|Fine Art Fundraiser for FOR in Sacramento – November 6th 5:30 to 7 pm
A fine art fundraiser for Friends of the River featuring outdoor
and river-themed works by artists from the Sacramento area will be held on Wednesday,
November 6, 2013 at The Art Studios behind Michelangelo's Restaurant (1725 I
Street). Admission is free and the fun starts at 5:30pm and runs until 7pm.
Works from over xx artists will be on display and light refreshments will be
served. Bring your checkbook - Fifty percent (50%) of any work sold that
evening will be donated to Friends of the River! For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Mile of River + 30 Volunteers = 1200 pounds of trash removed!
Friends of the River would like to thank the 30 volunteers
who helped us clean up Sutter's Landing Park along the American River this
Saturday. We picked up about 1,200 pounds of trash, 120 pounds of recycling,
two old mattresses, a broken bike and a broken bike rack, one tire, one seat
cushion and hundreds of cigarette butts. A special thanks to the ten or so
members of the Unitarian Universalist Church who showed up in their Love
Shasta Dam Raise Threatens Sacramento River Ecosystems
By Steve Evans
Monday, September 30 is the deadline to comment on the
Bureau of Reclamation’s proposed raising of Shasta Dam. While Friends of the
River’s previous alerts have largely focused on the proposed dam raise and its
impacts on the upper Sacramento and McCloud Rivers (two streams eligible for
National Wild & Scenic River protection), new information has been revealed
about how the dam raise will adversely affect the Sacramento River downstream
of the dam.
If you haven’t already emailed your comments to the Bureau
of Reclamation about this environmentally destructive and unwise project,
please do so TODAY by visiting www.friendsoftheriver.org.
The CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program published in 2008
the final Sacramento River Ecological Flows (SREF) Study, which raises a number
of significant and troubling issues about the modification of flows in the
Sacramento River that would be caused by raising Shasta Dam. Ironically,
several agencies within the joint state/federal agency consortium known as
CALFED have been pushing for the proposed dam raise while other CALFED agencies
have been studying the likely adverse impacts of the raise on the Sacramento
River and its many sensitive, threatened, and endangered fish and wildlife
The proposed raise of Shasta Dam would capture more run-off
during the winter and spring months and further modify the river’s flow regime.
The SREF Study noted that dam-related alterations of river flow regimes are one
of the three leading causes of declines in imperiled aquatic ecosystems. The
Study specifically found that the proposed dam raise will reduce the “stream
power” of the Sacramento River by 16% and reduce the amount of floodplain
reworked by high flows by 8%.
Although these numbers may seem minor, the power of the
river to erode stream banks is essential for the re-creation of new riparian
forest habitat and to produce spawning gravels for fish, including endangered
salmon. In addition, flood plains have been found to play an important role in
the survival and healthy growth of young salmon as they migrate downstream to
the ocean. Any reduction in stream power and less frequent inundation of
adjacent flood plains is bound to have significant impacts on fisheries,
aquatic ecosystems, and riparian forests.
In regard to the Sacramento River and the existing Shasta
Dam, the SREF Study stated that available data “supports the hypothesis” that
the reduced frequency and duration of floodplain inundation caused by Shasta
Dam “may have contributed to the decline of the winter-run Chinook (salmon)
population.” More than 50,000 winter-run Chinook formerly migrated up the
Sacramento River every year to spawn in the early 1970s but the run declined to
only 1,533 individual fish by 2010. Impacts on salmon spawning in the
Sacramento River was confirmed in the SREF Study, which states “Reductions in
peak flow magnitude will likely reduce bank erosion and thus have potential
impacts on spawning gravel availability…”
The current dam’s alteration of existing flows also appears
to limit cottonwood seedling survival, which is the first step towards the
regeneration of new riparian forest habitat along the Sacramento River. The SREF Study confirmed that reduced flows
will limit bank erosion, which is critical for “Maintaining natural channel
migration and cutoff processes," both of which are “necessary for providing new
patches for seedling recruitment and for periodical resetting of riparian
vegetation succession.” The SREF Study noted that these processes are “critical
for maintaining the diverse, dynamic, and functional riparian-floodplain
ecosystem” of the river and “essential for creating off-channel habitats
important to many Sacramento River species.”
The SREF Study documents a troubling threat to the flow
regime required to maintain the aquatic and riparian ecosystems that make up
the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge consists of 29
properties along a 77-mile segment of the Sacramento River between Red Bluff
and Colusa, totaling approximately 10,146 acres of public land. The Refuge was
established in 1989 and has been periodically expanded ever since to protect the
river’s riparian habitat and native fish and wildlife species. Approximately
95% of the former riparian habitat along the Sacramento River was lost to
firewood cutting and agricultural conversions. The purpose of the Refuge is to
protect the remaining habitat and facilitate the restoration of new habitat.
