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April 25, 2013: Vol. 3, #4

The Voice of California's Rivers Since 1973
Features
Committee Passes HR 934 to drown the Merced
Dead Dam Walking: Aubrun Dam to be OK'd by Senate
FOR submitts comments on Delta Plan 


Events & Activities:
Capital River Awards: May 15

Take Action
HR 934 - Help Save the Merced from McClintock
In-Depth: FOR's 2013 Wild & Scenic Rivers Campaign
Departments
River in the Spotlight: The Santa Yenz River
 
Redbud on the River, Merced River by Deanna Lynn Wulff 4-5-1House Natural Resources Committee does its work.
Ron Stork, Senior Policy Staff
 
(photo: Redbud on the Merced by Deanna Lynn Wulff)
 
Rep. Tom McClintock really didn't need to worry that the House Natural Resources Committee wouldn't pass his Wild Merced
de-designation bill (HR 934). 
 
Environmental groups from all over California and the country were opposed to it of course, but that Committee and this House doesn't listen to them anyway.
Still, Rep. McClintock found it necessary to try to sooth his fellow Committee members into compliance with stories that weren't exactly true: he's just doing this to fix the original mistake that the FERC and wild & scenic river boundaries don't match (not true, they are for entirely different purposes, so they never "match," and unlike Rep. McClintock, Congress knew this when they added the river to the Wild & River System).
 
He also claimed that it was preposterous that the expansion of the reservoir would harm the state-listed and fully protected Merced River limestone salamander because they haven't been found along the wild & scenic river reach he hopes to de-designate, which floods all the time anyway according to him. (Well, the reservoir has never backed up there, and can't since you can't really store water higher than a very-wide, totally open downstream spillway, and he failed to tell his colleagues that the salamanders have been found along the shores of the reservoir where they would drown if the reservoir was expanded.)
 
Not content with fairy tales, he also mounted a full-throated defense of Congress's right to change its mind on decade's old wild & scenic river designations.
His fury and scorn was heaped on the Administration witness, a mild-mannered Assistant Secretary of the Interior who told the Public Lands Subcommittee hearing members that the Department of the Interior opposed the bill. (Nice going, Interior, I thought.)
 
Pretty chilling stuff to hear as I attended the congressional hearing.
 
Of course a mere six days later the full Natural Resources Committee passed HR 934 for consideration by the House of Representatives.
 
That means that sometime in the next month or two (our current best guess), every Congressional Representative in the country will have the opportunity to vote on the fate of this small but significant reach of the Wild Merced - along with the precedent that Congress is prepared to de-designate "permanently protected" wild and scenic rivers even on the basis of the most speculative and ill-considered water projects.
 
Although this House, of course, will vote to do this again, just like it did in the previous Congress, it sounds like a good time to contact your Representative or Senator and provide him or her with your good and better-informed advice and counsel.
 
 
Auburn Dam sketch
Auburn dam to be authorized ? This Year?
Ron Stork, Senior Policy Staff
  
WRDAs (Water Resources Development Act) come and go, but this one has got environmentalists pretty concerned.
WRDAs are the biennial Congressional vehicle for authorizing Corps of Engineers water projects and policy initiatives. However, in recent years they have been stalled over resistance to "earmarks," specifically identified Federal projects inserted into appropriations bills by a Congressman. Although WRDA is an authorization bill not an appropriations bill, the newly minted Congressmen have been unable to understand that. The result: no WRDAs.
  
Well, this year to get the WRDA moving, Senator Boxer, chair of the Environment & Public Works Committee, made some concessions to get the WRDA out of Committee: ones whose consequences may not have been fully understood.
 
Rather than just authorizing the proposed water projects it likes and rejecting the ones it doesn't, the proposed WRDA just authorizes any that have passed Corps of Engineers review - and have been "referred" to the Congress.
 
SEC. 1002. PROJECT AUTHORIZATIONS.
The Secretary is authorized to carry out projects for water resources development, conservation, and other purposes, subject to the conditions that-
(1) each project is carried out-
(A) substantially in accordance with the plan for the project; and
(B) subject to any conditions described in the report for the project; and
(2) a Report of the Chief of Engineers has been completed and a referral by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works has been made to Congress as of the date of enactment of this Act for the project.
 
Twenty-one and seventeen years ago the Chief of the Corps of Engineers completed reports on Auburn dam that were forwarded or "referred," presumably by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, to the Congress for consideration. Congress chose not to authorize Auburn dam. Could those successful defenses of the American River be swept away by the zeal of a new Congress to abdicate its decision making to the Corps of Engineers?                               

Environmental groups from throughout the country, including Friends of the River, have called on the Senate to hold up consideration of this bill until they've had a chance to fix the WRDA. The following letter from California groups is being sent this week. But it's time for you to pick up your pen and write Senator Boxer as well, this time about Auburn dam.

--text of letter below---
Dear Senator Boxer:
 
Our organizations greatly appreciate your leadership on the environment, which has greatly benefitted California and given you the well deserved recognition of having one of best environmental voting records in the Senate.  However, we are very concerned with the "streamlining" provisions in the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (sections 2032 and 2033 of S. 601).  These provisions are bad for California and the Nation and we urge you to strip them from S.601 before the bill advances to the Senate floor. 
 
These so-called "streamlining" provisions strike at the very core of the nation's bedrock environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.  Together these laws provide critical protections to California's waters and ensure that Congress, the administration, and the public have the information they need to make informed decisions, including whether a project is worthy of investment by the federal taxpayers.  While we appreciate your interest in making the Corps of Engineers a more efficient agency, the "streamlining" provisions will not accomplish that goal.  Instead they will make Corps projects even more environmentally damaging than they already are. 
 
Sections 2033 and 2032 set up a system that prioritizes speed over meaningful environmental review of complex projects that can fundamentally change the health and functioning of entire ecosystems.  These provisions put the Corps in charge of reviews that are clearly outside of its jurisdiction and expertise, including consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, review under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and reviews under laws governing activities in coastal areas and public lands.  They also allow the Corps to pressure the resource agencies, including through arbitrary deadlines, excessive paperwork, investigations by the Inspector General, and multiple higher level reviews including directly to the President, and unprecedented fines.  This could force resource agency staff to make uninformed decisions or worse, to rubber stamp unacceptable projects, prioritizing deadline compliance over effective review.
 
Our organizations rely on the National Environmental Policy Act and the nation's other bedrock environmental laws to protect California's waters and to give us a meaningful seat at the table when major water resources decisions are being made.  For example, a robust environmental review process led to the rejection of an environmentally-destructive Corps' levees-only flood protection project on the Napa River and eventual adoption of a community supported "living river" plan.  This plan includes terraced marshes, wider wetland barriers, and restored riparian zones that are providing important wildlife habitat and critical flood protection to Napa.  This project is credited with lowering flood levels by about 2 to 3 feet during the 2006 New Year's Day flood.
 
A robust environmental review process also exposed the devastating impacts of the Corps' proposal to dredge the internationally recognized Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, which is one of the most pristine tidal lagoons in California.  That review also made it clear that the proposed dredging was not necessary, and would have done far more harm than good even for the limited purpose for which the project was proposed (removing sand from the mouth of the estuary).  This destructive project has now been abandoned, saving taxpayers $133 million, and is being replaced by a locally driven plan to protect and restore this vital lagoon.
 
Full and careful compliance with the Nation's environmental is a prerequisite for sound decision making on large federal investments in water resources projects.  We urge you to exert your leadership to remove Sections 2032 and 2033 from S.601. 
Sincerely,
--end of letter---
 
delta by don mace istockphotoFOR Submitts Coments on the Delta Plan
Katy Cotter, Legal Counsel
  
This week, Friends of the River submitted comments to the Delta Stewardship Council urging the Council to reconsider the imminent approval of the modified regulations associated with the Delta Plan.  Our letter offers revisions to the regulatory language that would remedy many of the legal problems in the current version. These changes are vital in light of the fact that the Delta Plan and implementing regulations blindly endorse the construction of new conveyance facilities (currently proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)) to transfer water around the Delta even though no thorough environmental analysis of such construction has been completed. Our proposed changes would allow the Council to abstain from favoring new construction until and unless a robust environmental analysis supports such a project. Moreover, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently expressed concern over construction of the Delta tunnels leading to the “potential extirpation of mainstream Sacramento River populations of winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon over the term of the [Bay Delta Conservation Plan] permit. . . .” (NMFS Progress Assessment and Remaining Issues Regarding the Administrative Draft BDCP Document, p. 12, April 4, 2013). Friends of the River calls on the Delta Stewardship Council to protect these endangered species, and to refrain from endorsing the unwise and unjustified construction of the Delta Tunnels.
 
