So much has changed in the last year, yet the most important things persist. Our steady focus on fisheries recovery and protecting the Eel River remains, as does our substantial gratitude to you for our ability to continue this important work.
For twenty-five years Friends of the Eel River and our dedicated volunteers, staff, donors, and allies have worked to secure a future for the Eel River. We now face our greatest challenge; the struggle we were built to win.
Removing the Eel River dams is central to the struggle of restoring the mighty Eel River’s fisheries to natural abundance. It is also a necessary step toward righting a century of inequity and establishing resilient futures for our fisheries and communities.
There are now two possible paths forward for the Potter Valley Project. Both lead to Scott Dam coming down and fisheries passage restored to the headwaters. The Two Basin Partnership continues efforts to secure a new license for the project. Their current proposal is to remove Scott Dam, secure fish passage at Cape Horn Dam, and ensure water supply security to Russian River water users. If this effort fails, dam owner PG&E must begin the surrender and decommissioning process through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Either way, we will arrive at dam removal and fisheries recovery.
Friends of the Eel River plays a critical role ensuring that fisheries recovery remains a key priority. We are honored to represent fisheries interests alongside our Tribal, conservation, and regional government allies. FOER serves a unique role in using science-based evidence, legal tools, and several decades of advocacy experience to push for strong victories for Eel River salmon. We can be firm when necessary and also provide our allies with the support they need to reach our mutual goal of restoring abundant and self-sustaining wild fish runs to the Eel River.
In addition to our founding purpose of dam removal, FOER has several other key projects which seek to protect endangered species and their habitat, prepare the watershed and our community for a resiliency in the face of climate change, and protect wild spaces while providing opportunities for people to fall in love with this majestic region.
We are proud to continue our work protecting the southernmost run of the rare and spectacular Northern California summer steelhead. These acrobats of the watershed represent a unique life history which we must preserve. Our petition to list these native fish under state law proceeds. As expected, our listing petition to the Feds was denied. But we remain hopeful and focused. Despite Covid restrictions we were able to fund research and analysis this summer which provides additional evidence supporting our effort to protect these fish under the US Endangered Species Act.
For years we have challenged Humboldt County’s assertions about the lack of undesirable impacts to the lower Eel groundwater basin. Our claims were ultimately supported when the California Department of Water Resources denied the County’s attempts to avoid responsibility for managing groundwater in 2019. For the past year we have been monitoring the County’s progress toward evaluating groundwater resources and ultimately developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2022.
And of course, we are thrilled that despite the difficulties and delays caused by Covid, planning for the Great Redwood Trail continues. Our 2017 landmark victory against the North Coast Railroad Authority in the California Supreme Court paved the way for the legislation establishing the Great Redwood Trail endeavor. Just this month the state finalized their project assessment. Stay tuned for new legislation from Senator McGuire to take the final steps in creating the trail! We look forward to continuing to monitor progress on trail planning and have some grand ideas for ecologically appropriate river access, signage and interpretation that honors Indigenous history, and of course trail development which also cleans up the mess left by a century of feckless railroad management along the mainstem of the Eel River.
Many of you have been with us since the beginning, and for that we are so grateful. This organization was built by the community and we continue to rely on this community to achieve our central goal. Restoring fish passage to the hundreds of miles of prime spawning habitat trapped behind Scott Dam is the greatest thing we can do for our struggling wild fish. Please continue your generous support, be a part of this great work and the best hope for our fisheries.
For the Eel’s Wild Fish,