The SREF Study also raises questions about impacts on federal
lands along the Sacramento River upstream of Red Bluff managed for outdoor
recreation and wildlife habitat by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM
manages a 20-mile segment of nearly continuous public land between Balls Ferry
Road and Red Bluff, known as the Sacramento River Bend Area. The 17,000 acres
of public land that encompass this area have been proposed for designation by
members of Congress as a National Recreation Area. In addition, the BLM in 1993
determined this segment of the Sacramento River to be eligible for National
Wild & Scenic River protection due to its outstanding salmon and steelhead
fishery and riparian forest habitat. The SREF Study’s findings about the
impacts of flow modification due to the dam raise are pertinent to this river
In the Shasta Dam Raise environmental impact statement, the
Bureau of Reclamation claims that it will mitigate the “potentially
significant” flow-modification impacts to the Sacramento River downstream of
Shasta Dam to “less than significant” levels by developing and implementing an
Adaptive Management Plan. This as yet unwritten plan will theoretically provide
flow releases to benefit and restore Sacramento River riparian habitat and
fisheries downstream of the dam. But the history of Bureau operations in the
Central Valley is replete with broken promises and salmon declining towards
Merced River Notebook
It's sometimes difficult for Friends of the River members to
appreciate that many of California's scenic rivers are little known to most
Californians. That even includes world-famous rivers such as the Yosemite's
Merced River, which then travels more than twenty-five miles through a
spectacular V-shaped canyon between two national forests and through the Bureau
of Land Management country before disappearing under thirty-two miles of Merced
Irrigation District and PG&E reservoirs.
Words don't describe these rivers and river places well.
They have to be experienced. They have to be seen. To do our part, we've
gathered some images on Friends of the River's Flicker pages. Take a look at
them. Offer some yourself. We've got room.
Happily, Yosemite area photographer Mike Osborn has really
taken up this challenge with a stunning 79-page book featuring the wild and
not-so-wild Merced, focusing on the canyon below Yosemite National Park. Not
only are the images beautiful, the book takes aim at the disrespect that the
canyon has suffered from its Congressional representatives who are pushing for
a part of it to be removed from the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Called "Deemed Unscenic," the title is borrowed
from the name of a local El Portal garage band that was disturbed that their
home reach of the Merced wild & scenic river just below the Park was not
considered outstandingly scenic by wild & scenic river managing agencies.
I think that Mike's book demonstrates otherwise. Buy it.
Share it with friends, colleagues, and others who can help to remind our fellow
countrymen that our National Wild & Scenic Rivers deserve respect---and
even some well-deserved awe.
Check it out at www.magcloud.com and search for mike osborne.
It's available in a wirebound book or electronically.
Speaking of disrespect, Representative Tom McClintock's
(R-Elk Grove) bill, HR 934, to de-designate enough of the Merced Wild &
Scenic River to allow the Merced Irrigation District to drown a little more of
the Merced under its reservoirs is still awaiting floor time in the House of
Representatives. It could move at any time. And last year, the House passed a
similar bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Modesto). The odds are good it
will pass again.
Fortunately, last year the Senate failed to take up the
House bill. This year, there's new leadership in the Senate Energy Committee
(Senator Ron Wyden-Oregon) and from House Natural Resources Committee Democrats
(Rep. Peter DeFazio-Eugene Oregon). To a large extent, the fate of this piece
of the Merced River, and of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System
generally, is in their hands, the senators from California, and the
President's. And, of course, in a democracy, ultimately in all of our hands.
In the meantime, a nice win.
Geologists like to remind us that we live at the mercy of
this planet's geology. Certainly CalTrans received a reminder when 798,000 tons
of canyonside broke free and landed on Highway 140 in 2006.
A couple of temporary bridges were thrown across the river,
but it's taken CalTrans years to learn that highways along national wild &
scenic rivers deserve respect too---as well as wild & scenic river
So I was pleased when a compact disk arrived with a couple of
new CalTrans proposals for the permanent reconstruction of the Yosemite
highway. This time, CalTrans proposed to burrow under the slide or canyon rock
alongside the slide instead of proposing giant freeway-type bridges along and
above the river itself. CalTrans had learned that the Merced River canyon was
not L.A. That was good.
It was not a surprise. Friends of the River and Defenders of
Wildlife had spent some time working in the California legislature to help make
it possible for Cal Trans to choose these alternatives. We were happy to do it.
[End of Merced noodles]
And on another front.
As the Brown Administration grinds its way forward on making
it easier to ship water from the north state to the south state, more and more
north-state water interests are showing concern. That's a good thing.
