Saturday, March 21, 2009

People love our river

I've been actively working to conserve and restore the Mokelumne River for nearly 20 years. I know people love our river and use it.

That's been made manifest in the last couple of weeks since word got out that East Bay MUD, having years ago abandoned plans to expand Pardee Reservoir, has included a Pardee expansion in its draft 2040 water plan.

We "may not" do it, EBMUD says. "It's just an option." But the risk of losing miles of free-flowing river has locals and visitors alike up in arms.

Last weekend, nearly 50 kayakers converged on the river in a "Paddle for the Moke" organized by Theresa Simsiman of Sacramento. They ranged in age from 10 to 60-ish. Paddlers came from all over Northern California, including the East Bay. It was a great event!

The next night, nearly 150 people showed up for EBMUD's EIR hearing in Sutter Creek, overflowing a room designed to hold 40 people. Most were from Amador and Calaveras counties, although some folks came from farther away. The crowd included ranchers, farmers, kayakers, anglers, Miwok people, riverside landowners, conservationists, and more. It was a true cross-section of folks.

By the time the hearing began at 6:30, people were standing in the room, sitting on the floor, standing in the hall, and peering in the windows, straining to hear.

Only one person spoke in favor of the reservoir expansion, long-time local water manager/dam advocate Hank Willy. Everyone else spoke of their love for the river and their opposition to obliterating miles of it under a reservoir. They were respectful, but passionate.

EBMUD pushed the idea that all will be OK because they'll draw down the reservoir in summer to expose the lower end of the Electra run. But speakers familiar with New Melones pointed out what that means: a dead-zone bathtub ring devoid of vegetation. It's a far cry from what exists along the river today.

EBMUD is saying they'll hold another public hearing up here, in Calaveras County. Of course, this process has been in the works for more than two years, and last Monday's meeting was the first opportunity for foothill residents to testify to EBMUD directors (two came).

For more on Monday's meeting, read the Foothill Conservancy or Ledger-Dispatch article. The latter article includes great quotes from local officials Steve Wilensky and Keith Sweet.

For more about the issue, see the Foothill Conservancy's webpage on the subject and Chris Wright's op-ed in the Ledger Dispatch.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mokelumne River threatened again

Our local river is under threat once again. In its 2040 water plan, the East Bay Municipal Utility District is including a proposal to expand Pardee Reservoir. This larger version of Pardee would drown the entire Middle Bar reach of the Mokelumne -- and seasonally, nearly a mile of the Electra run above Highway 49.

The East Bay doesn't even need the water. EBMUD's directors chose to head down this path rather than impose stricter conservation standards. So there's less impact on Bay Area residents, but we lose miles of river people use every day, year 'round. The Mokelumne's Electra and Middle Bar reaches are the most accessible and family-friendly river segments in our area.

Everyone needs water. But we need our river, too.

For more information, some photos and video, and to send an e-mail to EBMUD and local officials -- some of whom are encouraging this misguided, destructive plan -- see the Foothill Conservancy's Pardee expansion webpage.

While you're there, sign on to support National Wild and Scenic River designation for the Mokelumne. It's the only way to ensure we have a river in our future.