[env-trinity] SF Chron 2 7 10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Sun Feb 7 11:03:19 PST 2010

Testing waters for salmon in San Joaquin River

Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer <mailto:pfimrite at sfchronicle.com> 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Water has begun flowing down 64 barren miles of the San Joaquin River in
what is being touted as California's most ambitious effort to bring back
long-lost native salmon.



TL&o=0> http://imgs.sfgate.com/graphics/utils/plus-green.gifView Larger


type=newsbayarea> DATA POINT 02.07.10


The floodgates of the colossal Friant Dam outside Fresno were opened last
week so researchers can study how the water flows down California's second
longest river. 

The releases, which will continue until Dec. 1, will accelerate this spring
until enough water is flowing down the parched riverbed to fill an
Olympic-size swimming pool in less than a minute. 

It is all part of a historic agreement reached after two decades of legal
wrangling over efforts to bring back the salmon that were wiped out a
half-century ago when the 319-foot dam was built.

"The resumption of restoration flow releases down the San Joaquin River,
even at a fraction of its once mighty flows, is a monumental event," blogged
Monty Schmitt, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense
Council, which is a party to the agreement along with the Friant Water Users
Authority and the federal government. 

"These flows and the restoration effort are an example of how farmers,
fishermen, environmentalists, and state and federal agencies can work
together to implement real solutions to California's conflicts over water
resources," Schmitt wrote.

The Friant Dam was built in the 1940s so that 1 million acres of farmland
could be irrigated. It plugged the river gorge and held back nearly the
entire flow of water, causing 64 miles of the river to completely dry up.
The native chinook - once so plentiful that farmers used to scoop them out
of the river to use as hog feed - disappeared by the early 1950s. 

Environmentalists have characterized the draining of the San Joaquin as one
of the most egregious examples anywhere of habitat destruction to quench
civilization's thirst for water. 

The battle to restore the river began in 1988 when the defense council and
other environmental groups sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other
federal agencies to prevent renewal of long-term water contracts with
Friant-area irrigation districts.

The releases into the river mark the second time in more than 60 years that
water has flowed between the banks of the entire San Joaquin. Smaller pulses
of water were released last October and November. 

Over the next few months, Schmitt said, water temperatures, velocity,
channel depth and bank stability will be studied. Problem areas will be
fixed in preparation for 2012, when the first salmon are expected to be

Year-round flows are expected to begin over the entire 150 miles between the
dam and its confluence with the Merced River in 2014. Even when completed,
Schmitt said, only about 18 percent of the historic flow of the river will
be restored. 

Read more:



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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