Superhero effort to save fishery from crap-filled humans. Dead fish aren’t the only floaters
The story of the East Walker Restrooms starts with an oil spill that occurred North of Bridgeport in December of 2000. A tanker truck overturned on Highway 182, spilling approximately 3,600 gallons of fuel oil into the Walker River. The truck carried fuel for Advanced Fuel Filtration Systems (AFFS), a company based out of Corona, CA.
CDFW conducted a Natural Resource Damage Assessment and determined that ten miles of the Walker River were visibly affected by oil. Clean up was difficult and slow, and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment estimates that 8,000 angler days were lost that year because of it.
In January of 2004, CDFW, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service reached an out of court settlement with AFFS, whereby AFFS was required to pay the agencies $418,000. The East Walker River Trustee Council (EWRTC) was established in 2005 to formally unite the previously named resource managers to plan and implement the restoration.
The Advanced Fuel Filtration Systems East Walker River Oil Spill Final Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment of August 2009 outlined five projects the EWRTC planned to implement using the funds from the settlement. The construction of two permanent restrooms along the East Walker River Wildlife Area was one of the proposed projects.
The 2009 document reads, “This project would place one or two vault toilets in high use areas… on CDFW land along the East Walker River, downstream of Bridgeport Reservoir.” It goes on to say, “No facilities exist for users of this area, and trash, feces…have been scattered about the area…with potentially detrimental impacts to water quality resulting directly from human waste…”
At the end of the day, $105,000 of the settlement funds were promised for recreational fishing improvements including the restroom project. Unfortunately, CDFW could not spare staff or funding to maintain permanent bathroom structures. The EWRTC determined that it would not construct toilets unless maintenance funding for weekly cleanings and pumping of human waste could be secured for a minimum of five years.
In 2011, long time local fishing guide Steve Osterman of Performance Anglers Guide Services started researching alternative funding sources for the toilets. He rallied local non-profits and guiding agencies to step in. “To me it was a health issue. I mean it was really nasty.” Osterman told The Sheet that he attended countless public meetings and even reached out to Mono County Health Department. “It was a real battle,” reflected Osterman.