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"Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that has."
                        Margret Mead

The gauntlet has been thrown ......

Governor Brown, John Laird and Secretary Ken Salazar announcing the construction of the peripheral "tunnels". Photo by Dan Bacher
Wednesday, the 25th of this month, Gov. Jerry Brown and Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, made their anticipated announcement of their plans to proceed with the building of a peripheral canal. Although the announcement was expected, its time and location had been kept secret. Late Tuesday evening we found out that location of the press conference was to be held in the state's Resource Building. Although the Resource Building has an auditorium the will hold about 250 people, the announcement was held on the 11th floor in a room just large enough to hold Brown, Salazar, their staffs, and selected members of the press. As with previous major announcements of this proposed project only the select few were in attendance.

Restore the Delta planned a protest to the announcement on the same day Brown planed to go public. On Wednesday the 25th, approximately 300 people gathered of the west steps of the Capitol Building to let Brown and Salazar know they face major opposition on all fronts. The opposition was made up of many
factions including Delta farmers, business from the Delta and surrounding communities, cities that will be economically effected, commercial and sport fishers, recreational users, and state and federal legislature members. An impressive group of speakers voiced strong opposition to a peripheral canal including US Rep. John Garamendi, California Senator Lois Wolk, Assemblymember Bill Berryhill, Mayor Ann Johnson of Stockton, Jim Metropulos of the Sierra Club, Jonas Minton of the Planning and Conservation League, Zeke Grader of the
Club members Sallye Rollans and Charlie Reams at the "No Conveyance" rally. Photo by Bruce Rollans
Pacific Coast of Fisherman's Associations, Kristin Lynck from the Food and Water Watch, Nick di Croce from the Environmental Water Caucus, Conner Evert from the Southern California Watershed Alliance, John Herrick representing the South Delta Water Agency, and Bill Jennings from the California Sport Fishing Protection Alliance. Delta Fly Fishers were represented at the rally by Charlie Reames, Bruce and Sallye Rollans, and myself. The speakers described some of the major economic, environmental , fisheries, and legal issues Brown and Salazar have chosen to ignore. They ignored these issues on Wednesday also, but their problems will not magically go away.

Some, but certainly not all of the major problems they face in building this canal are:

  • After spending over a $1/4 billion on the failed Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), they are still in violation of both the state and federal Environmental Protection Acts. They are no closer to compliance now than when they started the BDCP.
  • The state has been trying to gain entry to many of the Delta farms since 2008, and have yet to do so. Many farmers successfully have kept the state off their land.
  • The BDCP presently violates the state and federal clean Water Clean Water Acts.
  • The plan violates California's historic Water Rights laws.
  • The plan violates the states Public Trust Doctrine
  • The plan also is in violation of the Delta Reform Act itself.

These are only the the tip of the iceberg of problems Gov. Brown and Interior Secretary Salazar face in trying to build a canal. Yesterdays announcement
Yesterdays announcement was just the start of a very long process that will take years to settle.


The largest dam-removal project in Americas history


The Elwha Dam, 99 years old and a fish killer
In the state of Washington, the removal of two dams, the Elwha and the Glines Canyon Dams on the Elwha River are nearing completion. The Elwha dam is gone and the removal of the Glines Canyon is nearing completion. They were built 100 years ago and produced hydroelectric power for a mill in Port Angeles that is no longer in existence. Their maximum output was only 19 megawatts of power. The cost of the removal project is $325 million. The Elwha dam was finished in 1913 and was 33 meters high; the Glines Dam was 64 meters high. The dams blocked access to Elwha River 5 miles from its mouth and destroyed what is thought to be one of the finest runs of fish in the state.

Journals of early explores talk about the abundance of salmon in the summer and fall. Pvt. Harry Fisher made a comment that is was almost impossible to sleep near the river at night because of the noise of the "great salmon threshing the water all night long in their efforts to ascend the stream. Wild animals which I could not see snapped the bushes in all directions, traveling up and down in search of fish. At every few yards was to be seen the remains of fish where cougar, coons, otter, or eagle had made a meal." The dam
destroyed the fish runs and over 70 miles of prime spawning habituate in the Olympic National Forest was lost. This is always true when dams are build without regard for the consequences. Before the dam the Elwha Dam hosted large populations of all 5 species of Pacific Northwest salmon species, steelhead, native char, costal cutthroat trout, and bull trout. Beside a major fish loss, the dams promoted serious erosion to the rivers mouth and hurt natural flow cycles.

The Glinis Canyon Dam, another fish killer
Just removing the dams is not the final solution to the problem. The dams have created over 24 million yards of sediment 40 feet deep on the lakes bottoms that must be dealt with. Biologist have had major concerns that the silt will make the river uninhabitable for years by clogging the fishes gills and killing them. Divers were sent to investigate the flows and found to their surprise that there is fish passages and the sediment is not being deposited at the mouth of the river, but drifting above the ocean floor as fine silt carried out to sea and dispersed by the very strong ocean currents. The erosion problems also seen to be correcting themselves.

To the biologist delight, a 35 inch unmarked male steelhead was found in a tributary of the Elwha River upstream from the location of the former dam. However, there is ongoing litigation about the use of hatchery fish vs natural fish in the reestablishment of the run. Some biologist want the hatchery fish to help reestablish the fishery and other biologist want the fishery to reestablish itself naturally. Biologist from NOAA have relocated 600 adult coho salmon between the two former dams and about half have spawned at that location. Biologist have also taken 45 steelhead to a primary tributary of the Elwha and now see 36 redds in that tributary. The reaches of the Elwha are now showing emerging salmon and steelhead fry and as of the middle of June, spawning steelhead have moved upstream for the first time in 100 years. A great sign!

To reestablish the flora, the former lake bottoms are being restored with native plants only. Some areas are naturally reseeding and this fall 30,000 native plants will be planted on the lake bottoms. A strong effort is being made to use the native plant genetic materials only and keeping out non-native species. It is felt many of the of the plant species will come back on their own in several decades but it may take 200 years before the soil can fully reestablishes itself.

The Elwha River will never be what it was 100 years ago. George Press, a NOAA fisheries biologist on the project has made the comment that "Ecology happens. Natural systems know how to function. And they do if you just get out of the way."


Ron Forbes
Conservation Chair

 

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