Friends of the River's Goals: Ease the impact of existing dams and remove those that are obsolete. Protect and restore water quality for people and wildlife
License Implementation - FOR is working to ensure that licenses for hydropower projects on the San Joaquin, Stanislaus, American, and Feather Rivers are implemented to improve flows for fish, wildlife, and recreation; remove unneeded and obsolete diversion dams that impede fish passage; and improve recreational opportunities.
Butte Creek Relicensing - FOR will be actively involved in the federal relicensing of the DeSabla-Centerville hydropower project on Butte Creek. Our goal in this relicensing is to improve and expand habitat for Butte Creek’s threatened salmon and steelhead populations, and provide recreational access and improvements.
South Yuba River, Daguerre Dam Fish Passage - We expect a legal ruling from federal court in 2010 on lawsuit filed by Friends of the River and the South Yuba River Citizens League challenging the inadequate biological opinion for dam operations on the lower Yuba River. The Daguerre Point Dam blocks up to 60% of the threatened spring Chinook salmon run on the Yuba and 100% of the threatened green sturgeon. Further upstream, the Englebright Dam blocks all fish passage. Federal agencies have done little to rectify these problems and our lawsuit is intended to force them to take action before these important fish species decline into extinction.
Klamath - FOR has been a key voice for the removal of hydroelectric dams responsible for fish-kills and poor water quality on the Klamath River for seven years. A draft settlement agreement was released in late September that could lead to the removal of these four dams on the Klamath River and restoration of the river’s once fabled salmon runs. This is an important step towards restoration of the Klamath River, but the draft settlement provides little certainty that dams will be removed by the proposed target date of 2020. Friends of the River noted that not only does the draft agreement fail to guarantee removal of the dams, it provides broad liability protection for PacifiCorp against future lawsuits (even in circumstances where PacifiCorp could be negligent), and will rely on the multi-million dollar appropriations from the two states and the federal government to pay to remove the dams and restore the river. Much more work and effort will be required of all parties to ensure that the dams are actually removed, and the Klamath River salmon is restored in our lifetime. Learn more, click here.
Mokelumne - Friends of the River has also joined with the Foothill Conservancy and other organizations challenging the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s (EBMUD) approval of a plan that would expand the Pardee Reservoir on the Mokelumne River. The reservoir expansion would flood a segment of the Mokelumne for which we have secured recreational access and improvements and that has been recommended by the Bureau of Land Management for Wild & Scenic River protection. We expect this CEQA suit to be decided in 2010. Click here for more info.
Piru Creek - We expect more decisive legal victories to protect California rivers in 2010. Friends of the River and California Trout have been fighting in federal and state courts to protect Piru Creek in Los Angeles County. The Department of Water Resources has reduced flows into the creek from its massive Pyramid Dam. The flow reduction has harmed the creek’s catch and release trout fishery, and threatens its endangered steelhead and other sensitive wildlife. Unfortunately, we lost our bid to force FERC to reconsider the flow scheme in the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, we have challenged the flow change in state court as a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Learn more >
Lawsuit Prompts New Protections For Salmon - A lawsuit filed in 2006 by Friends of the River and other organizations prompted the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to release in the summer of 2009 a new Biological Opinion (BO) requiring additional protections under the Endangered Species Act for the Central Valley’s threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon. The BO called for a modest reduction in fresh water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect salmon young migrating to the ocean. Other highlights include permanently raising the gates of the fish-killing Red Bluff Diversion Dam on the Sacramento River by 2012, implementing a fish friendly flow standard on the lower American River, and directing federal agencies to consider ways to restore salmon and steelhead to the 90% of their former upstream habitat blocked by the Central Valley’s massive rim dams.
Merced River Relicensings - FOR continues to be a leader in the relicensing of three hydroelectric dams on the Merced River. Our goal is to provide fish access to habitat blocked by the dams, as well as restore flows in the lower Merced River to benefit salmon and steelhead. The good news is that FOR and its allies have successfully recruited the assistance of state and federal regulatory agencies to achieve the goal of restoring flows and fish access in the Merced River. Unfortunately, the Merced Irrigation District recently reiterated its intent to amend its hydro license, as well as federal law, to allow expansion of the New Exchequer Reservoir into the Merced Wild & Scenic River corridor. It looks like we will have our work cut out for us on the multi-year effort to restore this magnificent valley river. Learn more >
San Joaquin River - Sometimes in the frenetic rough and tumble of our river conservation campaigns we forget to give thanks. So we thought it appropriate for Thanksgiving 2009 to give thanks for a particularly important event that was more than 20 years in the making.
|Water creeps down the dry riverbed of the San Joaquin. Photo by Josh Uecker|
A few months ago, some switches were flipped and valves opened on the Friant Dam, releasing more water into the San Joaquin River. As a result, water slowly creeped down a portion of the river west of Fresno that in most years is completely dry.
It took decades of litigation, settlement negotiations, and federal legislation, but a portion of the San Joaquin River will soon be permanently re-watered. And eventually, one of the largest salmon runs in the state, which was wiped out by the completion of the Friant Dam in 1942, may be restored. Scientists are now examining the “interim” flow releases over the past few months to determine what kind of riverbed restoration is needed for when permanent flows are reestablished.
Friends of the River was one of 13 plaintiffs in the original lawsuit that successfully proved that Friant Dam’s dewatering of the San Joaquin violated the Endangered Species Act and California’s public trust policies. It took years of litigation, contentious negotiations, and hardball lobbying to make the rewatering of the formerly dry San Joaquin River a reality. It will take several more years to fully restore the riverbed, its riparian vegetation, and fisheries.
And threats remain. Opponents to the restoration continue to snipe at the effort by lobbying for legislative riders that would bring it to a halt. Challenges to the Endangered Species Act are pending in court. California has passed complex water policy legislation and is proposing a budget-busting $11 billion water bond that may or may not affect the river’s restoration (most notably by building a new dam on the San Joaquin River in an attempt to capture the last two percent of the river that remains undiverted).
But it is appropriate this Thanksgiving to step back, take a deep breath, and appreciate what has been achieved, and give thanks for the river. Click here to read news reports about San Joaquin River restoration featured on FORs Blog.
Middle Fork American River - FOR will be involved in the relicensing of the Middle Fork Hydroelectric Project to improve instream flows for fish, wildlife, and recreation, as well as to restore backcountry trails and bridges washed out by the catastrophic collapse of the Hellhole Dam in 1964.
American River Flow Standard - FOR continues to lobby the Bureau of Reclamation to implement a flow standard for the American River that protects and restores the river’s salmon and steelhead fisheries and supports recreation in the American River Parkway. Learn more >
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