Take Action to Defend the Yuba River at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

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Zane Weinberger inspiring the public to complete last years action items with a smile!
Zane Weinberger inspiring the public to complete last year’s film festival action items with a smile!

“Where activism gets inspired” is the motto of SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival. And this year’s festival provides attendees an opportunity to make their voices heard on two urgent issues facing the Yuba River.

SYRCL hopes to collect over 1,000 postcards to send Senators Feinstein and Boxer asking them to take immediate action to restore wild salmon to the upper Yuba River. Festival goers will also be asked to send another 1,000 postcards to Nevada County’s Board of Supervisors requesting their leadership in protecting the Yuba from the proposed reopening of a gold mine on the San Juan Ridge. The postcards will be available at SYRCL’s information booths throughout the Film Festival.

“Water is More Precious than Gold”

SYRCL and the San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association are very concerned that a proposal to reopen the San Juan Ridge Mine may threaten the Yuba River watershed. When the gold mine last operated in the 1990s, it had to shut down after dewatering wells for the local school, community center, and numerous residential properties. Nearby creeks were scoured to bedrock and the South Yuba River was polluted with contaminated mine water.

SYRCL encourages community members to express their concerns about the mine to Nevada County decision makers by sending the Supervisors a postcard with an image of King Midas, who foolishly asked the gods for the power to turn anything he touched into gold with disastrous consequences. The postcard states that “water is more precious than gold” and the letter lists SYRCL’s concerns about the potentially significant environmental impacts to the South Yuba River watershed and its tributaries, Spring and Shady Creeks, including impacts to water quality and quantity, fish and wildlife, and vegetation.

“Pay No Attention to the Dam Behind the Curtain”

The US Army Corps of Engineers dismayed river conservationists by claiming that they have no responsibility for Englebright Dam’s impacts on the Yuba’s endangered and threatened fish species, including Spring-run Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and green sturgeon.

Moreover, the Corps now asserts that the only activities they have discretion over are cleaning portable toilets and maintaining the campgrounds and boat ramps.  Operating and maintaining the 260-ft Englebright dam is omitted entirely! These assessments reverse the position the Corps held for more than a decade that the dams are part of the Army Corps’ Yuba River “project” – a regulatory definition meaning the dams must be operated to protect endangered and threatened species.

SYRCL worked with Jennifer Rain, a local artist, to prepare an editorial cartoon captioned “Pay no attention to the dam behind the curtain.” This illustration points out the absurdity of the Army Corps’ abdication of responsibility for their dams. With this letter writing campaign, SYRCL is calling upon Senators Boxer and Feinstein to authorize the Army Corps to take responsibility for their dam and fund a “Yuba River Fish Passage” study as a key first step towards a full recovery of these imperiled fish.  SYRCL expects to hand deliver at least 1,000 postcards to the senators later this year.

Learn more about the San Juan Ridge Mine proposal and the Yuba Salmon Now campaign, get involved, and take action during the festival by filling out both postcards.  The postcards will be available at SYRCL’s information booths at Headquarters (224 Church Street) and Film Festival venues in Nevada City and Grass Valley from January 9-12th.

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