Save the Date!
Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
Capital River Awards
5:30 to 9pm
The Delta King, Sacramento
Join us for an evening of fine wine, fabulous food, and to
honor champions of our California rivers!
Gift of Courage: An Evening of Empowerment
April 2, 2014 7 to 9:30pm
Sacramento Memorial Auditorium
Kelly Kalafatch is a pioneer world-class adventure guide who
helped create a new third-world economy, worked to preserve wild rivers,
inspired hundreds of young women to live their dreams, and who is now hoping to
walk again. Kelley’s determination in the face of a life-altering illness
illustrates the power of facing fears to realize a life of purpose.
Be inspired to lead a more passionate life while hearing
powerful speakers, like Kelly Kalafatch and others from around the country.
Attendees of The Gift of Courage Sacramento Evening of Empowerment will enjoy
and be awed by everyday heroes and live musical entertainment.
This event is based on the critically-acclaimed book The Gift of Courage by Ken Streater.
Meryl Streep said The Gift of Courage
is "One of the good news stories that resonate within every life...that
anyone can take to heart." “The speakers are people who found and embraced
a calling and are creating a world of difference by living their dreams,”
declares Ken. “Their lessons are brilliant and worthwhile, and elevate in each
of us a desire to do right and do more.”
Event ticket sales are passed through to Friends of the
River and Firefighter Burn Institute, along with a scholarship to be awarded to
a young high school student.
This casual, emotional and inspiring event will include
speakers, live music, and complimentary refreshments. It will be at 7pm on
April 2nd, 2014 at Jean Runyon Theater, Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are $29
adults / $19 youth and college Students and can be purchased at www.giftofcourage.com/event/.
Friends of the River members can get a significantly reduced ticket price ($19
per adult; $12 per youth) by entering “FOR” in the coupon box on page three of
the website ticket order page at http://www.tickettomato.com/event.php?event_id=2251
FOR launches a new State Legislation webpage
Chance Yager, Sacramento Semester Intern
California’s government has long struggled with water issues
and the current drought has not made things any easier (or less
complicated). Many important bills
continue to move through the State Legislature, each with the potential for
serious impact on our rivers. As such,
Friends of the River has created a new State Legislation page to compile, explain,
and track bills in the Senate and Assembly.
Here you can learn what a given bill may mean for the future of water
and California’s rivers, which Legislators support which policies, and when
bills will be heard in committee.
Visit FOR’s State Legislation page at:
Ron Stork, Sr. Policy Advocate
Today's drumbeats and echoes from the past
The House of Representatives seems to live in a world
disconnected from the real world but, in doing so, seeks to remake it. Subcommittee on Water & Power Chair Tom
McClintock (R-Elk Grove) continues to speak and write about his vision of an
era of abundance where great new brimful reservoirs provide plentiful and cheap
water and electricity for our farms and families.
In his world, the annoying voices of economists that speak
of the realities of the law of diminishing returns from damming---and
re-damming---the same rivers are not heard. In the Congressman's world, the
life within rivers can be re-created by industrial reproduction and rearing in
hatcheries, and the beauty of natural waterscapes can be replaced by the
military discipline of concrete dams and still reservoirs and be banished to
Tom's on a roll too. He's persuaded the House to
de-designate wild & scenic rivers to make room for reservoirs, and he and
his colleagues have introduced bills to authorize huge dams and reservoirs
without the slightest attention to the pesky rules laid down by President
Ronald Reagan---you know, like waiting for agency review and recommendations or
bothering with any notion of who will pay for them or how they will be paid
A cop on the beat?
The State Water Resources Control Board is little known to
the general public but could be the "decider" about where scarce
state water resources go when nature's water bounty is in short supply. As this
winter's endless parade of blue-sky days followed last year's similar parade,
the Board stepped up. Water-rights holders were notified that curtailments
could be coming (particularly for the holders of junior rights), and after the
Governor's drought-emergency proclamation, delta pumping (with occasional
exceptions for some rainy days) was limited to health-and-safety deliveries for
urban contractors. If this Spring stays dry, expect the Board to be at the
center of action and controversy as water users in this state fight over the
When the rains fail and the reservoirs shrink to critical
levels, it helps to have some good groundwater to rely on. Of course that means
that you haven't used it all up in the good times to support the unsustainable
dreams of the "era of abundance." Some parts of the state have abused
their groundwater, having poisoned it and overpumped it. So, even legislators
and officials in the state capital are beginning to realize that there need to
be cops on the beat to ensure that groundwater is there, when needed, for times
of drought. If that view continues to develop, local governments could be asked
to assume this beat. And when they don't, the State Water Resources Control
Board would have to step in. It hasn't happened yet, but it might. For now
groundwater is regulated like a limitless "magic" resource.
