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.