February 6, 2018
The northern fork of the Mokelumne River downstream of Salt Springs Dam near Amador and Calaveras counties, part of the section of the river that may be included in the California Wild and Scenic River System.
A portion of the Mokelumne River upstream from Lodi could be designated wild and scenic.
The California Natural Resources Agency released a report last week that strengthens the case for protecting the river.
If approved by the CNRA, 37 miles of the Mokelumne River from below Salt Springs Dam in Amador and Calaveras counties to the Pardee Reservoir’s flood surcharge pool near Jackson would be added to the California Wild and Scenic River System.
Established in 1968, the National Wild and Scenic River System preserves rivers with “outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations,” according to the system’s website.
Onstream dams and reservoirs would be banned for that section of the river, although the designation would not impact existing water rights, land use or agriculture.
For this reason, Foothill Conservancy President Katherine Evatt does not anticipate any noticeable effects for Lodi or any other part of the Central Valley.
“A lot of folks from Lodi come to recreate at this area. What this does for them is make sure that the places they come to recreate are there in the future. This is good for the Valley because it keeps water flowing downstream in your direction. Not only does it protect parts of the river that are free-flowing today, but if anybody wanted to file a water rights application, this shouldn’t affect that process,” Evatt said.
Bill Ferrero, a Lodi-born fishing guide on the Mokelumne River, supported the proposal, echoing Evatt’s beliefs that Lodi would see virtually no impact if part of the Mokelumne were added to the system.
“I think it’s a great idea. I don’t think it would have any affect on Lodi. There are two reservoirs and miles of river before the Mokelumne reaches Lodi: Camanche (Reservoir) is used for flood control and irrigation, and Pardee (Reservoir) has an outlet to send drinking water to the East Bay. Conceptually, I don’t see how it could affect Lodi’s water, at all,” Ferrero said.
Kathy Grant, watershed program coordinator for the City of Lodi, voiced her own support for the proposal, adding that incorporating part of the Mokelumne into the system could bring potential benefits for Lodians who enjoy recreational activities such as kayaking or fishing in the area.
“I think it’s a happy compromise. We need all the water we can get down here, because our groundwater is so depleted, but I see more (effects) in terms of recreation. We need all the recreational water we can get down here, too,” Grant said.
The draft Mokelumne study is now available for public review and comment. Comments are due to the California Natural Resources Agency by Feb. 28. The agency will hold a public meeting to discuss the study and hear public comments on Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Mokelumne Hill Town Hall, 8283 Main St., Mokelumne Hill, beginning at 6 p.m.