Tales of the San Joaquin: A River Restored 2014 short


(sound of water) (soft music) Voiceover:Through the vast
Central Valley of California runs a once mighty river known as the San Joaquin, named in the year 1805
by Spanish explorers. Back then, the river was
more than 350 miles long. At one time, the San Joaquin carried a rich trade
of steamboat commerce. But for many, the rivers
greatest contribution has been the creation of
California’s Central Valley, the richest agricultural region
the world has ever known. In some places, that
same San Joaquin River has literally disappeared. Our journey beings at the source of the San Joaquin River, in
the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The river is born here, as melting snow water
flows from Banner Peak and the surrounding mountains into Thousand Lake. As the river gathers force, it tumbles over Rainbow Falls. But, before the river can
reach the Central Valley, it encounters a massive roadblock. Here, we’ve reached Friant Dam, owned and operated by The United
States Bureau of Reclamation. Antonio:This is Millerton Lake. If you had a column on a football field, 100 miles high, that would
be the volume of water behind Friant Dam. Back in the ’30s, the decision was made by the state of California
and the Federal Government to dam the San Joaquin River and eliminate the salmon and to take this water and to use it for farmers on
the east side of the valley, knowing willing that the state was going to give up that species. Voiceover:When completed in 1949, Friant Dam began to divert
the San Joaquin’s water into 2 side canals. One smaller canal runs to the north, while the other, much
larger, 150 miles south into what had been a desert. At the next stop on our journey, we discover why any water at all continues to flow below Friant Dam. Bud:I was born about
a half mile from here. 80 years ago, this is place that I played, in the river here. I knew every rock in the river. It’s completely different today. Salmon would come in the
spring time and spawn. You could almost walk across
the river on Salmon here. It was a great place to live. My dad was born in Missouri and he was an orphan boy. Worked hard and he loved the outdoors. In about 1938 the Bill Reclamation notified all land owners
adjacent to the river that they were going to dry the river up and transport all that water either south of [Vegasville] or north. When they started doing what they
were going to do (soft music) to this river, it was part of him and other farmers along this river. They knew they had to do something to protect the river. Voiceover:It was the
middle of the depression. To hire the best attorneys they could, but Ranks father went door to door asking for donations, a dollar here, 5 dollars there. Together, the farmers and their attorneys fought the Bureau of
Reclamation for 16 years. In the end, the farmers
won only a partial victory. Less than 10% of the San Joaquin’s water would be allowed to flow pass the dam. Enough to water the fields
of the downstream famers, but not enough to save the river. Bud:In that, they lost most of it, but they still got a live
stream here maintain, which they would not have had if they hadn’t take it to court. Voiceover:So unique is this rare stretch of the old San Joaquin, that local citizens have established The San Joaquin River Parkway
and Conservation Trust. Working in tandem with the Parkway Trust, Bud Rank was able to dedicate
a portion of the land that he and his father
farmed for more than 70 years as a public park and wildlife preserve. Grant:We’ve got about
175 of those going in throughout the entire plain here, in 4 separate areas. These are acorns, valley
oaks that were collected by the Central High School students. This will be a forest. You’re going to hear all kinds of birds. You’re gonna probably look and peer into the San Joaquin River and you’re gonna know that there are fish that migrate back and forth and that the tributaries are feeding into a healthier river. Voiceover:30 miles below Friant Dam we join Walt Shubin as he describes what he likes to call his lifelong lover
affair with San Joaquin. Walt:When you talk about
the San Joaquin River I’ve enjoyed it for over 50 years now. Hang on, we’re gonna go for a ride. More like 60 years. Hang on. Here we go. Wow! (laughs) Whoa! (laughs) This upper part of the San Joaquin River, I can’t describe the beauty of it. It’s so relaxing and it takes
your mind off of everything. It’s so beautiful. Voiceover:Where the river once
ran as wide as half a mile, we approach the next stop on our journey. These fading remnants of a river-side dock mark the final stop of
the last steamboat voyage on the San Joaquin River. (soft music) The date was June
15th and the year was 1911. More than a thousand people
from the surrounding farms showed up to witness the
last paddlewheel steamboat to make it’s way up river. They might have shared the sentiments of one riverboat pilot,
by the name of Mark Twain. “The face of the water,” he wrote, “became a wonderful book” “and it had a new story to tell everyday.” Then, with a sudden call
of it’s steam whistle, (sound of whistle) the J.R. McDonald turned down river and steamed into history. From here, the fading San Joaquin continues westward into
the Central Valley. Only 40 miles below Friant Dam, we approach the place
where the river runs dry. Here we join a water specialist with the Friant Water Users Authority, the organization that manages contracts for water diversion at Friant Dam. Douglas:It seems so unlikely every time I see it. You see this flow, right? I mean, you can see the flow, you can see the ripples in the water and then, 2 seconds later,
there’s no flow anymore. Voiceover:These are
literally the last drops of the original San Joaquin. Douglas:The question is, how much water do you need to restore the San Joaquin River based on your definition of restore. I wish it was just as easy as if you put some dang
