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April 2012

DFF's Focus on Conservation
 with Ron Forbes

"I've gone fishing a thousand times in my life, and I have never felt unlucky or poorly paid for those hours on the water."

     Walter Tapply

The leftover dams on the Yuba, the continuing saga of HR 1837, the BDCP's fifth revision, update on suction dredging
 
Given our club's up coming trip to the Lower Yuba River, I thought this would be a good place to start this months conservation newsletter. In early March, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released their biological opinion that both Daguerre Point and Englebright Dam both pose a threat to the survival of salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon on the Lower Yuba River. Its has ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that these fish are able to bypass both structures. 

Englebright Dam, Nevada County USGS photo
 
By March 1st, 2014, the Corps must start a program  to trap and transport these fish around both dams. The order stops short of ordering the dam removal. This "trap and transport" step is a temporary fix to the situation. By  Jan. 31st 2020, the Corps is required to have a permanent solution in place.  There are three options available. These are permanent trucking the fish around the dams, building fish ladders, or  removal of the dams.
 
In doing research, I found some interesting facts about the dams. Englebright Dam was built the the Army Corps of Engineers is 1941, is 280 ft. tall, and  contains 70,000 acre-feet of water. The dams were not built for flood control, drinking water, farming, or electricity. In the 30's and 40's there was a proposed resumption of  hydraulic mining in the rivers east of the dams location. The  dams only purpose was to stop erosion and debris from being washed downstream as it had in earlier hydraulic mining. Fortunately, this type of mining was not started again. However, the Corps did not build fish ladders on either of the two dams. This failure prevents fish passage to all three forks of the Yuba and is a loss of hundreds of miles of pre-existing steelhead and salmon habitat.
 
There is another problem with the dams. During the hydraulic mining period large amounts of mercury was used in the extraction of gold. No real  efforts were used to prevent escape of mercury into the environment or remove the mercury from the environment. So much of it remains trapped in the sediment and the debris at Englebright Dam. In the later 90's, tissue samples from fish above Englebright  showed mercury levels of 0.3ppm.. Some samples of the tissue approached 1.0 ppm, which approaches the Department of Food and Drug Administrations level of concern.
 
The Corps chief of Operations in Sacramento claims  that NMFS is requiring them to go beyond the Corps legal mandate. According to them, "Fish passage is not in our authorization at Englebright . Its not part of project purpose. Its not something we are going to be able to just do." There are several question the Corps should have to answer. First, since the sole purpose of the dam was to prevent the damages from  hydraulic mining that never took place, why does the dam need to exist and be maintained ?  Second, since the Corps  has helped destroy part of our salmon and steelhead fishery, why aren't they responsible to re-establish that fishery?
 
HR 1837  Update

Westlands Water District, the biggest in the nation 

As you know HR1837 passed the House of Representatives along party lines. Unfortunately, two south valley Democrats, Jim Costa, D-Fresno and Dennis Cardoza-D Atwater joined south valley Republicans and voted for the so-called San Joaquin Reliability Act. Given their districts locations their vote is not surprising. The bill now moves to the senate where it will face revisions in committee. One of the provisions proposed in the bill would kill the San Joaquin River restoration plan. At this point most feel that this part of HR1837 will not make it out of committee. The bills chief author, Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, is not a favorite of Sen. Feinstein's having
District Map for House Distrct 21 in California
Devin Nunes' District 21
said to she  allied herself with radical environmentalist and hippies. He proceeded attack her on being a hypocrite on water issues. At present, there are no committee meetings scheduled between Feinstein and Nunes concerning his bill. In a letter from the Natural Resources Committee, they point out what HR 1837 passage would mean to us in California on a national and state level. It also addresses problems other states will have.
 
At the national level
 
   . It will destroy the 100 years  standing of existing states water rights. This will leave all states water rights under federal control thru the Bureau Reclamation.
   . Seventeen western states (including California) will have lost their ability to control, use, appropriate, or distribute its irrigation water.
   . It will stop West Coast states from working together to restore our salmon population.

