Summer 2013 Member Letter

July 2013

Dear Friends,

We face a bunch of challenges in restoring the Eel River and her fisheries. At Friends of the Eel River, we are working hard to take on some of the toughest problems facing our beloved river. We sure could use your help.

We have appealed a disastrous court ruling that could open the Eel River Canyon to another century of significant disturbance from the Northwestern Pacific rail line. When we challenged their environmental review for failing to even consider the Eel River Canyon, the North Coast Railroad Authority – a state agency – claimed that though they had promised to follow California’s environmental law as a condition of taking tens of millions of dollars in state funding, they didn’t actually have to follow the law. After five tries, they finally found a judge to agree with them.

Our case has been repeatedly delayed, made needlessly complex, and far more expensive by the tactics of the North Coast Railroad Authority and Northwest Pacific Company. To be blunt, they are trying to bleed us dry. Your contribution can keep help keep us afloat!

This year brings a perfect storm for the Eel’s imperiled salmon. The Eel’s runs of coho and chinook have bounced back in the last two years with excellent ocean conditions. But with sparse winter rains, flows in the watershed this summer are already at dangerous levels for the young coho and steelhead, which must survive a year in freshwater before they can migrate to the sea. While severely low flows are a consequence of all the changes we’ve made in the landscape, they highlight the significance of water diversions and other watershed harms associated with alarming increases in large-scale marijuana cultivation across the entire region.

We’ve made some headway in helping both the North Coast community and key audiences across the state and nation grasp the increasing and troubling impacts of unregulated marijuana production in the Eel River watershed. As I keep saying, these impacts are all the more objectionable because they are avoidable.

Now we need to build awareness into lasting action. For years, we have been encouraging people to store winter water to meet their dry-season needs. Now we are also working to help landowners comply with California water laws, as agency enforcement actions step up in response to fish kills in dewatered streams. With your help, we can build on these efforts, working with a coalition of citizens, agencies, and groups across the watershed.

It’s going to take such a team effort to ensure the obsolete, fish-killing Potter Valley Project is not relicensed just a few years from now. We must remove the two dams and diversion tunnel to secure the future of the Eel and her fisheries. Of course, it’s going to be even harder to do that if the Russian River interests now benefiting from the Eel’s stolen water can point to a pattern of water abuse in the Eel.

The challenges are real, and they are not small. Together, we can and will overcome them all, and help bring a new era of health and productivity for the Eel River.

Thanks for all you do,


For the Eel River,

Scotss sig WEB



Scott Greacen

Executive Director

PS – Please see our annual report