water down the channel it would be fixed. But, it’s not. Voiceover:Walt Shubin has been
forced to abandon his canoe and continue of foot. Walt:This is the mighty San Joaquin and when we used to do this in canoes, this was probably 10 feet deep. This whole thing, before the dam, is where we would watch the salmon jump across the [unintelligible], by the thousands. Just thousands and thousands of them. (soft music) I hope in my lifetime that they actually restore
the river somewhat. I would like to see
water going to the ocean and get our salmon runs restored. Voiceover:At the next stop on our journey, we meet a retired farmer who understand the importance of water to the valley of the San Joaquin. Pete:Without the water, the
soil would be nothing but dust. In other words, we’re not like midwest we’re they have enough
rainfall to raise a crop. Irrigation is number one in this country. Without water, we’re dead. Voiceover:To replace the
water diverted in 1949 by Friant Dam, The Bureau of Reclamation had another idea, build another canal. This one to import water
from Northern California, from the Delta, where the Sacramento, San Joaquin and other rivers flow together to form a vast inland marsh that
connects with San Francisco Bay and bring that water southward. The new canal carries the
imported water from the Delta, 150 miles south, to a
reservoir called Mendota Pool. The imported water, destined to meet the needs of
farmers like Pete Cardella, is then released northward into the original river
channel of the San Joaquin. Because of it’s contact
with the San Francisco Bay, the imported water is much saltier than the original San Joaquin and there’s no salmon in it. But, if you step back and take a look,
(soft music) you’d think the old San Joaquin had been resurrected. Just around the next bend lies the small town Firebaugh. Phyllis:We used to come right here and the river was right there. Man in hat:Next to this. Phyllis:We’d throw our hook in there and put our feet in there and there we stayed all day. If it was running, if
this was salmon season, you would see them from right here. They would just be on top
of the water, hundreds. If you didn’t see it yourself, you would say, “No, that’s not true.” But, it was true. Voiceover:To reserve their
piece of the San Joaquin, local residents have
created a Riverside Park. Dorice:It kind of takes
your troubles away. It gives you something
else to think about. You realize that there’s other things going on in the world
than wars and famine. This gives you a peaceful
place to come to. Voiceover:As we leave the haven of Firebaugh City Park behind, the river channel continues to carry the imported water northward,
toward San Francisco Bay. But, the slender thread of
water headed to our left is not the San Joaquin River. Instead, it is one more canal and this one takes the last
of the Delta Mendota water away from the San Joaquin to irrigate farm land farther to the west. The river that once ran the
length of the Central Valley now comes to its end for the second time. But, based on a single paragraph
(soft music) in the code of California’s
Department of Fish and Game, The Natural Resources Defense Council and The Bay Institute, joined forces with 13 other
fishing and conservation groups to file a lawsuit against
the owner of Friant Dam, The United States Bureau of Reclamation. The code reads in part, “The owner of any dam
shall allow sufficient” “water to flow through the dam to keep” “in good condition andy
fish that may exist” “below the dam.” (sound of siren) (soft music) Walt:This river’s been dry for 60 years, prior to this lawsuit. Water is a public right. It’s the most precious thing on earth. We want water in this river to put water back into
our [unintelligible]. Boy and it’s coming along. (laughs) Amazing. No matter how they tried
to screw up this river, all you have to do is
put water back into it and it’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful. This almost makes me want to cry, to see what greed has done to this river. It’s a tough fight. Put me in charge, there’d be
water in the river right now. This is what’s frustrating. But, I still think there’s hope. As long as we keep
fighting, there’s a chance. But, if we quit fighting,
the parities over. We can’t let that happen. Don:This is not a continuous water flow all the way up to spawning
habitat up by Fresno, Friant area. So, if a fish does go
through this river system, they’re kind of – they’re lost. They’re gonna go us a
slew in a farmers canal or they’re gonna die because
there’s no spawning habitat for a hundred miles. So, what we’re doing with the salmon, capturing them and moving
them upstream to Friant. They will come back, so hopefully we build
it and they will come. (soft music) Big female, that was a good one. We’re gonna have a continuous flow for these fish to migrate
up to Friant eventually and then they will spawn on their own. We just don’t want to give
a lot of stress to the fish, since we have an hour and
a half ride in the car. He is a male. He’s milting right now. Do you want me to grab
the [unintelligible]? Just kind of – We let them regain their
balance in the water after a little bit of stress. We hang on to him and let
him go away on his own. Yep, see there he goes. Voiceover:What once was, may yet be again, along the mighty San Joaquin River. Antonio:A football field
stacked a hundred miles. Pete:Could go out there
with 10 gauge shot guns and they could kill 20, 30
ducks and geese in 1 shot. That’s how think they were. Phyllis:One thing I’ll never forget is the salmon coming up here and trying to get across that dam. Dorice:It wasn’t just the Mississippi
River that had paddle boats, we did too. Bud:It makes me proud
that this is happening. I mean, something gonna be
here for 50 years from now, that people can enjoy. Walt:Boy, there’s gold, pure gold. That water’s worth more
money than oil, gold, silver. It’s life.

31 thoughts on “Tales of the San Joaquin: A River Restored 2014 short

  1. No water going down those canals this year, all of the water coming from friant dam is going down the river, all 200 cubic feet per second.

  2. Very sad set of circumstances. California is a great state, but not everyone in the world can live there, or exist off its agriculture. Sadly, the politicians will not be happy until the Central Valley becomes the Los Angeles basin. California, on its current path, is destined for ruin. The farmers who are holding the water hostage will eventually sell to a land developer and history will repeat… I know I am being negative, but as long as the population continues to grow, the San Joaquin "restore project" is doomed. Especially if the experts are correct about longer and more severe droughts as a result of climate change….

  3. Please do an expose on the corrupt, and illegal, privatization of the Central Valley water source that is being sold to the rich of Los Angeles a scientifically hazardous place to populate…but this beautiful video really made my day 🙂

  4. That dam is cause of all problems, screwing the eco-system , flooding up sediment that is meant to go downstream, stopping all fish going upstream. And the landscape it creates is horrible… The dam must be removed !

  5. OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY . I have been on that river for 40 yrs.
    And was not familiar with all the facts. But that's the way it is wth these Government Son's of Bitch's . Litigate until there's no one left to recall

  6. The comparison to this is amazing:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax5A3r_z4KA

  7. Growing up, my Dad couldn't fish around Stockton…..we had to really pick our spots…too many fish were yellow belly.  Have they fixed the discharge finally?  I doubt it would help for several decades because of the farm runoff and all the buildup of sediment, old truck tires etc that have littered the riverbed.

  8. 90 % of treated water is released to the ocean. Algae clean it and eat Co2 nitrogen. Origin Clear already cleaning oil well water onsite. New algae separation..hydro electric catalytic separator. Game changer.

  9. California burning. No Lol. Population 39 million + and a couple of firefighters with small bore hoses (One each) trying to moisten the residential areas of tens of thousands of properties. Maybe they can save four or five houses. The land and vegetation is parched dry. As dry as oven baked paper. Warm. Thousands of square miles of drought dried forests. Combustable forests. Dry. Very dry. If ever there was a time to have plenty of water. It must be when wild fires are burning up vast areas of tinderdry woodland, bush, farm crops, forrestry, houses, trucks, wildlife and people.
    Friday 8 December 2017.

  10. Best documentary I've seen on our Salmon Run thank you for whoever did that

  11. I very much enjoyed this film.
    A heart breaking story, well told and beautifully photographed.
    Thanks.

  12. consider this would it not be more affordable to just build a set of salmon stairs at the poso co. area in dos palos ca valeria st. mp trucks fuel man power wages insurance and most of all the stress layed onto the salmon…… that saved money could go back into the upkeep of small town sjr parks giving back to the community and nature… well wake up!!!!

  13. I have lived here my whole life and I would love the river back the only thing I know about the old days is what my Dad told me but we also need that water to refill the under ground water supply! The farmers grow our food so we need them too, there has to be a balance!

  14. Instead of new dams why not just take the lakes we have and dig them larger just remove the dirt and rocks out behind the dams and slowly increase the holding capacities of the existing lakes. Come on get some trucks and tractors and when the water is low dig out the lake bottom and make the lakes bigger and deeper! I know a dam can only hold back so much water but come on it not rocket science!

  15. Its always back in the early 1900s. That is when the destruction began. Dams, the redwood forest. Now they can't figure out what the hell is going on. It aint rocket science.

  16. So, after 16 years in Federal Court, the Gov't lost and had to let water back into the San Joaquin River. But the Gov't did not release enough water to get to the sea. What's the point? Next, the spawn of the salmon they re-introduced up river at Friant, will never get to the sea. They will all die south of Friant. Are the baby salmon a sacrifice to leverage for more water. Is that correct?

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