[env-trinity] Times Standard- Friends of Trinity River to close: Founder Byron Leydecker won't quit working for the river

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Tue Dec 14 07:33:06 PST 2010


Friends of Trinity River to close; founder Byron Leydecker won't quit working for the river
John Driscoll/The Times-Standard
Posted: 12/14/2010 01:25:49 AM PST

http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_16854377


Eighteen years ago, retired bank owner and fly fisherman Byron Leydecker was fishing downstream from Junction City on the Trinity River. 

For years, it had been a great riffle. Just upstream, the Trinity River Restoration Program had completed a channel modification project, one of many aimed at improving fisheries. But high water had hit the disturbed ground, muddying the water around Leydecker's feet. 

Soon, his feet were stuck in the mud. 

"I literally couldn't get out," Leydecker said. 

His friend and guide managed to get a raft to Leydecker and helped pull him out. 

Steaming mad, Leydecker called then-Trinity County planner Tom Stokely, saying the project was ridiculous, pumping huge amounts of mud into the clean river. When Leydecker asked Stokely what he might do about it, Stokely suggested Leydecker get a lawyer, go to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and ask for a cease-and-desist order. He succeeded. 

Oddly, Leydecker's first act toward helping on the Trinity River was to stop those restoration efforts. But Stokely said he was just getting the program back on track, demanding the projects undergo scientific scrutiny before continuing. 

Leydecker also started the nonprofit organization Friends of the Trinity River, which is now shutting down as the 83-year-old looks to shrug off the administrative duties of running an organization. While the 1,700-member nonprofit is on its way out, Leydecker intends to stay involved. 

A Stanford University economics graduate in 1950, Leydecker went on to start Redwood Bancorp and Redwood Bank in 1962. In the early 1980s, the politically-connected Leydecker retired, getting to spend more time fishing, including on the Trinity. 

By then, salmon and steelhead populations on the river were faltering after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation dammed the river to divert water to the Sacramento River, where it is used to irrigate farms. 

Friends of the Trinity River quickly became an influence in efforts on the river, though Leydecker's outspoken nature sometimes put him at odds with other parties. Leydecker helped persuade the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to look at channel restoration and restoration of long-diverted water together through an environmental analysis. 

Leydecker was among those who pushed for a U.S Interior secretarial decision before President Bill Clinton left office, and drummed up public support for the decision. In 2000, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt signed the decision on the banks of the Trinity River on the Hoopa Valley Reservation. Leydecker was also instrumental in working with the Environmental Defense Fund to get a number of hydropower interests to back away from litigation over the decision. 

"I think his effectiveness was that he was a businessman," Stokely said. "He was used to getting things done, setting goals and objectives and getting them done." 

Political connections to Reps. Mike Thompson and George Miller and Sens. Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer also helped, Stokely said. 

Leydecker intends to continue stirring the pot, and he said that several key Trinity River issues still need to be tracked. Leydecker said the program needs to be kept focused, and decisions should be made with input from science advisory panels. Channel restoration projects should continue to go through environmental review to ensure that they meet the original intent of the 2000 record of decision, he said. 

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's efforts to have its state water permits approved -- permits which do not account for the 2000 decision's restoration of 47 percent of flows to the river -- need to be watched, Leydecker said. 

"It's a question of trying to keep the original intent and vision of the program on track," Leydecker said. 


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