Protecting the Mokelumne River benefits California populations, wildlife, and the environment.
Flowing from the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the Central Valley and into the San Joaquin Delta, the Mokelumne River is more than just a waterway, it is one of California’s eminent environmental watersheds. With subtle rapids, productive fisheries, and a pristine habitat, the Mokelumne River has thrived for generations as an environmental sanctuary in Northern California.
The resilience of the Mokelumne River persists, in spite of repeated attempts throughout history to exploit it for its resources. Dating back to the 1850s, the Mokelumne was first modified for gold mining, and has been since diverted multiple times, including for the Pardee and Camanche Dams, in addition to the Delta Cross Channel for the State Water Project.
These dam projects have provided important water and energy storage for the East Bay that have supported our community’s growth with a reliable water supply. However, with each modification, the natural ecology and wildlife of the Mokelumne River has been severely and irreversibly damaged.
Since being elected as a Director on the East Bay Municipal Utilities District Board in 2007, I have made it my personal priority to resist efforts to further dam the Mokelumne River and to preserve it for future generations. Through 2011, working with conservation organizations, I’ve been a part of the efforts to reject a proposal for an expansive new dam that would have flooded up to 6 miles of the Mokelumne and I am proud that EBMUD is now supporting the effort to designate a 37-mile stretch of the river as part of the State Wild and Scenic River System.
If our effort succeeds, it will guarantee that this part of the river will be protected from future dam projects and other intrusions on the natural environment in perpetuity. By securing permanent protection of such a significant part of the waterway, the native Chinook salmon population will be able to be rehabilitated, the area will be preserved for recreational uses, and the natural ecology of the region will be able to proliferate, according to a draft report prepared for the California Natural Resources Agency.
Equally important, the designation as a wild and scenic river would also have positive impacts on the quality and supply of water for the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Since the regulation will take place upstream of the Pardee Dam that provides water to the East Bay, our water supply will be better protected from harmful pollutants and ecological decay. Additionally, because of ambitious conservation and groundwater storage efforts that I helped advocate for over the past decade, EBMUD is projected to also have the necessary water supply to continue providing the resources needed for our growing population for decades to come.
In spite of the many positive benefits that would come from the designation of this section of the Mokelumne River as a scenic and wild river, this effort has faced special interest opposition. I am proud to join the Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River, and progressive leaders from across the State in fighting back to protect our environment and our water supply. East Bay residents can join us in voicing their approval for protecting the Mokelumne River as well by emailing their public comments to Joey Wall of the California Natural Resources Agency at Joseph.Wall@resources.ca.gov before this Friday at 5:00pm.
Once the report is finalized this year, we will need our state legislators to follow through and pass legislation to complete the Wild and Scenic designation of the Mokelumne River to ensure its protection for future generations. This is just one of many bold steps that need to be taken by California leaders to preserve the natural beauty and ecological abundance of our state. From preserving our coastlines to addressing concerns of water supply to combating climate change through reducing carbon emissions, our state leaders must step up to protect the natural treasure that is California for generations to come.