1973: Jerry Meral, Rob Caughlan, David Oke, and
David Kay came together as Friends of the River to protect the
Stanislaus River from the New Melones Dam and Reservoir. Friends of the
River (FOR) became an organization that gathered signatures to place an
initiative on the statewide ballot to protect the Stanislaus as a state
Wild & Scenic River.
1974: The Stanislaus Wild & Scenic River
initiative is narrowly defeated in a statewide election. Friends of the
River continues its campaign to stop the filling of New Melones
Reservoir on the Stanislaus, but also begins a new campaign to preserve
the American River Canyon from Auburn Dam. Construction of the Auburn
Dam is halted amid concerns of earthquake safety.
1975: Under the direction of Mark Dubois and Jennifer Jennings, FOR becomes a membership-based organization. Donors rejoice.
1979: The North Fork American River is added to the
National Wild & Scenic Rivers system. It’s the first California
river to receive protection since the act was passed in 1968 and the
second California river to be added to the federal system. For seven
days, Friends of the River Executive Director Mark Dubois chains himself
to a rock to block the filling of the New Melones Reservoir.
1981: The National Wild & Scenic Rivers System
expands to include the Smith, Klamath, Scott, Salmon, Trinity, Eel, Van
Duzen, and Lower American rivers. A major mining project is defeated on
Middle Fork Feather River, California’s first federally protected river.
1982: Friends of the River plays a key role in
passing state legislation prohibiting dam building on the South Fork
American River. A statewide initiative that was circulated by Friends of
the River activists to improve water management and prevent the filling
of the New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River is defeated at the
polls. A statewide referendum defeats the proposal to build the
Peripheral Canal, which would allow more northern California water to be
exported south of the Delta.
1983: The New Melones reservoir drowns the Stanislaus River.
1984: The Tuolumne River is added to the National
Wild & Scenic Rivers system after Friends of the River generates
more than 5,000 letters urging Senator Pete Wilson to protect the river.
1986: Friends of the River helps pass federal
legislation that requires more environmental protection when the federal
government licenses dam projects. A near flood in Sacramento renews
calls to build the Auburn dam on the American River.
1987: Friends of the River’s Three Rivers Campaign
results in adding segments of the Merced, Kings, and Kern rivers to the
National Wild & Scenic Rivers system.
1989: The Smith River National Recreation Area is
established. Friends of the River successfully lobbies to add the East
Carson and West Walker rivers to the California Wild & Scenic Rivers
system, the first rivers to be added to the state system since it was
established in 1972. New dams are prohibited on the McCloud River.
1992: In response to Friends of the River’s intense
lobbying campaign in Washington, DC, a bill re-authorizing construction
of the Auburn Dam on the American River is defeated in Congress on a 2
to 1 vote. The lower Merced River, Big Sur River, Sisquoc River, and
Sespe Creek are added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.
The Central Valley Project Improvement Act is passed to provide water
for fish, wildlife, and recreation from federal dam projects in
California. Friends of the River also helps pass legislation to provide
protection for the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
1993: Proposed hydroelectric projects on the North
Fork Stanislaus and South Yuba rivers are withdrawn due to public
opposition and poor economics.
1994: The upper Klamath River in Oregon is added to
the National Wild & Scenic Rivers system. Friends of the River
generates public comments supporting changes in the operation of the
Glen Canyon Dam to help restore the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
1995: Friends of the River successfully lobbies for
state legislation prohibiting new dam projects on Deer and Mill creeks,
the best remaining spring run Chinook salmon streams in the Sacramento
1996: An Auburn dam bill in Congress is defeated
again. Proposed dam projects on the Clavey and North Fork Mokelumne
Rivers are rejected by the federal government. Friends of the River
establishes an outdoor adventure program for disadvantaged teenagers
(called River Quest) and initiates a new program to improve river flows
for fish, wildlife, and recreation through the federal relicensing of
1997: Friends of the River intervenes in the federal
relicensing for hydroelectric projects on the North Fork Kings, North
Fork Feather, Santa Ana, and San Joaquin rivers.
1999: After contentious debate, Friends of the River
and its allies convince the California Legislature and Governor Gray
Davis to add the South Yuba River to the California Wild & Scenic
2000: Friends of the River signs settlements with
PG&E and other parties that improve flows for fish, wildlife, and
recreation in the Mokelumne and North Fork Feather Rivers as part of the
federal relicensing of PG&E’s hydroelectric projects. Friends of
the River becomes involved in the relicensing of PacifiCorp’s four
hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River (three of which are located in
California). The McCormick-Saeltzer Dam on Clear Creek is removed to
improve salmon and steelhead migration.
2001: Friends of the River’s continued opposition to
the Auburn dam prevents introduction of an Auburn dam funding bill in
Congress. Friends of the River completes the first statewide inventory
of potential Wild & Scenic Rivers, identifying for potential
protection nearly 4,000 miles of rivers and streams throughout
2002: Friends of the River negotiates an agreement
that improves flows for fish, wildlife, and recreation in the North Fork
Kern River as part of the federal license for a Southern California
Edison hydroelectric project. Senator Barbara Boxer introduces the
California Wild Heritage Act, which includes 22 proposed Wild &
Scenic Rivers totaling more than 500 miles. This bill sets the federal
agenda for river protection in California for the next 10 years.
