, 2013
Selling it: all things to all people
River Currents by Ron Stork
Protect Gray Wolves And Bring
Them Back To California!
Art Fundraiser for FOR in Sacramento on
Nov 6 from 5:30 to 7pm
River in the Spotlight: Kings River