Wrapping up 2012 and Looking to 2013

December 20, 2012

Dear Friends of the Eel River,

I want to share a couple of pieces of good news with you as we take stock of 2012 and look ahead.

For Friends of the Eel River, recovery of our wild salmon and steelhead is the heart of our watershed’s rich promise. This fall’s chinook salmon run on the Eel, the largest return of the kings seen in generations on the North Coast, is both evidence and symbol of the recuperative power of wild salmon and the ecosystems they feed. We hope these fish will lay the foundation for real recovery of Eel River chinook in the decades to come.

But hope alone is not enough. To ensure the Eel River itself continues to recover and provide habitat for chinook, coho, and steelhead – not to mention lamprey and sturgeon – we have to be vigilant watchdogs of our watersheds. That’s why FOER works to ensure threats to river health are recognized and addressed. That’s why we’ve been working to help people recognize and address the serious harms that are coming with the tremendous increase in marijuana cultivation across the region, including dewatered and poisoned streams.

And that’s why, with your support, we take on the tough fights that will make the difference in the long run, whether it’s Russian River irrigation interests who don’t want to give up the diversion from the Eel River that masks their unsustainable practices; the need to remove the two Potter Valley Project dams at the top of the mainstem Eel to restore the river, its flows and fisheries; or rebuilding the failed rail line through the fragile Eel River Canyon without any real consideration of potential impacts on the river and its fish.

And that’s where the second piece of good news comes in. Since the state agency in charge of the rail line, the North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA) filed its Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in June of 2010, FOER has fought through a gauntlet of delays and obstructions to force the NCRA to actually address the impacts of rebuilding the line through the Eel River Canyon – or finally place the canyon off-limits. This project could have catastrophic effects on recovering salmon. Now we have prevailed in the last stage necessary to get the case to trial next spring.

The court’s ruling is revealing. The judge ruled that because the NCRA had “reaped substantial public benefits” to the tune of more than thirty million dollars in funding from California taxpayers by agreeing to conduct environmental review, the state agency can’t now “take the opposite position” and claim, after the fact, to be immune from court scrutiny. Had we not sued the NCRA here, and pursued this difficult and expensive legal case, it’s very likely we’d never have gotten any meaningful environmental review, ever, of the impacts of rebuilding the rail line through the beautiful but unstable Eel River Canyon.

We’re not done yet. Trial in the case comes in April of 2013. Your generous, tax-deductible contribution can help cover the tens of thousands of dollars we’ve had to spend to bring this case to trial, as well as all the other work FOER is doing to protect and restore the Eel River and her fisheries.

Thanks for all your support. It makes a real difference.

Happy holidays and may we all have an even better New Year!

Scott Greacen

Executive Director