2003: Friends of the River successfully campaigns to
add the Albion and Gualala Rivers to the California Wild & Scenic
Rivers system, ending a plan to divert fresh water from the rivers for
export to southern California. Three dams on Panther and Beaver Creeks
are removed as part of the Mokelumne hydro settlement. Friends of the
River proposes the removal of PacifiCorp’s hydroelectric dams on the
Klamath River to restore the river’s declining salmon population.
2004: Friends of the River helps pass state
legislation that requires urban areas in California to install and use
water meters a requirement that will reduce urban water use by more than
20 percent in non-metered cities. Friends of the River negotiates a
settlement with PG&E to improve flows for fish, wildlife, and
recreation in the Stanislaus River as part of the federal relicensing of
PG&E’s hydroelectric projects. Friends of the River and the Klamath
River Indian Tribes visit Scotland to lobby PacifiCorp’s parent company
to remove hydro dams and restore the Klamath River.
2005: Friends of the River and its allies
successfully encourage the passage of state legislation adding Cache
Creek to the California Wild & Scenic Rivers system. The 2005
California Water Plan Update is published, proposing a scenario for
California that would reduce water use and increase conservation while
continuing to meet the needs of our growing population without building
2006: The Black Butte River is added to the National
Wild & Scenic Rivers System. Grassroots pressure led by Friends of
the River convinces the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to sign an
agreement in principle for the relicensing of its Upper American River
Project, improving flows in the South Fork American River and its
tributaries. Friends of the River defeats state legislation to fund new
dams in California.
2007: Friends of the River negotiates an agreement
with Southern California Edison to improve flows for fish, wildlife, and
recreation in the San Joaquin River and its tributaries as part of the
federal relicensing of SCE’s hydroelectric projects. The North Fork
American River is restored at the old Auburn dam site. Friends of the
River and the Klamath River Indian Tribes visit Omaha, Nebraska, to
lobby PacifiCorp’s new parent company to restore the Klamath River.
2008: Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Feinstein
proposed a $5 billion water bond including 3 new dams, that was
unsuccessful in being placed on the November ’08 ballot. The Bureau of
Reclamation’s water rights at the Auburn Dam were revoked by the State
Water Board thanks to 20+ years of work by FOR and its Conservation
Director Ron Stork. Our Wild and Scenic staff helped put together a
nationwide wilderness bill which will protect another 105 miles of
rivers in California (passed early in 2009). And PacifiCorps, the
states of CA and Oregon, and the Dept. of the Interior signed an
Agreement in Principal to remove the dams on the Klamath which FOR is
working hard to improve.
2009: See our extensive 2009 Accomplishments
National legislation protecting 105 miles of rivers, mostly
in Southern California, signed into law by
President Obama. Legislation to protect
94 miles of rivers in Monterey
County introduced by Rep.
Sam Farr. FOR was successful in
litigation to restore flows to the San
below Friant Dam. FOR’s work with
Congress helped authorize and fund a new spillway on the Folsom Dam, improving
flood control and decreasing the threat of Auburn Dam. A lawsuit and several other actions by FOR
improved the habitat for salmon in the Central Valley. Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a bill strongly
supported by FOR suspending suction dredging on all California rivers.
2010: The FOR-led No on the Water Bond campaign
succeeded when the effort to place the bond on the ballot was dropped. FOR rejected the Klamath
River dam settlement agreement due to concerns about
implementation and durability. Sen.
Feinstein introduced a bill that would add another 75 miles of Wild &
Scenic Rivers in the Mojave and the San Bernardino
Mountains. We continued our
work on FERC relicensing on 16 dams and water projects throughout the state,
fighting to secure the best possible terms for the rivers from dam
operators. FOR sued the Army Corps of
Engineers over its War on Nature, the vegetation-clearing mandate on
levees. We continued our work to
actively oppose the revival of the Peripheral
Canal and the effort to
raise old dams and build new ones.
legislative efforts resulted in new bills to study Wild & Scenic Rivers in
the San Gabriel Mountains, protect as wilderness the upper watershed of the
Santa Margarita River in San Diego County and establish the Sacramento River
NRA in Tehama County. FOR opposed inadequate suction dredge mining regulations
proposed by the California Department of Fish and Game and won a legislative
moratorium on suction dredge mining through 2016. FOR provided policy expertise
in the development of the state’s proposed Central Valley Flood Management Plan
that was released late in 2011 for public review. FOR
won litigation challenging the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s (EBMUD)
desire to expand Pardee Dam on the Mokelumne
River and in response EBMUD
dropped the proposed dam raise.
continued our all-out fight to oppose the Merced Irrigation District (MID) effort
to expand New Exchequer Dam on the Merced River, which would drown a section of
the river protected under the National Wild & Scenic River Act. FOR will
testified in Washington, D.C. in the spring and summer to fight MID's
unprecedented attack on the nation's environmental laws as well as other
attempts to undermine local and state authority over water rights that could
plunge California into a wholly new and "man-made" water crisis – at the
end of 2012 MID’s bill died in the US Senate.. FOR continued to make progress
in our suit challenging the renewal of Westlands Water District contracts which
require additional diversion of water from the beleaguered Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta. FOR continued to defended rulings protecting endangered salmon and
steelhead in the Delta and in response to our efforts, a federal court directed
the National Marine Fisheries Service to update its biological opinion to
protect threatened spring Chinook salmon and green sturgeon on the Yuba River.
