A Call for Blessing the River

Round Valley Resolution

We Can Achieve What We Can

"One Great River" (poem)

Fall Chinook Rebound in 2010

Outlet Creek Outlook

Counting Fish Over the Years

"The Things We Know About Rivers" (poem)

Railroad Update

SCWA Enters a New Era

Sonoma County: Banana Republic of Wine Grapes

Flora and Fauna of the Watershed (center spread)

Sonoma Wine Industry Freezes Out the Public

Legal: Addressing High Water Temperatures and Stream Flows

FISH . . . Healthy Eating Fish List

FOER Board Members

Who Owns Water?

What Is Dam Decommissioning?

Branches of the Eel River

The Potter Valley Project Dams


Business Directory

Dear Friends,
It has been two years now since I last communicated with you in the Eel River Reporter. In that 2009 issue (we did not publish the magazine in 2010), we announced a major change of personnel for FOER staff. I was semi-retiring, planning to limit my activities to this magazine and fund-raising, after taking a much needed and long overdue vacation. I had handed the reins to Dave Hope, who took over as Executive Director in May 2009 and held that position until the end of October 2009, when he left due to illness. Glad to say he is now fine and spending most of his time in Santa Cruz or his lovely home in Mexico. Dave's departure was sudden, and I had already set up a satellite office in Sausalito (having moved to my boat there to live near my daughter and oldest son), so I moved the main FOER office down south as well. It has been a year of catching up, studying FOER's and the river's situation and how to best achieve FOER's goals with the ever-changing background of new science, political turn-over, climate shake-up and new people coming on board to work with us in a variety of ways.

I have excellent administrative staff with Jessica Kobaly as my very able assistant and Marianne Dolan our controller (who has helped us tighten our finances and get us down to 20% of all income for administration and 80% for programs). We are open Monday through Friday 10 am to 4 pm; unless we are at events on the weekend then we may take a Monday or Friday off for personal time. Watch our web site for new office location in Sausalito.

As of April 1, 2011, former Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) Executive Director Scott Greacen joined FOER as our North Coast Director. He will anchor an Arcata office at 1385 8th St., Box 2, Arcata, CA 95521. Scott's phone number is (707) 502-4555. He has been on our Board since 2010. You can read about his background along with our other Board Members on pages 36-37 of this issue. His update on page 17 of the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) is written at a time when things are rapidly changing, but it should be informative nonetheless as to the Eel River Canyon and its relation to the railroad. Please use our website to stay informed, as we anticipate NCRA releasing its long-promised Final EIR soon. This document has had a lot of politics played with it and been redone twice. We have waited more than three years for the final document. The coalition of Friends of the Eel River, Humboldt Baykeeper, EPIC and CATS is concerned about what is not in the EIR, and very concerned about the convoluted contract that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars for at least the next 99 years, with little to no revenues for the NCRA.

With Scott in Arcata, we are looking forward to increased interaction with northern Humboldt and the university. We have a good membership in the county but need to expand support for our work in that section of the county. David Keller remains our Bay Area Director. Ellison Folk and Amy Bricker from Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger in San Francisco remain our legal team. FOER's work has taken on multiple dimensions and requires various forms of expertise and assistance, for which we are grateful to have such a good team, with such good minds and hearts that really want to get our mission accomplished.
Back to the magazine, which we are glad to get back on the stands and in mailboxes: I hope readers will find this issue both informative and helpful, with its mix of current news and background to the issues and the river itself. We are working to turn around the decline of a once-great salmon run and regain diverted water, as well as restore and preserve the riverine environment and web of life.

A significant change has recently occurred for the river. The long-time practice of letting the Eel retain a flow of only 2 cubic feet per second (cfs) over the dams and downriver (starting March 1 each year) was changed in 1985 to 5 cfs, which was still barely enough to wet the Cape Horn Dam. In 2004 the flow regime from the Eel to the Russian changed, as did the timing of flow releases to the Eel. It took PG&E about two years to get the flows correct, but by 2006 water releases to the Eel River of up to 25 cfs between the end of July and October 15 improved the survival rate of that year's salmon spawn. In winter of 2010 we saw the progeny of that 2006 run come back with a record-breaking number of 2,315 at Van Arsdale/Cape Horn Dam fish counting station. An additional 4,000 redds (nests) were counted in the 40 miles between Cape Horn Dam and the confluence with Outlet Creek. Significantly, the Round Valley Tribal Feather Dancers had conducted a prayer ceremony in late July 2010 on the banks of the Eel at Hearst, and it was that section of the river where the most redds were counted! (See photos of the dancers in the Blessings article)

In addition to reporting details of the stunning Chinook salmon comeback by Pat Higgins, this issue also contains articles by David Keller and Will Parrish discussing the wine industry and why it wants more of our water. There are updates on the North Coast Railroad situation that we've been monitoring, the change of leadership at Sonoma County Water Agency, and legal work FOER is involved with to improve stream flows and temperatures. Our magazine is always info-heavy but we try to lighten it up a bit, in this issue with some poetry from a Eureka resident, David Holper, and a delightful reproduction of a watercolor by Lucy Arnold, entitled "Friends of the Eel." This painting won First Place at the Marin Society of Artists' Spring 2011 show called "Dance, Music, Flower." The original detailed watercolor is for sale to benefit FOER. Please see the painting legend on page 27 for Lucy's contact information. There are also notecards: giclee prints in two sizes with identification chart. Maybe you'll want to gift your favorite school and child with this lovely painting.

We remain concerned about the safety of both the PG&E Potter Valley Project dams. There is no alarm system to notify the downstream residents (approximately 75 families) that they have 15 minutes to get at least 75 feet above the river if Scott Dam fails. There are problems at that dam, but FERC and PG&E do not think it necessary to let the public know. So we don't know how the dam has managed to pass seismic tests that it failed earlier, nor what is to be done about the gases accumulating inside the dam. This dam sits on a fault line less than a mile from ongoing activity on another fault line. Dams were not built to last forever; cement does not withstand the elements over a very long period of time, to the dismay of those who want to make a monument out of these salmon-killing structures.

We are currently preparing for a major effort next year at the State Water Resources Control Board, where we hope our issues will be addressed at important hearings to be held in 2012-13. This Board will be determining flow releases from Lake Mendocino to the Russian River, and we also hope PG&E's diversion flows from the Eel to Lake Mendocino will be reduced. We at FOER have been gathering scientists who will be able to study the modeling that the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) is preparing to illustrate conditions with reduced flows in the Russian. Federal scientists have determined that too much water is being released to the Russian River and damaging its ecosystem. As an example of the current mismanagement, during the late fall of 2010 SCWA released 25,000 acre-feet of water from Lake Mendocino (which receives the diverted Eel River water) in a relatively short period of time (too much for the Russian at that time of year), while thousands of Chinook in the lower Eel were struggling with barely enough water to survive, saved only by early rains that avoided a significant fish kill. This run of Chinook comes into the Eel starting in late August and has been documented since the very early 1900s by the Ferndale Enterprise. Yet our agencies were not making any significant efforts to accommodate this run of fish, one of the Eel River's last remaining.

I am hoping that readers who are new to this organization but are advocates for saving our fisheries will join our current members to raise funds for our scientists and legal actions, and stand together to restore this magnificent river system. I am asking you to consider house parties that we can help with, or gifts of memberships to friends and family, thereby swelling our ranks. We have great photographs of the river, presentations, bands that will play for house parties and some chefs who will also assist. Give me a call if you can do this or if you have experience in raising large sums of money. We are looking to raise $300,000 to carry us through this next stage of our fight to free the Eel that it may once again flow wild and free. Your ideas and follow-through will be welcomed. I can be reached at or at (415) 332-9810.

As we prepared to go to press with this issue, we finally had a Saturday without rain on April 9. The Round Valley Tribes and some Friends of the Eel River gathered next to the mighty Eel on a large flat near the PG&E's PVP diversion tunnel. The Feather Dancers, musicians and drummers, and Spiritual Leader Lucky Pinola led us all in prayer and ceremony for the revival of the Eel River fisheries. Photographs are beginning to come in so watch our website, where we will display them. Join us for more of these incredible events this summer. In Covelo, Round Valley Tribal Oak Park, we plan a day and evening of workshops and ceremony on June 11. I will then lead a two- or three-day camping trip beginning June 12 to the headwaters, Lake Pillsbury and the diversion. On September 24 we will gather again, this time at the mouth of the Eel River at the end of Cannibal Island Road, due west of Loleta. We'll be celebrating the returning salmon and praying for their safe journey upriver. All are welcome to join us. Watch our website and notices for more details on these and other events. You will also find us at the 40th Annual Salmon Bar-B-Q in Noyo Harbor, Ft. Bragg, on July 3. Looking forward to seeing you again.

I am very pleased to announce that I have received the River Warrior Award from Huey Johnson of the Resource Renewal Institute at the beginning of this year. Since Huey was instrumental in getting the National Wild and Scenic status for the Eel River, and is one of my most favorite heroes, this award means a lot to me. Thank you sir.