San Joaquin River Reborn

For First Time in 60 Years, Water Begins to Flow

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (October 1, 2009) – Californians will be witness to a historic event today: the revival of the San Joaquin, one of the West’s largest rivers. For the first time in almost 60 years, flows will be released from Friant Dam down the dry San Joaquin riverbed as a critical first step toward bringing a river and vital public resource back to life.

The flows are the first major milestone under a historic settlement agreement reached in 2006 between the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friant Water Users Authority and the federal government over the de-watering of the river that devastated one of California's largest salmon runs. The settlement ended 18 years of legal battles and initiated one of the largest river restoration projects in the nation.

NRDC said that restoring flows and the historic salmon runs on the San Joaquin will help California’s ailing commercial salmon industry, create jobs and help improve water quality in the Bay-Delta, a source of drinking water for 22 million Californians. This historic restoration effort serves as an important example of how farmers, fishermen, environmentalists, state and federal agencies can work together to implement real solutions to California’s conflicts over water resources.

Following is a statement by Monty Schmitt, Senior Water Resources Scientist and San Joaquin River Restoration Project Manager at the NRDC:

“Restoring flows today to the San Joaquin River reflects commitment on the part of farmers, fishermen, state and federal agencies and environmentalists to implement real solutions to California water resource challenges.

“These first flows to the San Joaquin are evidence of the dedication and hard work of many to restore California’s second largest river and once-abundant salmon fisheries while continuing to support the state’s agricultural economy. The restoration effort will create construction-related jobs, help revive the commercial salmon fishing industry, and bring a vital public resource back to life for future generations to enjoy. Restoring the San Joaquin River also will improve water quality for farmers and millions of Californians who rely on the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta for their water supply.

“While the water released today is a fraction of the historic flows, it will enable the collection of information critical to improving our understanding of the river and how best to design a successful long-term program with the limited water available that achieves the program’s restoration and water management goals.”

For more information read Monty Schmitt’s blog at

More about the NRDC settlement: