Friends of the Eel River
2019 Annual Report
In 2019 Friends of the Eel River experienced a great deal of change, both in our major programs and internally in our staff. We are honored to play a key role in securing substantial protections for the Eel River and its species in these pivotal times for the region.
PG&E’s relicensing process for the Eel River dams experienced several unprecedented developments, including attempts to both sell and auction the project, impacts from the company’s bankruptcy declaration, and ultimately the novel approach of diverse stakeholders working together toward a win-win solution which results in dam removal.
We arrived at a settlement agreement for our year-long lawsuit with Humboldt County over their inadequate cannabis cultivation regulations, resulting in increased mitigation for sediment pollution in the most sensitive salmonid habitat in the South Fork Eel River. We are continuing to follow up with the County to ensure they are appropriately spending the $1-million-dollar fund set aside for such work.
The State made great progress in dismantling the North Coast Railroad Authority and preparing for the Great Redwood Trail; the fee award to our attorneys for their nearly decade of diligent work was finally paid in early 2020. This year we expect to see a master plan formally launched and the start of railbanking the line to preserve the right of way and prepare for ecologically appropriate trail development. The first officially branded portion of the trail was opened in early 2020 in Ukiah; we look forward to similar advancements in the stunning Eel River Canyon in the years to come.
In the spring of 2019 the community radio station that aired the Econews Report discontinued community programming, but by that fall FOER and our partners were back on the air with support from KHUM, Lost Coast Outpost, and others. You can now listen to the show on air Saturday mornings or subscribe to the podcast using your favorite podcast platform.
And finally, Alicia Hamann, our long-time Administrative Director, stepped into a new role as Executive Director in August of 2019. In December we hired Ula Varley, a former resident of the Klamath region, as our new administrative staff. FOER is thriving with our long-time program staff, the renewed focus of young leadership, and new energy in the office.
2019 by the Numbers
Our staff traveled over 11,000 miles throughout the 3,600 square mile watershed and beyond to attend meetings, reach diverse audiences and fellow advocates, and do our duty to speak for the fish.
In advocating for the Eel River watershed, as well as related state and federal policies, we authored 5 comments or interventions on public projects, signed onto 12 advocacy letters, and attended more public meetings than we can count (at least 60!).
In June the California Fish and Game Commission responded to our petition to list Northern California summer steelhead as endangered by voting to begin a one-year status review and commence the process of listing the species.
Roughly 40% of our attorney’s fees were awarded in the final conclusion of our successful State Supreme Court lawsuit challenging the North Coast Railroad Authority’s failure to adhere to CEQA in the Eel River Canyon.
Our lawsuit challenging Humboldt County’s inadequate cannabis regulations was settled resulting in establishment of a $1-million-dollar fund (plus 20% of enforcement fees for 4 years) to mitigate sediment pollution.