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Public urged to help save river

by Tom Cochrane, President,
Friends of the Gualala River,
March, 2002

We live in a threatened world with limited natural resources and the concept of sustainability seems far from our grasp. Sustainability involves using our resources with as little harm to our environment as possible, but maintaining a healthy economy while still providing for equity among the potential users.

Last year California experienced an energy crisis and now the water grab proposal by Alaska Water Exports has caused us to re-examine our position in the environmental movement. Many of us, indeed most of us, are deeply concerned over the degradation of our environment and many of us are involved with environmental groups. Most of these groups were formed to deal with a single issue.

We supported the formation of the Gualala River Watershed Council as a broader venue under which all the watershed issues could be brought together. The GRWC guidelines evolved by the stakeholders seek consensus and discourage confrontation. The role of the GRWC has developed into a repository for the acquisition of scientific data and the promotion of restoration efforts. Grant monies are restoring roads, emplacing woody debris in the streams and directing an estuary study. As to the long range view, I hope that the GRWC will develop a comprehensive watershed management plan that most stakeholders can subscribe to.

The missing item is for a group that can be an advocate that speaks for our Gualala River on not just the water bag issue but many issues of environmental concern. If local residents are to have a major voice in shaping the decisions that affect our watershed and environment, then we need to develop a long term, broad reaching campaign toward that end.

Friends of the Gualala River (FoGR) appears to be the group that can lead this effort. FoGR was formed in 1992 by Vivian Green and a small group of local residents. This group is part of the Redwood Coast Watershed Alliance (RCWA), which is the parent 501(c)(3) corporation. RCWA consists of several local coastal watershed groups, including Friends of the Garcia, the Albion River Watershed Protection Association and several other watershed groups just north of us. Since the formation of the Gualala River Watershed Council, FoGR has been basically inactive, although Vivian Green and Tom Cochrane have maintained membership in RCWA, attended watershed conferences, meetings and continue to stay on important mailing lists.

The recent effort to combat the Alaska Water Export water grab by the newly formed group SORE (Save our River Estuary) points to the need for a long term effort by an advocacy group to speak for our river. The SORE group has agreed to merge into Friends of the Gualala River.

Friends of the Gualala River is planning an event on Saturday, April 13th, 7 to 9 PM at the Gualala Community Center. At this meeting we will sign up new members, fill our Steering Committee and elect officers for the following year. This is your opportunity to become involved and to shape the direction of Friends of the Gualala River’s future efforts.

[This letter originally appeared in the Independent Coast Observer on March 29, 2002, and marked the re-invigoration of Friends of the Gualala River.]