Annual Reports

















Annual Report 2017

California River Watch 2017 Annual Statement

In 2017, River Watch continued its mission of enforcing the Clean Water Act. After more than 20 years of doing so River Watch is happy to report that California municipalities, districts, and businesses have adopted many of the policies and procedures advocated by River Watch, regulators, and other environmental groups thereby substantially improving compliance.

River Watch continued to pursue Endangered Species Act (ESA) cases. Just about everyone is in support of clean water including dischargers and judges. However, when it comes to endangered species, especially ones they may have never seen, most businesses and governmental entities find any means possible to avoid protecting them. The courts seem to construe the law more narrowly than in cases involving pollution. As such ESA cases are difficult and time consuming. However, despite the obstacles, River Watch has made progress. In particular, River Watch has made progress in convincing property owners of land located in California Tiger Salamander (CTS) critical habitat to modify their property sites and practices to encourage CTS re-population.

On the litigation front, River Watch received two substantial wins. The first was in the area of global warming/climate change (California River Watch v. Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (“County”), Case No. SCV-259242. In this case the County certified a Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) that adopted a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction climate action plan (CAP) which substantially understated the full carbon footprint of business activities in the County. River Watch sued the County to prevent future projects from streamline the CEQA process by using the County’s flawed underestimations. Superior Court Judge Shaffer ruled unequivocally in River Watch’s favor, finding that the CAP and PEIR violated CEQA because the GHG inventory utilized by the County was based on insufficient information, and the PEIR failed to include effectively enforceable, clearly defined mitigation measures and failed to develop and analyze a reasonable range of alternatives. Based on this ruling, River Watch anticipates bringing legal challenges under CEQA to future projects which underestimate the full carbon footprint of the project including GHG emissions from travel to and from the County.

The second win occurred when Judge Muller of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California ruled that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) could be used to protect drinking water. River Watch sued the City of Vacaville in 2017 (California River Watch v. City of Vacaville Case No. 2:17-cv-00524 KJM) alleging that by providing drinking water with high levels of hexavalent chromium (as much as 1500 times the official Public Health Goal!) Vacaville is creating “an imminent and substantial endangerment to [the] health” of its residents, workers and visitors. The case is scheduled to go to trial in June of 2019.

The goals of environmentalism are to support and protect life in all its forms. As an environmental group, River Watch’s mission is to protect the environment - to protect life itself. As such, and using that term in its literal sense, River Watch is pro-life. If one is pro-life it stands to reason that one is against environmental exploitation including exploitation of the planet’s flora and fauna (humans included). If one is pro-life it also stands to reason one would be against the death penalty and war. In favor of strict gun control. In favor of Head Start and all similar children’s programs. In favor of sex education, Planned Parenthood and like organizations. Supportive of a woman’s right to choose. More importantly, supportive of any person’s right to have autonomy over his/her own body. Pro-life would embrace free public education including higher education, and healthcare as a right not a privilege.

If you really are pro-life, you too are an environmentalist.

California River Watch
February 2018


Annual Report 2016

California River Watch 2016 Annual Statement

Normally we post our Annual Statement at the beginning of the year. However, giving how this year started we thought the 4th of July might be a more fitting date.

So we will start with a little humor.

This is how the New Year started. . .

This is how the new year started...


And halfway through 2017. . .

And halfway thorugh 2017...


And end on a bit of a serious note.

And end on a serious note...


The great environmentalist, David Brower, once told this story at an environmental conference:

While Thoreau was living the simplest kind of life in a little hut in the woods near Walden Pond, he was visited by a thief. Unfortunately for the thief Thoreau had nothing worth stealing. Thoreau, concerned for the prowler, said, ”you may have come a long way to visit me and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my cloths as a gift.” The thief was bewildered but took the clothes and slunk away. Thoreau sat naked, watching the moon.“Poor fellow” he mused, “I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”

What is truly sad about the current administration, the movement toward the far Right and those who, for some reason cannot get enough even if it means others suffer, is that most of the really worthwhile things in this world are free.

For us who do this work we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. River Watch plans to do its part and we know most of you will do yours as well.

River Watch
4th of July 2017

Annual Report 2015

California River Watch 2015 Annual Statement

Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge we humans face. The impacts of global warming effect all biological systems. Of particular interest to River Watch, the warming of the earth’s surface waters decreases the nutrients in rivers, creeks and streams necessary to sustain aquatic life. Sonoma County’s Climate Action 2020 program is being developed by the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA), which was formed through legislation in 2009 to coordinate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the County. Despite the recent praise in the local press for Sonoma County’s leadership in addressing climate change, after learning about the program in detail, I have serious doubts that it will actually lower the County’s GHG emissions to levels necessary generally to avoid catastrophic global warming.

I attended an October meeting of the Stakeholders Advisory Group of the RCPA, which is developing a GHG Inventory as a first step in identifying measures for reducing GHG emissions. Emissions from eight sectors were identified: Transportation; Building energy; Agriculture; Solid waste; Off-road transportation; Water-electricity use for distribution and treatment; Wastewater-methane release from treatment; and Stationary fuel combustion, e.g. industrial boilers and generators. The group estimates the major contributions are Building Energy, 33 percent; On-Road Transportation, 52 percent; and Agriculture, eight percent.

The study disregards obvious major sources of GHG emissions resulting directly from Agricultural activities in the County: the carbon emissions from the destruction of tens of thousands of trees for vineyard development, both from the release of stored carbon and the loss of future carbon sequestration as well as the emissions from deep ripping the soil. Also disregarded are enormous carbon emissions from the global distribution network for wine produced and bottled in the County, also emissions caused by displacement of local food production by vineyard development, requiring more importing of food. The only portion of the County’s total GHG contributions from export and import activities counted under their current methodology is as part of on-road transportation within County borders.

Concerned by the glaring under-estimation of the County’s GHG emissions, I’ve been engaged in discussion with RCPA staff, who have been generous with their time. However, there seems to be an obvious bias against any discussion of the need to limit growth in vineyard and winery development and additional tourist venues. Without those limits it is unlikely that the County’s Climate Action Program will contain measures necessary to lower GHG emissions, when considered proportionally as the County’s contribution to global emissions, to avoid catastrophic global warming.

The Program relies heavily on reaching zero net energy emissions from new commercial buildings by 2020, and new residential buildings by 2030. Other strategies include smart growth/infill development, improved fuel standards, a goal of 33 percent of energy use in the County from renewable energy sources by 2020, all subject to political challenges to timely implementation. It’s hard to see how this program will lead to significant GHG emission reductions while the County continues to issue permits for new vineyards, wineries, resorts, tasting rooms.

The County Supervisors recently adopted a revised zoning ordinance allowing facilities up to 5,000 square feet to “process agricultural products” (wineries?) and retail buildings up to 500 square feet, including “educational tourism” (tasting rooms?). Approval requires only a ministerial, over-the-counter, no hearing-no notice to neighbors permit costing $570.

Even based on its understated estimates, the RCPA reports that overall GHG emissions in Sonoma County have increased. RCPA staff also confirmed that the County Program, as well as the State regulations, are based on stabilizing parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million (ppm) while the most respected climate scientists agree we need to reduce current 400 ppm to 350 by year 2050 to avoid irrevocable, catastrophic warming. I can only conclude that public officials in Sonoma County and other relatively liberal communities are at the stage where they recognize the need for meaningful action to address climate change, but are not yet ready to adopt policies which would significantly change the dominant economic system, which relies on perpetual growth in extractive, water and energy intensive activities.

Leading thinkers such as Naomi Klein ( please read “This Changes Everything”) agree we need to create more locally self sustaining communities, focus economic growth in areas that serve local needs-health services, education, local food production, infrastructure repair, forest regeneration not destruction.

I’m not hopeful that the new version of the Climate Action program, scheduled for release soon, will adequately address these concerns. The limits of the framework and methodology they are committed to make that unlikely. I say that while acknowledging that the people involved are very competent and care about their work. In my experience as an environmental attorney, I’ve encountered many situations where smart, well-intentioned people are limited by the political constraints of public agencies they work in.

Recognizing the inadequacies of the Sonoma Climate Action Program as currently conceived, with its grossly understated County GHG emissions, does not imply a rejection of the good programs the County has adopted, like Sonoma Clean Power and energy efficient building standards. It simply recognizes that these programs, without deeper changes in our economic/ecological practices, are not enough to reverse our movement towards increased global warming. As Bill McKibbin said about the 350 ppm versus 450 ppm issue, demanding a truly effective, less compromised Climate Action Program “is not making the perfect the enemy of the good, it's making the necessary the enemy of the convenient.”

We need to start with a realistic account of the County’s greenhouse gas emissions, not one based on what public officials find politically feasible. Once we have the real picture we can work to change what is politically feasible.

Jerry Bernhaut is a 35 year resident of Sonoma Valley, a long time environmental and social justice activist, and has been working for more than a decade as an attorney representing California River Watch.

Annual Report 2014

California River Watch 2014 Annual Statement

I recently had a meeting with opposing counsel over a pollution case. The subject of climate change came up and, not surprisingly, this well educated, intelligent conservative informed me that although he did believe in “climate change”, he did not believe humans were having a causative effect.

