Jim McCarthy's Blog Posts

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Jim McCarthy's blog posts
15 June 2012, 1:01 PM
Fish-friendly project on Sacramento nears completion
Chinook salmon

One of the most significant measures undertaken to protect California’s iconic Sacramento River salmon runs and improve fish passage will enter its final stage this summer.

Workers are completing a new, more fish-friendly pumping station at the former Red Bluff Diversion Dam, a river-spanning structure operated by the Tehama Colusa Canal Authority. The dam’s seasonal operations had provided water for 150,000 agricultural acres for decades, but also prevented threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon and other fish from migrating to and from their spawning grounds.

The win-win project is the result of trailbreaking efforts by Earthjustice attorneys to help struggling Sacramento salmon populations. Those efforts started way back in 1988, when scientists realized that the river’s once-mighty winter-run Chinook salmon population was headed for extinction.

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22 September 2011, 1:18 PM
Once-abundant salmon runs could be revived
Young tribal member watches Elwha Dam flow

This week, workers began tearing down two massive dams on Washington’s Elwha River. Together, the 108-foot high Elwha Dam and the nearby 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam have stood for nearly a century -- as barriers between seven distinct native salmon runs and their natal streams in the Olympic National Park.

The removal and restoration, hailed as the largest in American history, represents the culmination of more than 20 years of effort by local tribal members, dedicated activists and a few good attorneys, including an Earthjustice lawyer named Ron Wilson.

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21 September 2011, 3:01 PM
Judge upholds science on Delta salmon recovery plan
Chinook salmon

On Tuesday, a Fresno judge issued a mixed ruling on a federal salmon rebuilding plan critical to the survival of struggling Central Valley salmon runs as well as to the livelihoods of fishing families and communities throughout California and coastal Oregon.

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20 April 2011, 5:40 PM
Fishing groups pitch restoration message during president's visit
King salmon. (Photo: Zureks / Wikimedia)

President Barack Obama came to California on Wednesday on a fundraising blitz, and California's salmon-dependent communities tried a blitz of their own to turn his attention towards protecting the Sacramento River king salmon run. San Francisco Bay Area commercial and sportfishing groups, restaurants and seafood distributors published a half page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle on page A9. Longtime California troller Tom Stickel and his working salmon boat Regina served as spokesmodels for their message.

There’s not much to add to what they had to say to the president, and in the hopes he listens to California’s fishing businesses, it’s worth repeating here:

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13 April 2011, 12:20 PM
Despite surge in fall chinook run, Sacramento fish protections still needed
Sacramento River salmon

The excitement for the return of wild king salmon to restaurants and stores this spring and summer is nearly matched by anxiety.

People fear that this now-rebounding seafood mainstay and regional jobs powerhouse will be decimated by politically driven efforts in Congress to gut science-based protections for fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Basin.

That hope mixed with anxiety was reflected in a letter sent today by sustainable seafood luminaries from across the nation, urging President Obama to protect one of America's last great remaining natural food sources—the wild salmon of California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Basin.

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01 November 2010, 1:29 PM
Salmon, steelhead re-appear in areas once dammed
Drift boat navigates Savage Rapids on Rogue River after dam was demolished.

Oregon's second largest run of salmon outside the Columbia Basin is returning home to a remodeled Rogue River this fall, and it looks as if they like the updated digs.

The storied Rogue has been the setting for the most significant series of dam removals yet seen in the western United States, with four dams down in the last three years, opening up 157 continuous miles of free-flowing mainstem river for the first time in more than a century. Tributaries included, the removals have provided salmon and steelhead better access to 333 miles of habitat upstream of the former dams.

The human efforts to remove the dams stretched over 20 years—with Earthjustice attorney Mike Sherwood playing a key role along with local allies like WaterWatch of Oregon—but salmon have wasted no time in taking advantage of the fish-friendly changes.

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03 September 2010, 3:04 PM
Have fun and help keep California's salmon swimming wild

September is Salmon Month at San Francisco's Aquarium of the Bay. Sponsored by the SalmonAID coalition - of which Earthjustice is a member - Salmon Month brings together more than two dozen conservation, commercial and sportfishing organizations, as well as the West Coast's best restaurants in order to educate the public about wild salmon and the perils they face across our coast. This wide-ranging coalition motivates citizens to take actions that protect our amazing wild salmon and the rivers they call home.

Salmon Month will feature fun and informative exhibits every day—including an Earthjustice video on the importance of wild salmon - as well as the following special events:

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23 July 2010, 10:29 AM
Water must be restored to avoid major damage to fish, wildlife
Sacramento River salmon

California's delta is being sucked into oblivion by big agriculture and Southern California, and its fish and wildlife will suffer permanent harm if water diversions aren't reduced, a new report warns <Read the full report here>.

Yesterday, the staff of California's State Water Control Resources Board released their recommendations identifying the freshwater flows needed to support wildlife and ecosystems in the West Coast's most important estuary. The Stockton Record immediately seized on the report in a columnist's scathing attack on the state itself:

This is big. This is not some environmental group saying Delta fish need more water. This is not a scientific panel easy to ignore. This is the state of California itself. The very state that brutally exploited the Delta, from its dam-it-up mentality of the 20th Century to the send-it-south policy persisting to this day.

The recommendations -- to dramatically increase flows to the delta - mirror calls for more water by fish biologists and other scientists who have studied the problem for years. The report also supports the findings of two recent court-ordered federal plans - won by Earthjustice attorneys - calling for increased flows to prevent the extinction of protected fish species. Indeed, some of the state recommendations exceed those required in the federal plans.

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04 June 2010, 12:10 PM
Earthjustice fights back in court
Bone dry stretch of the Scott River. Photo: Klamath Riverkeeper

Northern California's Shasta River was once the most productive salmon stream for its size in the Golden State. But just nine Shasta coho salmon made it home last year to spawn. Even worse, all of the returning fish were male. Talk about a tough dating pool.

There wasn't much water in the river to greet the few fish that showed up. Local ranchers had withdrawn so much water that stretches of the river went completely dry.

Scientists now believe that two out of the three year-classes of Shasta coho have become functionally extinct. Next door in the Scott River, only eighty-one coho returned last year. Illegal dams, water withdrawals, and unchecked livestock grazing in streambeds are destroying these rivers.

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19 March 2010, 3:16 PM
Will Big Agribusiness Listen?

A National Academy of Sciences review panel today announced findings that federal protections for salmon and other fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are scientifically justified. The determination by the panel comes after months of controversy sparked by the plan’s modest restrictions on massive pumps in the Delta. These huge pumps export water to farms and cities south of the Delta, but also cause Delta rivers to run backwards, pulling large numbers of baby salmon and other fish to their deaths.

The new federal plan, won by Earthjustice attorneys, requires the pumps to run below maximum capacity from January to June when baby salmon migrate through the Delta to the sea. Before the plan was put in place, unrestricted pumping not only contributed to the collapse of threatened Central Valley salmon runs, but helped drive the population of non-threatened, commercially-valuable Sacramento River king salmon to such low levels that ocean salmon fishing along one thousand miles of coastline was completely closed for the first time in history during 2008 and 2009. Sacramento king salmon have traditionally formed the backbone of sport and commercial salmon fishing in California and Oregon, and the closure cost thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of lost economic activity in both states.

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