It was the culmination of a long struggle for the Jackson-based Foothill Conservancy and other river advocates. Four years ago, a Mokelumne bill was approved by the state Senate but killed by a parliamentary maneuver  that blocked a vote in the Assembly. Despite significant support in Calaveras and Amador counties, the bill was opposed by local water agencies concerned about the potential impact on their water rights. In 2015 Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) successfully proposed a state study of the Mokelumne’s suitability for wild and scenic designation. The resulting California Natural Resources Agency report, released in April, recommended protected status with special provisions ensuring water agencies’ existing rights and ability to apply for new rights. “All of the affected water agencies, Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River, and the Natural Resources Agency worked out language everyone could live with,” says Conservancy president Katherine Evatt. She adds that a credible state study “made it easier for the water agencies to come on board.” Although existing dams will remain in place, they can’t be enlarged, and new onstream dams are barred on 5 segments of the Mokelumne’s north fork and main stem. For more on this story see the upcoming September 2018 issue of Estuary News.

Pearls in the ocean of information that our reporters didn’t want you to miss
Photo courtesy of Foothill Conservancy
 

California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System expanded for the first time in 13 years in June when Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed legislation protecting 37 miles of the upper Mokelumne River. It was the culmination of a long struggle for the Jackson-based Foothill Conservancy and other river advocates. Four years ago, a Mokelumne bill was approved by the state Senate but killed by a parliamentary maneuver  that blocked a vote in the Assembly. Despite significant support in Calaveras and Amador counties, the bill was opposed by local water agencies concerned about the potential impact on their water rights. In 2015 Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) successfully proposed a state study of the Mokelumne’s suitability for wild and scenic designation. The resulting California Natural Resources Agency report, released in April, recommended protected status with special provisions ensuring water agencies’ existing rights and ability to apply for new rights. “All of the affected water agencies, Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River, and the Natural Resources Agency worked out language everyone could live with,” says Conservancy president Katherine Evatt. She adds that a credible state study “made it easier for the water agencies to come on board.” Although existing dams will remain in place, they can’t be enlarged, and new onstream dams are barred on 5 segments of the Mokelumne’s north fork and main stem. For more on this story see the upcoming September 2018 issue of Estuary News.

About the author

Joe Eaton writes about endangered and invasive species, climate and ecosystem science, environmental history, and water issues for ESTUARY. He is also "a semi-obsessive birder" whose pursuit of rarities has taken him to many of California's shores, wetlands, and sewage plants.

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