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March 28, 2012: Vol. 2, #4

In This Issue:
DiFi has facts wrong on the Merced River
FOR hires new Executive Director
Tell Secretary Salazar: Remove Klamath Dams

House has yet to move on Merced bill - please take action! 

ACTION ALERT: Bad Nunes Water Bill To Senate

River News & Events

Is Senator Feinstein misinformed or being lied to about Denham’s Merced drowning bill?

By Johnnie Carlson, River Advocate Editor

In response to one of our action alerts emailing Senator Feinstein about Rep. Denham’s bill to drown the Wild & Scenic Merced River (HR 2578) one of our activists received the reply below which FOR’s Senior Policy Advocate, Ron Stork has dissected (see bracketed/yellow highlights). It is curious indeed, that a Senator, who has authored bills to protect rivers, is so grievously misinformed about the impacts of HR 2578.

Rumor has it that Senator Feinstein may introduce her own bill to drown the Merced Wild & Scenic River soon – stay tuned!

---email response text below---

Subject: U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein responding to your message
To: [deleted]

Dear [deleted]:

Thank you for writing to express your opposition to legislation introduced by Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) to remove protections from parts of the Lower Merced River. I appreciate the time you took to write and welcome the opportunity to respond.

On July 18, 2011, Representative Denham introduced legislation (H.R. 2578) to remove Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protections from certain sections of the Lower Merced River. This legislation would also allow short-term increases in water storage in Lake McClure.

[The Senator is misinformed. H.R. 869 did this. HR 2578 does not limit the time the reservoir would encroach on the portion of the wild and scenic river the bill would de-designate]

H.R. 2578 was reported out of the House Committee on Natural Resources on December 1, 2011 and awaits action before the full House of Representatives. A Senate companion bill has not been introduced.

I support allowing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to consider the Merced Irrigation District's (MID) proposal to capture additional supplies at Lake McClure. It is my understanding that, under the proposal, approximately 1,700 feet of the Wild and Scenic River portion of the Merced River would be occasionally inundated, something that already occurs naturally during storm events and times of heavy runoff.

[The Senator is misinformed. The wild & scenic river lands and waters has never been inundated by McClure Reservoir. It is true that rivers can be inundated by flowing rivers, a very different physical and ecological process than being drowned by a reservoir]

Consequently, I believe that additional water storage may be possible without having a significant impact on the Wild and Scenic River designated portion of the river.

[The Senator is misinformed. The bill is intended to increase the reservoir dead zone 1,700 feet or so (FOR’s analysis shows it could flood up to 2,640 feet) upstream, a pretty obvious adverse impact on a wild and scenic river and its accompanying landscape.]

However, before any decision is made whether to permit the project, FERC would have to conduct a thorough environmental analysis, which I support.

[It is true that the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act prohibits FERC from developing project alternatives in national wild and scenic rivers---an obvious thing to do since national wild and scenic rivers are intended to provide permanent protection for rivers, not be cold storage for future reservoir sites while their proponents work to turn them into reservoirs.]

During my time in the Senate, I have sponsored and supported many bills which designated wild and scenic rivers. I take these designations seriously and believe it is important to protect them. But given California's recurring water shortages, I believe we must give FERC the opportunity to consider the benefits of the proposed storage project and what, if any, adverse effects it would cause to the wild and scenic river.

[HR 2578 de-designates the wild and scenic river for the purpose of constructing a reservoir there, something that has never been done in the history on the national wild & scenic river system. HR 2578 de-designates the affected reach so that FERC need not consider the adverse effects of putting a reservoir into a national wild and scenic river. Using standard yield-to-storage ratios, the new reservoir space might be expected to develop perhaps ten thousand acre feet of new yield (on an average annual basis). Developed water supplies in California are around thirty-five million acre-feet. The Merced Irrigation District averages about a half a million acre feet of diversions annually. This project will not solve any water problem in California. Please note that in order to build this project, the Merced Irrigation District will have to violate state law and drown a fully protected California endangered species, something that is illegal under California law. There are also significant dam-safety issues with the District’s preferred dam design. Thus the good Senator is apparently in support of rolling back a national wild & scenic river designation for a dam that could not be built under state law and may not be able to pass dam-safety muster---and for no real new water.]

Again, thank you for writing. Should you have additional comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

---end of email---

FOR hires new Executive Director
By Johnnie Carlson, River Advocate Editor

Bob Center, lifelong outdoorsman, paddler and conservationist, has been named Executive Director of Friends of the River (FOR).

