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'River in Ruin' author lectures on May 10

Journalist explores ills of Monterey Peninsula's primary water source

“The Carmel River presents a remarkable test case for a messed-up river. Almost everything that can go wrong with a river system through human activity has happened," said hydrologist (and former CSU Monterey Bay faculty member) Robert Curry in 1981.

Journalist Ray March has made Dr. Curry’s quote the opening line of his new book, “River in Ruin: The Story of the Carmel River,” which portrays a river that has been dammed, diverted and leaned on for at least 130 years.

March will visit the campus of CSU Monterey Bay on May 10 to talk about his book and sign copies. The public is invited to this free lecture, which will be start at 6 p.m. in the OLLI Building at Inter-Garrison Road and Sixth Avenue. Reservations are suggested and can be made by calling 582-5500. The thin ribbon of the Carmel River is just 36 miles long and no wider in most places than a child can throw a stone. It is the primary water supply for the tourists, residents and businesses on the Monterey Peninsula; it is also one of the top 10 endangered rivers in North America, according to the nonprofit organization American Rivers.

March, who grew up in Carmel, remembers when the river flowed clean and its banks were free of concrete rubble, automobile tires and abandoned cars. The book is a very personal explanation and analysis of the forces that brought the river to its current state.

“River in Ruin” weaves water history – local and larger –with the natural, social and environmental narrative of the Carmel River. March traces the river’s misuse from 1879 and details how increasingly successful promotions of Monterey demanded more and more water. As a result, the river was disastrously depleted and inhospitable to the fish prized by visitors and residents alike.

March’s book is a cautionary tale about squandering precious water resources – about the ultimate cost of a ruined river and the slim but urgent hope of bringing it back to life. Books will be available for purchase at the event. What reviewers are saying:

Having hiked most of the river from its headwaters to its mouth, I believed that I knew the Carmel River well. So I was surprised to encounter “I didn’t know that!” moments on page after page of March’s book. It is the product of more than a decade of research and reporting, and his attention to telling detail shows. – San Francisco Chronicle

This succinct work combines (March’s) skills as a writer with his familiarity with Monterey geography to provide readers with a thorough understanding of how the Carmel River has slipped into ecological disaster…Water, especially in the West, is a commodity profoundly affected by population growth, weather, dams, forest fires, politics, and economics. March covers all these factors to provide the fullest possible picture of the river’s decline as his narrative moves from past to present and possible future. – Library Journal

Saturated with facts, March’s account of this threatened river forces readers to reconsider water as a commodity that requires protection. – *Kirkus Reviews***About the author**:

Ray A. March, author of several nonfiction books, is a career journalist and co-founder and editor of the Modoc Independent News. He is also the co-founder of Modoc Forum, a nonprofit perpetuating an awareness of rural life through literature and the arts.

The event is sponsored by CSUMB's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Learn more about OLLI here.