 
Santa Ynez RiverRiver in the spotlight: The Santa Ynez River
The Santa Ynez River and its tributaries drain the rugged and scenic Santa Ynez Mountains north of Santa Barbara. The 25 mile-long upper Santa Ynez River is the longest stretch of free flowing river with easy public access in Southern California and one of the most popular recreation areas on the Los Padres National Forest. The river attracts thousands of visitors annually to its numerous riverside campgrounds, picnic areas, and swimming areas. 
 
 
 

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Friends of the River

Cordially invites you to the 2013

Capital River Awards

Join us in honoring

State Senator Lois Wolk

&

Restore the Delta

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

5:30 – 8:30 pm

At the Delta King

1000 Front Street, Sacramento

Parking available at the corner of Capital & Front St.
or I St. & Second St.  $7 maximum charge.

Tickets: $50 per person

Purchase tickets or sponsor this event

www.friendsoftheriver.org/capitalriverawards

For questions, please contact Mandi Raley at (916) 442-3155, x214

Mail checks to:

Friends of the River, 1418 20th Street, Suite 100, Sacramento, CA  95811

A special 15% discount on overnight accommodations is available for Wednesday evening at the Delta King (subject to availability). Contact the front desk at (916) 444-5464 and let them know you are with FOR’s Capital River Awards event.

2013 CAPRA button

Visit the Capital River Awards page on our site

   
 
In-Depth: FOR's 2013 Wild & Scenic Rivers Campaign
Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Rivers Project Coordinator
  
Since our inception in 1973, Friends of the River has played a significant role in the protection of more than 2,000 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers in California. Just some of our notable achievements include legislative campaigns that protected the Tuolumne River in 1984; the Kern, Kings, and Merced Rivers in 1987; the Big Sur River, Sisquoc River, and Sespe Creek in 1992; the Black Butte River in 2006; and the Owens River Headwaters, Cottonwood Creek, Amargosa River, Piru Creek, Palm Canyon Creek, Bautista Creek, and the North Fork San Jacinto River in 2009. 
  
Friends of the River is working with a coalition of conservation groups and several members of Congress to develop comprehensive Wild & Scenic River and Wilderness proposals for targeted Congressional districts in California. We anticipate that many of these bills will be introduced in the 113th Congress (2013-14). Our targeted legislative campaigns include:
   
