In the Fall of 2008, a group of non-profit organizations began gathering on a regular basis to share ideas for improving conditions of the San Joaquin River’s natural resources and enhancing Californian’s quality of life. Quickly, the group realized they could leverage their efforts by working together to advance mutual goals. They saw a unique and timely opportunity to assist with implementation of the extensive multi-agency San Joaquin River Restoration Program. Through working in a coordinated and intentional way, the group found it could overcome the barrier of tracking an array of programs and policies and could effectively engage the many federal, state, and local agencies responsible for river resources. In May 2009, the non-profit organizations formalized their working relationship and formed the San Joaquin River Partnership, whose geographic scope is the entire River, from its headwaters in the Sierra to the Delta. The San Joaquin River Partnership includes an array of scientists, volunteers, and conservationists with decades of experience eager to participate in bringing the River back to life. Our member organizations have implemented projects to improve water quality and supplies, provide flood protection, remove invasive species, and provide educational and recreational opportunities to their communities. Collectively, we have extensive experience acquiring and managing land, and engaging in policy discussions at all levels of government.
By working with private landowners, government agencies, and community organizations, the Partnership seeks to support the full implementation of the San Joaquin Restoration Program, including the restoration of flows and habitat sufficient to support a natural, self-sustaining salmon population. The Partnership is equally committed to supporting the advancement of the additional opportunities presented by the implementation of the Program to further benefit Valley residents and the people of California. These ‘Restoration Plus’ opportunities include:
- Recreational, educational, environmental, public health, and aesthetic benefits for Valley residents and visitors
- The creation of jobs and other economic benefits for local communities
- Improved quality of life for valley residents
- Cleaner, safer and more reliable water supplies
- A robust and sustainable agricultural economy and way of life
- Restoration and protection of the River’s upper watershed
- The creation of ecologically significant corridors, riparian habitat, wetlands, and floodplains along the River
- Community pride, awareness, and engagement in the revitalization of the River
- Healthy populations of migratory birds and local wildlife, including the recovery of endangered species
- River restoration that is durable in the face of climate change impacts
- Successful public/private River revitalization partnerships
- Coordination, support and partnership with similar efforts on the River’s tributaries
An Opportunity To Restore The River
In 2006, a settlement was reached between the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Friant Water Users Authority, and the U.S. Departments of Interior and Commerce, ending a 20 year lawsuit over the dewatering of the River and the loss of the salmon runs. The settlement resulted in the creation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP), made up of the implementing state and federal agencies. The SJRRP is tasked with restoring the River and improving water management, and has the opportunity to bring water use and ecosystem needs into balance to benefit all Californians.
In March of 2009, the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama approved the implementing legislation and funding for the SJRRP. The settlement and the implementing legislation outline a carefully balanced plan that water users and environmental groups developed in 2006 to revive the River with a focus on two key goals: 1) restore water flows adequate to recreate a living River with naturally-producing and self-sustaining populations of salmon and other fish, between Friant Dam and the Merced River confluence, and 2) to develop a water management plan to help provide water supplies to support a vibrant agricultural economy.
While the focus of the SJRRP is on river flows, salmon restoration, and water supply projects, it also has the potential to provide additional benefits to the diverse communities of the San Joaquin Valley. Restoring a living San Joaquin River can improve the health of Valley residents, provide flood protection benefits, and provide recreational, educational, and tourism opportunities. In addition, the SJRRP will provide jobs for Valley residents and bring public funds to local communities. However, it is not the responsibility of the SJRRP to seek out and incorporate opportunities to maximize benefits to the San Joaquin Valley.
The Partnership’s Role in the San Joaquin River Restoration Program
The San Joaquin River Restoration Program is an enormous project that will require the participation of state, federal, and local agencies, landowners, and nonprofit organizations if it is to succeed. While the state and federal agencies have responsibility for specific infrastructure projects, the San Joaquin River Partnership will be able to fill in the gaps in areas where the agencies will not be operating. The Partnership will support the implementation effort while also seeking out additional opportunities along the entire River from its headwaters in the Sierra to the Delta.
Members of our Partnership have a presence in the communities of the San Joaquin Valley and will work with local governments to coordinate land use plans and local policies to support the success of the Settlement. We will reach out to local landowners and work to improve land management practices to support our new landscape. We will teach the public, and especially youth, about the importance of a balanced, ecologically viable river system.
San Joaquin River Partnership: In support of a living river and a vibrant Central Valley