Another Dam is Not a Solution to Climate Change

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An area of the Bear River that would be submerged by the Centennial Dam.

The excessive rainfall that we have experienced recently is something that we can expect with climate change.  As average global temperatures rise, weather patterns are thrown off balance. We can’t know whether a particular extreme weather event is caused by such warming, but we do know that it makes such events statistically more likely. In recent years, there have been thousands of record-breaking weather disruptions all over the world.  As air warms, more water evaporates, drying out the land and causing drought, as it has here in California.  Clouds carry this additional moisture, making storms more likely. This results in the excessive rainfall, super storms, typhoons, hurricanes, and floods that are creating disasters on every continent.

Recent storms have stressed the Oroville Dam to a point where 200,000 people had to be evacuated.  I grew up in Oroville while the dam was being built.  My family and I lived just a few blocks from the Feather River.  As kids we spent most of our summer days there. The dam flooded habitat of plant and animal species.  The fish ladder and hatchery were built to counteract its toll on salmon and steelhead.  The dam also flooded our upstream swimming sites and areas where local teenagers used to find arrowheads, that is, the ancient homelands of the Maidu people of the region.  My Maidu step-brother Lee, whose mother was born on at the Moorehouse Rancheria near Oroville, still lives there.  When the dam failed, his grown kids and grandkids evacuated and joined him at his house above the dam.

Nevada County responded to flood evacuees with great generosity.  Now that people are returning to their homes and the immediate danger has been alleviated, we can hope that the damage will be repaired and people will be safe.

Now our community is facing another dam-related challenge: the proposal to build the Centennial Dam near Colfax and create another reservoir on the Bear River. This project is being billed as a response to ongoing climate change. We can expect many more such proposed solutions as the planet continues to warm.

Recently my husband and I spent time with our daughter and several grandchildren at a nearby campground on the banks of the Bear River, in an area that will be submerged if the project goes forward. Concerned people opposing the dam displayed maps and charts showing the areas that would be taken by eminent domain, destroyed, and submerged: 125 existing homes, trees and native plants, downstream waterways, ecosystems and various species that thrive here. Members of the local Indigenous community told the children stories and demonstrated traditional uses of particular stones found on the river bank, then invited everyone into a circle for a ritual of protection for all the beings who inhabit this place, and for our descendants who will come after.

Whether or not to build this dam is a climate justice issue. From one perspective, another reservoir makes sense, since precipitation is less dependable and the snowpack no longer ensures a continuous supply of water. But there would be great social and environmental costs, including the loss of people’s homes, destruction of Native cultural sites, loss of habitat for many plant and animal species, damage downstream to fish and other wildlife, and the forfeiture of people’s ability to enjoy this unique part of the natural world. Furthermore, logging the trees, bulldozing the plants, scraping the soil, building the dam, and flooding the region would release stored carbon into the atmosphere and eliminate the carbon sequestration function that the living trees, plants, and soil provide. There are alternatives that would avoid these social and environmental costs, including recharging groundwater that has been depleted by over-pumping. This dam is an example of a so-called solution that exacerbates the problem of climate change.

This proposal to respond to climate change by building a dam, along with the controversy it is generating, is an example of difficult policy decisions that will face us for the foreseeable future. It is also an example of a regional struggle to prevent ecosystem destruction, block further carbon pollution, and link the rights of Indigenous people with the rights of the earth. For people who live nearby, go to the SYRCL website at yubariver.org/ to find out more and send your comments.  This struggle may yet become another example of people around the world doing what we can to preserve the integrity of the places we call home.

More Clearcuts in Nevada County?

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SPI Clearcut outside Nevada City, past Cascade Shores

Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) is at it again, planning to clearcut forested areas in Nevada County.  The Wash Timber Harvest Plan (THP) outlines their plans to engage in industrial forestry on 160 forested acres five miles from Nevada City, on land right next to South Yuba State Park.  According to the local Forest Issues Group, the THP “contains significant errors, contradictory information, omissions, and misinformation,” which “should have made this document legally inadmissible to the timber harvest plan review process.”