Yolla-Bolly Middle EelNorth Coast:
The North Coast region in northwest California has more than a thousand miles of Wild & Scenic River candidates, many of which support sensitive, threatened, or endangered salmon and steelhead populations. Friends of the River and its allies have asked Representative Jared Huffman to consider introducing comprehensive wild river and wilderness legislation for the 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity, and parts of Sonoma and Marin Counties. Some likely river candidates to be considered for legislative protection include the upper South Fork Trinity River and its tributaries, the Little South Fork Elk River in the Headwaters Forest Reserve, the Mattole River and its tributaries in the King Range National Conservation Area, and Olema Creek in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
Santa Ynez RiverCentral Coast: The 24th and 26th Congressional Districts, which encompass public lands in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties, has more than 262 miles of Wild & Scenic River candidates. These streams offer outstanding outdoor recreational opportunities and important habitat for a plethora of endangered species, including the southern steelhead, arroyo toad, and California condor. Friends of the River and its allies have asked Representatives Lois Capps and Julia Brownley to consider introducing comprehensive wild river and wilderness legislation for this region. High priority candidate streams to be considered include upper Sespe Creek, upper Piru Creek, the Santa Ynez River and its tributaries, and the Salinas River.
]
arroyo seco.JPGBig Sur & Coast Range: The 20th Congressional District in Monterey and San Benito Counties has some of the most beautiful and iconic public lands in California, including the spectacular Big Sur Coast. There are more than 161 miles of candidate Wild & Scenic Rivers in this region, stretching from the redwood forests of the Little Sur River to the oak woodlands and serpentine barrens of the San Benito River. Although the bill failed to progress in Congress, Representative Sam Farr introduced legislation in 2009 that proposed protection for more than 91 miles of rivers and streams near Big Sur, including portions of the Arroyo Seco, Carmel, and San Antonio Rivers and their tributaries. Friends of the River and its allies are encouraging Rep. Farr to reintroduce this legislation in the 113th Congress.
[
San Gabriel AnglerSan Gabriel Mountains: The south state’s San Gabriel Mountain Range sprawls over portions of the 27th and 28th Congressional Districts. There are more than 121 miles of candidate Wild & Scenic Rivers in the San Gabriel Mountains, which represent 70% of the open space in Los Angeles County. Friends of the River is working with a broad coalition of social justice and conservation groups in support of establishing a San Gabriel National Recreation Area (NRA) that would include much of the San Gabriel Mountains and the lower San Gabriel River. Representatives Judy Chu and Adam Schiff are considering legislation that would establish the NRA and protect Wild & Scenic Rivers and Wilderness additions on the Angeles National Forest. Top candidates for Wild & Scenic protection include the East, North, and West Forks of the upper San Gabriel River, San Antonio Creek, and Little Rock Creek.
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Deep Creek 2California Desert: Friends of the River is working with coalition of groups advocating for protection of public lands in the California Desert. Senator Dianne Feinstein intends to reintroduce her bill to protect more than 72 miles of desert streams as Wild & Scenic. The streams include the Whitewater River, Deep Creek, an addition to the Amargosa River (protected in 2009), and Surprise Canyon near Death Valley. Her bill will also likely propose protection of thousands of acres of Wilderness and National Monuments. We anticipate that desert legislation could be reintroduced later in in the 113th Congress (2013-14).
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Upper Truckee #1Wild & Scenic River Studies – The Forest Service and other federal land management agencies are required by law to identify, study, and recommend Wild & Scenic protection for candidate rivers and streams in their respective land and resource planning processes. The Forest Service is revising its Forest Plans for the Inyo, Sequoia, and Sierra National Forests in 2013. Friends of the River is lobbying the Forest Service to ensure that these plan revisions incorporate Wild & Scenic River studies on more than 311 of eligible or potentially eligible streams and rivers, including segments of the Kings River, lower Kern River, Tule River, and Hot Creek. The Forest Service will likely have draft Forest Plan Revisions available for public review and comment sometime in 2014. In addition, the Forest Service will likely finalize its Forest Plan Revision for the Lake Tahoe Basin in 2013. Last year, Friends of the River helped mobilize hundreds of public comments in support of protection up to 32 miles of the upper Truckee River and its tributaries as Wild & Scenic.
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merced 3-28Wild Rivers Defense – The next two years pose serious threats to supposedly protected Wild & Scenic Rivers, as well as candidate rivers and streams. Currently, Friends of the River is opposing in Congress H.R. 934, a bill that proposes to roll back federal protection for a segment of the Wild Merced River to allow for possible expansion of New Exchequer Reservoir (go to www.friendsoftheriver.org for more information). In addition, federal and state agencies are studying three dam projects that could drown Wild & Scenic River candidates behind new or expanded dams, including segments of the McCloud and upper Sacramento Rivers, and the San Joaquin River Gorge. Friends of the River will mobilize public response and comments in support of river protection when state and federal agencies release environmental studies for these dam projects. In addition, Friends of the River will educate California voters, who will be asked in November 2014 to vote on a multi-billion dollar water bond that could provide billions of dollars of public funding to help build these destructive projects.
 
For more information concerning Friends of the River’s Wild & Scenic River Campaigns for 2013-14, please contact Steve Evans, Wild Rivers Consultant, phone: (916) 708-3155; email: sevans@friendsoftheriver.org.
 
 
 
   
   
 

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