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