Swept along by a drought-busting winter, the San Joaquin River restoration is getting good reviews at the end of its first year -- even from one vocal farm critic.
The stormy season helped officials reconnect the long-dry river with the Pacific Ocean and ease fears of farmers who lost irrigation water for the restoration.
Some of the restoration water was recaptured and sent back to farms. Plus, farmers bought a bounty of cheap river water from excess snowmelt.
But challenges await in the second year, which starts Friday. Federal officials must deal with a farm family's lawsuit alleging seepage damage from the revived river. And the global weather-changer La Niña may bring a dry winter to California.
In the next year, officials must keep the river running to prepare for restoring salmon runs in late 2012, avoid seepage damage and somehow return water to farmers -- even if the next winter is dry.
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