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In This Issue: Senator Feinstein Supports Flooding W&S Merced River SAVE THE DATE: May 17 - 2012 Capital River Awards FOR Challenges Bad Mining Regulations In Court Calling all members – how to get on river with FOR! Get to your river – and help take care of it too! 50 Ways to Save Your River: Pool cover! River in the spotlight: Clear Creek FOR’s fight against the War on Nature gets another editorial in support!
River News & Events
Senator Feinstein Supports Flooding The Merced Wild & Scenic River Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Project Director
Friends of the River and a coalition of conservation organizations and outdoor businesses are urging Senator Dianne Feinstein to oppose an effort by agricultural interests in Congress to remove a segment of the Merced Wild & Scenic River from federal protection. The threatened segment extends approximately downstream from the confluence of the North Fork Merced with the river’s main stem down to the current upper limit of McClure Reservoir behind New Exchequer Dam.
“Never before has Congress reversed course and eliminated federal protection to allow harm to a previously protected river,” Ron Stork said in the letter to Senator Feinstein, representing Friends of the River. “Congress should never consider removing federal protection from a National Park or a Wild & Scenic River and no California Senator should ever support or propose such an action,” the letter said.
The Merced Irrigation District (MID) is lobbying Congress to remove protection from the Merced to allow for possible expansion of MID’s McClure Reservoir to boost water supplies. The Friends of the River letter noted that not only would the reservoir expansion flood a Wild River protected since 1992, it will also drown a portion of the river “enjoyed by thousands of rafters, kayakers, hikers, and other visitors annually.” In addition, the letter stated that reservoir expansion would flood the state protected limestone salamander (a threatened species) and public lands that are protected under federal law as part of the Merced River Wilderness Study Area.
A Fresno radio station reported from a recent campaign fundraising event in the San Joaquin Valley organized by agricultural interests that Senator Feinstein stated her support for raising New Exchequer Dam on the Merced River to increase water supplies. The is the first time that California’s senior Senator has stated publically that she would support expanding a reservoir that would infringe on and drown a segment of the federally protected Merced Wild & Scenic River. California’s other Senator, Barbara Boxer, has not taken an official position on the proposal.
In response to thousands of emails and letters from her constituents expressing concern about the threat to the Merced, Senator Feinstein had previously stated that she supported allowing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to consider MID’s proposal to expand the reservoir. But because the Merced River just upstream of the existing reservoir is a federally designated Wild & Scenic River, FERC by law cannot consider expansion without an exemption by Congress.
The Merced removal provision is included in H.R. 2578 by Rep. Jeff Denham and would remove a segment of the Merced from federal protection to allow for reservoir expansion. H.R. 1837 by Rep. Devin Nunes could also be amended to include a provision to remove the Merced River segment from the system. H.R 1837 is a complex bill that includes controversial provisions that weaken state water rights, exempt federal water projects from state environmental laws, and eliminate federal support for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program.
Because Senator Feinstein opposes some of the more controversial aspects of H.R. 1837, she may choose some provisions she does support (including the Merced de-designation) and push them through the Senate as an amended bill or as riders in the energy and water appropriations bill. Or she could simply support passage of H.R. 2578.
Regardless of the legislative vehicle Senator Feinstein may choose, these bills represent the first serious attempt to remove federal protection from a Wild & Scenic River in order to accommodate a water project. The bills directly contravene Congress’s original intent in passing the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act nearly 50 years ago to balance our existing national policy of developing many rivers with dams, with a new policy to protect certain free flowing rivers with outstanding values for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Friends of the River played a leading role in the 1987 and 1992 campaigns that led to the protection of the Merced Wild & Scenic River from its sources in Yosemite National Park to McClure Reservoir. In response to the second campaign, Congress, President George H.W. Bush, and even MID agreed specifically to protect the Merced River down to where it meets McClure Reservoir.
Now MID has reversed its position and is pushing for expansion of the reservoir into the section of the Merced classified as a Wild River. Friends of the River believes that not only is reservoir expansion speculative (if only because the current reservoir has never completely filled and spilled), it is also dangerous. Adding spillway gates to expand the reservoir, as proposed by MID, will infringe on the facility’s flood safety margin and it could result in potentially catastrophic overtopping of New Exchequer Dam in a large flood event.
SAVE THE DATE: May 17th the 2012 Capital River Awards in Sacramento Johnnie Carlson, River Advocate Editor
Friends of the River is pleased to announce our annual Sacramento event honoring river conservation throughout California. Join us to celebrate the spirit and leadership which keep our rivers and canyons protected.
