Article submitted by: Lowell J. Young, President
Yosemite Area Audubon Society
The Yosemite Area Audubon Society Is Looking For Community Support For The San Joaquin River Restoration Program.
Born of snowmelt, one of the country’s most magnificent rivers has its birth in our backyard, east of the Sierra Crest. This mighty river, the second longest in California, begins its 366 mile journey to the Pacific Ocean at the Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. On its journey, it drains a watershed of 31,800 square miles, the largest in the State, and reaches a width of about 5,000 feet before it joins another river. According to Jedediah Smith, this wild and untamed river was called the Peticutry by an unknown tribe of Native Americans. Today, we know it as the San Joaquin.
Historically, the area through which the river flows was once one of the major population centers of pre-Columbian California and it has been the home to various peoples for more than 8,000 years. These people depended upon the San Joaquin River and the bounty that it provided them because it was a major habitat for thousands of spawning salmon and other fish species, millions of migratory birds, vast numbers of other wildlife species and a dazzling array of useful plant life.
Today, the main river flows through four dams and together with its tributaries there are more than 19 hydroelectric dams and reservoirs, and 27 powerhouses that provide water and hydroelectric for our farms and cities and bountiful recreational opportunities for our people. That is why the river is often called, “the hardest working water in the world”. Sadly, the river that once flowed freely to the ocean is now little more than a dried up river bed west of Fresno and one of the largest salmon runs is gone.
In 1988, Friends of the River along with other conservation organizations sued the federal government over the operation of Friant Dam. After 18 years of litigation, a settlement between all of the parties who had an interest in this issue was reached. In 2009 a federal judge ordered flows returned to this section of the river. Now, with hands-on attention from local groups like Revive the San Joaquin, the river is on its way to full restoration of its once-fabled salmon run and riparian habitat.
Your Yosemite Area Audubon Society (YAAS) supports the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, because it will provide water for farms and a healthy river for our communities to enjoy, and for wildlife to thrive. The restoration embodies a future that we want for our families and our communities.
Legislation authorizing Federal agencies to fund and implement the Project was passed by Congress in 2009. But if we want to see this restoration through, we need to let our lawmakers know that we support it, that we’re for the river.
That is why I am asking you to send a letter to our senators in Washington DC, as well as a copy of the letter to the President of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society, Lowell Young, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On our web page, we have provided a draft letter to California’s Senators which you can edit and make your own. Simply go to yosemiteaudubon.org. Then go to the “I’m for the River” box and ‘click’ on the Read more link. Then ‘click’ on the Download Letter button. If you would prefer to sign an online letter, ‘click’ the Online Letter Button and sign electronically to have the letter sent automatically to both Senators.
Thousands of people statewide have already spoken in favor of this river restoration but our elected officials want to hear from Yosemite and Valley residents most of all. Make your voice and your opinion heard.
More information about efforts to ensure a living San Joaquin River is available at imfortheriver.org.
Joseph Frank, W6JLF