[env-trinity] Redding Record Searchlight- Trinity River advocate Byron Leydecker dies

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Thu May 19 08:49:26 PDT 2011

Trinity River advocate Byron Leydecker dies

By Dylan Darling
Posted May 18, 2011 at 11:56 p.m.
Leydecker founded Friends of Trinity River to return water diversions and vet restoration.
One bad fishing day turned into nearly two decades of fighting to revive the Trinity River for a man who would become known as the waterway's champion.

A retired banker from Marin County, Byron Leydecker, who died last week at 83, had been a fixture at river restoration meetings since 1992. During those meetings he earned the respect of other people, whether they agreed with his views or not, said Tom Stokely, a longtime friend.

"Byron was there as a volunteer," Stokely said. "He went on his own time and his own expense. He was there because he really cared."

Stokely found out how much Leydecker cared about the river, which flows through Trinity County and combines with the Klamath River on its way to the Pacific Ocean, after Leydecker's bad fishing day 19 years ago. That day what was intended to be a restoration project caused the river to run dark with mud.

"Literally, the Trinity River was flowing like chocolate milk," Stokely said.

So Leydecker found a phone number for Stokely, who was a planner for Trinity County's Natural Resources Department at the time.

"He called me up and yelled at me for about a half-hour," Stokely said.

Stokely explained that the project was done by the Trinity River Restoration Program, a multi-agency group formed to restore the river, and they talked about ways Leydecker could become involved with its planning.

Later that year, Leydecker founded the Friends of Trinity River, a nonprofit organization aimed at returning water diversions to the river and vetting restoration plans, Stokely said. The group continued until a month ago, when Leydecker dissolved it as his health waned.

The Friends of Trinity River's accomplishments include spurring the federal government to combine flow revival and restoration projects, prompting the reduction of diversions from the river to the Sacramento River and earning legislative support, Stokely said. Stokely joined the board of the Friends of Trinity River two years ago after retiring from Trinity County.

As a staunch advocate for the Trinity River, Leydecker was involved in some heated debates about the river but had a style that earned him the respect of even the people with whom he was at odds, Stokely said.

Those include Jeff Sutton, general manager of the Tehama Colusa Canal Authority.

"I have great respect for the work he did for the Trinity River, and the process itself, and greatly appreciated his understanding and appreciation for my perspective as a water user as well," Sutton wrote in email sent to a listserv of 200 people interested in the river. "His passion, intelligence, wit, and unique way of communicating will be sorely missed."

Leydecker, who lived in Mill Valley, fished the Trinity River since the 1930s and became focused on it in his last 20 years.

"He probably did as much for the Trinity River as anybody who lived there," Stokely said.

Leydecker earned an economics degree from Stanford University in 1950 and then served in the Army for two years before starting a career in banking. He also served as a Marin County supervisor from 1963 to 1966. He retired in 1981.

Leydecker is survived by sons John Leydecker of San Rafael and Mark Leydecker of Aspen, Colo., and daughters Caroline "Lama Palden" Alioto of San Rafael and Criss Troast of Nantucket, Mass., as well as eight grandchildren, according to the Marin Independent Journal.

He was preceded in death by his son David in 1985 and former wife Mary Elizabeth Kraft in 1999. The couple married in 1951 and divorced in 1969.

A memorial for Leydecker is set for 3 p.m. June 5 at the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross.

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