Water shipped south will not generally be available in the
north for either the north's iconic fisheries or for use by farms and suburbs
in the Sacramento Valley. In spite of being told for many decades that only
"surplus" water will be sold to the south state, northern California
water agencies are growing alarmed that the legal framework and other
institutions they had hoped to rely upon (California's area of origin/watershed
protection statutes and the goodwill of the export-project managers) don't
fulfill those roles well.
In some cases the alarm is because Sacramento Valley water
suppliers have recently lost court decisions that have narrowed or eliminated
the priority that "area of origin" water agencies believed they had;
in other cases it's because modeling by the state and federal water-exporting
agencies show an empty-reservoir future more and more for the north state. In
part that's because the entitlements for cheap water exceed the supply of water;
in part it's because when it's easier to move water through (or under) the
Delta, more water goes south.
So in recent months, Sacramento-area urban water suppliers,
including Sacramento's basketball-star mayor, have found their voice and are
raising objections to the plans of the Brown Administration. It's
understandable that they are. Whether it will make a difference is unclear. As
the south-state interests have pointed out, there's not going to be a vote this
time. If the exporters can agree among themselves on how to finance the big
tunnels, they won't need anyone's permission.
I guess we'll just have to see how well that will work out
In the meantime, the big 11-billion dollar water bond with
4.8 billion dollars of dam-construction money and a lot of funding for the
Delta restoration projects is still scheduled for the November 2014 statewide
ballot. Friends of the River opposed the water bond before, and with a
two-thirds vote requirement in the legislature to change it, it hasn’t changed
Book Review by Steve Evans
The Sacramento. A Transcendent River
By Bob Madgic
Published by River Bend Books, Anderson, CA
224 pages, Retail Price: $40 for hardbook, $24.95 for
paperback; both are 8 ½” x 11”. (prices do not include shipping or sales tax)
Bob Madgic’s labor of love, The Sacramento. A Transcendent
River, is the most comprehensive and welcoming book about California’s largest
and most important river to date. Available in both hardback and paperback, it
is chock full of beautiful photographs, compelling stories, and useful
information about the Sacramento River, from its source near Mount Shasta to
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
In an easy to read natural story-telling style, Madgic
catalogues the outstanding natural values of this mighty river and its salmon
runs, once vast riparian forests, and waterfowl. He recounts the river’s human
history, from the Native American tribes who lived along its banks, to Jedediah
Smith and other early European explorers, to when the river became a pathway
for steamboats and the railroad servicing small rural farm communities along
Madgic recounts how severe floods in the Sacramento Valley
created the push to control the river with levees and ultimately, the
construction of the Shasta Dam, just north of Redding. One of the highest dams
in the state, Shasta and its reservoir control floods and supply large
quantities of water to irrigate vast farmlands in the southern Central
Valley—the dam’s primary purpose in initiating the federal Central Valley Project—and
drinking water to many California cities.
But the book is uncompromising in its assessment of how
Shasta Dam (and the other dams, pumps, and canals that comprise the state and
federal water projects) transformed the river and the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta. The dam permanently flooded the homeland and waters of the Winnemen
Wintu Indians and precipitated the decline of the river’s once bountiful salmon
fishery, as well contributing to the near collapse of the delta ecosystem.
The Sacramento. A Transcendent River recounts the ongoing
efforts of regulatory agencies, conservation groups, and sports persons to
protect and restore the river (including, in the interest of full disclosure, a
certain Steve Evans from Friends of the River). Madgic also shares with the
reader the recreational delights of the river and its many offerings to
anglers, hunters, boaters, tubers, hikers, and wildlife viewers. The book
closes with how the river plays an important role today as an outdoor classroom
for the next generation of river conservationists.
This is a particularly important book to read now, as the
Bureau of Reclamation is asking the public of what they think about raising
Shasta Dam by more than 18 feet and enlarging what is already the largest
reservoir in the state. Friends of the River and other conservationists are
concerned the dam raise will flood important upstream segments of the upper
Sacramento and McCloud Rivers, destroy Native American cultural sites, and
modify downstream flows to the detriment of the river’s riparian and aquatic
ecosystems and the many sensitive, threatened, and endangered fish and wildlife
species that depend on these ecosystems.
Madgic appropriately concludes his book by noting that the
Sacramento River “has an unlimited ability to restore and sustain itself. It really comes down to whether people
possess the will to abide by Aldo Leopold’s proposed land ethic where land and
organisms are treated as a community and humans act to to preserve its
integrity, stability, and beauty…”
The main message of this book, conveyed in both text and
over 190 photos, is the power and beauty of a natural river. As such, it
belongs in the library of every individual who not only loves rivers but who
wishes to do his or her part in preserving them.
The Sacramento. A Transcendent River and other books by Bob
Madgic are available to order at www.bobmadgic.com . The author has generously
offered to donate 20% to Friends of the River from sales of A Transcendent
River to FOR members. Please note your FOR membership in your order.