Mokelumne Wild & Scenic Bill Passes Key Assembly Committee
Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Program Coordinator
State legislation to protect 37 miles of the Mokelumne River
in the California Wild & Scenic Rivers System cleared another hurdle on
June 23 when the Assembly Natural Resources Committee passed the bill on a
partisan 6-2 vote (with Democrats voting for the bill). SB 1199 by Senator Loni
Hancock (D-Berkeley) passed the full Senate late last month with one vote to
spare. Unfortunately, the bill faces even tougher votes as it advances this
August to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the full Assembly.
Sponsored by Friends of the River and the Foothill
Conservancy, SB 1199 enjoys diverse support from numerous conservation groups,
local businesses, and tourism organizations, which view the bill as
contributing to the tourism economy of largely rural Calaveras and Amador
Counties in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The river offers a wide range of
whitewater boating opportunities and is a favorite recreational destination of
thousands of local residents. The river canyon is rich in Gold Rush history and
supports some of the most extensive Native American cultural values in the
Sierra Nevada. Federal studies have found the river to possess outstanding and
extraordinary scenic, recreational, water quality, historical, and cultural
Senator Hancock introduced the bill when the Calaveras County
Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support state protection last
February. Senator Hancock’s constituents in the eastern San Francisco Bay area
directly benefit from protection of the river, which supplies high quality
drinking water to 1.4 million East Bay residents. The hard-working Mokelumne
River provides hydroelectricity for 200,000 people, irrigation water for
thirsty farms in the Central Valley, and a dependable supply of clean water for
ratepayers served by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).
But the Amador County Board of Supervisors, Amador Water
Agency, Calaveras County Water District, and other local water agencies have
lined up in opposition to the bill, loudly (but falsely) complaining the Wild
& Scenic protection of the Mokelumne will limit the local counties and
water agencies from utilizing their existing water rights and prevent them from
securing new water rights. Always anxious to stay on the good side of their
“upcountry” water agency neighbors, a majority of the EBMUD Board of Directors
have taken an “oppose unless amended” position on SB 1199, urging its sponsors
to work out differences with the local water agencies.
Wild & Scenic protection will prohibit new dams on the
protected segments of the Mokelumne River, but it won’t affect any existing
dams or diversions currently used to generate hydropower or provide drinking
water. It will even allow future upstream water development, as long as that
development does not harm the river. But that’s the sticking point with the
water agencies…they can’t envision a future that doesn’t allow them to dry the
river up. Both Amador and Calaveras Counties have admitted in planning
documents that they have plenty of existing water rights to meet future needs
for the next 30 years and beyond.
As SB 1199 proceeds towards a late summer vote in the
Assembly, Friends of the River and other supporters will have to reach out to
southern California legislators who dominate the Assembly and are unfamiliar
with northern California rivers that actually have water in them. Passage of
the bill is precarious since it’s a common assumption throughout the State
Legislature that new and expanded dams on northern California rivers are the
solution to California’s chronic drought.
Friends of the River and our allies will also be in
negotiations throughout July with local water agencies discussing how to
protect the river while allowing for reasonable future development to meet
local water needs. The future of the beautiful Mokelumne River depends on it.
Federal Legislation Proposes To Protect 158 Miles Of Wild
& Scenic Rivers On The Central Coast
Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Program Coordinator
Representative Lois Capps has introduced legislation in
Congress to protect more than 158 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers, 245,500
acres of Wilderness, and 34,500 acres of Scenic Areas on public lands in the
Central Coast counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. H.R.
4685 also proposes to establish the Condor National Recreation Trail.
Also known as the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act,
H.R. 4685 is the product of years of discussion and negotiation, led by Rep.
Capps, involving business leaders, conservationists, elected officials,
ranchers, mountain bikers, and other stakeholders interested in the use and
well-being of these iconic lands. Reps. Julia Brownley and Sam Farr, whose
districts also include part of the proposal, have cosponsored the legislation.