FOR also continued litigation challenging the State Water Board’s approval of a
flow regime from Pyramid Dam into Piru Creek that adversely affects several
endangered species, including southern steelhead, arroyo toad and California
red-legged frog. FOR filled suit against the US Army Corps of Engineers new national
policy requiring the removal of all woody vegetation on and alongside river
levees – these trees and shrubs provide most of what little river side habitat
remains in California and are critical to ensuring cooler water temperatures
for fish and stability for river banks during high flow conditions. Also: See our 2012 River Victories page.
2013: Friends of the River:
- secured commitments from federal legislators to introduce Wild & Scenic bills to protect 380 miles of California rivers including rivers: on the north coast, the central coast, the high desert and coastal portions of southern California.
- geared up for Forest Plan Revisions for the Inyo, Sequoia, and Sierra National Forests, urging the Forest Service to recommend hundreds of miles of potential Wild & Scenic Rivers in the eastern and southern Sierra Nevada including: Hot Creek, the lower Kern River and the Kings River.
- mobilized 738 comment letters opposing the proposed Shasta Dam raise that would flood portions of the McCloud and upper Sacramento Rivers eligible for Wild & Scenic protection.
- made national headlines in our battle to save the Wild & Scenic Merced River form Merced Irrigation District's efforts to drown this gem of the Sierra’s.
- continued our fight to oppose the building of Sites Dam in the coast range and Temperance Flats dam on the San Joaquin River.
- submitted comments on the State Water Resources Control Board’s Water Quality Control Plan Update to tell the Board that recovering salmon populations need adequate flows from the Merced, Tuolumne, and Stanislaus Rivers.
- testified in person at House Natural Resources Committee hearing to de-designate part of the Wild & Scenic Merced River and mobilized 1,057 comments letters in opposition.
- defeated yet another attempt to authorize the Auburn dam through the Water Resources Development Act.
- sued to stop the disastrous Delta Plan which would authorize the 25 billion dollar peripheral tunnels.
- filled comments to oppose the raising of Shasta Dam Raise Threatens Sacramento River Ecosystems new information has been revealed about how the dam raise will adversely affect the Sacramento River downstream of the dam in addition to drowning sacred Native American sites on the McCloud River .
- continued the fight to save the San Joaquin River Restoration program.
2014 Accomplishments & Activities
Sent the Twin Tunnels Project Back to the Drawing Board
Comments from FOR, our allies, and thousands of activists
helped convince state and federal agencies that this plan to divert more water
from the San Francisco Bay-Delta through two giant tunnels has major
problems. Planners are now revising the
plan for re-release sometime in 2015 which will create another valuable opportunity
for public comment.
Saving the San Joaquin River from Temperance Flat Dam
Plans for this 665-foot dam on the San Joaquin River are
moving fast. FOR generated turnout to
two public meetings, filed expert comments, and produced an analysis debunking
the economic benefits of the project.
We’re now generating grassroots comments and working with FOR member
Anita Lodge whose 5th generation home in the San Joaquin River Gorge would be
Launched a Grassroots Organizing Initiative
FOR deployed three organizers this year to build our
grassroots base of support. They have already engaged more than 5,000 people by
organizing along the South Fork American and holding the first ever Salmon Run
for Rivers—a public run from San Francisco to Sacramento to build support for
rivers and the critters that need them.
Mokelumne River Wild & Scenic Campaign
FOR launched an effort with the Foothill Conservancy to
protect 37 miles of the Mokelumne River as a State Wild & Scenic River.
State Senator Loni Hancock’s bill made it through the Senate but got hung up in
the Assembly. We are now working with our partners to build on this incredible
progress next year.
Connected 1,000 People to the River
Our robust volunteer-led rafting program got 1,000 people on
the river, including 220 youth who participated in educational white water
Protected Riparian Habitat
FOR stopped the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s controversial
program to remove trees from levees in California. This riparian vegetation
provides scenic beauty and critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Our
litigation with the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife
held off the levee clear-cutting program while we successfully lobbied Congress
to require the Corps to review and reconsider the policy.
New Canoe Training Program
FOR is launching a new canoe program thanks to the hard work
of FOR member Paul Barth who secured more than 20 canoes along with the
associated equipment! This means FOR
will be able to provide a more diverse array of opportunities to get people on
rivers to educate and engage them in our work.
San Gabriel Nation Monument
Working in coalition with a diverse array of partners, FOR
convinced President Obama to issue a proclamation to establish a 350,000-acre
San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in Southern California that protects
several rivers and streams.