River in Ruin: The Story of the Carmel River

By Ray A. March | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The Carmel River presents a remarkable test case for a messedup river. Almost everything that can go wrong with a river system through human activity has happened. What we see in the Carmel River is an archetypical manifestation of what happens in western rivers. | DR. ROBERT CURRY, geologist, 1981

In March 1999, the year I began my research for this book, the Carmel River made an ignominious debut before a national environmental audience when it appeared on “America’s Top Ten Most Endangered Rivers” list. Declared endangered by the national advocacy group American Rivers, the relatively unknown Carmel River was now in the company of such notorious household names as the Klamath, Rio Grande, Mississippi, and Los Angeles Rivers.

How could this have happened to such a quiet, almost private, unassuming little river immortalized in prose and poetry by such famous writers as Robert Louis Stevenson, John Steinbeck, and Robinson Jeffers? Unfortunately, the Carmel River, like its giant cousins, is also under the pressures of supply and demand for its clear, clean, drinkable waters, while simultaneously being degraded and polluted. Though limited as a freshwater resource, the Carmel River is the primary supplier for residents, tourists, agriculture, and industry on California’s rapidly growing Monterey Peninsula.

In listing the river as endangered, American Rivers, which is dedicated to the protection and restoration of North American streams, cited urban sprawl, water withdrawals, and dams as the principal reasons for the river’s demise. Threats to the river’s future health included “overpumping, nonpoint source

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