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CRA 2013 HomepgeSAVE THE DATE: California River Awards, Friday October 25, 2013

The California River Awards will be held on Friday evening, October 25th from 6 to 9 pm at The Golden Gate Club in the Presidio of San Francisco, 135 Fisher Loop.  Parking is easy and public transportation available.

The 2013 California River Awards will be a festive and unforgettable evening celebrating two of California's river heroes – David “Chicken” Nesmith and Congressman Jared Huffman.  Along with delectable food, terrific wine and great music, it is a wonderful opportunity to socialize with old and new friends and support FOR’s ongoing efforts to protect California’s rivers.  A live and silent auction will tempt you with many enticing items: outdoor adventures, fine wines and dining, art, camping equipment and more.

This year’s Sponsors Pre-event will be Chicken Tales, a participatory roast of our Mark Dubois honoree, David Nesmith.  If you have a story to share we’d love to have you join us at this special event please email us at: The 2013 CRA website will be up and running Monday so check out next week to learn more!

Ron StorkRiver Policy Currents
Ron Stork, FOR Policy Director

Feinstein Falters in the Right Direction?

The rhetoric around the idea of amending the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act to ease the way for the proposed expansion of Lake McClure Reservoir and the drowning of part of the protected Merced River has been pretty simple: water is good, dams make water, therefore a bigger dam is good.

So it came as a surprise when a new constituent-response letter from Senator Feinstein (a supporter of removing Wild & Scenic protection from the Merced River) recognized that California environmental law may not allow for an expanded reservoir even if she is successful in rolling back federal protection for the Merced River.

Merced with save.jpgHer letter could represent a small step out of the fact-free zone that many of California’s elected representatives have operated in on this issue.

Of course the letter fails to recognize that the expanded reservoir as conceived by the Merced Irrigation District would (1) fail dam-safety muster and (2) make the Highway 49 bridge, now just barely above a full-pool reservoir, subject to wave and storm-debris damage.

A better letter would also recognize that you can’t squeeze much more water out of a dam that has never filled and spilled. And better yet would be a commitment to defend the integrity of our national wild and scenic rivers system.

But her letter is a small step in the right direction.

If you want to read Senator Feinstein’s latest, the annotated letter is here.

While Costa gets his name in the newspaper

Sometimes it’s important for the cosponsors of Rep. Tom McClintock’s (R-Elk Grove) Merced Wild & Scenic River de-designation bill, HR 934, to get their share of the spotlight. It was in that spirit that Rep. Jim Costa (D-Merced) took a public pilgrimage to New Exchequer Dam to hear Merced Irrigation District’s sales job on the virtues of its proposed reservoir expansion into the Merced National Wild & Scenic River.

 msp6Of course Rep. Costa heard the same old line from the District about how nice more water would be, implying that the raised spillway would generate a meaningful amount of “new” water. (It doesn’t.)

Perhaps the Congressman knew he was being misled, perhaps not. But, for sure, Rep. Costa got a story in the local newspaper (the Merced Sun-Star) about his visit.

Interestingly, the effect of the hypothetical bigger reservoir on the endemic Merced River canyon limestone salamander was also finally touched on by the District’s hometown newspaper booster. Unfortunately the authors just gave the District’s side of that issue.

Well, it’s not really an issue in the District’s eyes. The District would prefer to deal with the fully protected and California Endangered Species Act “threatened” limestone salamander in front of a friendly Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dam-raise proceeding --- something that requires the Wild & Scenic river to be de-designated. 

Presumably they hope to convince that Commission that any estivating (summer dormant) limestone salamanders and their eggs will magically scamper away when their reservoir invades the salamander’s presently safe hot-season refugees in the talus fields and broken rocks along the rising reservoir. “That’s not exactly a scientifically credible plan. Of course our view is that it’s pretty incredible that the District didn’t even establish the feasibility of their idea before trotting off to Congress to win their approval to put a reservoir on a National Wild & Scenic River for the first time in history

See the Sun-Star story for yourself.

Federal Capitol BldgLeadership shuffles

With the election of Representative Ed Markey to the Senate, the Democrats have a new leader in the House Natural Resources (Interior) Committee: Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon.

Californians will remember Rep. DeFazio as one of the opponents of Auburn dam twenty-one years ago, when it most counted. He also recently penned the following on the Merced:

I am opposed to this legislation as written.  As you know, H.R. 934 would result in the partial flooding of the Merced River, an incredible Wild and Scenic River that flows out of Yosemite National Park.  The legislation has serious implications for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which I strongly support, by retroactively changing the designation of the river...

