Wild & Scenic Mokelumne Update

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Landmark Mokelumne relicensing settlement agreement receives prestigious POWER Award
Foothill Conservancy, California Hydropower Reform Coalition (CHRC) and Pacific Gas and Electric Company accept the award on behalf of settlement participants
The landmark, 30-year Mokelumne Relicensing Settlement Agreement - which was signed this July after a year-long collaborative effort between representatives of several environmental groups, state and federal resource agencies and Pacific Gas and Electric Company for the operation of the Mokelumne River Project - Friday received the prestigious POWER Award at the 10th Annual California Water Policy Conference in Los Angeles.

The conference and the award are sponsored by Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform (POWER).

The POWER Award "honors those individuals, public and nonprofit agencies, and private companies who have integrated science, technology, economics, community, efficiency, and/or ecosystem restoration; that have learned from the past what works and what doesn't; and are implementing a integrated program that serves as a model to others."

"On behalf of all the participants, we are very proud to receive this award which recognizes the culmination of many years of environmental studies and relicensing efforts," said Pete Bell, Foothill Conservancy vice president and CHRC steering committee member. (CHRC coordinates citizen groups to promote science-based environmental improvements in relicensing.) "The settlement balances continued hydropower generation with environmental protections and public recreation facilities and opportunities."

It also provides for the monitoring and adjustment of environmental protection measures and recreational opportunities over the term of the license, based on the response of natural resources and recreation demand.

Representatives from the Foothill Conservancy, CHRC and Pacific Gas and Electric Company accepted the award on behalf of the parties to the settlement, which also include American Whitewater, California Department of Boating and Waterways, California Department of Fish and Game, Friends of the River, Natural Heritage Institute, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service.

The Mokelumne River Project begins at Blue Lakes in Alpine County and includes Upper and Lower Blue Lakes, Twin Lake, Meadow Lake, Upper and Lower Bear River reservoirs, Salt Springs Reservoir, Tiger Creek Afterbay and Lake Tabeaud. Its Salt Springs, Tiger Creek, West Point, and Electra powerhouses generate more than 1.1 million kilowatt hours (enough electricity for approximately 200,000 homes). Project reservoirs and affected river reaches are used by thousands of visitors each year.

Among its provisions, the settlement

  • establishes a number of conditions for project operation, including year-round minimum streamflows, to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish, wildlife and streamside habitat;
  • establishes operating regimes for the four upper project reservoirs to enhance public recreation opportunity and protect aquatic resources;
  • requires the breaching of existing diversion dams on East and West Panther creeks and Beaver Creek, restoring the creeks to natural, unimpaired flow;
  • provides for weekend whitewater boating opportunities and streamflows for the four whitewater boating runs affected by the project, reliable public streamflow information, and improvements to whitewater boating put-in and take-out facilities;
  • limits certain power-generating and maintenance activities, as well as the rate of change in generation-affected river levels, to protect aquatic resources and avoid adverse environmental impacts; and
  • sets specific requirements for water temperature and dissolved oxygen to protect fish and other aquatic life.

In addition, the settlement establishes an extensive resource and whitewater boating monitoring and adaptive management program. The program provides for adjustment of minimum streamflows, pulse flows, recreation streamflows, and minimum reservoir levels over the term of the license based on monitoring results. The settlement requires cooperation with other Mokelumne watershed agencies to protect and manage watershed water quality. It also establishes an Ecological Resources Committee comprising the licensee, resource agencies, and non-governmental organizations to make resource decisions over the term of the license, and establishes a Protection, Mitigation and Enhancement Fund for resource measures beyond those specified in the settlement agreement.

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