Dear Friends: Spring 2009

Spring 2009

Dear Friends

The sun rose three times this morning, racing with the river fog to see who could go the highest in the sky. By the third rising the warmth of the sun was palpable. Environmental conditions and weather variations are showing us that global warming is real. What are the causes and can they be rectify? We truly are at a point where being in present time and dealing with one’s own back yard, so to speak, is the most productive activity we can engage ourselves in doing. Awareness in the moment is filled with information clarifying what daily actions are most important. This discipline of being in present time is an ancient one.

This magazine has carried articles for many years discussing Decision 1610 part of the operating manual for Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) and the Army Corps of Engineers regarding water releases from Lake Mendocino (a reservoir on the Russian River). Releases are predicated on the water levels of Lake Pillsbury in the Eel River headwaters. Recent alterations to this document began on May 6, 2008, when the State Water Board called SCWA before it to answer questions about the need for changes in operations since flows from the Eel River to the Russian River changed under a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) order. Since SCWA is the participating Agency for carrying out Decision 1610, its staff will prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) by 2010. Before that date the agency will hold public scoping sessions, where concerned citizens can submit questions and comments they want addressed during preparation of the EIR. The public will also have a chance to respond to a draft EIR. Remember, in a participatory democracy this is your water, so it’s your responsibility to become informed and to participate. It is foolish to expect anyone else to take care of your long-term needs. There has been little frost for the past fifteen years on the north coast, but this year there were at least 15 days of it. Vineyard operators not only use overhead sprinklers to keep temperatures above freezing on the vines but then re-fill their ponds from tributaries and the river. Their use of water sprinklers for frost protection in vineyards dropped the Russian River by 35 to 40%, according to SCWA. This is a significant problem for that agency as it came unexpectedly, with little to no communication from the grape farmers, while the agency is trying to maintain flows in the Russian River. Since these farmers needed this emergency water we wondered if it is in addition to the 85% of available water they already take. In a time period when water is becoming critical for humans and wildlife as well as trees, it becomes questionable if farmers who grow money crops instead of food for people should take water before anyone else. Is this the best use of water? Only if you like to drink water instead of wine.

Friends of the Eel River has co-signed a letter written by Byron Leydecker, Director of Friends of the Trinity River, to Senator Dianne Feinstein concerning the million acre-feet of water she was gifting her friend in Westlands water district. (See in this issue “Feinstein Attempts to Give Away One Million Acre-Feet of Water.”) This is an outrage, but here again, letters of protest arriving before the act was done went a long way in getting this public official to stop action. As David Keller points out in this issue, your letters were instrumental in helping to stop the bill containing this “gift,” as well as another Senate Bill, also from Feinstein, SB1472, which proposed to give treated wastewater from Marin and Sonoma to grape growers in the Napa Valley instead of offsetting urban water usage.

Then you add the detrimental effects of pot growers on the watersheds. These farmers also need to look at a much larger picture to understand and act responsibility in carrying out their business. Individually we need to better comprehend how water is being used in our own communities and counties, and who is being called upon to sacrifice water when these kinds of growers take the lion’s share. Our work continues to focus on removal of the PG&E Potter Valley Project with its antiquated dams. It is astonishing how people receiving free Eel River water through this diversion consider it rightly theirs. However, Humboldt County has protested and fought for this water since 1908. We are doing a new Petition and Resolution, this time addressed to the State Water Board and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Individuals sign the Petition, and the Resolution is for organizations to sign. Your help with this effort is necessary for success. The petition is printed on the next page, without the ten signature lines. The Resolution is too long to print here, but you will find both of these documents on our website: (home page) so you can print them out yourself. It is important that you print these documents out on 8 1/2 by 11 paper with only 10 signature lines per page for the petition. The Resolution is self-explanatory. Make as many copies of blanks as you want. Or stop by our Garberville office at the north end of the main street just before getting back on Highway 101. Additionally, we can mail you copies at your request. We will have them at all events. Please sign your name and contact information on the bottom of the page and mail them back to us at our main office, PO Box 2305, Redway, CA 95560. We hope to gather at least 100,000 signatures before the end of the year. This is a two-year project, but the sooner we get signatures the sooner we can start referring to the numbers of people who want to see the PG&E Potter Valley Project ended, the unsafe and antiquated dams removed so that our once-prolific Eel River is allowed to regain its health. Thank you so much for your help with this. Please call our office to volunteer your time in putting the Fish Tent up or helping to staff the booth. We will be taking the Fish Tent to the Salmon Bar-b-q at Noyo Harbor, Ft. Bragg, on July 5th and to the Bioneers Conference, San Rafael, Marin County, October 17-19th. Judy Gueulette is our office manager and events coordinator and can be reached at 707-923-2146 or We will also be at several more events with a smaller tent and could use your help. Purchasing memberships and items from our store also is extremely helpful. And be sure to visit our advertisers whose support makes this magazine possible. Many of you heard I fell and broke my back. I am doing very well. First, I am still alive and secondly I am not paralyzed. My recovery is amazing. Your phone calls with love and support helped a lot in my healing process. Because I have been unable to fly until recently, there are few photos in this issue. I know how much you all like them and we will return with lots for the next issue. There is so much content for this time I could fit in only a few photos anyway. If you have photos you would like to share, please send them on to me. For our Wild and Scenic Eel River, I thank you.