Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taking the long view to save the Moke

The other day, a friend of mine said, "I hope we live long enough to see positive results from your efforts." He was talking about the fight to save the Mokelumne River from new dams and diversions. That effort is led by the Foothill Conservancy, and in my role with that organization, I spend a lot of time on it (quick disclaimer -- this is my personal blog and I'm not speaking for the FC in it).

Recently the Amador County Board of Supervisors voted not to support the designation and to meet with stakeholders to discuss legislative options. While some see that as total defeat for the Wild and Scenic campaign, I take a longer view. A negative person might focus on the "not support" side of the vote. Instead, I'm optimistic that the "meet with stakeholders" part of the decision could lead to a positive result.

Why? After working on Mokelumne conservation for 21 years, I believe that most people in Amador County really do want to keep the river like it is today. Those who dream of new dams for local water are usually brought back to earth once they really understand how much water's in the river, how much is already spoken for, how much dams cost, how the water rights work, and how much water we already have (enough to nearly triple the county's population).

So the question becomes, How do we keep the river the way it is today? The only way I know of is through National Wild and Scenic River designation.

Decisions about dams aren't made in Jackson or San Andreas or even Sacramento -- they're made by appointed bureaucrats at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in D.C. To stop new or larger dams, you have to take away their power. The one tried and true way to do it is with National Wild and Scenic River designation.

Those of us dedicated to protecting the river aren't giving up because of one vote. We know that thousands of local residents and more than 100 small businesses support the designation. We know that city council members, Calaveras County supervisors, Amador Water Agency directors, landowners along the river, and many other individuals are among the supporters. We know that local support has doubled in the last year since East Bay MUD proposed its latest Pardee expansion (the fifth effort to dam the Middle Bar and/or Electra run in the last 35 years).

So we'll slog on, and eventually, we will save this river. If you haven't signed on to support saving the Mokelumne for future generations, please do it today. And if you'd like to share your support with local and regional elected officials, you can use this easy e-mail form.