This year we honor Patricia Schifferle and the Planning and Conservation League (PCL) for spearheading campaigns to protect rivers from the Kern in the South to the Klamath in the North. For nearly four decades Patricia and PCL have worked to redress the balance in the California waterscape in favor of in-stream and public trust values versus exploitation for water and power. Along with delectable food, terrific wine and beer, this event is a wonderful opportunity to socialize with old and new friends and support ongoing efforts to protect California’s Rivers.
Money raised at this event will support FOR’s river conservation work.
The 2012 awardees:
Planning and Conservation League (PCL) Since its inception in 1965, PCL has been at the forefront of key environmental policy decisions in Sacramento. It is renowned as The "Lobbying Arm of the Environmental Movement" in California and has been an essential partner in, and promoter of a sustainable approach to California's water management problems. PCL’s Water Policy team promotes fundamental change in California’s water policy by focusing on developing and implementing the most environmentally beneficial solutions to California’s water challenges.
Patricia “Patty” Schifferle Patty’s career as an activist, advocate, and her tactical ingenuity in protecting rivers spans more than three decades, earning her the respect and admiration of friends and foes alike. She led the Congressional Campaign to Save the Stanislaus, was instrumental in securing federal Wild & Scenic protection for the North Coast Rivers, directed the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act field campaign, helped pilot legislation to protect the Sierra Nevada watersheds including state wild and scenic protection for the South Yuba River, and the list goes on… In the words of Congressman George Miller, she is “one of the most talented individuals involved in resource policy and strategy on the West Coast.”
Get to your river – and help take care of it too! Hayden Glines, Communications Associate
This month marks the addition of a new feature to the Friends of the River website, a list of river cleanups across California. The idea for a webpage along these lines was conceived some time ago when we attempted to find a river cleanup near Sacramento via the internet. We were disappointed to find the lack of a central database for this sort of thing, or even general information of such a vital activity to our rivers, and ultimately, our world. We then knew what we had to do.
Over the course of the past month, we have reached out to numerous organizations across California. Those organizations that have responded you can find here. Needless to say, this is not a final draft, and truly never will be, as we hope to make this an ever-growing list. If you have any questions, feedback or know of an organization that might be interested in getting more publicity for their good-natured events, please do FOR and your river a favor and send us an email at: info(at)friendsoftheriver.org
50 Ways to Save Your River: A pool cover!
If you have a pool, keep a cover on it when not in use. This will prevent evaporation and keep your pool cleaner. Covering your pool can save up to 250 gallons a week from evaporating away, plus you will save your time spent cleaning your pool and cutback on the costly chemicals you need when you must clean it more frequently. This tip courtesy of: http://www.sandiego.gov/water/conservation/tips.shtml
FOR’s fight against the War on Nature gets another editorial in support! Johnnie Carlson, River Advocate Editor
The Sacramento Bee on April 17, 2012 published another editorial in its series supporting FOR’s efforts to get the US Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its policy requiring the clear-cutting of all woody levee vegetation. While progress on our suit seems stalled at the moment – momentum outside the courtroom continues to build with efforts in the Washington state and by the State of California.
Click below to learn the 50+ ways you can help save your river now!
Give your river a voice and join FOR or give an additional gift today!
Junk Your Car: Save Your River!
Our first car donated $240 to California's Rivers!
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
Clear Creek is a major tributary of the Klamath River, flowing out of the Siskiyou Wilderness in northwest California. This beautiful creek is probably best known for providing one of the primary trail routes into the wilderness, via the Clear Creek National Recreation Trail, which parallels the 23 mile-long creek. The lower creek provides seasonal class III whitewater rafting and kayaking. Anglers seek Clear Creek for a backcountry fishing experience for wild native trout.
Friends of the River Challenges Bad Mining Regulations In Court Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Project Director
Friends of the River and nine other organizations earlier in April filed a lawsuit (read our filing) in State Superior Court challenging the recent decision by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) to approve its controversial suction dredge mining permitting program and revised regulations.
Friends of the River and its allies believe that the new regulations and permitting program violate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because CDFG’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the program was inadequate. The litigants also believe that the regulations violate the Fish and Game Code requiring that the issuance of suction dredge mining permits not cause deleterious impacts on fish.
CDFG issued revised regulations and new EIR for the program earlier this year after receiving hundreds of comments about the failure of the original regulations (proposed in 2011) to protect fish, wildlife, habitat, water quality, and cultural resources. Although the revised regulations were somewhat improved, they still failed to protect native fish and amphibian species, and avoided addressing the fact that suction dredge mining pollutes rivers with toxic mercury, heavy metals, and sediment, and would result in statewide cumulative impacts on cultural resources.
