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Delta KingSave 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!


GOC crowdGift 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. 

COG book coverThis 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 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

capitol and fountainFOR 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 StorkRiver Currents
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 aging photographs.

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 for.

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 scarce supply.

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 fish.

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.

[object Object]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 Fresno.

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.

[object Object]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 values.

San Joaquin Dam SitePower 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: . The Bureau plans to release a full environmental review of the Temperance Flat Dam project later in 2014.


Tim Plamer at Smith RiverTim 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

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.

TP mercedTim 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
Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Ave, Unit B-1
Santa Monica, CA 90404

March 19, 2014
Volume 4, Number 3
The Voice of California's Rivers
Since 1973
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


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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

The River Advocate is published by Friends of the River contact us at

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