By:  Nan Ballot, FLCR Steering Committee / Sierra Club

As I enjoy my daily walk on the pedestrian/bike path which follows the Calaveras River, I have become interested in the effect of or influence from a name, Calaveras, River of Skulls, named by an early Spanish explorer.

Could there be a force which determines the negative influences on this river which flows through Stockton?

Dams, diversions, fish weirs, agricultural runoff have left their prints in/on the waters of this river which did, until recent times, run pristine, originating from winter rains. Salmon and steelhead migrated up the river to spawn in gravel bottomed pools.

More recently, the hurricane known as Katrina has spawned an ecological disaster to what remains of this river. Public Works has been the agent for the Army Corps of Engineers that determined that if Stockton is to avoid the fate of New Orleans, the river channel must be cleared of all life.

Trees have been ripped out using chains and cut down. Early each spring herbicide is sprayed from a device, being pulled by a truck, with arms reaching the width of the levee. At times when the levee narrows, the herbicide is sprayed into the water (Clean Water Act violation?).

Several weeks later any plant sufficiently hardy to survive this attack will face the troop of hand sprayers. I have observed and smelled (it was a windy day) herbicide being sprayed from a boat onto river edge vegetation. Ground squirrels are gassed and/or poisoned, the entrance to their den is filled with concrete. Three dead beavers were observed in the wetlands near Brookside.

Only in the rainy season does fresh water flow down the river through the city reach. The rest of the year the waters are a murky green looking much like the waters of the Delta. Not a coincidence for twice each day, the waters rise and then recede as the tides flow in bringing in Delta water and then flowing outward. Fate has not been kind to this river since the coming of early explorers and more recently, by the tragedy of Katrina.