Bob takes leadership of FOR at a time of great challenges and greater opportunity.  Having survived the economic downturn, FOR has a core of experienced and skilled conservation and support staff, a dedicated group of interns and volunteers, and a large membership throughout the state.

"The grassroots volunteers and staff of Friends of the River have been instrumental in important environmental achievements in the State of California for four decades.  Today FOR has active programs aimed at protecting streambeds and riparian woodlands, improving floodways and flood management, and defending and adding to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System” said Bob.  “FOR’s policy team is highly regarded throughout the state and the country, and FOR is building a strong legal team. I believe that FOR has a great future, and I am excited to be a part of it”, Bob continued.

Jim Genes, Chairman, FOR Board of Directors said “The Board believes that with Bob’s passion, knowledge and leadership, FOR will become stronger and be prepared to take an expanded role as we face old and new challenges to our rivers.  We are fortunate that Bob has taken this leadership position”.

Addressing the Board, staff and supporters Bob said “Certainly there are remaining challenges.  My initial focus as Executive Director will be to replenish our reserves and build our membership so that we can strengthen existing programs and take on new programs.  I ask all of you—old and new members and donors, and prospective members and donors—to consider joining us in working to protect, maintain and enhance rivers in California.”

Robert Cushman, FOR board member and organizer of the Capital River Awards, said, “A perfect opportunity to support California’s rivers and meet FOR’s new Executive Director will be the upcoming Capital River Awards - an evening of good food, fine wine and good friends in a beautiful setting.”

Bob holds degrees in Engineering from Stanford University.  He comes to FOR after working with the Foothill Water Network (FWN) and American Whitewater (AW) on several relicensing projects in the Northern Sierra.  During nearly a decade of working as a volunteer and as a contractor for American Whitewater, Bob earned a reputation for developing a depth of technical knowledge that helped environmental groups “level the playing field” with Licensees, resulting in better negotiated outcomes and improved stream flows. During this time he established a broad network of relationships with decision makers within environmental organizations, resource agencies and licensees. 

Bob spent much of his childhood and youth outdoors in the Sierras and on the Mendocino Coast around Fort Bragg, where he attended grade school and high school.  During summers in high school and college Bob worked for Noyo Harbor fish companies, unloading and processing salmon, other line-caught fish such as black cod and albacore, and groundfish caught by large drag boats.  He got an early sense of the decline of these resources, and of some of the factors causing the decline, and became a life-long supporter of conservation efforts, particularly those focused on rivers and the ocean.

As a river guide for the American River Touring Association (ARTA) in the early 70s, Bob participated in the fight to save the Stanislaus, FOR’s formative campaign.  Bob has paddled many reaches on rivers across California and in the Western US and Canada, and has paddled in Central America, South America and Europe as well.  Through decades of participation in rafting and kayaking, Bob has many friends and contacts within all age groups in the river community.

Bob Center lives in Grass Valley with his wife Wanda Shiotsuka and their four cats.

Copco 2 Dam on Klamath RiverTell Secretary Salazar: Remove Klamath Dams
By Alexandra Borack, Conservation Advocate

Now is your time to act on the Klamath! Since 2002, the Klamath River has faced unprecedented challenges: a major fish die-off of fall-run Chinook salmon (at least 30,000 fish), toxic algae in the dam reservoirs with a hazardous decline in water quality, and the closing of the commercial salmon harvest along the Northern California coast.  While there have been actions to provide temporary relief from or mitigation for the damage to the ecosystem, there can be no real solution for the Klamath Basin until the dams are removed and the river is restored to its free-flowing river condition. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is a key decision-maker for the Klamath River. He must make a decision by March 31 that it is in the public interest to remove the Klamath River dams. TAKE ACTION

MRsideHouse has yet to move on Merced bill - please take action! 
By Ron Stork, Senior Policy Advocate

The Republican dominated House Natural Resources Committee approved several bills that weaken federal protection for the Merced Wild River and other rivers in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. The Committee approved by a party-line voice vote Rep. Jeff Denham’s bill – H.R. 2578 – which adjusts the boundary of the Merced Wild River to allow for possible expansion of the New Exchequer Reservoir.

The bill is expected to move to the House floor for a full vote soon. Please click here to send an email TODAY to your representatives in Congress urging them to protect the Merced Wild River by rejecting H.R. 2578.


