Departments River in the Spotlight: The Santa Yenz River
House 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
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
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
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.
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
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
(1) each project is carried out-
(A) substantially in accordance with the plan for the
(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
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
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.
FOR 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.
River 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.
Give your river a voice and join FOR or give an additional gift today!
of the River
you to the 2013
Capital River Awards
Join us in honoring
State Senator Lois Wolk
Restore the Delta
5:30 – 8:30 pm
At the Delta King
1000 Front Street, Sacramento
at the corner of Capital & Front St.
or I St. & Second St. $7 maximum
Tickets: $50 per person
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For questions, please contact Mandi Raley at (916)
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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.
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
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.
Central 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.
Big 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 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.
California 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).
Wild & 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.
Wild 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Park your old car at the River Bank - FOR'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.