Wild & Scenic Mokelumne Update

Mokelumne River: Our Activities and History
Long History of Involvement and Accomplishment
Untitled Document

Ongoing Participation

Project 137 (PG&E Mokelumne River Project) Ecological Resources Committee

Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group

Mokelumne Watershed Interegional Sustainability Evaluation (MokeWISE)

Mokelumne/Amador/Calaveras Integrated Water Management Plan (IRWMP)

Calaveras-Amador Mokelumne River Authority

California Hydropower Reform Coalition

Western Caucus, Hydropower Reform Coalition

Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority

Restoring and Protecting the Mokelumne’s Natural Resources
and Ensuring Recreation and River Access

Wild and Scenic River Designation

Foothill Conservancy has supported Wild and Scenic River designation for 17 miles of the North Fork of the Mokelumne River since 1990, and an additional 20 miles of the North Fork and Main Stem since 2007. The river segments have been found eligible for this distinction by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. In 2014, the Conservancy was a co-sponsor of California Senate Bill 1199, which would have designated these segments a California Wild and Scenic River. While the bill did not pass, it came very close and set the stage for future legislation. In 2015, we supported AB 142, a bill that protects the Mokelumne while the state carries out a Wild and Scenic suitability study. On July 27, 2018, 37 miles of the N. Fork and main Mokelumne were designated a California Wild and Scenic River with the signing of Senate Bill 854."

Wild and Scenic River designation will bar any new dams or diversions on the designated reaches and protect the river's scenic and recreational values.

Proposed New Pardee Dam

In 2009, Foothill Conservancy led the foothill and statewide effort to stop the inclusion of a new, higher Pardee Dam in the East Bay Municipal Utility District's long-range water plan. The new dam would flood all or part of the Mokelumne's Middle Bar reach and possibly part of the Electra Run. After EBMUD voted to include the reservoir expansion in the plan, Foothill Conservancy, joined by Friends of the River and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, successfully sued the utility. EBMUD revised the EIR for the plan, and in April 2012, its board voted 7-0 to drop the Pardee expansion from the 30-year water plan.

PG&E Project 137 Mokelumne River Project Relicensing

Foothill Conservancy played a key role in developing a new 30-year license for PG&E’s Mokelumne River Project.

Conservancy representative Pete Bell participated in more than 100 meetings in one year to settle the remaining license issues. We are party to a binding settlement agreement along with PG&E, federal and state agencies, whitewater recreation and fish groups, and conservation groups.

As part of that agreement, stream flows were increased dramatically to benefit native fish and frogs, and to restore and improve the river channel and riparian habitat. PG&E also agreed to our proposal to remove or dismantle three small dams on tributary creeks of the Mokelumne. As a result, three creeks—West Panther, East Panther and Beaver—are flowing freely for the first time in 72 years. The state and national award-winning settlement established an unprecedented adaptive management program.

We participate in monthly meetings of the Ecological Resources Committee that oversees the implementation of the project license.

Middle Bar Mokelumne Access

Starting in the early 1990s, the Conservancy worked with other conservation interests and whitewater boaters to secure public access to the Middle Bar reach of the Mokelumne River, west of Highway 49. The East Bay Municipal Utility District had kept people off the river for more than 30 years.

In 2000, working with the state Attorney General’s Office, the Conservancy secured access to the Middle Bar reach. An EBMUD-constructed boating takeout was opened near the Middle Bar Bridge in 2003.

Devil’s Nose Project

Foothill Conservancy helped stop the construction of this 400-foot dam on the North Fork of the Mokelumne River just upstream of Tiger Creek Powerhouse. The dam was proposed by Amador County, not a water agency. It would have flooded more than nine miles of wild river canyon, destroying valuable wildlife habitat, a wild trout fishery and important cultural resources.

In 1995, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finally rejected Amador County’s application for the dam because the county had not demonstrated a need for the water and the project was financially infeasible. Amador County wasted more than $300 million pursuing this project.

Middle Bar Dams

The Conservancy has helped ward off construction of two different versions of the Middle Bar Dam on the Mokelumne’s main stem in the backwaters of Pardee Reservoir. Both were proposed by San Joaquin County water interests. Each dam would have flooded the Middle Bar reach, Highway 49 Bridge, Electra reach, and PG&E’s Electra Powerhouse. The “high” version would have extended a reservoir all the way from the backwater of Pardee Reservoir to the confluence of the Mokelumne’s Middle Fork and main stem.

Restoring and Protecting the Mokelumne River Watershed

Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group

Foothill Conservancy is a founding member of this award-winning collaborative group that works to create fire-safe communities, healthy forests and watersheds, and sustainable local economies.

Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority

The Conservancy helped facilitate the original joint powers agreement that created this joint powers agency. The agency includes counties and water agencies in Amador, Alpine and Calaveras counties. The original agreement provided for funds to be invested in watershed restoration and education. We continue to attend meetings and participate on project advisory committees.

PG&E Lands Stewardship Council

The Conservancy has been involved in this issue since 2000. We serve on the steering committee of the California Hydropower Reform Coalition, which helped establish the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council as part of the settlement of PG&E’s bankruptcy case. The Council will convey 140,000 lands to public ownership or place conservation easements on them to protect public values such as recreation, wildlife habitat, open space, etc. We continue to be involved in local discussions and through CHRC representation on the council board.

Foothill Conservancy's River-Related Awards


Conservancy, PG&E and other parties to the Mokelumne River Project settlement receive the POWER award from the Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform.


Conservancy and VP Pete Bell receive the Peter H. Behr Award from Friends of the River. Previous recipients include noted conservationists Mark Dubois and Martin Litton and Senator Barbara Boxer.


Conservancy VP Pete Bell receives the Restorationist of the Year Award from the Salmonid Restoration Federation.


Conservancy President Katherine Evatt receives the Capital River Award from Friends of the River for her work on Mokelumne River restoration and protection.

THE FOOTHILL CONSERVANCY  |  35 Court Street, Suite 1   Jackson, CA  95642  |  209-223-3508