The third branch of government
When asked to identify the three branches of the Federal
government, most civics-challenged Americans have a hard time answering the
question. Yet these Federal branches of government do exist. And there's been
some news from the Federal (and state) judiciary recently that can help shape
the fate of rivers and the life they sustain.
After years of challenge from the powerful water districts
of the San Joaquin Valley and of the south state, the Federal Appeals court in
San Francisco has affirmed the biological opinion to protect the endangered
delta smelt from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on the operation of the
state and federal delta projects. Expect more action by the Congress to
overturn this decision. In the meantime the drought and adverse habitat conditions
in the delta continue to take their toll on this and other California native
Some court decisions are more difficult to size up. Back in
the mid 1990s the state of California ceded control of the Kern Water Bank to
groundwater banking authorities controlled by powerful Southern California and
local Kern County interests. One of the effects of this was to free Southern
California developers from state restrictions on planting housing tracts in the
desert dependent on on-and-off-again state water. There was also the potential
to affect other groundwater users near the groundwater bank. It was this latter
effect that caused a state trial judge to rule that the state failed to
consider the environmental impacts of such a transfer. So now the litigants
have been ordered to meet and confer. My guess is that the vision of limitless
water and ever-growing development in the south state will be hard to give up.
Magical thinking is usually more alluring than reality.
And Friends of the River's legal team is staying busy
too---in this case laying the groundwork for legal action as well as engaging
in the litigation itself. Friends of the River is an important part of just one
of the legal teams from all sides of the spectrum challenging the Delta Stewardship
Council's adoption of the yet-to-be-defined Bay Delta Conservation Plan
(BDCP)---often just called the delta tunnels. The team has already filed a
series of comment letters to the BDCP and more are expected. The team is also
preparing for the main action (briefs on the merits) of the Friends of the
River, Defenders of Wildlife, and Center for Biological Diversity litigation
against the Corps of Engineers War on Nature against riverside vegetation on
leveed rivers. More on all of this in future River Advocates.
Changing the rules for the big guys
The new House of Representatives is not just interested in
seizing water in the Delta needed for fisheries and other water users (HR
3964). Last week, they also voted to prevent Federal agencies, which have long
had the ability to require water projects to be compatible with their land
management plans, from doing so (HR 3189). Friends of the River, along with a
host of others, opposed this measure, but the House majority apparently favors
an "anything goes" style of water-project development on public
lands. It must be that "era of abundance" thing again. I wonder if
they ever considered that healthy rivers and streams should be part of an era
of abundance too. (link to our opposition letter)
Fortunately, the floor debate was spirited and a bit
embarrassing for the supporters of HR 3189---the sponsor of the bill opposed
the bill in the end. Hopefully, that means the Senate will show more respect to
long-standing institutional protections to some of our nation's more cherished waterways.
Whether they will after the next election will be up to the voters, so this one
is not over. It seldom is.
Temperance Flat Dam Feasibility Report:
Full Of Voodoo Economics
And Wishful Thinking
Steve Evans, Wild Rivers Project Manager
The Bureau of Reclamation recently released its Upper San
Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation Draft Feasibility Report, which
focuses on the proposed Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River Gorge near
As one would expect from an agency that operates some of the
largest dams in California, the Bureau claims the Temperance Flat Dam “…to be
economically feasible, because the estimated benefits exceed the estimated
costs…” But much of the feasibility report appears to be based in part on
voodoo economics and sheer wishful thinking.
The proposed 665-foot high Temperance Flat Dam is proposed
for construction upstream of Millerton Reservoir in the scenic San Joaquin
River Gorge. This is probably the top dam project in California pushed by
Republicans and some Democrats in Congress. A so called “drought relief” bill recently
passed by the House of Representatives authorizes construction of the dam, but
makes no attempt to provide federal funding. If approved by California voters,
a water bond on the November 2014 ballot could pay up to 50% of the dam’s costs
for whatever public benefits it may provide.
The bottom line is that the Temperance Flat Dam will produce
little additional water, will cost billions of dollars, and drown a scenic
river canyon recommended for federal Wild & Scenic protection.
Here are just a few of the key issues associated with the
Temperance Flat Dam:
Water Supply – Although capable of storing more than 1.3
million acre feet of water, the Bureau admits that the dam will only provide a
paltry 61,000 to 76,000 acre feet of water annually for agricultural and
municipal use. This is because nine major dams already capture most of the San
Joaquin’s annual flow. Under all operating scenarios, the dam’s water supply
benefits are considerably less than the cost to provide those benefits.
