A video-and-slide presentation is scheduled at 7 p.m. Wednesday this week at Tuolumne County Library, 480 Greenley Road in Sonora

Members of Friends of the River and the Sierra Club are planning a presentation on a controversial episode in Mother Lode history, when activists unsuccessfully tried to prevent flooding of a raftable section of the Stanislaus River by rising water levels in New Melones Reservoir in the 1970s and 1980s.

Joe David of Jamestown and other organizers are billing their event, The Stanislaus River -- Alive Again, as a chance to go back in time and “experience the magic of the Stanislaus River from Camp 9 to Melones from two veterans of the 1970s and 1980s campaigns to save the river.”

Activist Mark Dubois, who chained himself to a boulder in May 1979 to try to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from filling New Melones Reservoir, and veteran river guide Larry Orman plan to use video, photos and words to introduce people to their website www.stanislausriver.org . Marty Blake of Columbia will bring items from his Stanislaus River Museum collection.

Dubois and Orman plan to talk about lessons learned from past Stanislaus River controversies and what they mean for today’s environmental challenges, according to organizers.1

“The fight over the Stanislaus was big news back in the 80s,” event organizers said in an announcement. “For better or worse, Tuolumne County lost an irreplaceable and precious gem of a river. There are still a lot of folks around who remember that place and that battle.”

The event is scheduled at 7 p.m. Wednesday this week at Tuolumne County Library, 480 Greenley Road in Sonora

John Buckley, executive director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center in Twain Harte that was founded in 1991, said Wednesday’s event will be noteworthy for its recounting of “the drama, controversy, media frenzy, and reasons behind the battle over the filling of New Melones Reservoir and the drowning of Parrotts Ferry.”

When Buckley was new to Tuolumne County, the Mother Lode region was sharply divided over construction of New Melones Dam and flooding of what was an iconic recreational treasure and ecologically-rich riverine habitat at Parrotts Ferry and for miles along the Stanislaus River.

Buckley wrote letters, attended meetings, signed petitions, and sent requests to Congress to save the river.

“The reservoir’s flooding of the unique meadows and low-elevation conifer forests that stretched along the river resulted in not only a loss for recreation and tourism,” Buckley said, “it was truly a loss for future generations who will never be able to experience how beautiful and enjoyable those areas were.”

Construction of the first Melones Dam began in the 1920s, by the Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts, to serve farmers downstream from the old town of Melones. In 1926 the irrigation districts completed the original Melones Dam, a 211-foot-high concrete arch structure with storage capacity of 112,500 acre-feet. New Melones Dam, completed and commissioned in 1979, is 625 feet high and the current total capacity at New Melones Reservoir is 2.4 million acre-feet.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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