Environmental groups and Tribes rally for rivers at Capitol
SACRAMENTO — On May 11, Gary Mulcahy of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe responded to Jerry Brown’s comment during a speech in Sacramento that opponents of the twin tunnels should “Shut Up” unless they had spent a “million hours” on the project like the administration’s staff had.
“The Winnemem Wintu and California Indians have been on these rivers for over 6,000 years, praying for the water and praying for the salmon streams and fisheries all this time,” said Mulcahy at a noon program at California Rivers Day at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Monday. “We know our rivers and salmon and what they need. So Tunnel Vision Brown, until you have been on the rivers for over 6,000 years, Shut Up.”
The Tribe has been fighting for years to stop a federal plan to raise Shasta Dam, a project that would inundate many of the Winnemen Wintu’s remaining sacred sites, and to restore the original run of winter run Chinook salmon, now thriving in New Zealand, to the McCloud River above Lake Shasta.
California Rivers Day 2015 brought together 23 river groups from throughout the state and two Indian Tribes to speak up for rivers and call on state leaders to support “sustainable drought solutions” at noon at the West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento.
The noon program that Mulcahy spoke at was preceded by a “Paddle to the Capitol” that arrived at the Tower Bridge public boat dock at 10:30 am.
“The drought is taking a major toll on our rivers—California’s lifeblood,” according to Eric Wesselman, Executive Director of Friends of the River. “In addition to the noon program event at the Capitol, this day included a morning paddle down the Sacramento River to the Capitol, informational booths on the West Steps of the building, and meetings with legislators to promote sustainable drought solutions that protect our rivers.”
Katherine Evatt of the Foothill Conservancy, who also spoke at the noon rally, said, “California rivers matter. It is important that California rivers have a voice in the Legislature. We gathered here today to give California rivers a voice and to tell the Legislature that California rivers matter – and to make sure that they do not lose sight of that in the drought.”
The groups and Tribes released a letter to Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Speaker Toni Atkins urging them to take a number of actions:
- Oppose any potential legislative efforts to weaken environmental protections for rivers such as removing Wild & Scenic River protections for the McCloud River, reducing minimum flow standards, or shortcutting the environmental review process for surface storage projects by undercutting the California Environmental Quality Act.
- Oppose AB 1242 (Gray) as it would undermine the Water Board’s authority to require adequate instream flows to protect water quality, fish and wildlife, and aquatic habitat.
- Support SB 226 (Pavley), and expedite implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, especially for critical overdraft basins, to ensure that the limits on surface water sources do not lead to over-pumping of groundwater and the collapse of our aquifers—California’s largest, cheapest, and most environmentally sound reservoirs.
- Support SB 637 (Allen) to provide for the regulation of motorized suction dredge gold mining.
- Support AB 142 (Bigelow) to require the Resources Secretary to study and make a recommendation to the Legislature as to whether 37 miles of the Mokelumne River should be protected in the California Wild & Scenic Rivers System.
- Support SB 555 (Wolk) to take a needed step toward reducing system losses by requiring annual water loss audits and reporting.
- Support AB1, now in the Senate, (Brown) to prohibit a city or county from imposing a fine for a brown lawn or failure to water a lawn during a period for which the Governor has issued a state of emergency due to drought conditions.
The letter also noted that “building massive surface storage projects” will not address the water crisis:
“The Public Policy Institute of California recently reported that the five major surface water storage projects currently under study (including the three most controversial projects – the Shasta Dam raise, Temperance Flat Dam, and Sites Reservoir) will cost roughly $9 billion but increase annual average supplies by just 1 percent. What these projects will do is put the state deeper in debt, delay our pursuit of real solutions, and destroy rivers along with Native American culture, family ranches, and thousands of acres of habitat for wildlife.”