In my line of work I hear this a lot. Sometimes it’s just shear ignorance and reliance on misinformation. Many times however, it is just too painful – a truth so inconvenient, to borrow from Mr. Gore, that people turn away, rather than give this imperative issue the understanding and attention it deserves. The fact that what we do, how we live, even what we believe in may be contributing to cataclysmic changes in the environment is just too much for some people to allow into their conscience, let alone their everyday consciousness. Yet climate change is something all of us can verify independently, from those in California experiencing the worst drought in recorded history to those on the East Coast experiencing some of the worst storms on record. A recent New York Times poll found that an amazing 71% of self-identified Republicans now believe climate change is real, and caused at least in part by human activities. What’s more, 51% of Republicans said that the federal government should act to control greenhouse gas emissions, and 48% are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change. In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change and less likely to vote for those who questioned or denied the science that has determined humans are significantly contributing to global warming.

Unfortunately, it may be the public that votes, but it’s Big Money that sets the agenda. So it is likely that we will only see lip service to climate change, while votes for projects like the Keystone Pipeline, support for fracking, and continued tax breaks for Big Oil continue. So what can you do? Actually, quite a lot. Regardless of the inequity of our current political system, the driving force is still economic. You “vote” every time you make a purchase and in your life style choices. Your voice matters too. So express your opinions to your representatives, on-line, and to your friends and family. Stand up for what you believe and act on those beliefs in your everyday life. Look out for opportunities to influence your city or town to choose renewable energy and infrastructure over polluting fossil fuel, and to conserve and protect water, a precious resource we all depend upon.

“So, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.”
JFK, June 10, 1963


Annual Report 2013

California River Watch 2013 Annual Statement

In 2013 River Watch began an aggressive campaign to protect local endangered threatened species including the salmonids, Coho, Chinook and Steelhead, as well as the Sonoma California Tiger Salamander. In Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, the construction and wine industries are largely responsible for the significant loss of ecological diversity we’ve seen in our community and the near extinction of the species River Watch is seeking to protect.  These powerful industries often believe it’s acceptable to replace wetlands, vernal pools and forests with impervious surfaces and monoculture for private monetary benefit. We are asking them to take stock of their relationship to the land, water, and species they effect, and we’re holding them accountable if they do not.

The loss of species and diversity we are experiencing is part of a worldwide event called a mass extinction. An extinction event is a widespread and rapid decrease in the diversity and abundance of life. A mass extinction, where more than 50% of all species perish, is a rare phenomenon.  In the past 450 million years scientists have only identified five mass extinctions.1 The last is believed to have been caused by a catastrophic meteor impact, which led to the loss of 75% or more of all species on Earth including most dinosaurs. Within the next 50-100 years we will be very likely passing the threshold of a new mass extinction, sadly brought on by human greed and neglect. Humans are the new global catastrophe.

Since the emergence of Homo sapiens most large mammals are now extinct.  The majority remaining are endangered or threatened. We continue to push other species to the threshold of extinction through habitat modification and destruction.  We’ve all heard the stories about the destruction of the world’s major rainforests (the lungs of our planet),  the caves of bats stricken with white-nose syndrome in New York and the acidification of coral islands in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. These modern eco-disasters are depressingly familiar and have but one cause: human activity.  We are failing, as a species, to integrate ourselves into the ecosystem in which we eat, breathe and have to thank for our survival.  

The fact is this current mass extinction cannot be avoided, the momentum is far too great. In the past mass extinctions, the causative agent was transient, allowing the Earth to recover. It is highly likely humanity will survive.  The question is whether we learn to be in harmony with our environment and our own true nature, or will we become like Star Trek’s Borg and turn the Earth into a wasteland, killing our soul and harming our health at the same time. We are a singularly powerful species - uniquely creative as well as destructive. So we must learn, as a species, how to exist in the world without destroying the world.  Despite humanity’s ability for destruction, we do not have to continue on that track.  We can become the Earth’s immune response, realizing that Earth’s life systems are the same as ours, and defend the elements and biodiversity on the only home we have.

It all starts at home, it all starts with each one of us considering the planet in our decisions, and doing what we can to protect it.  River Watch will do our part. Please do yours.

1 In the past 450 million years there have been approximately 20 extinctions events.
  Of those 20, 5 have been mass extinctions.

And that is just the point... how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?”  ~ Mary Oliver


Annual Report 2012

California River Watch 2012 Annual Statement

Dear California River Watchers,

Northern California River Watch is now ‘California River Watch’ and will be continuing its work to protect, enhance, and help restore the surface waters and groundwater throughout California including all rivers, creeks, streams, wetlands and vernal pools.

California River Watch is more than a citizen enforcement organization. We have co­founded and financed other environmental groups, generated funds to pay for worthy projects in the communities where pollution occurs, and provided funds for aquatic habitat restoration including reforestation and watershed protection.

In approaching our seventeenth year we wish to thank our wonderful environmental community for its support. These are challenging times for environmental protection. At the federal level, the profit driven administration and legislature supported by a conservative court continues to erode environmental protections, and in doing so, sacrificing some of our wildest and most special places for the short-term profits of a few. Here, closer to home, we are losing our native salmonids, forests, and clean water.

Environmental concerns due to grape agribusiness will be a significant focus for California River Watch this year. In addition to the loss of forests and habitat due to conversations, many vineyard owners or managers are using vast amounts of water for frost protection. It is illegal to de-water a creek or stream to the extent it endangers or kills fish. The National Marine Fisheries Service has identified major threats to salmonids as including water impoundments, withdrawals, conveyance systems, and diversions of water for vineyards, all of which have led to significant habitat modification and direct mortality of salmonids. The State Water Resources Control Board has also identified temperature protection activities, especially frost protection, as harming salmonids. Rapid draw downs of water resources near salmonid habitat have caused a “take” of listed species and a violation of the Endangered Species Act. Despite knowledge and warnings, many vineyard owners and managers de-water the habitat to a such a low level as to create an unsustainable environment for salmonids. California River Watch remains concerned certain vineyard owners or managers will place profit above compliance with the law, and continue to use large amounts of water during critical habitat times.

Those scientists who follow the rule of reason and respect the principle of best evidence, inform us we are creating an imbalance in the relationship between civilization and the Earth. Pollution and habitat destruction are two of our greatest environmental issues. Dedicated to protecting wildlife and habitat (including human), California River Watch has specialized programs which focus on pollution impacts to wildlife and their habitat, helping to create a healthier world for all living things.

California River Watch’s aggressive program to pursue compliance with environmental laws is having a substantial effect in California. The ripples of our actions have reached all the way to Washington, D.C. and news of our efforts has reached to London. At home much of our actions go unnoticed by the press. Litigation is controversial but productive. It is our policy to avoid litigation whenever possible, but without the will to follow through with appropriate action, no polluter would take us seriously.

Donate Now!

California River Watch works through the diligence of its members and others concerned about public health and protection of the environment. However, to continue to do this work we need your support. California River Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, public benefit organization. Your tax-deductible contribution will help fund investigations and healthy water projects defining the best practices for avoiding and mitigating pollution, as well as helping with other costs associated with California River Watch’s environmental citizen enforcement actions. Members may contact California River Watch with complaints of water pollution in their area. California River Watch investigates complaints and works with the business or public agency to mitigate the problem.

Annual Report 2011

California River Watch 2011 Annual Statement

Arundhati Roy

Confronting Empire

I've been asked to speak about "How to confront Empire?" It's a huge question, and I have no easy answers…

Arundhati Roy

When we speak of confronting "Empire," we need to identify what "Empire" means. Does it mean the U.S. Government (and its European satellites), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and multinational corporations? Or is it something more than that?

In many countries, Empire has sprouted other subsidiary heads, some dangerous byproducts : nationalism, religious bigotry, fascism and, of course terrorism. All these march arm in arm with the project of corporate globalization.

Let me illustrate what I mean. India : the world's biggest democracy : is currently at the forefront of the corporate globalization project. Its "market" of one billion people is being prized open by the WTO. Corporatization and Privatization are being welcomed by the Government and the Indian elite.

It is not a coincidence that the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Disinvestment Minister : the men who signed the deal with Enron in India, the men who are selling the country's infrastructure to corporate multinationals, the men who want to privatize water, electricity, oil, coal, steel, health, education and telecommunication : are all members or admirers of the RSS. The RSS is a right wing, ultra-nationalist Hindu guild which has openly admired Hitler and his methods.

The dismantling of democracy is proceeding with the speed and efficiency of a Structural Adjustment Program. While the project of corporate globalization rips through people's lives in India, massive privatization, and labor "reforms" are pushing people off their land and out of their jobs. Hundreds of impoverished farmers are committing suicide by consuming pesticide. Reports of starvation deaths are coming in from all over the country.

While the elite journeys to its imaginary destination somewhere near the top of the world, the dispossessed are spiraling downwards into crime and chaos. This climate of frustration and national disillusionment is the perfect breeding ground, history tells us, for fascism.

