News Worth Noting: More interest groups raise concerns about federal proposed actions for Delta smelt, salmon; EPA announces $525,000 award to protect Northern California watersheds; Eel River forum releases comprehensive action plan to recover watershed and native fish

California Water Alliance, Coalition for a Sustainable Delta raise concerns about federal proposed actions for Delta smelt, salmon

Yesterday, more interest groups raised concerns over the US FWS and NMFS proposed actions for summer operations at Shasta and Folsom reservoirs to benefit winter-run salmon and Delta smelt.  (See: House delegation sends letter to Secretary Jewell regarding FWS & NMFS proposed actions for Delta smelt, salmon)

The California Water Alliance called on Congress to conduct hearings into the matter.  “USF&WS and NOAA/NMFS exhibit no understanding whatsoever of the consequences of their water mandates and have failed to consult in good faith with the state or even with each other,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, CalWA’s executive director.  “While some California Congressional members on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern and asked for answers, it is time for Congress to convene hearings regarding these environmental enforcement decisions that present a peril to public health affecting California’s most vulnerable populations.”

Read the full press release by clicking here.

The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta also weighed in, sending a letter to Secretary Jewell, saying there is no scientific justification for the proposed increased flows.  “It is troubling that the action is being proposed entirely outside of the collaborative process that has been established to examine Delta operations, the Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program (CSAMP), of which the Fish and Wildlife Service is a participant. We call on Interior to examine all stressors on the delta smelt and develop a plan that addresses the multiple stressors on the species, and to do so in the collaborative science process that has been established,” the letter states.

Read the full letter here.

US EPA Announces $525,000 Award to Protect Northern California Watersheds

First grants awarded under EPA’s Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

epa-logoToday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that three projects will receive a combined $525,000 to improve land management of thousands of acres of healthy watersheds in Northern California. Awarded in partnership with the non-profit U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, these funds are part of $1.4 million in grants for nine projects across seven states.

“This unique public-private partnership brings together businesses, tribes, local governments, universities, and not-for-profit organizations to collaborate on watershed protection,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “These projects will help protect and enhance California’s waterways, which is especially crucial as the state’s drought continues.”

“These grants will accelerate protection and improved management of watersheds across the United States,” said Carlton Owen, the Endowment’s President and CEO.

The three California projects are:

Healthy Watersheds California – $225,000 is awarded to the Pacific Forest Trust, based in San Francisco, for the restoration and conservation of an estimated 7 million acres of watersheds by leveraging private and public capital. Located in Shasta, Siskiyou, Butte, Plumas, Sierra, Lassen, Modoc, and Trinity counties, these watersheds supply 80 percent of California’s reservoir capacity.

Protecting Forests to Protect Watersheds – $200,000 is awarded to the Trust for Public Land and the Save the Redwoods League, both based in San Francisco. These organizations are working collaboratively to conserve thousands of acres of redwood forestland in Northern California.

Protecting Blue Creek and the Klamath River for Salmon, Wildlife and People – $100,000 is awarded to the Western Rivers Conservancy, based in Portland, Oregon, to implement long-term watershed protection plans, sell carbon offsets, and create new jobs within a rural economy. The group’s work will protect 47,000 acres within four watersheds in Northern California’s temperate rainforest.

EPA launched the Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program in 2015 to accelerate and expand the protection of healthy, freshwater ecosystems and their watersheds. EPA co-funds the program with the Endowment, which manages the partnership.

Grants were awarded to leverage financing for targeted watershed protection; to provide funds that help build the capacity of local organizations for sustainable, long-term watershed protection; or to support new techniques or approaches that advance the state of practice for watershed protection and that can be replicated across the country.

