Friday, April 4, 2014

Sen. Loni Hancock introduces legislation to designate the Mokelumne a state Wild and Scenic River

On April 4, Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) introduced legislation, Senate Bill 1199, to designate 37 miles of the North Fork and main Mokelumne River a State Wild and Scenic River. The Mokelumne provides 90 percent of the water for Hancock’s constituents in the East Bay. Wild and Scenic River designation will ensure that all current uses of the river between Salt Springs Dam and Pardee Reservoir continue while protecting its free-flowing segments from new dams.

"The Mokelumne River is an extremely important state resource that provides high-quality drinking water to 1.4 million East Bay water users. It deserves to be recognized and protected as a Wild and Scenic River,” said Senator Hancock. “This designation will protect the East Bay's water supply while ensuring the Mokelumne’s importance is reflected in state law for generations to come.”

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed the designation in late February. The board recognized that protecting the Mokelumne as a State Wild and Scenic River will enhance the rural economies of Amador and Calaveras counties by boosting tourism, provide for family recreation, and ensure this locally beloved river is permanently protected for present and future generations.

“The Mokelumne is very important to Calaveras County's people and our economy,” said Calaveras County Supervisor Chris Wright, whose district borders the Mokelumne. “It's where our families go on a hot day and teach their kids about nature. Local families pass those experiences down from generation to generation. The Moke also attracts tourists that spend money in our local businesses.

“I grew up on the Mokelumne, and I'm proud to have been a part of the board of supervisors' historic, unanimous vote to protect the river and build our local economy,” Wright said. “I’d like to thank Senator Hancock for introducing this bill and look forward to working with the state legislature to protect the river for our county and my children's children.”

State Wild and Scenic designation for the Mokelumne is supported by the Calaveras Visitors Bureau, Destination Angels Camp, more than 140 small businesses, local and regional elected officials, conservation and community organizations, and more than 12,000 individuals (a substantial number of whom are local residents). Visitors to the Mokelumne spend money in local businesses on food, lodging, gasoline, meals and more, which generates sales tax revenue for Amador and Calaveras counties and their cities.

“California Wild and Scenic River designation for the Mokelumne will help to protect the current and future recreational opportunities on the Mokelumne, bringing essential additional tourism recreation income into the county,” said Lisa Boulton, Executive Director of the Calaveras Visitors Bureau & Film Commission. “In a time when we are concerned for the financial future of Calaveras, this is a sound and prudent measure to ensure that we keep tourism revenue options available while simultaneously protecting private property and the Mokelumne watershed.”

The Mokelumne has been a hard-working river since its first dams were built in the 1920s. Its system of dams and diversions provide water for 1.4 million people and farm irrigation, and its powerhouses provide electricity for more than 200,000 homes. The river continues to provide vital services during the current drought. State designation will not affect PG&E’s hydropower operations or the delivery of water from the Mokelumne River to local, Central Valley or East Bay Municipal Utility District water users. There are no new dams or diversions planned for the river sections proposed for State Wild and Scenic designation, and unused flows in the river are not sufficient to make new dams economically feasible.

“The California Wild and Scenic Rivers System exists to ensure that some free-flowing rivers and extraordinary values are protected for present and future generations,” said Friends of the River Executive Director Eric Wesselman. “We are proud to work with Senator Hancock and the Foothill Conservancy to protect this fine addition to the state system,” he said.

State Wild and Scenic River designation will ensure that the Mokelumne remains open for the wide variety of activities local residents and visitors enjoy today, as well as available for the Native Americans for whom the river is a living cultural resource and teaching tool. The designation will also protect the river’s rich populations of fish and wildlife.

“People from all over central and northern California and western Nevada visit the Mokelumne to camp, swim, hike, picnic, kayak, bird watch, view wildflowers, and escape the stresses of everyday life,” said Foothill Conservancy Executive Director Cecily Smith. “State Wild and Scenic designation will ensure they can continue to enjoy our beautiful river for generations to come. The public lands along the river serve as a local park, open to everyone regardless of income, ability, or age. It’s not uncommon to see three generations of a family enjoying the river together. Someone will be fishing, kids will be playing in the water, other family members will be relaxing on the beach or walking nearby. We call the Mokelumne ‘A River for Everyone,’ because it truly has it all.”

Sen. Hancock introduced the legislation to protect the source and water quality of her constituents’ water supply. In 2009, the cities of Richmond and Berkeley endorsed Wild and Scenic River protection in recognition of the Mokelumne’s importance to their communities.

For more information, contact:
Ron Stork, Senior Policy Staff, Friends of the River, 916-442-3155 x220,
Steve Evans, Friends of the River Wild Rivers Consultant, 916-708-3155,
Katherine Evatt, Foothill Conservancy, 209-296-5734,