The two arms of the Indian Government have evolved the perfect pincer action. While one arm is busy selling India off in chunks, the other, to divert attention, is orchestrating a howling, baying chorus of Hindu nationalism and religious fascism. It is conducting nuclear tests, rewriting history books, burning churches, and demolishing mosques. Censorship, surveillance, the suspension of civil liberties and human rights, the definition of who is an Indian citizen and who is not, particularly with regard to religious minorities, is becoming common practice now.

Last March, in the state of Gujarat, two thousand Muslims were butchered in a State-sponsored pogrom. Muslim women were specially targeted. They were stripped, and gang-raped, before being burned alive. Arsonists burned and looted shops, homes, textiles mills, and mosques.

More than a hundred and fifty thousand Muslims have been driven from their homes. The economic base of the Muslim community has been devastated.

While Gujarat burned, the Indian Prime Minister was on MTV promoting his new poems. In January this year, the Government that orchestrated the killing was voted back into office with a comfortable majority. Nobody has been punished for the genocide. Narendra Modi, architect of the pogrom, proud member of the RSS, has embarked on his second term as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. If he were Saddam Hussein, of course each atrocity would have been on CNN. But since he's not : and since the Indian "market" is open to global investors : the massacre is not even an embarrassing inconvenience.

There are more than one hundred million Muslims in India. A time bomb is ticking in our ancient land.

All this to say that it is a myth that the free market breaks down national barriers. The free market does not threaten national sovereignty, it undermines democracy.

As the disparity between the rich and the poor grows, the fight to corner resources is intensifying. To push through their "sweetheart deals," to corporatize the crops we grow, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the dreams we dream, corporate globalization needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies.

Corporate Globalization : or shall we call it by its name? : Imperialism : needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice.

Meanwhile, the countries of the North harden their borders and stockpile weapons of mass destruction. After all they have to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents and services that are globalized. Not the free movement of people. Not a respect for human rights. Not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons or greenhouse gas emissions or climate change, or : god forbid : justice.

So this : all this : is "empire." This loyal confederation, this obscene accumulation of power, this greatly increased distance between those who make the decisions and those who have to suffer them.

Our fight, our goal, our vision of Another World must be to eliminate that distance.

So how do we resist "Empire"?

The good news is that we're not doing too badly. There have been major victories. Here in Latin America you have had so many : in Bolivia, you have Cochabamba. In Peru, there was the uprising in Arequipa, In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez is holding on, despite the U.S. government's best efforts.

And the world's gaze is on the people of Argentina, who are trying to refashion a country from the ashes of the havoc wrought by the IMF.

In India the movement against corporate globalization is gathering momentum and is poised to become the only real political force to counter religious fascism.

As for corporate globalization's glittering ambassadors : Enron, Bechtel, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson : where were they last year, and where are they now?

And of course here in Brazil we must ask ...who was the president last year, and who is it now?

Still ... many of us have dark moments of hopelessness and despair. We know that under the spreading canopy of the War Against Terrorism, the men in suits are hard at work.

While bombs rain down on us, and cruise missiles skid across the skies, we know that contracts are being signed, patents are being registered, oil pipelines are being laid, natural resources are being plundered, water is being privatized, and George Bush is planning to go to war against Iraq.

If we look at this conflict as a straightforward eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation between "Empire" and those of us who are resisting it, it might seem that we are losing.

But there is another way of looking at it. We, all of us gathered here, have, each in our own way, laid siege to "Empire."

We may not have stopped it in its tracks : yet : but we have stripped it down. We have made it drop its mask. We have forced it into the open. It now stands before us on the world's stage in all it's brutish, iniquitous nakedness.

Empire may well go to war, but it's out in the open now : too ugly to behold its own reflection. Too ugly even to rally its own people. It won't be long before the majority of American people become our allies.

Only a few days ago in Washington, a quarter of a million people marched against the war on Iraq. Each month, the protest is gathering momentum.

Before September 11th 2001 America had a secret history. Secret especially from its own people. But now America's secrets are history, and its history is public knowledge. It's street talk.

Today, we know that every argument that is being used to escalate the war against Iraq is a lie. The most ludicrous of them being the U.S. Government's deep commitment to bring democracy to Iraq.

Killing people to save them from dictatorship or ideological corruption is, of course, an old U.S. government sport. Here in Latin America, you know that better than most.

Nobody doubts that Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator, a murderer (whose worst excesses were supported by the governments of the United States and Great Britain). There's no doubt that Iraqis would be better off without him.

But, then, the whole world would be better off without a certain Mr. Bush. In fact, he is far more dangerous than Saddam Hussein.

So, should we bomb Bush out of the White House?

It's more than clear that Bush is determined to go to war against Iraq, regardless of the facts : and regardless of international public opinion.

In its recruitment drive for allies, The United States is prepared to invent facts.

The charade with weapons inspectors is the U.S. government's offensive, insulting concession to some twisted form of international etiquette. It's like leaving the "doggie door" open for last minute "allies" or maybe the United Nations to crawl through.

But for all intents and purposes, the New War against Iraq has begun.

What can we do?

We can hone our memory, we can learn from our history. We can continue to build public opinion until it becomes a deafening roar.

We can turn the war on Iraq into a fishbowl of the U.S. government's excesses.

We can expose George Bush and Tony Blair : and their allies : for the cowardly baby killers, water poisoners, and pusillanimous long-distance bombers that they are.

We can re-invent civil disobedience in a million different ways. In other words, we can come up with a million ways of becoming a collective pain in the ass.

When George Bush says "you're either with us, or you are with the terrorists" we can say "No thank you." We can let him know that the people of the world do not need to choose between a Malevolent Mickey Mouse and the Mad Mullahs.

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness : and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling : their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

: Arundhati Roy
Porto Alegre, Brazil
January 27, 2003


Annual Report 2010

California River Watch 2010 Annual Statement

River Watch 2010 Annual Report Statement


Annual Report 2009

California River Watch 2009 Annual Statement

The Gulf situation is an utter disaster. Big Petroleum does whatever it wants and our Government, when not complicit, is impotent. We are still in Iraq and Afghanistan despite overwhelming public sentiment that we should not be spending trillions to protect foreign oil interests. Instead, we should use that money for creating jobs at home, educating our children, protecting our environment and the like. Our Health Bill has no public option, not because the People did not want one, but because our Representatives do not represent the People but those who pay the highest amount of dollars. The “free press” has not been free since it was bought off. In a land of immigrants, the political right has been able to create fear and hatred of immigrants. We live in a system that even if it worked as it was designed, it cannot work in this day and age. It is not sustainable. As long as we continue to view the world as a resource to exploit and dominate or delude ourselves into believing that we are stewards of the Earth, we can never hope to live in harmony with nature.

Our world ecological and sociological situation is in a perilous condition. Do not waste time merely hoping or being angry. This is a time of action like no other time in history. Write to your representatives, write President Obama, write BP. Let them know your thoughts and feelings. And do more than that. Support local businesses, reduce your dependence on non-renewal energy, start a garden, be kind to your neighbor, and start doing more to solve the problem than contributing to it. We are the People, we are the Government, we are of the Earth.

If there is anything I have learned about men & women, it is that there is a deeper spirit of altruism than is ever evident. Just as the rivers we see are minor compared to the underground streams, so, too, the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what people carry in their hearts unreleased or scarcely released. (Hu)mankind is waiting and longing for those who can accomplish the task of untying what is knotted, and bringing these underground waters to the surface. – Albert Schweitzer

Annual Report 2008

A Brief History of Environmentalism

Environmentalism is a broad philosophy and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and restoration of the environment. Environmentalism can also be defined as a social movement that seeks to influence the political process by lobbying, activism, and education in order to protect ecosystems. Some would include protecting “natural resources” as an aim of environmentalism. This concept is due to our ethnocentrism. As a participant in ecosystems, we often focus on our personal ecology and health. We see ourselves as something either above, outside of or superior to the environment in which we eat, breathe, and take our being.

The modern environmental movement arose during the Industrial Revolution. Although a concern for environmental protection has recurred in diverse forms in different parts of the world and throughout history.

In the Middle East, the earliest known writings concerned with environmental pollution were Arabic medical treatises written during the “Arab Agricultural Revolution”, beginning in the 9th century, by writers such as Alkindus, Costa ben Luca, Rhazes, Ibn Al-Jazzar, al-Tamimi, al-Masihi, Avicenna, Ali ibn Ridwan, Isaac Israeli ben Solomon, Abd-el-latif, and Ibn al-Nafis. They were concerned with air contamination, water contamination, soil contamination, solid waste mishandling, and environmental assessments of certain localities.

One of the very first western civilization water pollution cases occurred in 1183 when the court of Chandlery banned the discharge of waste into the river Thames from a tanning factory. In 1272 King Edward I of England banned the burning of sea-coal by proclamation in London in 1272, after its smoke had become a problem.

