The Upper Trinity River

The Trinity River, which begins in the Trinity Alps and eventually joins the Lower Klamath River on its way to the Pacific Ocean, is renowned for its strong returns of both steelhead and salmon. The river serves as both a recreational haven for fisherman and other outdoor enthusiasts as well as a subsistence fishery for the Hoopa Indian Tribe. Over a decade ago, habitat studies were initiated whose results led to the establishment of the Trinity River Restoration Program (TRRP), which began efforts to reverse damage caused by dam and water diversion projects established during the 1950s and 1960s and to restore naturally-spawning populations of salmon and steelhead to near pre-dam levels. Today, fishing guides and the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) are calling for a halt to these restoration efforts.

In a letter to the TRRP, co-authored by the Trinity River Guide Association and C-WIN, these organizations are requesting that a moratorium be placed on further restoration efforts -- halting Phase 2 of the TRRP slated to begin in 2012 -- until a proper assessment of Phase 1 efforts can be completed. Specifically, Phase 1 efforts have raised concerns regarding the fill-in of holding pools due to the introduction of excess gravel introduction into the river as well as the failure of side channels constructed as part of restoration efforts. The letter calls the TRRP's restoration efforts "ill-designed", stating that there has been "significant negative environmental consequences of the TRRP’s actions that have not been adequately analyzed ... and we can no longer idly stand by."

That slick red zipper is now black. You won't care.

I hate waders. Hate. I'm using the word hate, here. About waders. As soon as I'm physically able to tolerate still-frigid spring water and air temps, I'm wet wading. I usually make this jump too soon and end up regretting it, subsequently going back to the waders for another week or two before I can really stow them until autumn rolls around. I mean, why not hate waders? They're bulky, uncomfortable, a drag to take put on and take off and just generally inconvenient.

Admittedly, I've never had any of the true high-end waders, but that's simply because i find the idea of paying $750 for a nylon bag with legs objectionable. That said, I've been through many pairs of waders ranging in price from $125 to $400. Never really liked one of 'em. Lousy fit, tiny pockets, no pockets, poor durability, leaked like a sieve, you name it.

Black Eagle Dam in Great Falls

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in a case where the methods of determining stream ownership rights are at issue. In the case, PPL Montana LLC vs. Montana, the Supreme Court is faced with deciding what the proper criteria for determining whether a river is navigable, specifically as it relates to title rights, is the current navigability of a river or the navigability of a river at the time the state in which it is found was incorporated. Though this distinction may seem insignificant, the court's decision could have far reaching impacts on stream access rights around the country.

PPL Montana, a Montana power generation company that owns hydroelectric dams on the famous Missouri, Madison and Clark Fork Rivers, is arguing that the Montana Supreme Court decision which gave ownership rights of the streambeds of these three rivers to the State of Montana was an erroneous one. Both sides will present arguments on what the proper legal distinction determining navigability is, and both sides reportedly plan to cite information from the historical Lewis and Clark expedition.

Wetlands, which provide vital fish and wildlife habitat, face decreased protection if the current bill passes. Photo: NOAA.

Advocacy groups are urging individuals to take action to help prevent the passage of a Senate Energy and Water Development bill which contains amendments that seek to limit the ability of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to enforce regulations established by the Clean Water Act. The bill, proposed by senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Dean Heller (R-NV), establishes provisions that would prevent the two agencies from altering or updating guidelines that define what types of water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act.

The amendments in the bill, H.R. 2354, were drafted as a response to efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA to draft new rules and regulations which clarify what water bodies fall under the Clean Water Act's protections. These agency efforts to reduce ambiguity concerning what water bodies are protected are a direct result of a series of Supreme Court Decisions and directives by the Bush administration which introduced the uncertainty. Specifically, ambiguity was recently introduced regarding whether certain wetlands and water bodies that may run dry during certain seasons or drought conditions are considered protected by the Clean Water Act.

A scene from Moshannon State Forest, which is home to one of Pennsylvania's worst drilling accidents to date.

Despite offering funding for environmental and conservation focused organizations, such as Growing Greener and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, advocacy groups have been sharply critical of two bills passed last week by the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives. Each body passed their own versions of similar bills designed to address regulations and fee assessments related to drilling operations extracting natural gas from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale formation. The Senate passed SB 1110, while the House passed HB 1950. Both bills established new, stricter regulations regarding drilling practices within the state but, according to one environmental advocacy group, were "stuffed full of goodies for the multinational drilling industry, but likely to sicken local communities, the environment, and taxpayers."

The two bills were most sharply criticized for limiting the ability of local governments to regulate how drilling takes place in their communities as well as levying only minimal fees on the drilling companies. Particular exception was taken to the impact fee assessment specified by the House bill, HB 1950, which establishes a fee of only 1 percent. Furthermore, this 1 percent fee in HB 1950 is also optional and open to negotiation by drilling companies.