A River – and a Watershed – Reborn:
Restoration Flows Reconnect the San Joaquin River to San Francisco Bay
San Rafael, CA, March 30, 2010 – One year after President Obama signed landmark legislation to implement the restoration of the dewatered San Joaquin River, releases from Friant Dam have now reconnected the river – where significant stretches are dry in most years – to San Francisco Bay.
The river flows, which began on February 1, 2010 and reached the lower river and the Bay-Delta earlier this month, were the second series of interim releases made pursuant to the 2006 restoration settlement agreement between the Friant water users and The Bay Institute and other environmental groups, which Congress and the President approved in the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009.
“Reconnecting the San Joaquin River to the Bay is the first step to restoring what was once the Central Valley’s greatest salmon run,” said Gary Bobker, program director at The Bay Institute and a member of the team that helped negotiate the settlement. “There’s a lot of hard work to be done in the next few years, but it will be worth it when salmon are again spawning in the river reaches above Fresno.”
For more than 60 years, major stretches of the San Joaquin were dewatered except in flood events, until an 18-year long legal and political battle by The Bay Institute and its partnering organizations resulted in a historic settlement agreement that requires releases to restore flows and fisheries to the river. Under that agreement’s terms, flows are finally reaching the Bay now as a result of the rewatering by the restoration releases of the 150-mile stretch between Friant Dam and the confluence with the Merced River.
These first “interim” releases are paving the way for the river’s long-term recovery and reestablishment of Chinook salmon populations when the full flow requirements are met, beginning in 2014. The interim flows will continue through the end of the year, and it is expected that the continuous stream of water will remain flowing into San Francisco Bay throughout even the dry late summer months.
The second series of interim flow releases began on February 1, at a rate of 350 cubic feet per second (CFS); this rate was increased to 500 cfs on March 1, to 800 cfs on March 16 and up to 1100 cfs on March 29. The effects of the increased release are examined throughout the interim flow process.
The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act provided authorization and funding for the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal agencies to implement the San Joaquin River Settlement which was signed in September 2006.
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