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Letter from Nada

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What’s Happening to the Eel Map

Photographic Journey Down the Eel

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Letter from Nada

This issue signifies more than eleven years working to turn around the deadly situation on the Eel River into one where life has a future, where water will be returned to this river and where restoration efforts will be successful in supporting the return of salmon in numbers so numerous their very presence will herald success.

This river is in real wilderness, with steep mountainous terrain, and away from any major highway except along parts of the South Fork Eel, a bit along the Middle Fork Eel and along the Van Duzen Rivers. Out of sight and out of mind. In addition this is a watershed that is twice the size the state of Delaware.To dispel many myths, I have gone out, camera in hand to document my research. In the beginning I took many camping trips into the headwaters of this compelling river. Then my luck changed and I began flying with Fred Baron in his 1946 Piper Cub. Recently Roger Green took me on an all day helicopter ride up the Eel to its headwaters. Additionally there are all those river trips over the years with a growing collection of photos from river runners. So I have selected only a few from hundreds of photos to share with you, hopefully showing the story of the Eel River, what it looks like, its condition during various times of the year, and what needs to be done to repair damage from many years of logging, gravel mining, railroad and water diversions.

We remain grateful to all of you who are working with us in Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino and Humboldt to stop the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) with its Board of Directors – the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors- from becoming the water masters of the north coast and locking in the PG&E Potter Valley Diversion Project (PVP) forever. At a recent meeting with the North Marin Water Board, Randy Poole, manager of the SCWA, stated that the Eel River was in such bad shape and so few fish coming back to the diversion that it would be a waste to send water down that river, that it was more important to save the Russian River fish. My colleague David Keller and I have been going to request water contractors, city councils, to ask for removal of the portion in the new SCWA contract that binds water contractors to the purchase of the PG&E Potter Valley Project that diverts water from the Eel to the Russian. Please call your city council members and talk with them about this issue. Rohnert Park and Cotati voted before we realized what was up. But North Marin Water District, City of Sonoma and Windsor all requested changes and had lots of questions. In later November we will be at the meetings in Santa Rosa and Petaluma to make the same request.

Currently the Russian River has Chinook coming back, very likely stimulated by the quantity of Eel River water flowing down the Russian River in the late summer and early fall since they are from Eel River stock. These fish are on the Endangered Species list as threatened. SCWA must keep these fish from declining to where they would be listed as endangered, because then they would have to operate the Russian River in a different fashion.

Additionally, Sonoma continues a smoke and mirrors effort to hang on to the Eel water. They do not want Mendocino County to have senior water rights to them so they are trying to have a state or Federal agency take over the PVP. Growth and development interests know that who ever controls water controls the future. Development, housing, accommodating growth. Money, money, money.

Final briefs are in to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Now we wait for the courts to set a hearing date.

Legal actions are valuable but the opposition does not care how long it takes because the water still keeps traveling south. But our efforts have paid off with an increase from 5 cubic feet per second to about 19 cfs. With this increase and a good water year we might see more fish back this winter.We have to continue to find ways to save the Eel from political forces that see it only as a source of water. It is imperative now that we continue to build a very strong organization that will stop any sale of the Potter Valley Project, gather the science on how to do the actual decommissioning and restoration and get started down that track as quickly as possible.

Your continued support really helps to keep this all in balance. Our goal for this river continues. We will find a way and we will succeed in restoring our watershed and bring the salmon back. I hope you will join us in this effort.