Relating to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act more generally, you may be interested to know that in 1988 I helped author a bill to add 40 Oregon rivers --- covering 1,400 river miles --- to the Nation's Wild and Scenic Rivers system. This remains the largest river protection act in U.S. history outside of Alaska.

Over the course of my career in the U.S. House of Representatives I have played a leadership role in protecting 80 percent of all Wild and Scenic miles in the State of Oregon. This Congress I have proposed legislation to add 150 additional miles of Wild and Scenic in the State of Oregon, including additions for the iconic Rogue and Chetco rivers.

Again, thanks for your message.  As someone with a strong and proven record on protecting America's rivers, you can be sure that I will do everything I can to protect the Nation's Wild and Scenic Rivers system.

Way to go, Peter.

And when you, River Advocate reader, get a response from your Congressional Representative on HR 934, please send us what you get, we need to know who are the Peter DeFazio-type leaders out there, and those who are not.

delta 2-2013Natural Resources Agency releases remaining administrative drafts of the BDCP
Katy Cotter, FOR Legal Counsel

The California Natural Resources Agency has released the remaining chapters of the Administrative Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to the public. The agency held a public meeting on July 17th, at which Friends of the River senior counsel Bob Wright reiterated concerns regarding financing of the BDCP and the BDCP’s detrimental impacts to endangered species, among other things. These preliminary draft chapters can be found here. Or at the web address below:

It is noteworthy that federal lead agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, still have grave concerns about the BDCP’s preliminary draft EIR/EIS. These agency comments can be accessed here. Or at the web address below:

McCloud above Shasta Res 1-23-2013Cognitive Dissonance --- or selling it. Raising Shasta Dam (and the twin tunnels)
Ron Stork, FOR Policy Director

The state and federal governments are trying to sell the biggest projects to move water from Northern California to the state’s southlands in many decades.

Here’s some big-picture stuff you need to know.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) estimates that further damming the state’s largest dependable river (the Sacramento and tributaries) will increase the firm yield of the Central Valley Project (CVP) by 47,000 to 113,000 acre feet, no more than a one and two thirds percent increase in the typical deliveries of the CVP. That’s called the law of diminishing returns.

The billion-dollar cost of this, the Shasta Dam raise,  is about half of the remaining project repayment obligation of the CVP’s contractors --- that’s what they still owe for the Federal project that taps the Central Valley’s rivers to deliver seven million acre-feet annually. Not much bang for the buck unless those who get the water can get others to pay for it, also not unusual in the history of western river damming and diverting.

Reclamation estimates that 60% of the benefits of raising Shasta Dam are from reoperation of Shasta Dam for “the environment.” Setting aside any dispute on the truth of that, what they don’t tell you is that they can do this without raising the dam. In any case, that means operating the project more conservatively. But at the same time the recently published Twin Tunnels’ benefits analysis expects to operate Shasta Dam more aggressively to squeeze more water out of it.

Something’s wrong here. Those two statements don’t line up. Maybe it’s just that they want to put U.S. taxpayers on the hook for 60% of the project costs and squeeze more water out too.

Check out Friends of the River’s fact sheet on the Shasta Dam raise and the East Bay Express “Rivers in Peril” piece for some of the rest of the story. There’s some free-flowing rivers that might benefit.

Photographer at MokelumneVolunteer: for your river: Check out FOR’s Flickr Page – and share your river pictures!
Johnnie Carlson, FOR Operations Director

FOR has launched our own Flickr page – check it out on Flickr.

We have put some great or historic photos up on our Flicker site (some taken by staff and all of our recent submissions for our Facebook-page photo contest too).  Our hope is to make these photos available to press and the public to show off the Merced River, the American River, and more.  It’s all a work in progress, of course.

Although Spring is often the most spectacular times of year to visit California’s foothill rivers, other seasons certainly can create some photographic opportunities, so if you are able, please plan to visit an endangered river such as the Merced, for example,  the Merced’s BLM Briceburg to Bagby stretch.  Rep. McClintock is not going away.  Senator Feinstein is still committed to storage, although we may have chipped away some of her fire on this.  We need to keep chipping.

And if you want to take or make available photos of other endangered rivers (NF &MF American for example) or FOR events, we want to be able to use them.  Contact FOR at  if you have some photos to share!

FOR’s Flickr:

   July 25, 2013
Volume 3, Number 7
The Voice of California's Rivers
Since 1973
In this issue

Save the Date: Oct 25th for the CRA!
Ron Stork's River Policy Currents
Remaining BDCP Drafts Released
Raising Shasta Dam & Delta Tunnels 

Volunteer: Check our FOR's photos and add your own!

join/donate FOR button

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