Friends of the River and the California Wilderness Coalition
played a key roll in identifying the rivers and acreage on public lands
proposed for protection in the bill. Rivers and streams proposed for National
Wild & Scenic Rivers protection include several small streams on the Los
Padres National Forest that support important populations of threatened and
endangered fish and wildlife such as the Central Coast steelhead, arroyo toad,
California red-legged frog, California condor, and least Bell’s vireo. The
streams proposed for protection also provide outstanding opportunities for
Just when the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a
hearing on this important bill remains to be seen. The Committee has a mixed
record in regard to its treatment of public lands protection bills. In the
meantime, constituents of Rep. Capps, Rep. Brownley, and Rep. Farr (residents
of Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and San Benito Counties)
should thank them for introducing H.R. 4685. All residents of California should
email Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Dianne Feinstein and urge them to
introduce companion legislation to H.R. 4685 in the Senate.
Rivers proposed for protection in H.R. 4685 include:
- Piru Creek – 48.1 miles
- Upper Sespe Creek – 20.9 miles
- Matilija Creek – 14.4 miles
- Mono Creek – 24.5 miles
- Indian Creek – 14.4 miles
- Manzana Creek & Tributaries – 36.2 miles
Get detailed descriptions of the segments proposed for
on our take action page.
Most Irrigation Water Lost According to New Federal Study
Johnnie Carlson, River Advocate Editor
A recently released federal survey on freshwater availability proved a
point many already knew, the process of carrying and applying irrigation water
to dry areas consumes more water than anything else each year, according to the
Jerad Bales, the U.S. Geological Survey chief scientist for
water stated “With irrigation, most of the water is lost to the environment,
and it’s what we call a consumptive use.
It’s clear that irrigation for agriculture, and for golf courses and for
lawns is the largest consumptive use of water in the nation.”
The water “lost” to the environment is due problems such as
evaporation from open canals and ponds as well as leaks in canals and pipes. Sadly,
none of this lost water really makes it to the environment in any beneficial
way for rivers or wildlife.
The greatest source of new water for California’s ever-thirsty
agricultural enterprises may be the water they already have. Failure to address
this waste of water could mean economic disaster for the farmers and
agriculture producers who depend on water for irrigation and the environment we
all depend on.
Rep. Judy Chu Introduces San Gabriel National Recreation
Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Program Coordinator
Representative Judy Chu has introduced legislation in
Congress to establish the 615,245-acre San Gabriel National Recreation Area.
The recreation area proposed in H.R. 4858 would encompass National Forest lands
in the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as adjacent open space and parklands in
the San Gabriel foothills, portions of the urbanized San Gabriel River and Rio
Hondo, and the Puente Hills. The purpose of the recreation area is to encourage
collaboration between federal, state, and local agencies to manage and improve
outdoor recreation opportunities for more than 7 million residents in southern
California, while protecting the important biological, ecological, and cultural
values of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Introduction of the recreation area bill is the culmination
of more than 10 years of effort by a broad coalition of conservation,
environmental justice, and community groups working to improve the quality of
life in the park-poor urban areas surrounding the San Gabriel Mountains and to
protect the outstanding natural, recreational, and historical values of the
magnificent San Gabriel Mountains.
As an active member of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever
coalition, Friends of the River actively supported development and introduction
of H.R. 4868. It was hoped that Rep. Chu would include in the bill the
protection of proposed Wild & Scenic Rivers and Wilderness areas on the
National Forest lands that are included in the recreation area. But concerns
expressed by local governments about the potential complexity of the bill
convinced Rep. Chu to introduce the recreation area proposal first. Friends of
the River is working closely with her staff on the development of a separate
Wild & Scenic River and Wilderness bill that will likely be introduced
later this summer.
Streams to be protected in this future legislation include
the East, West, and North Forks of the San Gabriel River, San Antonio Creek,
Middle Fork Lytle Creek, and Littler Rock Creek. Stay tuned.
BDCP Lacks Consideration of Reasonable Alternatives
Wright, Senior legal Counsel
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Draft plan and Draft
Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) are out
for public review and comment at this time. Development and evaluation of a
range of reasonable alternatives are the declared “heart” of both the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
required EISs and EIRs. Despite that, the alternatives section (Chapter 3) of
the Draft EIR/EIS and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) required Alternatives to
Take section (Chapter 9) of the BDCP Draft Plan fail to include even one, let
alone the CEQA, NEPA and ESA required
range of, reasonable alternatives that would increase water flows in the
San Francisco Bay-Delta by reducing exports.