First, for those who don’t know about SPI, it is the largest private landowner in California.  Its overall long-range plan is to clearcut 70% of its holdings on a rolling basis in order to create “even-aged forests,” that is, tree farms.  This involves clearcutting intact forest ecosystems, applying herbicides to prevent the re-growth of native species, and then planting stands of commercial timber that can be harvested like carrots.   Their plans are well underway.

Industrial tree farms do not provide the habitat needed by the diversity of species that inhabit regular forest ecosystems.  Chief Seattle said, “When the animals are gone, humans will die of a great loneliness of spirit.”  As our natural world is diminished, I recognize that loneliness of spirit in myself.

Today is the last day of public comments. (Send comments to reddingpubliccomment@fire.ca.gov)  Few members of the public have the technical expertise to read and understand the complexities of forestry law, with its details, classifications, and regulations.  I don’t know these specifics, so my comments will not be technical.  Many thanks to the Forest Issues Group, who sent a letter addressing SPI’s questionable motivations for purchase (just two years ago) and the details (including omissions and apparent illegalities) of the Timber Harvest Plan.

The above photo was taken outside of Nevada City, beyond Cascade Shores.  A couple of years ago, a group of us went out for a ceremony of Amends and Healing for Mother Earth.  We planted seeds, sang songs, and read the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.   I hope that the community asserts its power to protect the 160 acres in the Wash Timber Harvest Plan.  Whether this blog post or my comments have any bearing on the decision, they demonstrate my refusal to simply stand by while the machine of ecological devastation rolls on.

 Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

Preparing for Trial in North Dakota

58408707190cf_800x686-56195462478UPDATE:  My trial has been postponed until February or March, because there are so many court cases.  Shirley’s trial is now scheduled for Jan. 31, together with Janie and Christy’s.  Their trials could be postponed as well.

 

As the New Year approaches, four of us from Nevada County who were arrested in November during a nonviolent action near Standing Rock are preparing to return to North Dakota in January for trial.   The lawyers we have retained are in touch with the Water Protectors Legal Collective, the legal team that bailed us out of jail and keeps us updated about trials related to Standing Rock.

My trial is scheduled for January 13, so it’s coming up soon.  My lawyer is trying to have it rescheduled to January 31, so I can travel and go to court with Janie and Christy, whose trials are scheduled for that date.  Shirley’s trial has not yet been scheduled.  Evidently the courts are overwhelmed, so my lawyer says that some of our cases may be postponed or even dropped.

But trials are moving forward.  According to the Water Protectors Legal Collective, “Criminal prosecutions of the over 500 Water Protectors who have been arrested since August are moving forward rapidly, amidst an extremely hostile criminal legal system.  Hundreds of Water Protectors will be in court during the next few weeks.”

The first trials related to Standing Rock were held these last two weeks of December.  The first case was continued because the prosecutor had failed to provide the defense team with evidence that could exonerate the defendants.  Several other cases were continued due to the holidays and the difficulty of getting to court because of the recent blizzard.  On December 20, those who appeared had a jury trial, were found guilty, and were sentenced to 10 days in jail.  All 10 days were suspended for those willing to pay $500 to Morton County and $500 in court costs.  According to the Legal Collective, “Though disappointing, the sentence is much better than the plea bargain the prosecution had offered prior to trial.”

We will see how these cases proceed.  Each case is different, and the charges vary.  I am charged with “obstructing a government function” (I thought I was obstructing a corporate function).  It is a Class A misdemeanor, the most serious, carrying a penalty of up to one year in jail, though I doubt that the sentence will be that harsh.

I welcome the opportunity to “speak truth to power” through the court system in support of the water protectors at Standing Rock.  By standing up for what we believe and refusing to be intimidated, we discover the strength we have.  By acting for justice in solidarity with others, the way forward becomes clear.  Both personal and social transformation become possible and hope becomes a reality.

For those who are able to make a year-end donation:

Donate to the Crowdfunding Site for our Legal Fees.  This is tax-deductible because it is being administered through local nonprofit Earth Justice Ministries.  Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we are close to our goal of raising enough money to pay the up-front fees for our lawyers.  Additional funds will go towards travel and lodging as we return to stand trial.  Funds that we don’t need for our trials will be donated to the Water Protectors Legal Collective.