The first large-scale, modern environmental laws came in the form of the British Alkali Acts, passed in 1863, to regulate the deleterious air pollution (gaseous hydrochloric acid) given off by the Leblanc process, used to produce soda ash. As such, modern environmentalism grew out of the amenity movement, which was a reaction to industrialization, the growth of cities, and worsening air and water pollution.

In the United States, the beginnings of an environmental movement can be traced as far back as 1739, when Benjamin Franklin and other Philadelphia residents, citing “public rights,” petitioned the Pennsylvania Assembly to stop waste dumping and remove tanneries from Philadelphia’s commercial district. The U.S. movement expanded in the 1800s, out of concerns for protecting native environments of the West, with individuals such as John Muir and Henry David Thoreau making key philosophical contributions. Thoreau was interested in peoples’ relationship with nature and studied this by living close to nature in a simple life. He published his experiences in the book, Walden, which argues that people should reconnect intimately with nature. Muir came to believe in nature’s inherent right, especially after spending time hiking in Yosemite Valley and studying both the ecology and geology. He successfully lobbied congress to form Yosemite National Park and went on to set up the Sierra Club. The conservationist principles as well as the belief in an inherent right of nature were to become the bedrock of modern environmentalism.

In the early 20th century, environmental ideas continued to grow in popularity and recognition. Efforts were starting to be made to save some wildlife, particularly the American Bison. The death of the last Passenger Pigeon as well as the endangerment of the American Bison helped to focus the minds of conservationists and popularize their concerns. Notably, the National Park Service was founded in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.

In 1949, A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold was published. The Almanac espoused the concept that humankind should have moral respect for the environment and that it is unethical to harm it.

In 1962 Silent Spring by American biologist Rachel Carson was published. The book cataloged the environmental impacts of the indiscriminate spraying of DDT in the U.S. and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of chemicals into the environment without fully understanding their effects on ecology or human health. The book suggested that DDT and other pesticides may cause cancer and that their agricultural use was a threat to wildlife, particularly birds. The resulting public concern lead to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, which subsequently banned the agricultural use of DDT in the U.S. in 1972. The book’s legacy was to produce a far greater awareness of environmental issues and interest into how people affect the environment. With this new interest in the environment came interest in problems such as air pollution and oil spills, which stimulated even more environmental awareness. At age 14, this was the book that set me on the path of environmentalism by shocking me into the awareness of how interconnected we all were on this very amazing but delicate planet.

In the 1970s, the Chipko movement was formed in India; influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, they set up peaceful resistance to deforestation by literally hugging trees (leading to the term “tree huggers”). Their peaceful methods of protest and slogan “ecology is permanent economy” were very influential.

By the mid-1970s, many were aware that humans were on the edge of environmental catastrophe. The Back-to-the-land movement started to form and ideas of environmental ethics joined with anti-Vietnam War sentiments and other political issues. In the 1970s most of the environmental protection laws we enjoy today were passed including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, etc.

In 1979, James Lovelock, a former NASA scientist, published Gaia: A new look at life on Earth, which resurrected and popularized the Gaia Hypothesis; that life on Earth can be understood as a single organism. This became an important part of the Deep Green ideology.

Today the environmental movement is a diverse scientific, social, and political movement. In general terms, environmentalists advocate the sustainability, protection and restoration of the natural environment through changes in public policy and individual behavior. In its recognition of humanity as a participant in ecosystems, the movement is centered around ecology, health, and human rights. Additionally, throughout history, the movement has been incorporated into religion. The movement is represented by a range of organizations, from the large to the grassroots, but representing a younger demographic than is common in other social movements. Due to its large membership with varying and strong beliefs, the movement is not entirely united. Indeed, some argue that an environmental ethic of at least some sort is so urgently needed in all quarters that the broader the better. Conversely, disunity can be a weakness in the face of strong opposition from unsympathetic political and industrial forces.

At River Watch we see protecting the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility. Environmental problems are an inherent part of our industrialized civilization evident in both state socialist and capitalist societies, although this is not a necessary outcome. Our problem is that dominant political ideologies inevitably lead to consumerism, alienation from nature, and resource depletion.

Radical changes are needed in the psychological, economic and political operation of society in order to make it sustainable: a change in mind set; moving away from consumerism; distribution of wealth and resources; better economic designs; new technologies; and, more widely distributed social innovations.

We can neither shop nor protest our way to sustainability. We need community and a better understanding of who and what we are and how to reintegrate ourselves back into the natural order in such a manner that harmonizes our existence with the natural order.

Annual Report 2007

While others may cleverly try and use the letter of the law to subvert its spirit, River Watch believes that just as spirit informs matter the spirit of the law should inform the letter of the law.

To All of Our Supporters:

In 1972 Congress passed the Clean Water Act. Congress declared its objective was “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nations waters.”, and announced a “national goal that the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters be eliminated by 1985.” Nearly a quarter of a century later this goal has not been achieved. Efforts toward achieving it are undermined by dischargers of pollutants unwilling to pay the necessary costs associated with compliance, instead seeking to shift the burden and costs associated with pollution to the general public.

Suspicious of the executive’s commitment to enforce public interest laws, Congress, in its wisdom, placed citizen suit provisions into public interest statutes such as civil rights and environmental laws allowing groups like River Watch to enforce environmental laws when others fear to do so.

In 2001 River Watch sued the City of Healdsburg for discharging treated sewage into Basalt Pond, a water of the United States, without a Clean Water Act permit. The City claimed a permit was not necessary as the Pond was not a water of the United States, basing its claim upon the conservatives’ view that the Clean Water Act only extends protection to waters that are navigable in fact, eliminating 90% of surface waters and wetlands from protection under the Clean Water Act and opening up these areas to development.

After 7 years the lawsuit against the City of Healdsburg finally concluded when the United States Supreme Court declined to review the decision of the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that Basalt Pond was a water of the United States protected by the Clean Water Act.
[ Northern California River Watch v. City of Healdsburg, 2004 U.S. Dist. Lexis 1008, (N.D. Cal. January 23, 2004) ]
[ Northern California River Watch v. City of Healdsburg, 496 F.3d 993 (9th Cir. 2007) ]

The 9th Circuit’s decision in favor of River Watch helped clarify the fractured and muddled Supreme Court’s decision in Rapanos wherein the 4 conservative judges sought to significantly limit the reach of the Clean Water Act but failed to receive a 5th vote except to remand the case for further fact findings.
[ Rapanos v. United States 126 S. Ct. 2208 (2006) ]

The 9th Circuit is by far the largest of the federal courts. Its decision in the Healdsburg lawsuit is authority in all western states and significantly extends protection to surface waters and wetlands beyond the conservative plurality in Rapanos.

Basalt Pond was formed from a gravel pit excavated from 1967 to 1984. The City of Healdsburg began discharging partially treated sewage to Basalt Pond in the late 1970s. At its closest point, Basalt Pond is just 50 feet from the Russian River. A man-made levee separating the Pont from the River is approximately 50 feet at its top. The levee has failed numerous times; and, in the absence of the replacement sections of the levee, the two waterbodies would be in constant contact.

Basalt Pond is a quarter mile wide, a half mile long and 53 feet deep. The City of Healdsburg discharges enough sewage yearly into the Pond to completely fill it. All of this partially treated sewage eventually makes its way to the Russian River. Monitoring wells around the Pond indicated that pollutants originating in Basalt Pond reach the Russian River including chloride, fluoride, arsenic, aluminum, barium, nickel, fluoride, orhtophosphate, phosphate, total dissolved solids and estrogen disruptors.

Like many of the gravel pits adjacent to any surface water, there exists a significant nexus between Basalt Pond and the Russian River. It serves as habitat corridor for birds and other animals as well as replacement habitat for the loss of Russian River still water habitat. Basalt Pond amplifies the capacity of the entire Russian River ecosystem to support resident and migratory birds. It serves as shared habitat for local wildlife and vegetation and acts to filter and purify water draining to the Russian River. Basalt Pond functions as an integral part of the aquatic ecosystem of the Russian River and in essence is an integral part of the Russian River.

To dischargers such as the City of Healdsburg these facts are seen as impediments to their goal of shifting the burden and costs associated with pollution to the general public. River Watch is very proud of its team of volunteers, attorneys, legal assistants and investigators for their work in bringing these facts to light and life through legal activism, and whose efforts have made River Watch one of the most successful environmental public interest groups in Northern California.

Annual Report 2006

The following is an excerpt from a talk given by Stan Grof in January 2005 at the Tomales Bay Institute in Point Reyes Station, CA


Humanity as a whole possesses enormous resources in the form of financial means, technological know-how, manpower and womanpower. Modern science has developed effective means that could solve most urgent problems in today’s world - combat the majority of diseases, eliminate hunger and poverty, reduce the amount of industrial waste, and replace destructive fossil fuels by renewable sources of clean energy. The problems that stand in the way are not economic or technological in nature; their deepest sources lie inside the human personality.

Because of these human problems, unimaginable resources have been wasted in the absurdity of the arms race, power struggle, and pursuit of ‘unlimited growth’. They also prevent a more appropriate distribution of wealth among individuals and nations, as well as a reorientation from purely economic and political concerns to ecological priorities that are critical for survival of life on this planet. Diplomatic negotiations, administrative and legal measures, economic and social sanctions, military interventions, and other similar efforts have had very little success; as a matter of fact, they have often produced more problems than they solved. It is becoming increasingly clear why they had to fail. The strategies used to alleviate this crisis are rooted in the same ideology that created it in the first place. In the last analysis, the current global crisis is a psychospiritual crisis; it reflects the level of consciousness evolution of the human species. It is, therefore, hard to imagine that it could be resolved without a radical inner transformation of humanity on a large scale and its rise to a higher level of emotional maturity and spiritual awareness.

The task of imbuing humanity with an entirely different set of values and goals might appear to us unrealistic and utopian to offer any real hope. Considering the paramount role of violence and greed in human history, the possibility of transforming modern humanity into a species of individuals capable of peaceful coexistence with their fellow men and women, regardless of race, color, and religious or political conviction, certainly does not seem very plausible. We are facing the necessity of instilling humanity with profound ethical values, sensitivity to the needs of others (including other species), acceptance of voluntary simplicity, and a sharp awareness of ecological imperatives.

At first glance, such a task appears too fantastic even for a science-fiction movie. We seem to be involved in a dramatic race in time that has no precedent in the entire history of humanity. What is at stake is nothing less than the future of life on this planet. If we continue the old strategies, which in their consequences are clearly extremely self-destructive, it is unlikely that the human species will survive. However, if a sufficient number of people undergo a process of deep inner transformation, we might reach a stage and level of consciousness evolution at which we will deserve the proud name we have given to our species: homo sapiens.


Annual Report 2005

Dear River Watchers,

River Watch is more than a citizen enforcement organization. We have co-founded and financed other environmental groups, generated funds to pay for worthy projects in the communities in which pollution has occurred, and even made it possible for 50 kids from the Oakland Undercurrents to visit the Monterey Aquarium.

In approaching our tenth year we wish to thank our wonderful environmental community for its support.

These are challenging times for environmental protection. At the federal level, the Bush Administration, with the help of the U.S. Congress, is eroding environmental protections and sacrificing some of our wildest and most special places for the short-term profits of a few of their friends. Here closer to home, we are losing our native salmon, riparian forests, and clean water. Gravel mining continues on the Russian River, eroding the River’s banks, and wiping out vegetation. Open gravel pit mines are reducing groundwater storage and leaving permanent, pollutant-filled holes along the Russian River’s flood plains. While East Coast states have strict controls on stormwater pollution, the Russian River is allowed to receive untreated stormwater from nearly all urban drains in the watershed. Local, state and federal agencies charged with protecting the environment and the public trust have not done so.

Those scientists who follow the rule of reason and who respect the principle of the best evidence, inform us we are creating an imbalance in the relationship between civilization and the earth. Pollution and habitat destruction are some of our greatest environmental issues. Dedicated to protecting wildlife and habitat (including human), California River Watch has undertaken specialized programs which focus on pollution impacts to wildlife and their habitats, helping to create a healthier world for all living things.


River Watch’s aggressive program to pursue compliance with federal pollution laws is having a substantial effect in the North Coast Region. The ripples of our actions have reached all the way to Washington, D.C. and to London. At home much of our actions go unnoticed by the press. Litigation is controversial but productive. It is our policy to avoid litigation whenever possible, but without the will to follow through with appropriate action, no one would take us seriously.

Gravel Mining - We will continue to litigate against mining operations. Gravel mining is a highly destructive practice which destroys habitat for endangered salmonids and other aquatic life, increases sediment which further degrades habitat, and destroys the natural ability of a river to filter itself. Our approach has been to bring a Clean Water Act case against gravel companies and to establish a precedence which can be used to stop these devastating practices (see our most recent decision in the case of River Watch v. Mercer Fraser).

Forest Practices - Forest practices include the cutting of trees, building of roads, conversion of timber land to agriculture (such as grapes), spraying of herbicides, etc. All these practices cause enormous amounts of pollution to be washed into creeks and streams.

Aquatic pesticide and herbicide use -9th Circuit law has made the spraying of pesticides or herbicides (either directly or indirectly) into surface waters illegal without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. We intend to bring actions against the indiscriminate spraying of insecticides and herbicides used to clear vegetation from surface waters.

Public Owner Treatment Works - River Watch will continue to pursue sewage treatment plants - particularly those which with leaking collections systems which contaminate ground water.

Underground Storage Tanks -River Watch will continue to pursue oil companies which have eluded clean up and stuck us with their bill. Our chief concern is pollution of drinking water sources both surface as well as subsurface.

Pollution Source Control - River Watch will continue to seek an elimination or reduction of source control pollution such as dairy waste, agricultural runoff, and nutrient loading from other sources, all of which cause degradation of the watersheds.

Donate Now!

River Watch works by and through the diligence of its members and others concerned about public health and protection of the environment. However, to continue to do this work we need your support. River Watch is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your tax-deductible contribution will help fund investigations, benefit the Healthy Waters Project, and define best practices for avoiding and mitigating pollution and other costs associated with River Watch's environmental citizen enforcement actions. Members may also contact River Watch with complaints of water pollution in their area. River Watch investigates complaints and works with the business or public agency to mitigate the problem.


Annual Report 2004

Extended Holiday for Pollution Violators

Dear River Watchers,

With the re-election of Bush in 2004, River Watch and all its members will face another four year battle against Bush administration policies to hold violators of Clean Water laws accountable.

According to a report released in October 2004 by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), a nonpartisan organization that advocates for more effective enforcement of environmental laws, civil lawsuits by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are down 75% over the last three years with the current Bush Administration. For the first time, EPA's annual report excluded the number of judicial cases actually settled. Eric Schaeffer, EIP project director and former head of EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement comments, "And no wonder, the agency's online data base shows that the Justice Department was able to conclude fewer than 160 enforcement actions in 2004, the lowest by far in the 10 years such data has been tracked." Schaeffer also says that Justice averaged more than 230 settlements during each of the last six years of the Clinton administration. Schaeffer observers that "major polluters are now enjoying an extended holiday under the current management of the EPA, because the agency is much more reluctant to take polluters to court when they refuse to clean up or comply with environmental laws."

Meanwhile, EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance reports that a quarter of the nation's largest industrial plants and water treatment facilities are in serious violation of pollution standards at any one time, yet only a fraction of them face formal enforcement actions. EPA suggests that more than half of stormwater runoff discharges do not comply with simple best management practices (BMPs) and most states do not even bother tracking compliance. Recent reports by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Center for Progressive Regulation document that only 23% of wastewater standards are enforced in California. Experts from EIP, Earth Justice and NRDC say that it will be up to the state and citizens to stop pollution when EPA fails to act. Citizen action groups like River Watch are up for the challenge.

In 2004, River Watch was successfully in stopping Rep. Mike Thompson's attempts to curtail citizen action suits. Thompson suggested that citizens should not be able to bring suits regardless of diligence or effectiveness of governmental enforcement. After an extensive letter/e-mail writing campaign as well as articles in the North Bay Progressive, InsideEPA and other publications, Congressman Thompson's office has stated he does not intend to submit any legislation seeking changes in the Clean Water Act. Thank you to all who participated in our letter writing campaign!

You can contribute to our Healthy Waters Program by reporting ground and surface water pollution to our River Watch office. We are also accepting donations which go to support our many programs.

For 2005, let's keep in mind a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, "No man is above the law . . . compliance with the law is demanded as a right, not asked as a favor."


Litigation Report 2004

River Watch's aggressive program to pursue compliance is having a substantial effect in the North Coast Region. The ripples of our actions have reached all the way to Washington, D.C. where dischargers have lobbied their representatives to change the laws (see Rep. Mike Thompson response letters on the River Watch website). The more effective we are the more criticism we engender. Litigation is controversial but productive. It is our policy to avoid litigation whenever possible, but without the will to follow through our "threat" with appropriate action, no one would take us seriously.

In a true atmosphere seeking compliance through co-operation vs. litigation River Watch has been seeking tolling agreements with every polluter to whom a Notice Letter is sent. The tolling agreement offers an agreement to not file suit for a certain period of time in exchange for the polluter's agreement to cooperate with our investigation. River Watch also agrees to share the findings of its investigation with the polluter and seek a non-litigious solution. The hope is to reduce hostilities and costs, as well as promote more cooperation rather than forcing polluters through the use of the courts.


Successes in 2004

Municipal Sewage Systems

City of Healdsburg
In January of 2004, after a full bench trial, River Watch prevailed against the City of Healdsburg in its suit to save Basalt Pond from further degradation due to Healdsburg's unregulated discharges. The issue in this case goes to the heart of the Clean Water Act - protecting to the fullest extent possible waters of the United States against unregulated discharges. For decades the City of Healdsburg has dumped its treated sewage into Basalt Pond, a large abandoned gravel mining pit which has been reclaimed by nature and lies directly adjacent to the Russian River. The issue in this case was whether Basalt Pond and/or its wetlands fell within the navigable waters of the United States such that a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit was required. The court found that the Pond and wetlands were "waters of the United States" within the meaning of the Clean Water Act.

The court reasoned that the Pond, the River, and the wetlands all shared the same ecosystem. The wetlands in question helped filter pollutants entering the aquifer and hence the River proper. In every way the Pond and wetlands were "adjacent to" the Russian River. The court's decision can be found on the River Watch web site. Healdsburg has appealed and we expect the appeal to be heard sometime this year. River Watch joined forces with the Western Environmental Law Center for the appeal. In addition to the gravel mining industry, this case has the coal, paper mill and sanitary treatment industries madly lobbying Washington D.C. and Sacramento to eliminate a citizen's rights to bring such actions.

City of Eureka
After numerous starts and stops including seeking to coordinate enforcement efforts with EPIC and appeals from staff at the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) River Watch agreed to temporally resolve its claims against Eureka and allow the RWQCB to seek enforcement of claims raised by River Watch. In exchange Eureka agreed to fund a first flush study of Humboldt Bay. The study was conducted this year and yielded valuable information concerning non-point pollution.



River Watch followed a series of gas station owners to track down the responsible parties and to get these gasoline station sites cleaned up. All these stations started as Mobile which were bought by BP than Tosco who is now owned by Philips. These facilities have caused petroleum contamination of soil and groundwater which presents an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment. River Watch was able to successfully resolve these cases requiring the owners and operators to remediate and clean up the sites as well as conduct studies to eliminate the change of future pollution.

Occhipinti, Inc.
Occhipinti operates a retail gasoline and diesel station in Santa Rosa. The RWQCB served Occhipinti with a Cleanup and Abatement Order. Occhipinti failed to respond to any of our offers of a tolling agreement, therefore we are in active litigation. Although River Watch settled with Walter Properties, Inc., the property owner, William Occhipinti the business operator on the site, has been non-responsive and allowed a default to be filed against him. We are waiting for him to begin remediation of his site. We have asked the court to mandate clean up and remediation of the site.

Humboldt Petroleum
Humboldt Petroleum Inc. (HPI) owns and operates between 20-30 gasoline stations in Northern California. Most have leaking tanks, most have had little or no remediation for more than a decade. River Watch previously sued HPI but was preempted by the local district attorney under Proposition 65, who in turn struck a sweetheart deal with HPI. Two years later no significant work has been conducted at any of these sites. (as a side note our case was dismissed by Judge Vaughan Walker 1st cousin of George Walker Bush). We re-filed suit in 2004 alleging new discharges and lack of progress on cleaning up the sites. The case was dismissed again on the basis that the prior state case preempted the new federal case. We have appealed this decision and have asked the court of appeals to allow us to proceed on the merits of this case. We expect the appeal will be decided sometime this year.


Future Cases

Gravel Mining
We continue to look into and have filed suits against specific gravel mining operations. Gravel mining is a highly destructive practice which destroys habitat for endangered salmonids and other aquatic life, increases sediment further degrading habitat, and destroys the natural ability of a river to filter itself. Our approach will be to bring a Clean Water Act case against one of the gravel mining companies in hopes of establishing some precedence which can be used to stop these devastating practices.

Forest Practices
Forest practices include the cutting of trees, building of roads, conversion of timber land to agriculture (such as grapes), spraying of herbicides, etc., all of which cause enormous amounts of pollution to be washed into creeks and streams. EPIC through Earth Justice has filed a suit against Pacific Lumber under the Clean Water Act to stop these practices. River Watch is looking for similar conduct in order to pursue similar claims.

Aquatic pesticide and herbicide use
Recent 9th Circuit law has made the spraying of pesticides or herbicides either directly or indirectly into surface waters illegal without a NPDES permit. We intend to bring actions against the dischargers for indiscriminate pesticide spraying and certain municipalities or counties for the use of herbicides to clear vegetation from surface waters.

River Watch will continue to pursue sewage treatment plants as well as ground water contamination due to leaking underground storage tanks. With regard to sewage treatment plants the focus is on the endangerment to surface waters due to leaking collection systems. With regard to underground storage tanks, the major concern is contamination of surface and ground water.

Donate Now!
River Watch works by the diligence of its members and others concerned about public health and protection of the environment. However, to continue to do this work we need your support. For an annual membership fee you will receive our newsletter, plus special mailings about upcoming events and workshops sponsored by River Watch. River Watch is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your tax-deductible contribution will help fund investigations, the Healthy Waters Project, defining best practices for avoiding and mitigating pollution and other costs associated with River Watch's environmental citizen enforcement actions. Members may also contact River Watch with complaints of water pollution in their area. River Watch investigates complaints and works with the business or public agency to mitigate the problem.

YES! I support California River Watch. Enclosed is my check for:

$500 $100 $50 $25 Other

City, State, Zip
Phone, Fax, E-mail

Mail contributions to: California River Watch
6741 Sebastopol Ave. Ste 140. Sebastopol, CA 95472, Ph / F: 707 824-4372
E-mail:, Web:

Notable Quotes

"If we are saying that the loss of species in and of itself is inherently bad - I don't think we know enough about how the world works to say that."
-Interior Department Assistant Secretary Craig Manson, appointed by President Bush to position overseeing the Endangered Species Act, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 12, 2003

"First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win."

"Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods."
-President Bush, Austin, Texas, Dec. 20, 2000

"We need an energy bill that encourages consumption."
-President Bush, Sept. 23, 2002, Trenton, New Jersey, speech

River Watch has been successful in mitigating water pollution caused by numerous industries, including oil companies, lumber mills, gravel quarries, wine factories, and composting facilities. These cases dealt with preventing facilities from discharging pollutants to the tributaries of the Russian River and the Russian River, itself. Because of the action taken by River Watch, each case resulted in abatement, cleanup, and remediation.

River Watch
6741 Sebastopol Ave.
Suite 140 Sebastopol, CA 95472
Ph/F 707 824-4372

Board of Directors
Margaret Bacigalupi
Michelle Conte
David Gordon
Lisa Mador
Ralph Metzner
Robert Rawson

Programs / Development
Marylyn Chiang

California River Watch Annual Report 2003

Victory for Wetlands and Adjacent Waters!

Dear River Watchers,

Our recent legal victory against the City of Healdsburg's unabated use of Basalt Pond, a former gravel pond, for its wastewater disposal is a major breakthrough for the strengthening the Clean Water Act. The decision, as well as recent press articles, is featured on our webpage at This is a major victory for the Russian River and its inhabitants, including all downstream domestic and municipal well users. Public support for this decision has been overwhelming, including a recent Editorial in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, which boldly proclaimed the underlying facts of the case: "After all, the pond sits adjacent to the river, which means the discharges end up in the river."

We would hope that as a result of this judgment, the City of Healdsburg and all other dischargers into the Russian River will pursue a course that takes into consideration the water quality concerns of its downstream neighbors. We look forward to seeing that these objectives are indeed met, but unfortunately, there remains much more work to be done.

While this legal victory is a significant step in ensuring this goal, we understand that the City of Healdsburg has appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. We remain confident that this decision will be upheld, but Healdsburg's persistence in pursuing a course of avoidance rather than compliance is particularly disturbing. Furthermore, Healdsburg has enlisted the support of powerful allies, such as the City of Santa Rosa, who share an ongoing interest in utilizing former gravel ponds for wastewater storage and disposal along the precious Middle Reach of the Russian River and reportedly is assisting Healdsburg in its appeal.

We have worked too hard to protect this area from such lawless and destructive practices of the past to sit idly by and watch them destroy it in this manner. River Watch has invested a tremendous amount of time, money, and resources into securing this decision for the health of the Russian River and all who use and enjoy it. We thank all of our contributors of the past for their generous support. However, we will need substantial additional resources in which to continue this effort as well as fund the appeal.

Aside from protecting the Russian River, a favorable decision in this case will expand similar protections to adjacent waterways across the United States, setting a huge precedent with far-reaching implications.

We are asking for your support with a monetary contribution to help offset our expenses as we prepare to defend an appeal to the Ninth Circuit. With your help, we can send the message loud and clear that we will not have the Russian River turned into storage grounds for sewage.

River Watch Protecting Surface Waters

A recent Gallup Poll conducted last March indicated that water quality concerns were at the top of the list of environmental concerns for Americans, with more than half those polled "worrying a great deal" about the quality of their drinking water, and 79% expressing some level of worry. The poll also found that Americans with lower incomes tend to have greater concern about water pollution.

West Nile Virus Brings Toxic Tide to California's Waters
Damaging Flood Control practices and poor management in general of North Coast waterways has led to superb breeding conditions for mosquitoes, and most recently, those which harbor the West Nile Virus. In an effort to avert this 'crisis', many mosquito abatement districts are moving to secure the rights to spray hazardous chemical herbicides directly to our rivers, creeks, and streams. Case Law has ruled that such applications to any waters of the United States are illegal without an NPDES permit. Following such plans by the Marin-Sonoma Mosquito Abatement District to inundate the Laguna de Santa Rosa with toxic herbicides, River Watch sent a Notice of Intent to sue the District under the Federal Clean Water Act if it proceeded further. River Watch remains committed to outlining non-toxic measures to eradicate the West Nile Virus, but not at the cost of harming endangered salmonids and other aquatic species. See our Editorial included on the Page 5 insert.

Waivers or Favors?
Outgoing Governor Gray Davis signed SB 810, authored by State Senator Jim Burton (D - San Francisco) and supported by several environmental groups, including River Watch. This Bill formally gives the Regional Water Quality Control Board more jurisdiction over water quality concerns included in Timber Harvest Plans, especially those of which the California Department of Forestry acts negligent. We wish to congratulate all those who supported this Bill by writing to the governor, or their Assemblymember throughout this process. River Watch submitted a 4-page petition of your signatures supporting this Bill in the week leading up to the signing of this historic new regulation. Whether it's an eleventh-hour attempt to preserve his legacy, or a truly meaningful step towards protecting our rivers and streams, this Bill passed on from Gov. Gray Davis and now rests in the hands of California's new leadership.

River Watch Launches Dairy Compliance
With all the uproar about Mad Cow Disease resurfacing, it might be easy to overlook another cow-related public health hazard affecting our creeks and streams. Pollution from dairies via storm water runoff continues unabated, and regulatory agencies admit they lack sufficient resources to ensure existing laws are enforced. Yet dairy waste continues to enter our streams and produce high amounts of nitrates and phosphates, rendering miles of tributaries uninhabitable for fish and other aquatic species.

It is with that reality in mind that River Watch launched its Dairy Compliance Program to address polluted stormwater runoff from large dairy operations. We began by producing and distributing a packet to dairy owners that included an explanation of stormwater management, suggested resources and conservation practices specifically for dairies, and a contact sheet with agency personnel, Resource Conservation Districts, as well as fellow dairymen who were involved in the State Stormwater Permit and Management System. River Watch also began dialog with Clover Stornetta Farms with regard to the formation of a partnership which will promote implementation of stormwater runoff control practices, monitoring, and reporting. We are also in the midst of creating a Clean Water Certification program once dairies have installed stormwater pollution prevention plans and eliminated discharges to our creeks and streams.

River Watch Protecting Ground Water

Groundwater Contamination
Groundwater contamination is a particularly disturbing epidemic that results from careless industrial processes. The most common pollutants originate from Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) that are used to store hazardous, toxic, and carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and MTBE. For the most part, solvents and other chemical contaminants that leak from these tanks move laterally through plumes where they are detected by monitoring wells as required by law. Some of the heavier materials, such as MTBE and perchlorate, can migrate downward where they threaten groundwater aquifers. Enforcement tends to be lax despite the existence of the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Fund, which customers pay into each time they fill up their car with gasoline. Money generated from the LUST Fund is supposed to be used solely for the purpose of cleanups and remediation of sites found to be contaminating nearby soil and groundwater. Like adding insult to injury, a number of environmental consultation firms, licensed to utilize these funds for cleanups, have been investigated in recent years for fraudulent claims and failure to complete the work they had received LUST funds for. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer took up the cause of prosecuting a number of these fraudulent claims, stating that "The Legislature established this Fund to protect public health and safety. Citizens and taxpayers can ill afford a rip-off of this vital program, especially as the state suffers unprecedented fiscal woes."

River Watch has been aggressively pursuing enforcement by litigating those facilities that have been operating in non-compliance and refusing to take responsibility for pollution of soil and groundwater supplies. We have also began tracking those who have benefited from these funds by ill-gotten gains, including failure to perform required or necessary cleanup or deceiving the public interest by committing fraud.

River Watch has been successful in mitigating water pollution caused by numerous industries, including oil companies, lumber mills, gravel quarries, wine factories, and composting facilities. These cases dealt with preventing facilities from discharging pollutants to the tributaries of the Russian River and the Russian River, itself. Because of the action taken by River Watch, each case resulted in abatement, cleanup, and remediation.

Toxic Tide over Calm Waters
By Toben Dilworth
Recent editorials and letters to the editor, while directing the public's attention toward the possible West Nile Virus threat, have overlooked major factors that have contributed to the mismanagement of the Laguna and the ensuing mosquito problem.

The source of the mosquito problem has properly been identified as the Ludwigia plant, but the conditions that have let this plant proliferate haven't received the scrutiny they deserve.

The Laguna has been listed under the Clean Water Act's 303(d) List of Impaired Water Bodies as one of the North Coast's most polluted waterways. The nutrient-rich waters of the Laguna have created the conditions by which the Ludwigia flourishes. The nutrients arrive in a steady influx from the Laguna sewage plant and dairy runoff.

These factors are at the root of the current debacle, but plans to spray the Laguna seem to overlay the real problem by creating a false sense of fear and use the West Nile virus as a means to inundate the Laguna with herbicides.

While spraying has been portrayed as a solution to short-term concerns, the toll it will take on the long-term health of the ecosystem and the public have not been evaluated. Neither have the effects on aquatic species, insects and invertebrates, not to mention the birds, and other predators that feed on them. Despite studies that say that mosquito adulticides and herbicides are safe for aquatic life, there have been significant findings linking them to deformities in frogs and endocrine disruption in fish. The EPA, under pressure from chemical companies to rush products to market, often produces authorization of chemicals with "pending assessments." Some are still pending.

Humans are not exempt from these negative effects, which include such symptoms as birth defects, disruption of hormone regulation, neurological damage and cancer. These risks far outweigh the calculated risks of getting West Nile - 1.7 in every 100,000 people. Symptoms of the West Nile virus itself have largely been exaggerated while findings indicate that someone who has been infected with the virus is likely to have life-long immunity to the disease whether or not they exhibit any symptoms. It should also be noted that in many cases throughout the country, and particularly the East Coast where they have been dealing with the virus for years, a common trend has shown that in the areas toxic adulticides and/or herbicides have been applied to eradicate mosquitoes, more instances of insinuating illnesses were reported due to exposure to chemical sprays than actual cases of the virus.

Spraying herbicides will exacerbate problems of the already imperiled Laguna while setting a dangerous precedent for the future mismanagement of our watersheds. Public health hazards cannot be alleviated by compounding one on top of another.

Most communities that started out with rigorous spraying of chemicals have found non-toxic measures to be more efficient in controlling the West Nile Virus. Resources exist from organizations such as Beyond Pesticides, based in Washington, D.C. about non-toxic management of mosquitoes and the West Nile Virus. Cities such as Ft. Worth, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Lyndhurst, Ohio have passed resolutions prohibiting the spraying of chemicals specifically in efforts to help control the spread of the West Nile virus.

Closer to home, we can focus on long term strategies that are aimed at controlling the source of the problem: the nutrient loading of the Laguna. This includes effective runoff control management for dairies along the Laguna and putting a stop to the Santa Rosa Subregional Wastewater Plant's illicit discharges to the Laguna and Russian River ecosystem.

A version of this Article appeared in the Sonoma West Times and News, North Bay Progressive, and Sonoma Valley Voice

Join River Watch
River Watch works by the diligence of its members and others concerned about public health and protection of the environment. However, to continue to do this work we need your support. For an annual membership fee you will receive our newsletter, plus special mailings about upcoming events and workshops sponsored by River Watch. River Watch is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your tax-deductible contribution will help fund investigations, the Healthy Waters Project, defining best practices for avoiding and mitigating pollution and other costs associated with River Watch's environmental citizen enforcement actions. Members may also contact River Watch with complaints of water pollution in their area. River Watch investigates complaints and works with the business or public agency to mitigate the problem.

YES! I support California River Watch. Enclosed is my check for:

$500 $100 $50 $25 Other

City, State, Zip
Phone, Fax, E-mail

Mail contributions to: California River Watch
PO Box 1360, Occidental CA 95465, Ph / F: 707 874-2579
E-mail:, Web:

Printed on Recycled Paper

River Watch
PO Box 1360
Occidental, CA 95465
Ph/F 707 874 2579

Board of Directors
Margaret Bacigalupi
Michelle Conte
David Gordon
Lisa Mador
Ralph Metzner
Robert Rawson

Programs / Development
Toben Dilworth

California River Watch is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public interest citizen based environmental enforcement group.

California River Watch Annual Report 2002-2003

Clean Water Act Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Dear River Watchers,

2002 was the 30th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Since its passage in 1972 the Clean Water Act has been the principle law governing pollution control and water quality of the nation's waterways. It established objectives for restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of all rivers, lakes, streams, tributaries, wetlands, and groundwater. Additional objectives were to make all waters of the United States fishable and swimmable by eliminating all pollutant discharges into waters of the U.S. by 1985 and securing healthy waters for fish, shellfish, wildlife, and people by 1983.

The Clean Water Act has been praised as one of the most successful United States environmental laws. Through its enforcement significant improvements have been made to clean up the nation's waterways. It has allowed for substantial decreases in the quantities of contaminants discharged into waterways, made improvements in drinking water quality and has worked to reduce numbers of net wetlands lost to development. Overall safety of waterways for fishing and swimming have generally increased. However, the threats facing the health of our waters and the Clean Water Act have never been more dire.

