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 The voice of California's rivers

Ask Senate & President for Real Drought Relief

folsom in jan 2014Scroll down to send your emails now!

We need your emails TODAY to Senators Feinstein and Boxer urging them to introduce a bill that protects California rivers and state water rights, provides real and long-term relief to California communities that need it, helps protect and restore our salmon fisheries and the ecosystems they rely on, and builds the foundation for a water policy that encourages the social and economic changes that will be required as global warming reduces our water supply.

We also need your email to President Barack Obama, before he visits Fresno this Friday, urging him to support and propose federal drought relief programs that fund long term solutions to California’s water needs without sacrificing our rivers and fisheries. The President has declared that we cannot ignore climate change. Responding to the California drought in a manner that brings about long-term change in how we deal with water fits right in with that declaration.

 

ALSO: If you are interested in car pooling to Fresno and attending the event to show your love for rivers (since it is Valentine's Day!), please email us and we’ll get back to you in the next few days on details. Please scoll down to act now.

 

Background:

Last week, the House of Representatives approved on a largely partisan vote, a so called “drought relief” bill that authorizes destructive new and expanded dams on California’s rivers, removes federal protection from the Merced Wild & Scenic River to allow for reservoir expansion, relieves the government’s obligation to protect endangered salmon from harm by Delta water exports, weakens state control over water rights, and eliminates the San Joaquin River Salmon Restoration Project.

Thanks to the hundreds of FOR members who sent emails to their Representatives in the House urging them to reject this stupendously dangerous and destructive bill. Now the action has moved to the U.S. Senate, where Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer are drafting the Senate version of a drought relief bill. The Senate bill will likely be unveiled just before President Barack Obama visits Fresno on Friday, February 14 to announce the federal government’s efforts to help California during this unprecedented drought.

The Senate bill and the President’s visit to Fresno offer a critical opportunity to help California recognize and meet the challenge of a limited water supply that will likely dwindle as the effects of climate change become more pronounced. But a quick and less-than-thoughtful federal drought response could also lead to the construction or expansion of new and existing dams that will choke our rivers and decimate fisheries, continued and expanded public water subsidies to a handful of corporate farmers in the southern Central Valley, little relief for communities that are actually running out of water, and water politics-as-usual that simply ignores the climate change elephant in the room.

Some Basic Facts About Water, Drought, And Dams In California

  • Agriculture uses 75-80% of the managed water in California.
  • Increased agricultural and urban water use efficiency, water recycling, groundwater storage and management, polluted groundwater treatment, and storm water capture and reuse could save more than 11 million acre feet of water per year.
  • Lwr American at 550 cfsCalifornia has more than 1,400 major dams. All the best dam sites are taken and expensive new dams or expanded reservoirs will capture relatively little new water, particularly as climate change makes the state drier.
  • In the current drought, major public reservoirs in northern California have been drained to feed Delta water exports. The primary recipients of these exports are a relative handful of corporate farmers in the southern Central Valley, who use more water than the Cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined.
  • The so-called “drought relief” bill passed recently by the House of Representatives (HR 3964) authorizes new and expanded dams on the Sacramento, McCloud, and San Joaquin Rivers. It also removes federal protection from part of the Merced Wild & Scenic River to allow for reservoir expansion.
  • Proposals to build more dams in northern California will largely benefit corporate agriculture in the southern Central Valley at the expense of northern California’s farms, cities, and fishing industry.
  • Some dam project proposals are masquerading as “environmentally beneficial” projects. According to the federal Bureau of Reclamation, the primary public benefit to raising Shasta Dam by 18 feet is to provide cold water for downstream salmon. But according to the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, raising the dam will provide “negligible” benefits for salmon. Raising Shasta Dam will flood segments of the McCloud and Sacramento Rivers eligible for National Wild & Scenic River protection, violate state law, and drown the remaining homeland of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.
  • According to the California Department of Water Resources, the proposed Sites Offstream Storage Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley “may” produce many environmental benefits. But since no feasibility or environmental study has yet been released to the public concerning this project, the veracity of this promise has not been proven. The Sites Reservoir will be filled by significant diversions of water from the Sacramento River, which could harm the river’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and fish and wildlife that depend on those ecosystems.
  •  [object Object]Because there are already 17 major dams on the San Joaquin River, the proposed Temperance Flat Dam will only store a little bit of water every 3-4 years. If its reservoir were to ever fill, it would flood a segment of the San Joaquin River Gorge recommended for Wild & Scenic River designation by the Bureau of Land Management to protect the river’s outstanding scenic, recreation, and cultural values.
  • Some politicians want to remove federal protection for the Merced Wild & Scenic River to allow for possible expansion of McClure Reservoir. But the downstream irrigation district that operates the dam has not completed feasibility or environmental studies to prove that expanding the reservoir is feasible or is worth sacrificing a segment of one of our few Wild Rivers.

Recipients

  • President Barack Obama
  • Your Senators

Contact

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Message

Please advance responsible water use in California, we need real drought solutions, not river-killing dams!

Dear [Decision Maker],

Thank you for proposing to take action to help relieve California from this unprecedented drought. It is critical that federal drought response go beyond temporary relief measures by promoting policies that will help our state cope with declining water supplies caused by climate change. The federal government should promote increased agricultural and urban water use efficiency, water recycling, groundwater storage and management, polluted groundwater treatment, storm water capture and reuse, and other actions that increase water supplies without damaging the environment.

Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill that represents perfectly what not to do in response to the drought. This dangerous bill authorizes construction of new and expanded dams that will choke our rivers, removes federal protection from the Merced Wild & Scenic River to allow for reservoir expansion, relieves the government from its obligation to protect endangered salmon and other species, limits state authority over water rights, and eliminates the San Joaquin River Salmon Restoration Program. More importantly, it ignores the basic truth of climate change in California that our existing water supplies will likely dwindle in the future and that the old paradigm of building destructive dams and diversions simply will not work.




We urge you to reject these destructive and ineffective "drought relief" options and instead propose, expand, and fund programs that stretch our existing water supply, encourages permanent changes in our we use water in California, and that protects our remaining heritage of free flowing rivers and healthy fisheries.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]

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