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San Jaoquin River is nation's 'most endangered.' Careful where you dive in.

Looking for a poster child for California's unbalanced water management policy? How about the San Jaoquin River, which hasn't had a salmon run since the 1940s when Friant Dam was built in the foothills east of Fresno enabling its waters to be contained and sucked up by "farmers," aka big agricultural landholders.

The advocacy group American Rivers just named the San Jaoquin "America's Most Endangered River" for 2014. (Here's the group's Top 10 list plus some context at Scientific American.)

The San Jaoquin is California's second longest river, stretching 350 miles from the High Sierras southeast of Yosemite to the San Francisco Bay-Delta, sort of. Since the dam was built, an astounding 95 percent of its water has been diverted for irrigation, leaving a roughly 60-mile-long stretch northwest of Fresno bone dry. The photo shows the "river" beneath the Highway 152 overpass west of Chowchilla.

American Rivers, without a hint of hyperbole, says the San Jaoquin is at a "tipping point."

Image: Fresno Bee

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