These serious violations of law, brought to your attention by the
Environmental Water Caucus (EWC)(a coalition of over 30 nonprofit environmental
and community organizations and California Indian Tribes) and Friends of the River (FOR), require
The BDCP omission of alternatives reducing exports to
increase flows is deliberate. A claimed purpose of the BDCP Plan is “Reducing
the adverse effects on certain listed [fish] species due to diverting water.”
(BDCP Draft EIR/EIS Executive Summary, p. ES-10). “There is an urgent need to improve the
conditions for threatened and endangered fish species within the Delta.” (Id.).
The omission of a range of reasonable alternatives reducing exports to increase
flows violates CEQA, NEPA and the ESA.
The failure to include even one alternative reducing exports to increase
flows is incomprehensible. Alternatives
reducing the exporting/diversion of water are the obvious direct response to
the claimed BDCP purpose of “reducing the adverse effects on certain listed
[fish] species due to diverting water.”
The BDCP agencies have been marching along for at least
three years in the face of “red flags
flying” in their deliberate refusal to develop and evaluate a range of
reasonable alternatives, or indeed, any alternatives at all, that would
increase flows by reducing exports.
Three years ago the National Academy of Sciences declared in reviewing
the then-current version of the draft BDCP that: “[c]hoosing the alternative
project before evaluating alternative ways to reach a preferred outcome would
be post hoc rationalization—in other words, putting the cart before the horse.
Scientific reasons for not considering alternative actions are not presented in
the plan.” (National Academy of Sciences, Report in Brief at p. 2, May 5,
More than two years ago, on April 16, 2012, the
Co-Facilitators of the EWC transmitted a short, 1 ½ page letter to Gerald
Meral, Deputy Secretary of the California Resources Agency, sharing “concerns
with the current approach and direction of the [BDCP] project and we would like
to share those concerns with you.” (Letter, p. 1). Most of the paragraphs in
the letter dealt with the types of issues involving consideration of
alternatives. The penultimate paragraph of the letter specifically pointed out:
The absence of a full range of
alternatives, including an alternative which would reduce exports from the
Delta. It is understandable that the exporters, who are driving the project,
are not interested in this kind of alternative; however, in order to be a truly
permissible project, an examination of a full range of alternatives, including
ones that would reduce exports, needs to be included and needs to incorporate a
public trust balancing of alternatives.
Report: Coachella Valley Groundwater Replenishment Making Positive
By Matt Williams on Thu, 06/12/2014 - 1:50pm in
Groundwater Water News
A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) presents
another example of how a replenishment facility can have a positive impact on
local groundwater levels and slow or stop land subsidence.
Although some land areas in Palm Desert and Indian Wells
have subsided as much as two feet since the 1990s, USGS and the Coachella
Valley Water District has detected slower rates of subsidence and a positive
trend for water levels in La Quinta near the vicinity of the district’s Thomas
E. Levy Groundwater Replenishment Facility that began operations in 2009. The
system replenishes aquifers using Colorado River water.
At five locations in La Quinta, average subsidence rates decreased
near the replenishment facility based on measurements taken in 2010, only one
year after the facility went into full operation. USGS measured ground uplift
at one of the locations with previously observed subsidence.
Groundwater levels have increased as much as 75 feet,
according to the water district’s well monitoring within six miles of the
facility. Since 2009, groundwater levels have increased an average of 26 feet
in about 200 wells throughout the eastern Coachella Valley.
The USGS study of the Coachella Valley was funded through a
cooperative agreement with CVWD. A copy of the full study, “Land Subsidence,
Groundwater Levels, and Geology in the Coachella Valley, California,
1993-2010,” can be found at www.usgs.gov
Get to Your River!: Raft the South Fork American with FOR
Stacy Alyse Wieser, Summer BBQ Outings Volunteer Trip Organizer
Join us on river this summer! Raft the South Fork American
River this summer in June, July, or August with FOR on one of our three BBQ
Weekends (see dates and ticket links below)! Raft Saturday and/or Sunday; camp
Friday and/or Saturday nights; or meet us at the river for just the BBQ
fundraiser on Saturday’s at 6pm!
