Nevada City, CA – Recognizing that Congressional leadership is imperative to saving wild salmon, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) hand-delivered over 2,000 postcards collected during this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival to Congressman John Garamendi. The postcards depicted cartoon salmon and steelhead playing the famous TV game show, Jeopardy, to illustrate that these fish are in “jeopardy” of extinction.
Upon accepting the postcards, Congressman Garamendi said that he had been looking forward to meeting with SYRCL for some time. “I am confident that we can reach a collaborative solution to recover salmon on the Yuba, which absolutely requires SYRCL’s involvement along with the Army Corps, Yuba County Water Agency and other interested parties,” said Rep. Garamendi.
“Congressman Garamendi demonstrated that he is both knowledgeable and passionate about Yuba watershed issues, and committed to helping all the parties find lasting solutions to recover our once thriving salmon fishery, protect downstream communities, and agricultural interests,” said SYRCL Board President John Regan. Regan, along with Board Vice President Steve Rothert and Executive Director Caleb Dardick, spent nearly two hours with Congressmen Garamendi and his staff earlier this month in Yuba City. Following the November 2012 re-districting and election, Garamendi’s 3rd Congressional District includes portions of the Yuba River and Englebright Dam.
“Congressional leadership is urgently needed now as the Army Corps has initiated a new time consuming regulatory process that will delay any progress for yet another three years at least. Specifically, the Army Corps seeks to undo the 2012 Biological Opinion’s conclusion that the Corps’ operations at Daguerre Point and Englebright Dams jeopardize the survival of wild salmon and steelhead,” said Dardick.
In the Army Corps’ February 26th letter, they seek to justify a new consultation process with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the issuance of a new, significantly weakened Biological Opinion with the assertion that it “takes no routine action beyond such actions as maintenance of the Daguerre fish ladder and inspecting the dams periodically for signs of deterioration” making it not responsible for any harm to salmon caused by the mere existence of the dams.
“The Corps has taken it upon itself to write out its own list of measures to meet the needs of endangered fish species, which fall far short of what NMFS properly required in the 2012 Biological Opinion. As NMFS carefully explained in the Biological Opinion, the Army Corps is erroneous in contending that it is not responsible for the harms to salmon caused by Englebright and Daguerre Point Dams,” said Christopher Sproul at Environmental Advocates, lead counsel for SYRCL and Friends of the River (FOR).
In mid-January, SYRCL and FOR filed a citizen suit in federal court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to comply with Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements to protect three species of endangered fish on the Yuba River: spring-run Chinook salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon.
Also in January, the Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA) joined the Army Corps in opposing implementation of the Biological Opinion. YCWA filed its own lawsuit against NMFS seeking to have the Biological Opinion revoked.
In 2006, SYRCL and FOR sued the federal government to demand better protection for the Yuba’s endangered fish. That effort bore fruit when, in February 2012, NMFS under court order from Judge Karlton released a formal decision, called the Biological Opinion, finding that the operation of two Army Corps of Engineers dams on the Yuba River, Englebright and Daguerre Point dams, jeopardizes the survival and recovery of the three anadromous fish species. This is due mainly to the fact that the dams block the fish from migrating upstream to adequate spawning habitat.
Spring-run Chinook salmon were once plentiful in the Central Valley, with over 600,000 returning to their birth streams each year. But the construction of impassable dams in the 20th Century reduced the habitat available to the species by 80%, resulting in substantial population declines. In 2011, fewer than 5,000 spring Chinook returned to the Central Valley, a reduction of over 99% from historical levels. Providing fish passage at Englebright and Daguerre dams is urgently needed to halt this continuing slide toward extinction.
For more information and a copy of the Biological Opinion, SYRCL’s complaint, YCWA’s complaint, and other documents, please visit www.yubasalmonnow.org on the resource page. For more information about SYRCL or Friends of the River, visit www.yubariver.org and www.friendsoftheriver.org.
A NOTE OF THANKS…
To the more than 2,000 people who signed the postcards to Save Yuba Salmon: thank you for your support for SYRCL and our mission to unite the community to protect and restore the Yuba River watershed.
Caleb Dardick, Executive Director