Posted by: Lea_Marie_C_Paar on 06/03/2014 07:53 PM
Updated by: thepinetree on 06/04/2014 07:50 AM
Expires: 01/01/2019 12:00 AM
Senate passes Wild and Scenic bill for the Mokelumne River
Sacramento, Ca...The state Senate approved SB 1199, the Mokelumne Wild and Scenic River bill, on a 22-12 vote. The bill has now moved to the state Assembly, where it will be heard in committee before moving to an Assembly vote. SB 1199 would designate about 37 miles of the North Fork and main Mokelumne River from Salt Springs Dam to the eastern edge of Pardee Reservoir as a state Wild and Scenic River. The designation bars dams and major diversions in the designated area, but will not affect existing hydropower and water facilities. Amendments made to the bill will ensure that the designation will not affect Amador and Calaveras County's current and future water rights as long as water projects do not dam or harm the 37 designated miles of river. They also clarify that the end point of the designated river does not reduce the existing size of Pardee Reservoir. The legislation will prevent the expansion of that reservoir and permanently protect the Mokelumne's Electra Run and Middle Bar reach...
"We're excited that the Senate voted to protect the Mokelumne," said Foothill Conservancy Executive Director Cecily Smith. "It's an especially challenging year to move a river protection bill, with all of the focus on the drought and calls for new dams. But clearly the senators see the merits of protecting these sections of the Mokelumne, which already provides water for more than 1.3 million people, agriculture and hydropower."
San Joaquin water interests are among those in the state who hope the drought leads to more dams, even on our hard-working Mokelumne. In a draft letter for the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, Board Chairman Robert V. Elliott said, "By designating certain reaches of the Upper Mokelumne River as “wild and scenic”, SB 1199 would prohibit the construction or reconstruction of reservoirs such as Pardee, Lower Bear, and Middle Bar on the identified segments of the river." The high version of the Middle Bar Dam would flood the river from below Middle Bar Bridge to the confluence of the North and Middle forks, inundating private property along the river and mining claims on BLM lands. SB 1199 would protect those lands by stopping the Middle Bar Dam and other river-destroying on-stream dam proposals.
SB 1199 was authored by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), whose constituents rely on its clean water, and is co-sponsored by Foothill Conservancy and Friends of the River. It is supported by three recognized tribes; a number of local individuals, elected officials, businesses, and business organizations; and a long list of conservation, recreation, fishing and environmental justice organizations. The bill is currently opposed by the East Bay Municipal Utility District, Amador County Board of Supervisors and various water agencies, including the North San Joaquin County Water Conservation District.
"As amendments refine the bill language and agencies and landowners learn more about what state Wild and Scenic designation does and doesn't do, we hope to convert some of the opposition to support," Smith said. "State Wild and Scenic designation is really very limited in scope. It does not affect local land use regulation or private property. And with the amendments to the bill, our original intent is now even more clear: to protect the river from new dams and keep it healthy, not stop water projects that are needed in the future for local supply."
For more information on SB 1199, contact Katherine Evatt, Foothill Conservancy, 209-296-5734, Katherine@mokeriver.com.