At the state level
 
   . It will forbid California using its own water code and our State Constitution in dealing with water issues.
   . It will cause more legal uncertainty for affected communities.
   . It repeals the legally binding San Joaquin River Settlement Act and prohibits and federal participation the Act. It destroys 18 years of the coalitions work.
   . It would change all water contract renewals from 25 years to 40 years. Water will no longer belong to the public but will be a de facto privatization of our 
     water resources.
   . It takes a step backward by changing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) from current higher standards to the 1994 standards. The older standards ignore
     current science that shows the decline and negative effect of the environment on our species.
 
HR 1837 is nothing more that an attempt at a water grab for his corporate sponsors, Westland Water District, Metropolitan Water District, Kern County Land Company, the Stewart Resnicks et.al.. 
 
The best result for HR 1837 is that the bill dies in Senate committee. However, Feinstein is having meetings with the House and she has recently slipped language into a bill that benefits her major supporter Stewart Resneck. The most probable course at this point is that HR1837 will be reissued in a more mild form. We need to keep watch on this bill. This Republican House has tried to pass more anti-environmental legislation (over 190 bills) than any other group in our nations history. Its interesting that the Nunes, McCathy, Denham group that authored HR1837 have, in the passed, claimed to be strongly pro-states rights. However, when their corporate masters tell them to jump, they come out with the most anti-states rights legislation we have ever seen from our California members of the House of Representatives. Last week I heard a speaker comment that Nunes and his group were rather liberal, but that is only with their use of honesty and the truth.  
 
 
The  Natural  Resources and Water Committee Meeting in Sacramento 
 
On March 13th, State Senator Fran Pavley held a meeting of the Natural Resources and Water Committee for a discussion of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and the Delta Plan at the state capitol. Restore the Delta ask those of us interested stopping the attempt to build a peripheral canal attend and make our voices heard. As  usual the only people on the agenda were southern California Water Districts, Westlands Water District,, Department of Water Resources, and like groups who will benefit from a peripheral canal. Only 3 of the 9 members of the committee bothered to show.
 

One of the various Rube Goldberg plans
for moving water through the Delta.
The BDCP is undergoing it 5th revision after its many flaws have been pointed out. Despite the fact the BDCP and the Delta Plan have been railroaded along without any input from any Delta residents, businesses ,urban leaders, fisherman, and farmers who have been excluded in this entire process. Many angry people attended the committee meeting to show Sen. Pavely their anger with this process and the BDCP. The room was filled to capacity and a large number had to watch the proceedings in the hall on TV. 
 
Many pro Delta groups attended including Local Agencies of the North Delta (LAND), 11 North Delta Water Agencies, environmental and fishing groups, the mayor of Stockton and citizens who will  be negatively effected by a peripheral canal. After the public input, the meeting was adjourned and with the understanding that a new draft of the BDCP is to be must be completed. The fight goes on.
 
Update on Suction Dredging
 
Last week I spoke with Bill Carnazzo (NCCFFF's representative on suction dredging) about the current status of the suction dredging issue. Bill said that late this week or early next, litigation will be filed against DFG to prevent dredging under DGF's proposed regulation changes. DFG's lack of reasonable time for public comment (only 17 days) has angered many groups and is causing  an equally fast litigation to be filed. Many of the litigants in the last action will be in 
involved in this one , including a native American tribe from the Klamath River. One of the plaintiffs has found that DFG has not done no new analysis for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The judge that hear the last action and found in our favor, will preside in this case. Hopefully that's good news.
 
Suction dredging on the Klamath River
Also, Bill  told me that he had gone fishing on a tributary of the  American River several weeks ago and a helicopter flew over him and landed a short distance away. Gear had been left and as he drove up to check things out, 2 men got into the helicopter and left, leaving one man on the ground with the gear. There was a car nearby and  when Bill ask the fellow what he was doing the man said he didn't know what his friends were up to, he was "just there to help them." When Bill told him the gear looked like suction dredging equipment, the man told him he really didn't know what it was used for. But when Bill told the man  suction dredging was illegal, the man insisted  it was now legal  because DFG had come out with new regulations. In the following few minutes Bill told the fellow the proposed regulations had yet to be changed, what they were doing was illegal under state law and that they had illegally landed a helicopter in a national forest which is  under federal law. He got the cars license number and contacted the US Forest Service . The USFS  was very angry with the news and left to check the situation out. It will be interesting to hear the outcome.
 
Ron Forbes
Conservation Chair

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