Posts Tagged ‘Endangered Rivers’

A Desert Runs Through It – A Photographer’s View

April 10, 2014

By Alison M. Jones, Director of No Water No Life ® and Photographer
As published by American Rivers in “The River Blog” – April 9, 2014

On the seventh day of exploring impacts of drought in California’s Central Valley, I slipped down some loose scree into a San Joaquin riverbed.  Shadows of Mendota’s bridge on San Mateo Road were lengthening.  That early-evening hush of the desert was overtaking the power of the sun’s heat.  There was just enough light to photograph a snake-like bed of sand swallowing
the San Joaquin River.

Jones_140317_CA_0946Sierra Nevada Mountain glaciers no longer melt into the basin of California’s long-lost Corcoran Lake of 750,000 years ago. That vast inland sea spilled into the Pacific half a million years ago, but it left a rich legacy. Over the last 10,000 years glacial melt, winter rains, Sierra snow carved the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers and added further nutrients to one of the world’s most plentiful breadbaskets.

California, San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge

California, San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge

Those rivers flowed freely until 1919 when human engineers began redesigning California into a sprawling network of levees, aqueducts, canals, pumps, dams and reservoirs. Today, the Central Valley Project (1930) and State Water Project (1957) supplies water to 22 million Californians, irrigates 4 million acres, and provides hydro-electricity, flood control and recreation.  Built in 1941, Fresno’s Friant Dam irrigates over a million acres of farmland, but it leaves 60 miles of the San Joaquin River dry.

San Joaquin River Valley, ripples from striped bass in this remnant of San Joaquin River

San Joaquin River Valley, ripples from striped bass in this remnant of San Joaquin River

“Picture a river running through a desert.  Now picture a desert running through a river.”  I read that concept two days earlier at the Delta Visitor Center. It was now in my camera’s viewfinder.  Amidst a whine of mosquitos, I considered this crippled river, nature’s persistence versus man’s ingenuity, and how one balances nature’s productivity with human productivity.

Sudden splashes from behind were an alert that I’d hiked out alone from a dirt road.  But then I saw telltale stripes flashing and fish thrashing, framed by willow roots in shallow water.

USA: San Mateo Road crossing of San Joaquin River

USA: San Mateo Road crossing of San Joaquin River

There were four or five – maybe even seven – each at least 18 inches long. Flipping over each other, they fled my shadow into the far end of their stagnant puddle, leaving me with only ripples to photograph.  Striped bass, introduced to the California Delta in the 1800’s, are a saltwater species that seek freshwater for spawning.

Can they survive this three-year drought?  It’s unlikely there’ll be further significant rain this year, so human intervention would be needed. That’s not likely, given today’s unprecedented clamoring for water by municipalities and farmers.

There are, however, signs of hope.  In 2009, Friant Dam began  “restoration flows,” released by water users’ negotiated agreements.  In December 2013, National Marine Fisheries Service announced it might re-introduce spring Chinook salmon to the San Joaquin.  Salmon thrive in big, broad rivers, but struggle in drought and heat. However, restored flows and recognition of common interests, suggest that Chinook salmon may again reach the Sierra Nevadas.

CA, Central Valley, Delta Mendota Canal, part of State Water Project

CA, Central Valley, Delta Mendota Canal, part of State Water Project

American Rivers’ 2014 focus is on the San Joaquin River.  With their efforts, coordinated with other stakeholders, the San Joaquin River between Mendota and Fresno will hopefully become more than a fish trap in desert sand.

>>> TAKE ACTION! Tell Congress to protect water flows
in the San Joaquin.

The Most Endangered Rivers in America – 2014

April 9, 2014

The worst is California’s San Joaquin River:
Part of the NWNL California Drought SPOTLIGHT

NWNL is contributing images and blogs in support of
American Rivers’ efforts in the San Joaquin Basin.

USA: California, San Joaquin River Valley

USA: California, San Joaquin River Valley

Two other river basins on American Rivers Top 10 List this year overlap with NWNL case-study watersheds:

– The Upper and Middle Mississippi River Basin (#3) was documented May 2013 by NWNL

– The Lower Clearwater River (#10) will be documented May 2014 by NWNL (as part of the Columbia River Basin)

Our future depends on the health of our rivers and protecting these vital ecosystems. Learn more about rivers and see what you can do.

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Protect America’s Endangered Rivers

June 28, 2013
Canada: British Columbia, Kootenay River (Canadian spelling)

Canada: British Columbia, Kootenay River (Canadian spelling)

Every year since 1986, American Rivers has teamed up with river conservationists to release an annual report of America’s Most Endangered Rivers.

This report highlights a number of threats to our rivers and examines risks to communities and wildlife.

Three of these Endangered Rivers are tributaries to two NWNL case-study watersheds:  The Columbia River Basin (The Kootenai/Kootenay River) and the Mississippi River Basin (Little Plover River via the Wisconsin River tributary) and the Niobrara River (via the White and Missouri River tributaries).

Let’s keep our rivers healthy! Learn more about how you can help. Read the full 2013 Report.

Screen Shot 2013-06-28 at 1.37.32 PM

1. Colorado River

Location: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
Threat: Outdated water management
At Risk: Recreation economy, water supply, and wildlife habitat

2. Flint River

Location: Georgia
Threat: Outdated water management
At Risk: Water supply for communities, farms, recreation, and wildlife

3. San Saba River

Location: Texas
Threat: Oudated water management
At Risk: River flow for ranchers, citizens, and lakes

4. Little Plover River

Location: Wisconsin
Threat: Outdated water management
At risk: Fish habitat and water supply

5. Catawba River

Location: North Carolina, South Carolina
Threat: Coal ash pollution
At risk: Drinking water and recreational enjoyment

6. Boundary Waters

Location: Minnesota
Threat: Copper and nickel mining
At risk: Recreation economy, drinking water, and wilderness

7. Black Warrior River

Location: Alabama
Threat: Coal mining
At risk: Drinking water quality and fish and wildlife habitat

8. Rough & Ready and Baldface Creeks

Location: Oregon
Threat: Nickel mining
At risk: Pristine rivers, wilderness, botanical diversity, and recreation

9. Kootenai River

Location: British Columbia, Montana, Idaho
Threat: Open-pit coal mining
At risk: Water quality and survival of rare fish and wildlife

10. Niobrara River

Location: Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming
Threat: Sediment build-up and flooding
At risk: Property, crops, and public safety

Special Mention: Merced River

Location: California
Threat: Intentional flooding of a Wild and Scenic River
At risk: Wildlife habitat and recreation economy

%d bloggers like this: