Some Garcia River History

The effort in the Garcia has a lot of history. John Hooper summarizes – below. I worked on FrOGs Board and with CAG. CAG did the TMDL litigation and has continued with water issues that the somewhat retired FrOGgies are just learning about. The process goes on – as it never ends. Some day I will retire.

From John:

Dear Editor: Thank you for Peter Fimrite’s encouraging front page story about evidence of coho salmon recovery in the Garcia River: “Scientists thrilled by surprising find of fish”; Saturday, November 1, 2008.

While improved logging in large parts of the watershed now being practiced by the Conservation Fund, Mendocino Redwood Company, and other landowners is greatly helping restore the Garcia’s fishery, it would be a misunderstanding to view the recovery of the coho population as a trend which began when the Conservation Fund and the Nature Conservancy got involved in Garcia River restoration. This is an important point because river restoration efforts (and associated long-term funding) need to be understood and developed as twenty, thirty, even fifty year programs. And the Garcia River restoration effort is well over 20 years old.

Serious fishery restoration started in the Garcia River in the 1980s when Friends of the Garcia (FROG) became concerned about instream gravel mining in the river blocking fish passage and heating up the river. The group eventually forced two gravel mining companies out of the river.

The Coastal Conservancy then funded a study which resulted in the 1992 Garcia River Watershed Enhancement Plan, the basic blueprint which has been used to guide restoration efforts ever since. FROG was soon joined by Coast Action Group, Cal Trout and other committed neighbors to force EPA, through successful litigation, to complete a TMDL study ( a sediment budget, in effect) on the Garcia River, the first such study done in California and a lawsuit which resulted in the establishment of schedules for completion of TMDL studies on 17 coastal salmon streams.

During those contentious years, FROG also fought to have the Garcia River recognized as navigable, assuring that the public has the right to canoe and kayak in the river and hike along its banks. FROG also fought keep the riverbed from being overrun by joyriding all-terrain vehicles during the summer months.

In the early 1990s, typically, timber harvest plans covering 5000 acres were filed in the watershed every year. Louisiana-Pacific, Georgia Pacific and Coastal Forestlands were removing practically every conifer over 12 inches in diameter on their extensive properties. During most of the 1990s, through continuing efforts commenting on logging plans and mapping the cumulative impacts of logging, FROG, Coast Action group and others eventually reduced that logged acreage by 90% to only about 500 acres per year.

Currently, FROG views the greatest threat to the Garcia River’s fishery to be over-pumping the river for agricultural, development and residential purposes. There are several proposals pending in the watershed which, taken together, could require more water use than the river can provide. FROG has petitioned the State Water Resources Control Board to have the Garcia declared fully appropriated to insure that adequate water is safeguarded in the river for fish and wildlife during low flow months.

FROG and other local groups and residents look forward to continue working closely with the Conservation fund, The Nature Conservancy and Mendocino Redwood Co. on ongoing threats to the river.


John Hooper