Wild & Scenic Mokelumne Update

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EBMUD decision on long-term water plan expected in April
A spring green wild and scenic alder on the banks of the Mokelumne River Electra Run during high spring flow.

In the last Foothill Focus, we told you that the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) had announced a staff recommendation that the agency drop the proposed expansion of Pardee Reservoir from its 2040 water plan. The proposed expansion would flood at least a mile of the Middle Bar reach of the Mokelumne River upstream of the existing Pardee reservoir and part of the Electra Run above Highway 49.

EBMUD is in the process of reworking the draft environmental impact report for its Water Supply Management Plan 2040 as a result of our successful litigation with Friends of the River and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance last year. In January 2012, EBMUD held public hearings on the revised draft EIR in San Andreas and Jackson. The meetings were sparsely attended, no doubt because of EBMUD’s December announcement. However, those who did speak were largely opposed to the Pardee expansion, praised EBMUD for changing course, and urged the EBMUD board to follow the staff recommendation.

Attorney Tom Infusino of Pioneer, one of our attorneys in the EBMUD case, represented the Calaveras Planning Coalition at the Jackson public hearing. He praised the EBMUD board for being willing to pursue alternatives to the proposed Pardee expansion and presented staff with an early Valentine from the local residents who make up the coalition.

Local residents also urged EBMUD to fully support National Wild and Scenic River designation for about 37 miles of the Mokelumne River, from Salt Springs Reservoir to the upper end of the existing Pardee Reservoir. National Wild and Scenic River designation would protect the designated reaches from new dams or diversions in perpetuity. It requires an act of Congress. In October 2009, the EBMUD board endorsed the wild and scenic designation, but the agency later adopted a policy that would end the designation far enough upstream of the Highway 49 bridge to allow for the reservoir enlargement.

The EBMUD board will hold a workshop on the revised 2040 plan EIR on March 27. After that, we hope they will approve the final, revised EIR and water plan – without the Pardee expansion. We will encourage them to do just that. We will also urge the EBMUD board to revise their policy on the Mokelumne Wild and Scenic designation to express full support for protecting the river as proposed.

Step by step, we will protect the Moke: News from the Wild and Scenic River Campaign

Our long-term effort to secure permanent protection for the Mokelumne River is, like the river, continuing to flow inexorably toward its ultimate destination. We may have to go over, under or around a few rocks, or even wear others down. And every now and then, someone tries to build a new obstacle in our path. But thanks to the help and support of those who love the Moke, we get a little closer to one of our primary goals every day: National Wild and Scenic River designation for 37 miles of the Mokelumne between Salt Springs Dam and Pardee Reservoir. The designation wouldn’t affect existing dams and diversions, but would prevent the construction of new dams and diversions on the protected river segments.

Getting the word to a wider audience while keeping locals informed

Since the publication of our last Focus, the campaign for National Wild and Scenic River designation for the Mokelumne has moved to some new territory. In January, the great 10-minute short film on our effort to save the river, Mokelumne River: Wild and Scenic, by Mike E. “Mikey” Wier, was featured at the Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City. The film was well received, and our right-hand Wild and Scenic Outreach Specialist Randy Berg secured a number of new endorsements for the Wild and Scenic designation. The film is being picked up now for showing by organizations who host touring versions of the festival.

In addition to being a filmmaker, Mikey is a fly fishing ambassador for outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia. In February, the company posted his blog about the Moke. That led to Wild and Scenic endorsements coming in to us from all over the country (and one from a college student from Fiddletown, who read the blog in Vermont). And it will soon lead to an interview about the Mokelumne in the online Outdoor Minded Magazine, at www.outdoormindedmag.com. We expect that to gain even more attention for our special river and our efforts to save it.

Closer to home, Randy recently braved the challenging weather to table at Dandelion Days in Jackson. In addition to our regular information, we distributed water conservation packets to those who dropped by the booth.

Over in Calaveras County, Bret Harte High School Senior Kate Harrison has been working on a “Save Our Rivers” fundraising dinner and benefit to help save the Mokelumne as well as the Baker and Pascagua rivers in Patagonia, Chile, which are threatened by a massive hydroelectric project. The event is scheduled for Friday, March 30, meaning you’ll probably be reading this after it’s been a great success. (If you happen to get this newsletter before that date, check our website for information.) We commend Kate for embodying the idea of “Think Globally and Act Locally.” We greatly appreciate her choosing our organization to join Patagonia Sin Represas (Patagonia Without Dams) as the beneficiaries of her senior project.

We’d like to thank Randy, Mikey, Kate, our volunteers, and the Rose Foundation for their continuing support and help.

What you can do to Save the Moke

While producing a fundraising dinner may be more than you want to take on, there are a number of ways you can help protect the Mokelumne from future dams and diversions, from volunteering to help us table at events to making sure your friends join you in endorsing the National Wild and Scenic River designation. For more information and ideas

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