Interior Department proposes more recreation use for San Joaquin River

WASHINGTON, D.C.
October 25, 2011 9:03am
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•  Says it will support grassroots efforts

•  ‘We are listening to the people of California’


A call to make the San Joaquin River more of a recreational river than merely a conduit for irrigation water is expected to be included in a new Department of the Interior report scheduled to be released soon.

The report is to outline what Interior thinks are some of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world.

The department is proposing two in each state. The other proposal for California is for more recreation along the Los Angeles River, often seen in movies for its usually dry concrete channels used for high-speed car chases.

The projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities, the Interior Department says.

It says the designations came only after what it calls “close engagement with Gov. Jerry Brown and the state of California, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders.”

“Under the America’s ‘Great Outdoors Initiative,’ we are listening to the people of California and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” says Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “We will do all we can to help move them forward.”

In 2006, the San Joaquin River Restoration Program settled an 18-year lawsuit regarding the provision of sufficient water for fish habitat in the San Joaquin River. The program is a comprehensive, long-term effort to restore flows from Friant Dam to the confluence with the Merced River. It will re-establish vital habitat on a stretch of river. “Among the benefits are restoring large areas of desiccated habitat and reinstating salmon runs in the watershed while avoiding adverse impacts on water supply,” Interior says.

It adds that if various river restoration projects came to fruition, what might result would be the “San Joaquin River National Blueway,” seen as a network of parks, wildlife refuges, and other public-access areas creating recreational opportunities on land and water.

The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In California, for example, the Department could support restoration flows to the San Joaquin River, as well as the reintroduction of salmon. It could also support new recreation access to the river.

Along the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers, additional trail improvements by local governments and nonprofits could be financed with grants awarded through State Parks’ Office of Grants and Local Services, it says.

The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality, it says.

“The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government’s role in conservation on its head,” says Mr. Salazar. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”


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