Recent reports by the Environmental Protection Agency suggest that the nation's water has grown more foul, indicating that the percentage of polluted streams is rising. A five-year study commissioned by the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment revealed that the United States may have no streams left that are free from chemical contamination which clearly poses severe threats to public health and safety. The report also highlights shocking numbers of plant and animal species at risk of extinction due to contaminated water.

At this time, the Bush administration is moving to dismantle key provisions of environmental protection within the Clean Water Act in direct defiance of the public interest. A recent report published by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Clean Water Network aptly titled Clean Water at Risk: A 30th Anniversary Assessment of the Bush Administration's Rollback of Clean Water Protections yields some startling facts and statistics of the dangers that our waters face in the coming years. Using a relentless series of unprecedented attacks aimed against the very foundations of the Clean Water Act, the Bush Administration is presently seeking to: eliminate key provisions that protect wetlands from development, strip many of our creeks and tributaries from regulatory protections under the Clean Water Act, derail cleanup of polluted waters, and effectively withdraw proposals to limit the discharge of raw sewage into our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Add to this a looming budgetary crisis within the state of California which will only lead to drastic reductions in regulatory enforcement abilities.

River Watch believes that it is only a matter of time before attempts to systematically undermine the public's right to intervene and protect our precious waters will be compromised. We will continue working to defend water quality in spite of these threats and will continue to bring citizen suits to ensure the health and protection of all rivers, streams, tributaries, oceans, bays, wetlands, surface and groundwater throughout the North Coast Region.

River Watch Clean Water Act Enforcements

Protecting Groundwater

Recent findings throughout California point to a very serious threat to drinking water supplies. Perchlorate, a highly toxic rocket fuel ingredient, has been detected in large areas that serve as a primary drinking water source for a large percentage of residents. MTBE, a gasoline additive with carcinogenic properties, is estimated to have already infected one third of the nation's community water supplies. River Watch has been highly effective in addressing threats posed by toxic contaminants that threaten groundwater and drinking water supplies. Below is a summary of 2002 actions that have led to cleanup and remediation efforts throughout our region.

Equilon Enterprises, LLC
Problem: Contamination to Santa Rosa Creek due to leaking underground storage tank at a gas station facility owned and operated by Equilon in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County.
RW Action and Results: A complete excavation, cleanup and abatement of the site was completed. In addition, Equilon will increase its monitoring in and around Santa Rosa Creek. Our settlement includes built-in incentives for full compliance by Equilon in the event of violations or contamination of nearby wells and surface waters.

Mission Oil (Rotten Robbie)
Problem: Soil and groundwater contamination of petroleum, benzene, and toluene from under ground storage tanks at two sites located in Santa Rosa and Rhonert Park, Sonoma County.
RW Action and Results: After River Watch filed a lawsuit under the California Safe Drinking Water & Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65), Mission Oil agreed to clean up and abatement at each site.

MALM Fireplaces
Problem: Nearby contamination of wells with TCE, a commonly used solvent for degreasing metals. TCE is a human carcinogen and is a chemical known to the State to cause cancer. Groundwater and soil gasses underlying this Santa Rosa site were also shown to be contaminated with volatile organic compounds which were indicated to be moving subsurface into nearby Colgan Creek.
RW Action and Results: River Watch filed suit and MALM agreed to settle by submitting a work/cleanup plan which includes a schedule to cleanup the facility within one year. MALM also will have EnviroNet Consulting conduct an environmental audit to determine compliance with all environmental laws.

Protecting Surface Waters

One of the major sources of harm to our water resources and to public health is substandard sewage treatment facilities. In many communities, violations of the Clean Water Act stem from antiquated collection systems, undersized facilities, old equipment, and inconsistent maintenance schedules. Many violators do nothing about solving their pollution problems until someone steps in. Often there has been years of on-going pollution and failure to comply with clean up and cease and desist orders before a citizen suit is filed. The suit finally brings people to the table to negotiate definite plans for cleanup and remediation.

City of Crescent City
Problem: River Watch sued the City of Crescent City for violations of requirements of NPDS permits, the Basin Plan, and the Code of Federal Regulation. Crescent City exceeded discharge limitations, effluent limitations, receiving water limitations, and failed to adequately report continual discharges of raw sewage into the Pacific Ocean. Crescent City failed to maintain its collection system and continually discharged coliform organisms into receiving waters. It also failed to monitor and report detection levels required by law for chromium, lead, mercury, arsenic, dieldrin, heptachlor, and toxaphene.
RW Action and Results: The City will implement a number of measures to address the potential for overflows with its collection system which include replacing its outfall pumps. The City will implement a detailed monitoring system on all of its treated effluent that it discharges. A compliance audit of the City's POTW has been conducted by an expert as well as a creek/sewer line study measuring for coliform upstream and downstream of any water body located within 100 feet of a City owned or operated sewer line.

City of Willits
Problem: After six months of negotiating with very little cooperation from Willits staff or city council, River Watch was forced to file suit. The City of Willits was violating the law by discharging excess effluent to sensitive wetlands containing endangered plant species. When Willits could not meet its dilution ratio during direct discharge to surface waters, it would "irrigate" the often-inundated wetlands with excess effluent, which would runoff into a nearby creek.
RW Action and Results: The City of Willits will cease its illicit discharges to wetlands during the winter months and will conduct a compliance audit and a comprehensive creek and sewer line study which includes water quality monitoring up and downstream for pollutants such as coliform.

Municipality of Covelo
Problem: Covelo's wastewater treatment plant discharges into Grist Creek, a tributary of the Eel River. Covelo has agreed to address water pollution and public health concerns by working with River Watch. In this case legal counsel for River Watch worked on a pro bono basis with no attorney's fees and without seeking monetary penalties.
RW Action and Results: The community is working to comply with the Clean Water Act under an agreement with River Watch, by submitting self- monitoring reports, and to reducing run-off from their waste disposal facilities to nearby creeks and streams.

City of Ferndale
Problem: The City of Ferndale had numerous problems including lack of reporting, monitoring, and illegal overland flow system.
RW Action and Results: The spirit of cooperation between RW and Ferndale led to a settlement without the need to file suit through several visits to the Ferndale facilities and numerous discussions with RW experts. A resolution of all of RW's concerns will result in an independent compliance audit made public as well as Ferndale redesigning its monitoring and reporting program. Ferndale will contribute $5,000 to Community Clean Water Institute for remediation funds to be used for water quality education.

Hay's Septage
Problem: This septage disposal site in Mendocino County had chronic pollution problems due to illegal discharges both directly and indirectly to a nearby creek with raw sewage material.
RW Action and Results: Only after RW filed suit did the Regional Water Quality Control Board agree to take control of the site and supervise compliance. Hay is no longer discharging to open land and the site has been re-opened under extensive RWQCB supervision. RW supports these types of facilities as long as they are operating in full compliance, and believes that compliance was only achieved in this case through the filing of a lawsuit.

Current Cases - Protecting the Middle Reach of the Russian River

City of Healdsburg
Healdsburg owns, maintains, and operates a wastewater treatment, refuse and disposal facility that serves the City of Healdsburg and adjacent areas. The treatment facility has chronic pollution problems associated with its antiquated collection system, undersized facility, old equipment, and inconsistent maintenance schedule. Treated effluent is disposed of in Basalt Pond located south of the facility and adjacent to the Russian River. Basalt Pond is hydrologically connected to the Russian River and can be considered a tributary to the Russian River, and therefore waters of the United States. Due to its proximity to and hydrological connection with the Russian River, Basalt Pond discharges directly to the Russian River. Each day that Healdsburg discharges into Basalt Pond it is violating the Clean Water Act. Healdsburg has no NPDES permit allowing it to discharge to any waters of the United States.

Syar Industries
Syar Industries owns and operates a sand and gravel processing operation and facility that consists of aggregate washing and grading as well as asphalt-concrete plant. The facility is adjacent to the Russian River. Syar has failed to comply with the terms and conditions of California's General Industrial Storm Water Permit for Industrial Storm Water Discharges. River Watch is seeking to bring the facility into compliance with the procedural requirements of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit.

River Watch works to educate and activate citizens through a broad-based public advocacy program. River Watch makes every attempt to reach a mutual agreement through cooperation rather than litigation. However, if cooperation fails River Watch brings a citizen's suit to prevent any further harm.

Remediation Funds returned to the community:

River Watch gains no monetary benefit from its enforcement actions. Instead, River Watch seeks "penalties" from the polluter in the form of remediation funds, which go back to community non-profit organizations to redress previous or future harm.

River Watch works with legal counsel and lawyers from public interest law firms. All cases are on a contingency basis or pro-bono. Expense reimbursements and legal fees are determined by the judge or agreements reached by consensus by all parties with mediators.

River Watch has been successful in mitigating water pollution caused by numerous industries, including oil companies, lumber mills, gravel quarries, wine factories, and composting facilities. These cases dealt with preventing facilities from discharging pollutants to the tributaries of the Russian River and the Russian River, itself. Because of the action taken by River Watch, each case resulted in abatement, cleanup, and remediation.