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Stewardship Council lands stuck on hydro and water issue
Several issues ago we discussed the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council’s plans to transfer PG&E-owned parcels in the state to nonprofit and government agencies. Several of the parcels are in the Mokelumne River watershed.

The Stewardship Council process is the outgrowth of PG&E’s bankruptcy, in which conservation advocates successfully ensured the utility would not sell lands with habitat and recreation value for future development. The effort to move the lands into new ownership has proceeded slowly, however, and most recently hit what seems to be a serious impasse.

The Council has recommended that some of the PG&E properties be transferred to the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, including lands near Cole Creek and south of Pine Grove in Amador County. Similar recommendations have been made in other watersheds. But PG&E and the federal agencies have thus far been unable to come up with a resolution to two key issues: additional agency authority in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license proceedings and riparian water rights.

Negotiators for PG&E , federal agencies, and the Stewardship Council have not yet been able to find a path that addresses PG&E’s concerns while also being acceptable to the federal government. It appears that a one-size-fits-all approach was the goal. However, recent news indicates that the issues may be resolved more on a case-by-case basis.

That’s good news to us. We support the recommendations of the Stewardship Council in the Mokelumne watershed and would like to see the land transfers proceed.

In other Stewardship Council news, Conservancy Vice-President R. Winston “Pete” Bell, Jr. of Volcano was recently named the California Hydropower Reform Coalition alternate to the council board of directors. He succeeds Charlton “Chuck” Bonham, the new director of the California Department of Fish and Game. Bell has been involved in the PG&E lands issue for more than a decade.

The CHRC is a coalition of conservation and recreation organizations that works to protect, restore, and enhance California rivers affected by hydropower dams. The coalition’s primary representative on the board is attorney Richard Roos-Collins of Berkeley.

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