Cost – The Bureau claims that the dam’s estimated price tag
has decreased 22% since 2008, to a bargain basement construction price of $2.6
billion. No one but the Bureau believes that it can build a 665-foot high dam
for less than $4 billion. In comparison, the Bureau estimates that the proposed
Auburn Dam on the American River, of similar height as Temperance Flat but
incorporating a more expensive double arch concrete design, will cost at least
$5 billion to build.
Fish Benefits – The Bureau claims that Temperance Flat will
provide more benefits for San Joaquin River salmon than it provides in
additional water supplies for the Central Valley’s corporate farms and water-wasting
cities. This is the new Bureau paradigm – that dams, which have brought the
Central Valley’s wild populations of salmon to the brink of extinction, will
somehow be constructed and operated to restore these fisheries. Ecosystem
“enhancement” for salmon represents the lion’s share of the non-reimbursable
annual cost for the dam, to be paid by federal and state taxpayers (likely via
passage of the water bond in November). Buried deep in the feasibility report
is the Bureau’s admission that measuring fishery benefits is “especially
uncertain.” Even in the best scenario, the dam will only increase salmon by
less than 5% and at least two of the four operation alternatives examined by
the Bureau have a negative impact on salmon.
Environmental and Cultural Impacts – The Bureau admits that
the dam will have long-term unavoidable adverse impacts on riverine habitat,
botanical resources and wetlands, wildlife and habitat, cultural resources, and
scenery. Up to 5,000 acres of public land would be flooded by the dam,
adversely impacting 24 sensitive, threatened, or endangered wildlife species.
The reservoir will also drown several miles of trails popular for public
recreation and used for Native American cultural interpretation and outdoor
education in the scenic San Joaquin River Gorge. The segment of the San Joaquin
River Gorge threatened by the dam was recommended for National Wild &
Scenic River protection by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in recognition
of the river’s outstanding scenic, recreational, and historical/cultural
Power Loss – The proposed dam will flood two existing
PG&E hydroelectric power plants with a combined generating capacity of up
to 195 megawatts. Since the new dam will
generate less power from its proposed 160-megawatt plan than PG&E’s
existing powerhouses, it will be a net energy loser. The Bureau identifies this
as a long-term unavoidable adverse impact.
Unresolved Issues – How climate change may affect the
performance of the Temperance Flat Dam is “uncertain,” according to the Bureau.
The agency lists numerous other risks and uncertainties in the feasibility
report, including such fundamental issues like cost estimates, the willingness
of non-federal cost sharing partners and beneficiaries to pay their share of
the multi-billion dollar dam, future changes in water system operations,
difficulty in predicting salmon survival, consultation with Native Americans,
and coordination with the BLM in regard to its National Wild & Scenic River
recommendation for the San Joaquin River Gorge.
Friends of the River is reviewing the draft Feasibility
Report to prepare detailed comments and an alert for our membership (the Bureau
is accepting public comments through April 18, 2014). To review the draft
Feasibility Report online, visit: http://www.usbr.gov/mp/sccao/storage/docs/index.html .
The Bureau plans to release a full environmental review of the Temperance Flat
Dam project later in 2014.
Tim Palmer in Santa Monica on April 1, 2014
You’re Invited! Join Friends of the River for an Evening
with Tim Palmer as he presents California Rivers and Glaciers. Tuesday, April 1st, 7 to 8:30 pm at the Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Admission is FREE but space
is limited. RSVP right away to firstname.lastname@example.org
Award winning author and photographer Tim Palmer will show
stunning photos of California's rivers and glaciers, and will share stories of
these remarkable places and of his experience in helping Friends of the River
and other groups to protect what remains of wild California.
Tim is the author of 24 books about nature, the environment,
and adventure travel, including the account of Friends of the River's founding,
Stanislaus; The Struggle for a River.
Join us for this evening of exploration, beauty, and
inspiration and hear why the river’s and glacier’s demise heralds changes that
cannot be ignored in our climate, our water supplies, and our environment.
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave, Unit B-1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
March 19, 2014
Volume 4, Number 3
The Voice of California's Rivers
In this issue
Capital River Awards: Sacramento, May 14
Gift of Courage: Sacramento, April 2
New FOR State Legislation Page
River Currents by Ron Stork
Temperance Flat & Voodoo Economics
Tim Palmer in Santa Monica on April 1, 2014
Drive that wreck into the riverbank - Friends of the River's Bank that is!
Friends of the River now accepts donations of cars, boats, trucks, jet skis and more! In a cooperative effort between Donation Line and FOR your vehicle can be donated to help save our rivers! You must have a clean title. Free Towing & No Hassles. Pick up ASAP.
Call 1-877-227-7487 extension 2811