Dear Friend of the Eel River,
We are happy to announce that we are growing to meet the mounting challenges to the health of the Eel River. Stephanie Tidwell joined our team as the new Executive Director on October 2nd. Having previously served as Executive Director at the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Stephanie is no stranger to the region – or to tough fights. She is an accomplished campaigner, movement builder, and fundraiser. Adding Stephanie to the team means that Scott Greacen can focus entirely on program and policy work as FOER’s Conservation Director. With the additional significant contributions of Bay Area Director David Keller and Administrative Director Alicia Hamman, we’ve got a team ready for anything.
Which is great, because we face a truly critical time for our river. There are now three major processes underway that will shape the future of the Eel River:
Removing the Eel River Dams – We are playing a key role in driving toward decisions to remove two century-old, salmon-killing dams on the upper mainstem Eel River. This summer, the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) began the formal process for relicensing PG&E’s dams and the associated diversion tunnel that directs Eel River water into the Russian River through Potter Valley. The (de)licensing process only happens every 30-50 years and will take at least five years to complete. It is literally a once in a lifetime chance to remove the greatest obstacles to fishery recovery in the Eel River watershed. Right now, we are deeply engaged with the preparation of study plans which, properly conducted, should support a decision to remove the dams and restore the free-flowing Eel.
While we absolutely must participate in this process, we have to be realistic about the fact that FERC is no friend of rivers or fish. The agency has only required dam removal when dam owners ask for it. So we are also working closely with stakeholders from the Russian and Eel watersheds to reach solutions that go beyond the narrow bounds FERC will consider.
Protecting the Eel River canyon from lawless railroad development – In July, the California State Supreme Court ruled that we, and our allies at CATs, can hold the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) accountable for its failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in its efforts to rebuild the failed freight line through the highly erosive Eel River canyon. The NCRA, a state agency, has now retained a DC law firm to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the NCRA board has reaffirmed its intention to rebuild the line with public money. It is long past time the agency was held to account by the California legislature for its reckless abuse of the public trust.
Forging sustainable land use and cannabis regulations – Just last week, we submitted exhaustive comments and testimony on Humboldt County’s draft cannabis regulations. They are wholly insufficient to prevent continued, dire impacts on imperiled salmon and steelhead populations. This is largely due to the fact that there is no plan to enforce the proposed regulations or to bring more than ten thousand illegal operations in Humboldt County alone into compliance with our environmental laws. Friends of the Eel River has consistently insisted that the County’s permitting process protect our waters, fisheries, and other public trust values. This may not always be a popular stance in our community, but the survival of the Eel River’s native fish is on the line.
We are truly excited about our new staff line-up and invite you to join us in rededicating yourself to building a brighter future for the Eel River, its fisheries, and its communities. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to connect directly about our work.
On Behalf of the Friends of the Eel Staff and Board,
Stephanie Tidwell, Executive Director & Scott Greacen, Conservation Director