This is an entirely guide and volunteer organized event; we
ask that you consider renewing your membership or joining FOR. Join or renew by
visiting FOR’s website at http://www.friendsoftheriver.org . You can become a member as an individual or
as a household.
The rafting portion of the trip is "shared cost,"
which means that the actual rafting expenses, i.e. transportation, food, are
equally divided among the participants. Any proceeds from the BBQ are donated
Camp Lotus does not allow pets.
Saturday Shared Cost (Breakfast, Lunch, Day use fee, Rafting & BLM fees) $53
Saturday Fundraiser BBQ Dinner $25
Sunday Shared Cost (Breakfast, Lunch, Day Use fee, Rafting & BLM fees) $53
Camping with rafting: $8 per night/per person
Camping with-out rafting: $12 per night/per person
Parking a car: $4 per day
NOTE: Camping, day use and parking fees for Camp Lotus are to be paid to directly
FOR. Camping is $12 per night (includes
$4 day use), day use is $4 per person and parking $4 per car.
DATES & LINKS:
River in the Spotlight: Black Butte River & Cold Creek
Steve Evans, Wild & Scenic Program Coordinator
The Black Butte River flows for more than 20 miles from its
source in the northern Coast Range to its confluence with the Middle Eel River.
The river and its tributary, Cold Creek, provide some of the best spawning
habitat for the Middle Eel’s declining chinook salmon and winter steelhead. The
streams also support healthy populations of wild rainbow trout. Indeed, the
trout found in Cold Creek possess a distinct color pattern resembling the rare
The old growth forests growing along the Black Butte River
and Cold Creek provide excellent habitat for the threatened northern spotted
owl and the sensitive goshawk and pine martin. Dramatic rock outcrops dominate
portions of both streams. The upper portion of the Black Butte River flows
through a volcanic rock formation, creating a unique series of pools and falls.
Much of the river canyon is prone to landslides and slumps and is quite sensitive
to new road construction.
A Native American tribe known as the Huitintno’m Yuki lived
along the Black Butte River during the winter and migrated upstream in the
spring in pursuit of salmon and other game. Their estimated 4,000-year tenure
in the wild river canyon came to an abrupt end when European colonists slaughtered
the entire tribe in the 1800’s. The concentration of cultural values and
significant archeological resources left by the tribe is exceptional in the
northern Coast Range region. These values are threatened by disturbance and
theft associated with increased motorized access.
Fortunately, vehicular access to the Black Butte River and
Cold Creek is limited to a few remote and rugged jeep trails. An opportunity
for hikers is the Cold Creek trail, which drops down to the creek from the
Plaskett Recreation Area. Most of the river flows through publicly owned
National Forest lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the
Mendocino National Forest.
In 2006, 23 miles of the Black Butte River and five miles of
Cold Creek were added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.
River Saving Tip: Doing Dishes
Johnnie Carlson, Operations Director
If you wash your dishes by hand don’t let the water
continuously run. Turn it on and off when you need to rinse the dish off. www.epa.gov.
A good idea if you wash your dishes by hand is to use an
in-sink dish rack and rinse all the dishes off at once. www.epa.gov.
June 25, 2014
Volume 4, Number 6
The Voice of California's Rivers
In this issue
* Get To The River: July & August SFA BBQ Trips.
* River in the Spotlight: Black Butte River & Cold Creek.
* River Saving Tip: Doing The Dishes.
Drive that wreck into the riverbank - Friends of the River's Bank that is!
Friends of the River now accepts donations of cars, boats, trucks, jet skis and more! In a cooperative effort between Donation Line and FOR your vehicle can be donated to help save our rivers! You must have a clean title. Free Towing & No Hassles. Pick up ASAP.
Call 1-877-227-7487 extension 2811