Donate to the Water Protectors Legal Collective, which paid our bail, are working with our lawyers, and are keeping us updated about trials related to Standing Rock.  They are also raising money to assist people with travel and housing who need to return to stand trial.

Donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the main camp at Standing Rock.  As of today, they are not accepting any physical donations except firewood and cash.

 

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

 Find previous blog postings about Standing Rock.  

A Day at Oceti Sakowin Camp

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We started today (as every day) with a council that began and ended with prayer in the big geodesic dome. We affirmed our agreements, received updates on the pipeline, and heard offers and requests for help in the camp, especially with the winterizing efforts–a huge job.  It was emphasized that no drugs or alcohol are to be “on or in” anyone at the camp, since the goal is to hold a prayerful and peaceful space. People referred to the election of Donald Trump and their concerns about its implications for this struggle and for Indigenous people and others. We also learned that within a few days the Justice Department should issue a ruling about whether construction of the pipeline needs to stop while a proper Environmental Impact Report is created.  Meanwhile the pipeline is almost to the banks of the Missouri River.  Right here.

There is also a newcomers’ orientation each day, where individuals are given basic orientation and can ask questions. Four hundred newcomers to camp have been oriented since we arrived three days ago, and they keep coming. Thousands of people are here.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe have put out a call and people have responded. This means that many people are arriving at camp who are not familiar with Indigenous ways and who may think and act in ways that express “white settler mentality.” We are encouraged to have respect for the elders and for the people who live here and to remember that we are guests. They thank us for being here and for responding to the call.

I have met people from all over the world, including a Canadian man names Yves who brought the Mongolian yurts that have been set up over the past few days. (Sold at cost and paid for by people like you who have donated to the camp.  To make direct donations go to paypal.me/OcetiSakowinCamp) I have also met people from Alaska, Hawaii, and all over the United States and from countries that include France, Russia, Canada, Colombia, and Australia.

Today an Indigenous women’s group from Alaska entered the camp, and we listened to them about the damage to their ecosystems and why they had come to be in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock in the struggle to protect the waters of the Missouri River. I was in tears, listening to their stories and hearing their commitment to protect the air, land, and waters, and as they sang and prayed and as we walked through the line greeting each of them personally.

People here are encouraged to get involved with necessary chores, and there are cooperative tasks going on all over the camp. I spent time today with my friends Shirley and Jill hauling and stacking wood for the sacred fire, then washing dishes. There are seven kitchens that each serve two or three meals a day. Teams of people are erecting yurts and other buildings. Large winterized meeting spaces are being created that will also be available for people to gather to sleep in when temperatures drop, which is expected to happen soon. Composting toilets are being planned for, as well as many other projects.

There was a discussion and planning meeting at 4 p.m. related to upcoming nonviolent actions. We’re meeting early tomorrow morning for a possible action. We’ll see. I will keep you informed. Again, I can’t take photographs in the camp at all, and even the pictures I share from our media people are strictly limited in what they can portray, for the protection and privacy of the people.

I have received many messages of support, and I thank you.  Keep the faith.  We must continue the struggle for a peaceful, just, and ecologically sustainable world.

Love and blessings to you all.

On Our Way to Standing Rock

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Here we are having lunch at a park in Rawlins, Wyoming, on our way to Standing Rock.  Tonight my good friends and I are staying in Spearfish, South Dakota, planning to get up early so we can check in at the camp in time for the nonviolence training at 2 p.m. tomorrow.  We are ready to do what we can.

I recently read This is an Uprising, How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century, by Paul and Mark Engler.  They write about the “whirlwind,” those times in history when things come together in a new way that makes possible what seemed impossible before.  Standing Rock is such a time.  Many people around the world are recognizing that respecting the rights of Indigenous people and learning from them about honoring the creation are at the center of what needs to happen if we are to get through this historic time in a way that leaves hope for a habitable planet.

I’m here for the sake of the children and for future generations.   Ready to enter the whirlwind.