River Advocate Vol 6 #1 March 10, 2016

The River Advocate
March 10, 2016
Vol 6, #1

In this issue…

A New Website for FOR
River Rats: Now Recruiting!
Capitol River Awards on May 18
2nd Annual California Rivers Day
River Currents by Ron Stork


Johnnie_Carlson_FOR_Operations_DirectorA New Website!
Johnnie Carlson, Operations Director

On January 30th Friends of the River moved to a new WordPress website and began using Constant Contact for our email communications with you. We made the move for a number of reasons including making our website responsive so you can easily view and use it on your smart phone or tablet. We are now working with an easier to use open-source web platform so all our staff can add content and volunteers can now help build our site as well. We have incorporated a blog and plan to roll out new functions and content over the next few months – so stay tuned. The new site is not only more functional and easy to use – it is on its way to helping FOR save money too!

Check it out and we welcome any and all your feedback as we work to further improve the site for people who love California’s rivers just like you!

PS We are looking for volunteers to adopt and build a page for each river in California – if you would like to help or know someone who would – let’s get in touch – email me at jcarlson@friendsoftheriver.org.


Tobb_Briggs_FOR_Engagement_Coordinator2River Rats – FOR Opens Recruitment for Our 2nd Class – Applications Due April 1st
Toby Briggs, Engagement Coordinator

FOR is building a more powerful grassroots base this year by launching a new River Advocacy Training School and we are now accepting applications for our second class for 2016. The six-month program trains and empowers the next wave of advocates (that’s you), to be leaders in river protection and sustainable water policy in California. We are recruiting talented college students, community activists, and staff from other river-related organizations in California to join this select team. The next class starts May 2016 and applications are due to FOR no later than April 1, 2016.

river-ratsRiver RATS will learn about water policy, grassroots organizing, river ecology, and natural history from experts in the field (meet the trainers) through two 3-day trainings at Camp Lotus along the beautiful American River. They gain valuable hands-on experience by organizing events and activities to engage people in the river protection movement. River RATS attend FOR’s Guide School to become a whitewater rafting guide or canoeist.  With this background, River RATS support the programming during the summer. In the fall, River RATS use these skills to create event(s) in their communities.  See the River RATS webpage to discover what kind of RAT you could be!

Meet the Students in the Winter 2016 Class                                          Learn More/Apply


Mandi_Garcia_FOR_Development_DirectorCapital River Awards
SAVE THE DATE – May 18, 2016
Mandi Garcia, Development Director

Friends of the River (FOR) is pleased to announce the Capital River Awards to celebrate our treasured rivers and promote their protection. This festive event is a great chance to re-connect with old friends and make some new ones over great food and wine just steps from the Capitol. Join us for a fun and inspiring evening to honor and recognize Senators, Assemblymembers, other state and local officials, and long-time river advocates for their work to protect California rivers. We will also be celebrating our hard work at California Rivers Day at the Capitol — a day of education, outreach, and legislator visits to emphasize the importance of protecting rivers through smart and sustainable water management. This party is sure to be a
great time! You don’t want to miss it!

What: 2016 Capital River AwardsSupport-FOR-contribute-5
When: Wednesday, May 18th
5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Where: Capital Plaza Ballrooms
1025 9th St., Sacramento, CA 95814
Why: A great gathering of river-loving folks celebrating California’s rivers and the people working to protect them!

If you have questions, please contact us at:  capra@friendsoftheriver.org or call us at 916-442-3155 ext. 214.


Eric_Wesselman_FOR_Executive_Director2nd Annual California Rivers Day at the Capitol in Sacramento: May 18, 2016
Eric Wesselman, Executive Director

Join Friends of the River and over two-dozen other river groups and businesses to celebrate the 2nd annual California Rivers Day—an education, outreach, and activism event featuring rivers at the State Capitol.  Our goal is to continue expanding the river protection movement in California because rivers need a stronger voice in the halls of power. The severe and persistent drought has unleashed an intense push to take us back to the era of big dam building and weaken protections for our waterways.

This day will bring at leasFOR meets with Senator Ted Gains t two-dozen river groups, businesses, and dozens more individual activists like you together from across the state, along with our supporters, to convey the magic of rivers and sustainable water solutions.  The day begins with a Legislative Breakfast followed by the California Rivers Fair at the Capitol coupled with a press conference and meetings with legislators. That evening we’ll celebrate our hard work at the Capital River Awards just steps from the Capitol (Scroll to the bottom for the highlights of the day).

brian kallen gets some TV timeYour participation will give the day greater statewide impact. Our unique political power as people who care about and speak for our rivers is our statewide presence—there are rivers,
creeks, or streams in every legislative district in California along with people just like you who care very deeply about these treasures. This day will bring our message to our state’s leaders.

