In a classic case of 'we're from the government and we're here to help' the Bureau of Land Management is proposing to give a 5.4 mile stretch of the San Joaquin River 'scenic river' status. Where exactly, you ask, would this 5.4 mile stretch be located? Right on the spot where the proposed Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir would be built if the 2012 Water Bond is passed next November. Forgive us if we look around and see conspiracy theories every now and then, but it's only because we've been double-crossed so many times. The Water Bond is a giant compromise by everyone in California including environmentalists who got a lot of what they want in this, and by many in ag because it also addresses storage issues like Temperance Flat. It would appear environmentalists are trying to have their cake and eat it too by pre-empting Temperance Flat even if the Water Bond passes. And, of course, they would still get all the goodies they asked for because they were willing to compromise on the storage issue.
This reminds us of the San Joaquin River Restoration agreement where politicians, ag and environmentalists signed the 'blood oath' to restore the San Joaquin river with Friant Dam water on the promise that we could pump the water back into the system when it got to the Delta and re-use it for ag. Before the 'blood' could dry on the agreement, the environmentalists were in Ollie Wanger's federal courtroom presenting their 'scientific' evidence that the pumps were killing the Delta Smelt and the pumps should be shut off, making sure ag couldn't retrieve the restoration water. You have to make sure these guys don't have their fingers crossed behind their backs when they sign a 'blood oath' right in front of you.
Not only is this another double-cross in the water wars, but it is another killer blow to ag and the economy of the San Joaquin Valley. Agriculture has been a blessing for California during the current recession, but no thanks to the 'man-made drought' politicians. Ag has made it because Mother Nature has blessed us with enough water to restore the river and water the fields. This will not always be the case. We all know there will eventually be another drought and eventually we will need more storage. I guess we're living in the the 'kick the can down the road' era and will need a crisis to solve the problem. Maybe we'll be able to take the high-speed rail up to the Delta and bring back some water.
BLM Recommends Wild & Scenic River Protection For The San Joaquin River Gorge!
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is recommending protection of the magnificent San Joaquin River Gorge as a National Wild & Scenic River. The agency’s recommendation is in the Bakersfield BLM Draft Resource Management Plan (DRMP), which is providing management direction for more than 408,000 acres of public land in central California. The Wild & Scenic recommendation for the San Joaquin River Gorge is gutsy given that it defies the intent of several members of Congress and other government agencies to build the proposed Temperance Flat Dam, which would flood the Gorge and destroy its outstanding attributes.
Dam proponents will be mobilizing to oppose the agency’s recommendation for Wild & Scenic protection and its many other conservation-oriented proposals – including protecting all Wilderness Study Areas and other lands with wilderness qualities. Conservationists need to speak out in favor of protecting the Gorge and other sensitive areas in written comments to the BLM. The deadline for public comments in Dec. 9, 2011.
The Bakersfield BLM DRMP not only recommends protection for the San Joaquin River Gorge, it also recommends protection for a segment of the North Fork Kaweah River and identifies several other streams as eligible for protection. Federal law requires the BLM to identify, study, and recommend rivers for potential Wild & Scenic status as part of its planning process. The DRMP also determines the future of more than 39,000 acres of Wilderness Study Areas and other lands with wilderness qualities.
The San Joaquin River Gorge is located upstream of the existing Friant Dam and Millerton Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Fresno. The BLM manages about 4,000 acres of public land in and surrounding the Gorge for public recreation, open space, and wildlife habitat. A network of trails in the Gorge provide opportunities to hike, mountain bike, ride horses, view wildflowers, hunt, fish, and camp in some of the most spectacular scenery in the central Sierra foothills. The Gorge is also rich in Native American cultural values.
In the Bakersfield DRMP, the BLM found 5.4 miles of the San Joaquin River Gorge between PG&E’s Kerkhoff Dam and Kerkhoff Powerhouse to be eligible and suitable for Wild & Scenic protection because of the river’s outstandingly remarkable scenic, wildlife, and Native American cultural values. Another five miles of the river downstream of Kerkhoff Powerhouse was also found eligible, but BLM was unable to recommend protection for this lower segment because the Bureau of Reclamation has a legal claim on this segment to allow for possible enlargement of Millerton Reservoir (as an alternative to building Temperance Flat).
The BLM’s Wild & Scenic recommendation for the San Joaquin River Gorge directly defies the intent of several members of Congress from the southern Central Valley and the Bureau of Reclamation to build the Temperance Flat Dam, which in its largest configuration could flood the Gorge all the way up to Kerkhoff Dam.
Ironically, the proposed Temperance Flat would not contribute significantly to the state’s water supply since existing storage reservoirs already capture about 98% of the San Joaquin’s annual run-off. Based on 80 years of flow records, the Temperance Flat Dam would only store some water one year out of three. But this hasn’t stopped dam proponents, who hope to convince the taxpayers to pay for this outrageously expensive $3 billion dam.
Whether a river should remain free flowing and undammed is exactly the question the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act was intended to answer. When it approved the nation’s foremost river conservation law in 1968, Congress explicitly stated its intent of balancing the nation’s existing policy of developing many rivers for their water supply and hyower potential by adopting a new policy stating that some free flowing rivers with outstanding natural and cultural values should remain undammed and free flowing. In addition to prohibiting dams, the federal lands through which Wild & Scenic Rivers flow are to be managed specifically to protect the free flowing character of the river and its outstanding values.
In addition to recommending protection for the San Joaquin River Gorge, the BLM proposes to protect 2.5 miles of the North Fork Kaweah, as it flows out of Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park into BLM lands. Unfortunately, the BLM is not recommending protection for eligible segments of the East and Middle Forks of the Kaweah River, even though the National Park Service proposes Wild & Scenic status for upstream segments. Similarly, the BLM is not recommending a 3.2-mile segment of the lower Kern River below Isabella Dam, even though the Forest Service considers another 26 miles of the river on downstream National Forest lands to be eligible. In addition, the draft RMP does not recommend protection for segments of Chimney Creek, South Fork Kern River and the Salinas River.
The Bakersfield RMP considers five different alternatives to manage public lands. Conservationists should support a modified Alternative C, which emphasizes conserving natural and cultural resources, and restoring and maintaining functioning natural ecosystems. In addition to protecting all 31 miles of eligible streams as Wild & Scenic, Alternative C fully protects all 21,140 acres of existing Wilderness Study Areas as well as 17,890 acres of additional land with wilderness characteristics, and more than 108,000 acres as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. Alternative C also closes to grazing riparian corridors in the San Joaquin River Gorge, along the North Fork Kaweah, South Fork Kern and in other areas of ecological importance. Alternative C should be modified to remove or severely limit grazing on all allotments where livestock grazing has contributed significantly to violation of range health standards.
You can review a the three volume RMP by visiting: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/bakersfield.html
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