The California Natural Resources Agency recently released the draft Mokelumne River Wild and
Scenic Study Report, recommending that 37 miles of the Mokelumne River be added to the California
Wild and Scenic River System. The agency wants to hear from you about their recommendations, and
will hold a public hearing about the draft report on Thursday, February 15th in Mokelumne Hill
(see below for further details).
The California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act preserves rivers that “possess extraordinary scenic, recreational, fishery, or wildlife values in their free-flowing state, together with their immediate environments, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the State.” If ultimately designated, the Mokelumne will be protected from new dams and diversions in the designated reaches.
The Mokelumne has something to offer every paddler, from the Class II Electra run and Class III Ponderosa run to the Class III-IV Tiger Creek run and the Class III-V Devil’s Nose run. The Electra run is best known for an annual slalom and downriver race event known as the Moke Races. Loma Prieta Paddlers, an affiliate club of American Whitewater, has sponsored this race since 1978. Additionally, the Mokelumne offers a diverse range of recreational opportunities, including family camping, rock climbing, fishing, swimming, gold panning, wildflower viewing and family outings. Overall, the river is known for its forested granite canyons, wildlife and extraordinary scenery.
The Natural Resources Agency’s report recognizes the Mokelumne’s extraordinary scenic and recreational resources, and recommends that the North Fork and mainstem Mokelumne be designated from below Salt Springs Dam to Pardee Reservoir’s flood surcharge pool downstream of Highway 49 near Jackson. Specifically, the report recognizes whitewater boating among the key extraordinary recreational values on the Mokelumne River. Whitewater recreation is identified on 4 of the 5 river segments within the primary study area.
The report, which was required by AB 142 in 2015, finds that the current uses of the Mokelumne will continue if the river is designated, including hydropower generation (there would be gaps in designated reaches around PG&E facilities), grazing and agriculture. The report also finds that designation will potentially have limited effects on timber management or logging on private lands. Additionally, local water agencies could develop “many types of water projects” upstream of the designated reaches “without adversely affecting the free-flowing condition, natural character, and extraordinary scenic and recreational values of designated segments.”
While American Whitewater and our partners applaud the report, we do have some concerns. The report fails to recognize the extraordinary wildlife value of the Mokelumne, which is home to numerous special status species and a state-defined natural landscape block for wildlife. There is also potential to restore spawning habitat for fall-run Chinook salmon.
Additionally, the report recommends “special provisions” to address concerns about water rights. However, the California Research Bureau (an independent, bipartisan research group) found that there would be minimal effect of state wild and scenic designation on future water projects, diversions and water rights, and therefore these special provisions are not necessary.
The Natural Resources Agency is receiving public comment on the draft report until 5 p.m. February 28th, 2018. You can view the draft report here. If you can make it, we encourage you to come to a public hearing and submit comments on Thursday, February 15th at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall in Mokelumne Hill (8283 Main Street).
If you can’t make it to the hearing, you can submit comments via e-mail to Joseph.Wall@resources.ca.gov, or in writing to:
California Natural Resources Agency
C/O Joey Wall
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814
Stay tuned to American Whitewater for additional opportunities to submit comments. Your voices matter as the Natural Resources Agency determines the future of the Mokelumne River. We encourage you to weigh in today!
Photo: Albert Romvari at the Downriver Moke Race - by Gary Johnson