Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance Pays

By Patrick Koepele

Back in 2009, the State Water Board initiated an update of the Bay Delta Plan. Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor and the iPhone had only been around for about 1 ½ years. We are now 10 years in to the Bay Delta Plan process, and although Phase 1, which dealt with the San Joaquin River and its tributaries was completed late last year, Phase 2, which deals with the Sacramento River and Delta outflows, is still ongoing, and Phase 3, during which the board will actually implement the plan and require new river flows, has not yet begun.

Back in 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) began the process of relicensing the Don Pedro Dam. Jerry Brown had just begun his second stint as Governor and Siri become the voice of iPhones. We are now 8 years in to what is supposed to be a 5 year process. FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was issued in February of this year but when a Final EIS will be released is unknown. The date of a new license for Don Pedro Dam is even more nebulous, since it depends on receiving approval from the State, which the State is unlikely to do until it has completed the Bay Delta Plan update!

When I began working for the Trust, one of my first projects was the Big Bend Project, which took about 6 years to work through acquiring the property, planning and permitting, and the actual restoration work. Working to buy the Dos Rios Ranch took us 10 years to complete; restoration work has been ongoing for the past 7 years and will likely continue for several years more. Removing Dennett Dam was a 9 year process, soup to nuts.

The point is not to depress you, but to impress upon you how long restoring a river can take. As Mary Oliver admonishes in her poem At the River Clarion, “Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.”

As I have experienced so many times while raising kids, the house can get pretty thoroughly turned upside down in seemingly minutes, and then we spend many hours putting it all back together. While I exaggerate somewhat, if this ratio of destruction to restoration time applies to the river, we are looking at many years of work ahead of us!

I am so grateful that so many of you are dedicated to the river! And so many of you are persistent and determined to see it protected and restored despite the seemingly endless policy proceedings and permitting processes required to enact real restoration. Together we have accomplished many good things and together we will have many more victories ahead of us!

Rivers aren’t restored in a few weeks, days, or months, but we can be the generation that took a bold stand to protect these incredible places and resources. Thank you for standing by TRT’s side as we continually work to improve the health of the river!

For the river,

PATRICK KOEPELE