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Bad Nunes Water Bill Approved By The House
By Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Project Coordinator

 A controversial bill prohibiting implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, weaken state water rights, and override state environmental laws has passed the House of the Representatives and now heads to the U.S. Senate. Introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes, H.R. 1837 was approved 246 to 175 in a largely partisan vote in the Republican-dominated House. The bill now goes to the Senate, where California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have expressed concerns about its many controversial provisions. Concerned river advocates should send emails to Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer urging them to reject H.R. 1837 and stating strong support for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program and state water rights and environmental laws.


 Background: The dams and canals of the federal government’s massive Central Valley Project (CVP) allowed farmers to grow crops in the desert, but it also dried up the San Joaquin River (the state’s 2nd largest river), pushed California’s salmon and steelhead to the brink of extinction, drowned some of the state’s wildest river canyons under still reservoirs, polluted ground and surface water throughout the valley, and degraded the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

 In 1992, Congress moved to remedy this environmental injustice with the passage of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA). The CVPIA for the first time dedicated some federal water in California for fish and wildlife purposes and established a program to restore endangered salmon and steelhead in the Central Valley.  

A subsequent landmark federal court ruling and settlement that required the restoration of flows in a segment of the San Joaquin River dewatered by agricultural diversions has worked in tandem with the CVPIA to secure modest restoration of river flows and initial recovery of fish species in the Central Valley. But now Fresno-area Representative Devin Nunes and other members of Congress in the pocket of corporate irrigators are attempting to roll back these important conservation measures with H.R. 1837, the so-called “Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act.”

In a brazen effort to prioritize and increase federal water deliveries to a relative handful of corporate irrigators in the southern Central Valley, H.R. 1837 overturns the public trust provisions of the California Constitution, usurps state water rights authority, threatens federal water deliveries to family farmers in the Delta and northern Central Valley, rolls back CVPIA measures to restore river flows that benefit salmon and steelhead (which also benefits the state’s commercial and sport fishing industries), and ends implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Agreement.

If passed by Congress, the bill would trample the right of California to manage its water, push salmon and steelhead into extinction, steal public water from north valley farmers, likely increase federal diversions of fresh water from the fragile Delta and harm flows in the Sacramento and American Rivers, and literally dry up the restored segment of the San Joaquin River.

Some of the worst provisions of H.R. 1837 include:

  •  Tramples States Rights: H.R. 1837 overturns the public trust provisions of the California Constitution by prohibiting the state from conditioning water rights to protect fish and wildlife species. It exempts CVP operations from state permits and environmental law. It also allows the Interior Secretary to ignore fish and wildlife protection recommendations from the California Department of Fish and Game and overrules state authority to manage non-native fish that may prey upon native fish. It also overrules the authority of federal courts to temporarily halt water deliveries that may be subject to federal judicial review.
  • Gives Environmental Water Back To Corporate Irrigators, Promotes New Dams, and Increases Delta Diversions: H.R. 1837 requires CVPIA water dedicated to fish and wildlife be replaced and provided to CVP water contractors and it adds new surface water supply projects (dams) to the list of options to be considered by the Interior Secretary to replace CVPIA fish and wildlife water. Further the bill guarantees full contract deliveries to these junior contractors for life.  As a consequence, it takes water away from north valley farmers and increases federal diversions of fresh water from the environmentally fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It also extends the renewal of environmentally harmful CVP contracts to 40 years and mandates they be renewed in perpetuity
  • Harms Endangered Salmon & Steelhead: H.R. 1837 limits CVPIA direction to provide reasonable flows for fish and wildlife and suspends CVPIA-mandated fish and wildlife restoration actions until water deliveries to CVP contractors are fully restored. The bill also prohibits the Interior Secretary from mitigating or imposing CVPIA protection measures on water transfers and directs the Interior Secretary to ignore science and not distinguish between naturally spawned and hatchery salmon and steelhead in regard to federal and state Endangered Species Act listings and protection.
  • Rolls Back The Restoration Of The San Joaquin River: H.R. 1837 orders the Interior Secretary to cease implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Agreement, which is required by federal law in response to a federal court judgment (after 18 years of litigation). As a result of the settlement, the river in 2009 began to once again flow its entire length from Friant Dam to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Ceasing implementation of the settlement will allow the river to be dried up again by agribusiness diversions and this key effort to provide permanent flows and restore endangered spring Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin River will simply cease.


For more information, contact Steve Evans at Friends of the River, phone: (916) 442-3155 x221, email:






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