More information on the Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program and grantees: https://www.epa.gov/hwp and http://www.usendowment.org/healthywatersheds.html

Information about watersheds: https://www.epa.gov/hwp/healthy-watersheds-overview

Eel River Forum Releases Comprehensive Action Plan to Recover Watershed and Native Fish

From California Trout:

Cal-Trout-LogoToday the Eel River Forum, comprised of 22 public agencies, tribes, non-profit conservation organizations and other stakeholders, released the Eel River Action Plan. The plan identifies priority actions needed to recover the Eel River watershed and its native fish. It aims to achieve these goals while maintaining multiple land uses and recreation in the watershed. Priority actions in the plan address water diversions, water quality issues, habitat restoration, community engagement and protecting the Eel River Delta.

“This plan is the culmination of years of hard work and collaboration among a broad group of stakeholders,” said Darren Mierau, North Coast Director for California Trout. “The Eel River has seen decades of resource extraction and land use changes. The Forum has identified numerous high priority actions that will allow the river to recover and native fish to thrive while we maintain many of its economic benefits to the region.”

The Eel River is the third largest river entirely in California. While it was once home to one of the most productive salmon and steelhead fisheries on the West Coast, the health of the watershed has been declining for the past century and a half. Conditions throughout the system are degraded, putting strain on native fish and other wildlife.

A wide variety of human activities have led to poor conditions along the Eel River and its tributaries. Competition for domestic and agricultural water supplies, increasingly for marijuana cultivation, have led to low flows during the hottest and driest months, which are also the times when native fish most need abundant, cool flows to survive. Water is also stored and then released during dry months to ensure sufficient flows to support hydropower generation at the Potter Valley Project.

Water quality has been compromised from everything from sedimentation from timber harvesting practices and poorly constructed and maintained road networks to the conversion of pristine old growth forests to crowded stands in a heavily roaded landscape.

The plan identifies targeted actions to address these concerns as well as specific activities aimed at habitat restoration in high-priority areas that are likely to provide the most benefits to wildlife. It also outlines specific actions to benefit the Eel River delta and estuary and opportunities for engaging the community in the recovery and restoration of the watershed. It identifies a unified vision for priority actions to ensure that small-scale efforts undertaken by a variety of public and private organizations will work together to address the most urgent restoration needs.

“What’s notable about the Eel River Action Plan is the degree of consensus we’ve achieved among the members of the Eel River Forum,” added Julie Weeder, a recovery coordinator for NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region. “The diverse nature of the Eel River Forum’s membership, along with the guidance of the Eel River Action Plan, means this group is well-positioned to pursue recovery at county, local municipality, and private landowner scales simultaneously, to restore ecosystem health to this important river basin.”

The Eel River Forum has been meeting over the past four years to create a unified vision for how to protect and restore this iconic river and the native fish that once teemed in the river and its tributaries. With the plan complete, forum member organizations can leverage the action plan to demonstrate support for their independent work to implement targeted, high-value improvements throughout the system.

The completion of the Eel River Action Plan is particularly timely as PG&E’s Potter Valley Project approaches relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2017. The FERC relicensing project will consider how the management of the Potter Valley dam and diversion affects the health of the river and its native fish. By establishing clear baseline conditions and priority actions for improvement, the plan provides important data points for FERC and PG&E.

The 22-member Eel River Forum was convened by California Trout. Additional members include representatives from non-profit organizations Coastal Conservancy, Eel River Watershed Improvement Group, Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of the Eel River, Friends of the Van Duzen River, Salmonid Restoration Federation; local tribes Round Valley Indian Tribe and the Wiyot Tribe; Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Potter Valley Irrigation District; and government agencies California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, Humboldt County Resource Conservation District, Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, National Marine Fisheries Service, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Sonoma County Water Agency, US Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service.

For more information about the Eel River Forum, go to: http://caltrout.org/regions/north-coast-region/keystone-initiative-eel-river-recovery/eel-river-forum/. A PDF of the Eel River Action Plan can be downloaded from this site.

About California Trout:  Founded in 1971, California Trout is a non-profit conservation and advocacy organization that is dedicated to solving our state’s complex resource issues while balancing the needs of wild fish and people. The organization focuses on science-based, scalable solutions to California’s most complex water management challenges. CalTrout has five regional offices throughout the state, including one in Humboldt County. Its headquarters are in San Francisco.

 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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