In This Issue: Merced River: HR 869 Hearing in DC FOR Declares War on US Army Reclamation & Water Authority on notice over Selinium Transitions
River News & Events
Merced River: HR 869 hearing in DC
H.R. 869 has the innocuous intention of “clarify[ing] the definition of flood control operations for the purposes of the operation and maintenance… on the Merced River.” A closer look at the details shows this will ultimately be new water storage in the protected segment of the Wild & Scenic Merced River. In the blink of an eye a cornerstone of the nation's environmental protection - the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 will be gutted making it fairly easy for other rivers to lose protection as well.
FOR's Senior Policy Advocate, Ron Stork was in Washington, D.C. Tuesday before last to testify against the bill at the House Natural Resources subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands hearing. Chairman Bishop and Representative Denham incessantly attempted to put words in Ron’s mouth. Nevertheless, Ron, with the mission of saving the Merced River and Wild & Scenic River Act, held his own. His opening statement of, “It is not the National Reservoir Protection Act, nor is it the National Protect a River for 20 Years and then turn it into a Reservoir Act”, illustrates the heart of this issue brilliantly. Protection of the Merced River, and other protected rivers, is not conditional upon the expansion of water storage on a whim, it is permanent. Ron pointed out that the expansion of the dam into Wild & Scenic Rivers territory is unnecessary because there is a stable water supply for Denham's area, so much so that the Merced Irrigation District sometimes sells water to drainage impaired lands in the San Joaquin Valley, which is in itself harmful to the environment for a variety of reasons.
A huge source of debate, and Denham's professed goal for his bill, is job creation. Denham claims that this bill will create roughly 80 jobs. Because the flow of the river will only be sufficient enough to maybe catch water one out of every three years - these 80 people will end up unemployed 2 out of every 3 years - exacerbating unemployment - not helping create jobs. Ron quickly pointed out that many recreational jobs will be lost if this plan were to be implemented, as well as the loss of historical and Native American cultural sites, and irreplaceable habitat not to mention the enjoyment of future generations. Denham did not think this through, his proposal that claims to stimulate job growth, actually seems to do the opposite when it comes to the economic well-being of his district. You can learn more and see Ron's DC testimony by visiting our Merced page at www.friendsoftheriver.org/merced
FOR declares war on US Army
Friends of the River and our partners, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife, filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court challenging the implementation of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers policy requiring removal of all trees and shrubs from levees in California. After Hurricane Katrina, the Corps made major changes to its nationwide levee policies, including new standards in 2009 banning vegetation on or within 15 feet of levees.
The policy would have devastating impacts on the environment, since it would require the destruction of much of the last 5 percent of once-thriving riparian forests in California’s Central Valley, which provides essential habitat for several endangered species, as well as scenic beauty and shade for aesthetic and recreational enjoyment of the rivers by the people.
FOR and our partners firmly believe that levee safety can be achieved without a scorched-earth policy to clear-cut the surviving remnants of the riparian forests in the Central Valley. The Corps adopted a new standard requiring removal of all vegetation from levees without any environmental review, without any consideration of regional differences and without scientific support. There’s little proof that trees or well-managed vegetation threaten levees in California. In fact, research shows that trees can strengthen levees, and a recent scientific review by the Corps determined that some vegetation may help stabilize them. The Corps should allow ongoing scientific research to inform its regulatory process before proceeding. You can learn more about the suit and read our press release at www.friendsoftheriver.org/CWON
Reclamation and Water Authority to Clean Up Selenium or Face Lawsuit
FOR and its allies provided notice in early June to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority notice that conservationists and fishing interests intend to sue under the Clean Water Act to halt the dumping of polluted agricultural waste water into the San Joaquin River and Delta.
Nearly 30 years after the public became aware that selenium in irrigation run-off was deforming the embryos and young of protected waterfowl in the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley, no permanent solution to this pollution has been implemented. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed to allow irrigators to continue to discharge selenium-polluted waste-water into the San Luis Drain for another 10 years. The drain flows into Mud Slough and the polluted water eventually flows into the San Joaquin River and the Delta.
“Enough is enough,” said Bob Wright, Senior Legal Counsel for Friends of the River. “Irrigators and government agencies have had decades to solve this problem but have simply failed to do so,” he said.
The required 60-day notice to sue under the citizen’s lawsuit provision of the Clean Water Act was filed by attorney Stephan Volker for Friends of the River, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Institute for Fisheries Resources, San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, and Felix Smith. Smith was the former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who first blew the whistle about selenium pollution and wildlife deformities at Kesterson in 1983.
More than 400,000 acres of taxpayer-subsidized irrigated farmland on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley is selenium-impaired. When this acreage is irrigated, the run-off contains enough selenium to cause deformities, reproduction failure and death in waterfowl and other wildlife. It can even affect human health. Selenium-caused wildlife deformities have been reported as recently as 2008 and 2003.
“We can’t fix the Delta or restore its ecosystem if we let irrigators continue to treat it as a sewer for their polluted waste water,” said Wright. Attorney Volker agreed, noting that, “The Clean Water Act demands that our water quality and aquatic life be protected and the polluters be held to account for their pollution.” To read the full press release visit our pressroom.
Steve Evans to Focus On Wild Rivers Protection
On June 1st, longtime river advocate Steve Evans will be changing his status from Conservation Director of Friends of the River to Wild and Scenic Rivers specialist, working with both FOR and the California Wilderness Coalition (CWC) to focus on statewide Wild & Scenic River protection and management issues.
Evans will advocate across both organizations for the legislative protection of more than 400 miles of proposed Wild & Scenic Rivers in southern California and the Big Sur region. In addition, he will work to ensure that federal agencies complete comprehensive river management plans throughout California for designated rivers and complete Wild & Scenic River studies on federally managed public lands. Evans will also monitor and take action to protect rivers from destructive projects or policies.
FOR needs help training whitewater guides working for commercial companies about our river campaigns. Volunteers get a training and materials to take out to commercial outfitters who have requested a training for their guides. To volunteer contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (888) 464-2477 ext 208.
Help us save YOUR river and meet our online goal for June! Our June goal is $7,000 - we have raised $4,820 so far! Your help today can get us over the top and make the difference for the river you love.
Give your river a voice and join FOR today!
Visit Your River
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, American River
The Effie Yeaw Nature Center is part of a 77 acre nature preserve along the lower American River with riparian and oak woodlands, shrub lands and meadows. There are three self-guided trails with interpretive signage along the way to point out interesting features. The Nature Area is considered a “Watchable Wildlife” site in the California State guide because of its reliable wildlife viewing opportunities. The Nature Center includes native plant landscaping, a replica Maidu Indian summer village, the Discovery Shop, and the Discovery Center where visitors can see live non-releasable wild resident animals.
San Carpoforo Creek flows south out of the Santa Lucia Range in the northern Los Padres National Forest, onto lands owned by the Hearst Corporation and then to the Pacific Ocean. The creek was the route of the historic Portola Expedition and it was identified as an area of high ecological significance by the Forest Service. San Carpoforo Creek was not studied by the Forest Service. Conservationists believe that it is free flowing and possesses outstanding values.
In the summer a fair amount of our peek energy demands are met with hydropower. Many of us jump to the air conditioner controls as soon as temperatures hit the 80's - but even into the mid-90's you can stay just as cool with a fan you as you will with the AC on. Another helpful tip is to open up the house at night and close it up in the early morning keeping the cool in and the house from heating up as temperatures rise - using window fans or a whole house fan in the evenings can cool the whole home in just an hour or so.