Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet

The Dam That Wouldn't Die

You've heard of "logging without laws." Now get ready for damming without laws. To be exact, Auburn Dam without laws. "Auburn Dam is an unnecessary water project disguised as flood control," said Kathy Crist of the Mother Lode Chapter. She and hundreds of local activists have written letters and flooded hearings to oppose the dam. This summer, volunteers are planning a nationwide letters-to-the-editor campaign, outreach to the media and outings events into the canyons with local elected officials to stop Auburn Dam.

It's not just the proposed dam that's alarming, but the "sufficiency language" in the current bill that would exempt the project from adhering to environmental laws, such as the Endangered Species Act or the Clean Water Act. The timber salvage "logging without laws" provision that President Clinton signed last summer also contained sufficiency language.

Environmentalists defeated a similar proposal in 1992, but Auburn Dam was resurrected from the dead this year by Reps. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) and Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) along with Reps. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) and Bob Matsui (D-Calif.). They introduced H.R. 3270, the Disaster Prevention and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1996, which calls for an expandable, multi-purpose dam that will flood 50 miles of the north and middle forks of the American River just north of Sacramento.

But Doolittle has run into opposition. In early May, the Clinton administration left out $935 million Doolittle was expecting for his bill from the 1996 Water Resources Development Act. Instead, the administration's proposal allocates $57 million for a portion of the non-controversial flood control improvements within the city of Sacramento that the Sierra Club, federal resource agencies and other allies have recommended.

In addition, 21 co-sponsors, including seven Republicans, have signed on to Rep. Thomas Petri's (R-Wisc.) bill, H.R. 2951, which prohibits authorization of federal funds for Auburn Dam.

"Club members across the country are putting in plenty of overtime to make sure Auburn is dead again, once and for all," Crist said.

To take action: Thank President Clinton for offering a cost- effective alternative to provide Sacramento with flood protection - without destroying the American River canyons or throwing out our environmental laws. Tell him that you support his proposed 50/50 flood control cost-share reform to equitably distribute the burden of paying for projects from taxpayers to cities that create the need for such projects.

Contact your representative and urge him or her to co- sponsor H.R. 2951 and oppose H.R. 3270.

For more information: Contact Kathy Crist at the Mother Lode Chapter at (916) 557-1108 or e-mail :

Stopping Sprawl in Maryland

If Banyan Management, a Chicago development syndicate, has its way, a 2,250-acre forest along the Lower Potomac River in Charles County, Md., will become Chapman's Landing, a brand new city with 4,600 housing units, 2.25 million square feet of commercial space, plus recreational facilities. But Club activists like Bonnie Bick, conservation chair for the Southern Maryland Group and president of Friends of Mt. Aventine, are fighting this threat of urban sprawl in their backyard.

Environmentalist and angler groups say that Chapman's Landing would harm outstanding fisheries and rich wildlife habitat as well as increase air and water pollution. "Citizens are concerned about a substantial increase in traffic, air pollution from that traffic and runoff into the Potomac River and Mattawoman Creek tributary," Bick said. "The Army Corps and the state are trying to dance around these critical issues by not doing an Environmental Impact Statement."

Bick said an environmental impact statement is the best opportunity to review the detrimental effect of the development. But the Corps isn't convinced one is necessary and instead is conducting a less intensive assessment. In the meantime, opposition has been overwhelming. The Corps has received approximately 1,400 letters since December asking for an EIS.

Not only does the development threaten to fragment critical habitat, it would also destroy a valuable cultural site. One- third of the proposed city would overlay Mt. Aventine, an important historical and archaeological landmark. The imminent threat of the development has earned the Lower Potomac River the dubious distinction of being placed on the 1996 American Rivers list of "most threatened rivers."

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