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October 13, 2011: Vol. 1, #10

In This Issue:
Don't miss the River-Lovers Party of the Year!
Army's War on Nature: Case Update
House Resources Committee Declares War On Merced And Other Wild Rivers
Klamath Dam Removal Analysis Unveiled
Transitions: New Lawyer Joins FOR staff

River News & Events


FOR's 2011 California River Awards is coming up on Friday, October 28th, 6 to 9pm at the Golden Gate Club in the SF Presidio.  Check out the River Awards page for all info, including a list of the spectacular trips, equipment and wines that are being auctioned. Tickets are $100 (going up to $150 on October 20th);  $50 for those under 30. Come celebrate this year's awardees -- the founders of the Tuolumne River Trust and Congressman Sam Farr -- while partaking of delicious food and wine and getting great deals on vacations and everything you need to enjoy them.  AND your money all goes to save California's rivers!  How can you beat that?

House Resources Committee Declares War On Merced And Other Wild Rivers

Last Thursday, the Republican dominated House Natural Resources Committee approved several bills that weaken federal protection for the Merced Wild River and other rivers in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. The Committee approved by a party-line voice vote Rep. Jeff Denham’s bill – H.R. 2578 – which adjusts the boundary of the Merced Wild River to allow for possible expansion of the New Exchequer Reservoir.

If approved by Congress, H.R. 2578 would allow nearly a mile of the Merced Wild River downstream of its confluence with the North Fork to be permanently flooded by future reservoir expansion. The expansion is proposed as part of the Merced Irrigation District’s hydroelectric license application before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The bill is the first attempt by anti-river forces in Congress to remove federal protection for a Wild & Scenic River to allow for water development. The House Committee approved other bills with similar intent, including a bill by Presidential candidate Michele Bachman to allow for the construction of a massive freeway bridge over the St. Croix Scenic River in Minnesota and another bill that adjusts the boundary of Crooked Wild & Scenic River in Oregon to allow for local water development.

The bill is expected to move to the House floor for a full vote soon.

Army's War on Nature: Case Update

FOR and its co-plaintiffs, Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife filed a First Amended Complaint on October 10th in their action against the Army Corps of Engineers seeking to save the trees on and near California’s levees.  The objective of the case is to obtain relief under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act protecting the scenic beauty and species habitat afforded by tree-lined rivers.  The amendment adds two important developments that took place after the case was filed in June. 

The first new development was in July when the Corps released its long awaited scientific literature review which concluded that “Both benefits and risks of converting wooded levees to grass-covered levees, including the engineering feasibility and economic costs of such conversion, have yet to be fully investigated.”

The second new development was in September when the Corps released, after it was leaked, its “Initial Research into the Effects of Woody Vegetation on Levees”, prepared by its Engineer Research and Development Center.  Research findings included that “Trees near the toe increased the factor of safety because of the reinforcing effects of the roots and the increased counterweight of the tree to slope movement.”  The conclusion was that “Because of the extreme variability in geology, tree species, climate, and soils, the impact of trees on levees must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.”  That has been the position of FOR and California state agencies for the past four years.  Despite its own research findings, the Corps Headquarters announced upon releasing the new Study that it does not plan on changing its one size fits all national vegetation management standard.

Klamath Dam Removal Analysis Unveiled

On September 21, 2011 Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the federal government has completed their analysis of the environmental and economic impacts associated with removing the four dams of the Klamath River Hydroelectric Project.  The Draft Environmental Impact Report / Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) is part of the federal government’s obligation, under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), to ultimately determine whether removing the four dams is in the public interest. This announcement and release of the draft EIR/EIS opens a 60-day period for public review and comment to be concluded on November 21, 2011.

The analysis and studies describe impacts and benefits from potential dam removal on the Klamath River. They reveal that dam removal could assist in significantly increasing salmon harvests in the river and ocean, eliminating the toxic algae blooms in reservoirs, and restoring more normal water temperatures in the river.  The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) is also included in the Draft EIR/EIS and the Department of the Interior examines the long-term effects of this agreement on the Klamath Basin community and ecosystem.  While dam removal can result in some small increases in long-term flood risks as well as a short-term impact on juvenile fish populations from the release of the sediment built up behind the dams, the studies also describe how these risks can be mitigated. 

In addition, the cost of removing four dams on the Klamath River is examined. The KHSA has capped dam removal costs at $450 million in non-federal funds, and the Draft EIR/EIS indicates the preferred alternative would cost $290 million. As the Oregon and California Public Utilities Commissions have already approved a $200 million charge to the ratepayers, almost $100 million will need to still need to be found.  The KHSA identifies the State of California as responsible for this additional cost, however the viability of this funding option remains to be seen.

Friends of the River continues to support dam removal on the Klamath. To that end, we will follow this process closely and submit written comments during the 60-day public comment period. Visit to view the Draft EIS/EIR and obtain a schedule for public hearings as well as instructions for submitting written comments.

Transitions: New Lawyer Joins FOR staff

In a most important development for the FOR river legal defense effort, Katy Cotter has joined the FOR legal team as a volunteer lawyer.  Katy obtained her law degree from the University of California, Davis, School of Law in 2006 and has been in private practice in the environmental field in Sacramento prior to joining the FOR legal defense effort.  Before that, she obtained her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Virginia.  Katy loves river rafting and has been a FOR member for several years.


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