California Spring Retreat and Study Tour

Friday, March 4, 2011 (All day) - Sunday, March 6, 2011 (All day)



Fresno and San Joaquin River area, California

CENTRAL VALLEY WATER ISSUES:  Case Studies in Ecological and Environmental Justice in Fresno and the San Joaquin River area

(Note:  Switzer Fellows can access retreat handouts by logging in to the website, Access Network Resources, click on CA Spring Retreat 2011 - all documents are attached.)

The Central Valley region of California is at the center of several critical environmental management, agriculture and water policy issues and will be the focus of the Spring 2011 Switzer Fellowship Network Spring Retreat and Study Tour. The annual spring retreat is an opportunity for Switzer Fellows and environmental colleagues to examine a critical environmental issue from an interdisciplinary perspective, showcase the work of Fellows addressing the issue and to share expertise and creative exchange among Fellows and colleagues working on these issues.

 During the two day retreat, the study tour will examine:

-          the implications of the upcoming CA DWR Flood Management Plan for the Central Valley and ecological restoration opportunities and efforts underway in the San Joaquin Valley and related efforts in the “delta”.

-          The interplay between the nationally significant agricultural industry, land use demands for housing and commercial development, historical patterns of regional development, water quality and health impacts of the industry on local communities and strategies for obtaining environmental justice, improving food security and drinking water safety among workers in the region.

Switzer Fellows and colleagues will present in-depth perspectives on challenges and opportunities facing the region, the industries and stakeholders involved and how communities are responding.  Fellows working on water policy, river restoration science, agriculture and food security, environmental justice and ecosystem and public health will find this of particular interest but all Fellows are invited and encouraged to attend.


Friday, March 4, 2011

4 – 6:00 pm         Arrive and check-in at Wonder Valley Ranch Resort and Conference Center

6:00 pm                Dinner

Saturday, March 5, 2011

7 – 7:45 am         Breakfast

8 – 9:15 am         Board bus, travel to Friant Dam


                               Discussions and site visits to restoration sites along the San Joaquin River – hosted by Switzer Fellows Mark Tompkins (2004), Steve Rothert (1994), and John Cain, American Rivers. Site visits will include:

  • Friant Dam Overlook:  Restrooms.  Discuss history of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program.  Describe historical and future dam operations, and discuss ecological impacts of the dam.
  • Vulcan Materials – active gravel quarry:  “Before” view of gravel mining ponds not yet restored / revegetated,  salmon spawning and holding habitat, role of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust.
  • Sycamore Island Overlook:  “After” view of flooded quarries that have been restored / revegetted, role of the San Joaquin River Conservancy.
  • Skaggs Bridge:  Explore area of most intense public use along the river, river access, environmental justice issues associated with the restoration program, floodplain restoration / reconnection concepts.
  • Bjerrum Ranch:  Landowner perspective on life along the San Joaquin River, including a discussion of the restoration program, erosion, flood protection, and levee issues.
  • Shehadey Farms:  Agricultural perspective on the restoration program, flood management, and the future of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley.

Speakers and Resource PeopleMark Tompkins (2004 Switzer Fellow), Consultant, Engineering Geomorphologist, NewFields River Basin Services, LLC; Steve Rothert (1994 Switzer Fellow), California Regional Director, American Rivers; John Cain, Central Valley Flood Management Director, American Rivers; Peter Vorster (1990 Switzer Fellow), Hydrologist, The Bay Institute; John Andrew (1995 Switzer Fellow), Assistant Deputy Director, CA Department of Water Resources; Ali Forsythe, Acting San Joaquin River Restoration Program Manager, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Dave Koehler, Executive Director, San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust; David Robinson, Site Manager, Vulcan Materials;  Ray Bjerrum, Owner, Bjerrum Ranch; Don Mendrin, Farm Manager, Larry Shehadey Farms.