Katherine Evatt speaks to the pressI truly hope you will be able to join us to celebrate our rivers and educate decision makers. It’s time for all of the rivers of California to make their presence known in the halls of the State Capitol and we would be honored to have you participate. If you would like to get on our invite list or would like more information email Johnnie Carlson, California Rivers Day Coordinator at jcarlson@friendsoftheriver.org or call us at (916) 442-3155 ext 211.


river-advocate-8-ron-storkRiver Currents
Ron Stork, Policy Director

Klamath River, A Light at the End of the Tunnel

As we’ve noted before, the near consensus for many years that four of the Klamath River dams (J.C Boyle, Copco 1 & 2, and Iron Gate) need to come down did not include the GOP-led Congress. Unfortunately, the agreement to take them down required an act of Congress. Well, no help there.

But finally, late last year the California Water Resources Control Board decided that everyone had waited long enough and resumed its part of the dam relicensing process that could result in the removal of these dams. It promises a draft environmental impact statement in 2016 with a final in 2017. There’s reason to hope that it will be a good one. (See some comments from some of the good guys on what should be in it: FOR Klamath commentsSierra Club Klamath comments – KHP Scoping Comments (Conservation Groups))

The Klamath River is a key California watershed. Reduced flows and poor water quality from Federally irrigated farms upstream, as well as the downstream dams, have hammered its fishery during droughts of the last two decades.

In some of those years, there have been season closures and harvest restrictions of the nearby ocean Chinook and coho salmon sport and commercial fisheries. In-river Chinook and coho salmon sport fisheries and Native American commercial and subsistence fisheries were similarly affected.

klamath map

Hydro on Steroids?

For years Friends of the Rivers and a small group of colleagues from other conservation groups have labored to change the rules (and even the existence itself) of dams being relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). That’s pretty much every dam that generates hydroelectricity except for dams owned by the Federal government.

For most of this time, the dams and diversions being relicensed in California’s Sierra Nevada have been in the mountains, isolated from the ocean-going salmon and steelhead trout that once may have spawned there by the great dams and their afterbays perched on the rim of Sierra foothills above the Great Central Valley.

Some of these rim dams are under the jurisdiction of FERC, and now dams on the Yuba, Tuolumne, and Merced are undergoing relicensing. These dams control what water flows into rivers in the Valley and what water flows into fields and cities.

At the same time, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), implementing both state and federal law, is undertaking an update of the state’s water-quality control plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which obviously involves the rivers that feed into it. And both the legislature and the Governor want the Board to update the state’s regulation of rivers tributary to the Delta.

For the last few months, the state’s Natural Resources Agency has been asking federal agencies, water districts, and environmental groups active in FERC relicensings and SWRCB proceedings to join with state agencies and see if we can figure out how to resolve the outstanding issues of flow and the success of fisheries important to the state on rivers and streams tributary to the Delta and the Delta itself. In 2016.

Yep, 2016. That will be a tall order. Perhaps a foolhardy errand given the history of California water. But so far no one has said no. Stay tuned, but if you care about a big Central Valley River, it’s probably time to get engaged and in the loop. After all, rivers need friends.

Feinstein Moves to Authorize the Big (and little) Dams

Senator Feinstein has long believed that California can continue to dam its way to Paradise and make the deserts bloom. All it takes is some subsidies.

So her “drought” bill to complement the subsidies for dams in the recent California water bond (Proposition 1) has been much anticipated — with lust in their hearts by some and dread in others of a more river-friendly persuasion.

Her bill (S.2533) does not disappoint. She would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in any federal water-storage project for which 50% of the funding is provided by others (to match the maximum funding for many types of projects in the California water bond) and meets other requirements of the bill. It permits the Secretary to fund any water storage projects by others up to 25% if requested by the governor of a state (and other bill requirements). And it establishes a new Federal bank administered by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to compete with the existing (and presumably more careful capital markets) in financing water projects.

As a start, S.2533 gives the Secretary $600,000,000 dollars of authority and $200,000,000 of working capital for the new bank.

It’s a radical bill. It breaks traditional notions of which projects are authorized and which are not (Congress used to do that), as well as provide Federal financing for purposes that are unexamined by the Congress.

This bill could move through the Senate, perhaps included in Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s omnibus western water bill, then be married to an even worse House “drought” bills.

If passed, we better pray for a string of good Secretary of the Interiors (reminding us that elections really do matter).

Oh, and the bill also invents a novel way to “pay” for the projects — deauthorizing previous dormant federal projects such as Auburn dam (although that’s a good idea!), projects for which the Federal government did not currently intend to spend money on. It’s like paying for some luxury yacht by not buying an even more expensive one. Might work in your mind but not in your bank account.

The Senate held hearings last week; we weren’t invited to testify, of course. It would have created some dissonance (and some sparks) if we could have had a voice there. Perhaps that’s why we weren’t invited.

Of course, that doesn’t prevent you from talking to the Senator or your Congressman or your local newspaper editor or…the list can go on. The world is not run by timid people.

(For a deeper dive into components of this bill, see my candid memo, a copy of the bill, and my memo on the troubles that Reclamation believes face its proposed Shasta Dam raise.)


The River Advocate is published by Friends of the River. Questions or comments – please email us at: info@friendsoftheriver.org.

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