Calaveras Dome on the North Fork Mokelumne River
Assemblyman Frank Bigelow’s Assembly Bill 142 was enacted into law with our support in 2015.
The legislation requires the state to conduct a Wild and Scenic “suitability study” for 37 miles of the North Fork and main Mokelumne River and to make recommendations about whether the river should be protected. The bill also imposed Wild and Scenic-comparable protections for the Mokelumne pending the implementation of the study recommendations, or the end of 2021, whichever happens first.
While the legislation requires the study to be completed by the end of 2017, getting it off the ground proved to be a challenging task for the California Natural Resources Agency. This spring the agency secured the services of GEI Consultants to carry out the study. Phil Dunn of GEI has conducted similar studies in the past. In July, we learned that the administrative draft of the study is likely to be complete in December. Public meetings to discuss the draft will be held in early 2018.
We are assisting with the study by providing documents, publications, photographs, videos, and other information to state staff and GEI. Members of the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority are providing funds to help cover the study costs, as required by the bill. The authority members include the East Bay Municipal Utility District (which covers 60 percent of the authority budget); water agencies in Amador and Calaveras counties; and the counties of Alpine, Amador and Calaveras.
Water agencies in Amador and Calaveras are contributing to the study by providing long-term water needs analyses. While Calaveras has yet to complete its own study, we believe that Amador Water Agency’s study vastly overestimates the amount of water needed for the county in the future and misrepresents the potential effects of Wild and Scenic designation on future water supply projects. Sadly, the agency continues to focus its attention on costly projects like enlarging Lower Bear River Reservoir rather than serious levels of demand reduction and projects that store water in existing reservoirs like Salt Springs and Pardee. We fully anticipate that the Calaveras study will also overstate future water demand.
We will watch the development of the study with interest and hope that it will address some of the concerns raised by the opponents of permanent protection for our beautiful Mokelumne River.