1 - 2:30 pm             Travel by bus to Seville


                                Tour of the agricultural community of Seville, looking at efforts to fight for safe drinking water, reduce pesticide exposure and organize agricultural communities in the Valley – hosted by Switzer Fellows Carolina Balazs (2009) and Christopher Bacon (2001).  This tour will include:

  • Introduction to the Community Water Center and local community activists at the home of activist Becky Quintana.
  • Walking water tour of Seville led by community members.
  • Discussion:  Environmental Justice in the Valley – presentations from leading environmental justice groups:

      o   Opening remarks – Switzer Foundation Executive Director Lissa Widoff;

      o   History and present day struggles for environmental justice – Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment;

      o   Environmental justice and drinking water research – Switzer Fellow Carolina Balazs, PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley;

      o   Pesticide exposure and organizing in the Valley –Californians for Pesticide Reform;

      o   Planning and development issues in unincorporated Valley communities –California Rural Legal Assistance;

      o   Impacts of groundwater contamination in the Valley – The Pacific Institute.

 Speakers and Resource PeopleBecky Quintana, Seville resident and A.G.U.A. member (Asociacion de Gente Unida por el Agua – Association of People United by Water); Maria Herrera, Community Outreach Coordinator, Community Water Center; Caroline Farrell, Executive Director, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment; Lupe Martinez, Assistant Director, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment; Phoebe Seaton, California Rural Legal Assistance; Teresa de Anda, Californians for Pesticide Reform; Carolina Balazs, 2009 Switzer Fellow, PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley; Eyal Matalon, Research Associate, The Pacific Institute.

5:30 - 7:00 pm             Community Dinner in Seville, prepared by community members and with local musical accompaniment

7:00 - 8:00 pm             Return by bus to Wonder Valley Ranch Resort and Conference Center, Sanger

Sunday, March 6, 2011

8:00 - 9:00 am             Breakfast

9 – 11:00 am               Switzer Network Collaborations – facilitated by Switzer Foundation Executive Director, Lissa Widoff, and Switzer Foundation consultant, Carole Martin

                                       This morning will include a focused debrief  on the lessons and observations from the Saturday field trips and a time for Fellows and colleagues to consider how the Switzer Fellows' Network can collaborate to address common interests and issues examined the day before.  Lissa will review some of the findings of our recent Network Assessment and general strategies for strengthening the Switzer Network and building meaningful collaborations. Carole will facilitate the group’s discussion about specific collaborations that might come out of this weekend or that can be brought for consideration to the Switzer Network at large.  Bring your ideas about how you can contribute as well as problems you’d like to help solve.

11:00 am - 2:00 pm    Short hike, lunch and depart 

Travel Information:

Proximity to airports:

Fresno Yosemite International Airport (approximately 20 minutes from Sanger)

Sacramento International Airport (approximately 3 hours from Sanger)

San Francisco International Airport (approximately 3-1/2 hours from Sanger)

Los Angeles International Airport (approximately 4 hours from Sanger)

Travel and Meeting Expenses:

Travel expenses for 2010 Fellows traveling from within California will be covered.

All participants will have their meals, lodging and bus travel expenses covered by the Foundation.  Therefore, we ask that participants cover their travel to and from the meeting site.

Fellows outside of California are welcome and encouraged to attend the retreat if your interests align with its focus.  Some limited travel support may be available.  Please contact Erin if you will be requesting support, and please register early since funding is limited. 

Accommodations and Schedule:

We ask that all Fellows plan to arrive in Sanger on Friday evening so that we can proceed as a group first thing Saturday morning to our field sites.  We do not recommend Fellows trying to meet at field sites by car on Saturday as arrival and departure times are always subject to modification.  In addition, it is our aim to learn together about these issues and spend time discussing the potential for follow-up efforts, so participants are asked to stay for the full weekend agenda.

RSVP Deadline:  February 15, 2011

If you are interested in attending all or any portion of the retreat weekend and you have not yet RSVP'd, please contact Erin.


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