In fact, CDFG’s own EIR admitted that permitting suction dredging on California rivers and streams would have significant and unmitigated impacts on birds that utilize adjacent river habitat, water quality, and cultural resources. In addition, Friends of the River and its allies believe that CDFG used such a narrow definition of “deleterious” to fish that it failed to adopt regulations that truly protect wild trout, endangered fish and amphibians, and their habitat.
There are numerous other problems with the regulations as proposed by CDFG. Rivers and stream segments that support threatened and endangered fish, including salmon and steelhead in northern California and even the Santa Ana sucker in southern California, were left open to destructive suction dredge mining. The regulations are rampant with mistakes, including river segments that have different regulations based on which side the river you may be on. The regulations also permitted suction dredge mining in rivers located in areas where other agencies prohibit motorized mining, including National and State Parks, Indian Reservations, and state and federal Wild & Scenic Rivers.
Last year, Friends of the River and its allies successfully lobbied the California Legislature to adopt budget language that prohibited CDFG from issuing mining permits until the agency adopts regulations that mitigate all significant impacts or until July 2016. Unfortunately, CDFG may be pursuing a strategy of waiting until 2016 to implement the suction dredge mining permit program in order to avoid adopting regulations that mitigate all significant impacts.
The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Alameda County. The plaintiffs include Friends of the River, the Karuk Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Foothill Angler’s Coalition, North Fork American River Alliance, Upper American River Foundation, and the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center. Attorneys for the plaintiffs include Bob Wright, Friends of the River’s Senior Legal Counsel, and attorneys from the Center for Biological Diversity and Environmental Law Foundation. Mining interests have recently filed their own lawsuits, so this controversial issue may very quickly receive its day in court.
Calling all members – here is how to get on the river with FOR this year! Jonathan McClelland, FOR Volunteer
My Dear River Lovers,
Many of us were introduced to the love of rivers and their need for protection by participating as a paddler on a Friends of the River raft trip. You probably even heard your guide talk about how you, too, could become an FOR guide and lead others to discover the wonders of rivers. A few heeded that siren's call, but most did not- for a variety of good reasons. I was one who did, and my life was transformed in many wonderful ways. Over the years, I pondered why we (FOR guides) were limiting our quest for more river advocates by just encouraging our more exuberant guests to become guides. I think it's high time that FOR's Rafting Program is expanded to include all FOR members that would like to raft regularly and don't mind (or would even enjoy) volunteering to help us get the message that the river sections that still exist need to flow as rivers. In these environmentally perilous times, we need all the help we can get!!! And besides, if all rafters became guides who would be left to paddle???
When we gathered for our annual Rafting Program (RP) retreat this year, I proposed this idea, and by consensus was given the go-ahead to develop the concept.
This is what I propose:
Anyone in good standing with the RP (guide or not) has the right to organize an FOR river trip, recruit qualified FOR guides to help with the logistics, and invite whomever they want to accompany them on the trip, so long as they are members of FOR.
You will also get access to join any FOR trip that is open to the public. Since we no longer have the Member Outing program, being a member of the RP is your best way to stay informed of the trips that we offer on the Klamath, Kings, Cache Creek, Trinity, and upper Sacramento rivers (just to name a few).
In return for the priveleges above, you will commit to volunteering at one off-river event each year. These include tabling at festivals, helping at fundraisers, participating in an event to raise awareness of potential harm to a California river, helping at FOR's office in Sacramento, or representing FOR on a watershed cleanup in your hometown. But you don't have to stop there, if you have an idea to create a fund raising or river-centric conservation event on your own, you'll find that FOR staff and savvy, experienced volunteers are more than willing to help you achieve that goal.
Here are a few of the upcoming volunteer opportunities that can get you "in good standing" for this upcoming season, and the contact person for each event.
1. FOR needs volunteers to assist tabling at the UC Davis Whole Earth Festival in Davis Sacramento May 11, 12, and 13th or the American River Conflueance Festival in Auburn on June 10th. Contact Johnnie Carlson at jcarlson(at)friendsoftheriver.org
2. Help with food prep and clean-up at the "Honoring Commercial Guides Party" at Motherlode River Center on Thursday June 7th. Contact Jonathan McClelland at jonsonari(at)comcast.net.
3. FOR's staff almost always has something that needs help with at the office. If you have special skills, or just a desire to help out please contact Johnnie at jcarlson(at)friendsoftheriver.org, there is filling, contribution thank-you calls, and many more easy and fun to do tasks.
If you have further questions about how this program works, please call me at (707) 579-0633 or (707)889-4849, or send me an email at jonsonario(at)comcast.net . I look forward to seeing you on the river (SYOTR in guide print).