March 2013

Alex Breitler, Record

Sometimes rivers flow strong and wide, offering a wealth of water for all who need it.

Other times they shrink well within their banks and are not as generous.

Rivers change, which is why it makes sense to gather once a year and assess the health of the four major streams crossing through San Joaquin County, according to organizers of the third State of Our Rivers symposium to be held Wednesday in downtown Stockton.

The event is open to both the general public and to the farmers, environmentalists and government officials involved in issues concerning the Mokelumne, Calaveras, Stanislaus and San Joaquin streams.

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SJRiverThis summer, the State Water Resources Control Board will establish new flow standards to protect salmon and fisheries in the Lower San Joaquin River and the three tributaries.

The Board’s draft report concludes that about 35% of the natural flow should remain in the rivers, allowing more than 65% to be diverted.

The lower San Joaquin River is one of the two main arteries that sustain the Bay Delta.  Unfortunately, farmers and cities have been allowed to divert massive amounts of water from the rivers that run through the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, leaving only a fraction of the natural flow in these rivers in the winter and spring months.

The science is clear — reduced flows, as a result of diverting most of the water from these rivers, is the primary (but not sole) cause of the continued decline, and that more flows are needed to restore the Bay Delta and its fish, including salmon.

Diverting 65% of the flow (keeping 35% of the flows in the river) will not restore salmon.

Scientific information shows that salmon are unlikely to recover at the State Board’s draft flow goals, which are only slightly better than current flow levels.  More flows = more salmon.  If we don’t increase flows substantially, salmon are likely to continue to decline.

We Can Maintain Healthy Agricultural Economy and Healthy Rivers

The State Board found that allowing 40% of the flow down the river would result in a 1.5% reduction in agricultural revenue in the region. And this is likely a worst case scenario.  We should also look at investments in agricultural water use efficiency to generate more water for agriculture while not taking more water from the river.

Increasing Flows in the River Benefits Jobs and People Downstream.

Improving flows and restoring salmon has huge benefits for salmon fishermen, tackle shops, charter boats, fishing guides, and the thousands of jobs that depend on a healthy salmon fishery. Improved flows would improve water quality for Delta farmers and for cities and farms that get water exported from the Delta, and it is critical to restoring the health of the Delta.

Leaving only a third of the water in the lower San Joaquin is not a healthy river.   The State Board can and should do better.

On Saturday, March 16, Friends of the Lower Calaveras River (FLCR) will host its third Riverwalk of 2013, free of charge to the public!
The theme of of this month’s walk is: “Biking the Calaveras River.” 

FLCR’s Riverwalk Coordinator Kristine Williams will team up with the San Joaquin Bicycle Coalition to host a leisurely morning ride along the Calaveras River Bike Path.  Bring your bike, helmet and a water bottle and celebrate the start of St. Patrick’s day with a ride celebrating all things green! 

Free coffee will be available, courtesy of our local Starbucks and light snacks will be provided. Bring your family and friends to this fun event, free of charge and discover our neighborhood river!

P.S. – Don’t forget to bring a helmet and a water bottle! 

MANTECA – The city of Manteca has been fined $87,492 after wastewater that was treated but not disinfected was released into the San Joaquin River last year.

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