March 28, 2015

To save native Delta fish species, fight for freshwater flows


Photo courtesy

The drought may be harming both humans and wildlife, but extinction is forever. Several fish species—including a major run of salmon–in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary are at imminent risk of extinction, even as state and federal agencies have petitioned for more water to be sent from the Delta to agricultural and municipal water users.

Delta outflow standards exist to ensure that all of the fresh water doesn’t get pumped out of the Bay-Delta Estuary for human use alone, thereby protecting fish and wildlife that depend on the Bay and Delta.  Yet, according to many Central Valley residents and legislators, these environmental standards create an onerous and unnecessary impact to their water supply. As California’s water supply dwindles with the ongoing drought, the demand grows louder to divert every last drop of fresh water that reaches our Bay.

At a recent State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) meeting, Central Valley residents arrived wearing t-shirts that read, “Water for People, NOT for Fish!” They were petitioning the State Board to permit a relaxation of Delta outflow standards and simultaneous higher Delta pumping levels than dry-year regulations usually allow. Yet winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon, Delta smelt, steelhead trout, and potentially longfin smelt—all endangered species—are all at the critical juncture in their life cycles that puts them at increased risk of getting killed by the Delta pumps.

The State Board responded to the water users’ petition with a revised order that attempts to balance the need to preserve critical reservoir storage with the need to provide water supply and protect endangered fish species and the health of the Bay-Delta Estuary. It remains to be seen whether this attempt will be successful: last year’s similar attempts at a balanced allocation of water led to lethally warm in-stream temperatures that resulted in a 95% loss of the brood year of winter-run Chinook salmon.

As the San Jose Mercury News recently stated in an editorial (“Delta’s health should take priority over pumping”), “California needs to get serious about protecting the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, one of Silicon Valley’s most valuable water sources. The short-term needs of Central Valley farmers are significant. But they pale in comparison with preserving the long-term water quality of the estuary that provides water for two-thirds of the state’s residents.”

The State Board will determine in March how much water should be pumped from the Delta in the coming months. They need to hear that extinction is not an acceptable outcome of water allocation decisions during the drought!

Darcie Luce is a Water Policy Specialist for Friends of the San Francisco Estuary’s Freshwater Flows Program.


Write to the State Water Board today requesting that they:

  1. Reverse their decision to suspend the D-1641 March requirements for inflows to San Francisco Bay and ensure that these flows critical to the continued existence of Delta smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon, and other species are actually provided for the rest of March and on through the ecologically important spring period.
  2. Reverse their decision to partly suspend the D-1641 limits on export pumping, in order to prevent devastating impacts on the last remaining Delta smelt and winter-run salmon.
  3. Reject any new petitions to suspend the flow requirements and export limits for April and May 2015, and give the endangered species of the Bay-Delta estuary their last, best chance for survival.

Your email does not need to be very long, but feel free to personalize it to let the Board members know why you care about protecting the fish and wildlife of the San Francisco Estuary.

Send your email to:

Streamside development pushes Marin salmon to edge of extinction

Coho salmon. Photo courtesy of SPAWNUSA.ORG.

Coho salmon. Photo courtesy of SPAWNUSA.ORG.

As reported in recent issues of the Yodeler, the critically endangered California coastal coho salmon have all but gone extinct in Muir Woods, a jewel of the Bay Area named after environmentalist John Muir. In San Geronimo Valley in Marin County, the last large surviving coho salmon run south of Fort Bragg is dwindling. Shockingly, the Marin County Board of Supervisors steadfastly refuses to act to prevent the extinction of the California coho salmon. We are out of time. Action must be taken now to save this native species.

All along the coast, the genetically-distinct California coastal coho salmon have faced a host of environmental impacts over the last 150 years, including logging, agriculture, development, and dams. After plunging by 90 percent or more from historic numbers, the species was added to the U.S. Endangered Species list in 1996. This means the species is in imminent danger of extinction, possibly in the next few years.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the biggest threat to the California coho salmon today is development. Salmon need clean, cool water in which to hatch their young, while the young need complex, natural streams to provide food and shelter from big winter storms.

Development within 100 feet of streams eliminates vegetation that shades streams and provides wood to protect young salmon. Building decks, patios, driveways, and houses near streams removes shade and trees from streams and prevents rain from soaking into the soil — instead sending stormwater shooting into streams like water cannons. Right now, San Geronimo Valley is at a tipping point, where more development will increase these impacts and doom the species to extinction.

Over 150 salmon scientists have written to the Marin County Supervisors asking them to limit development near salmon habitat. The Board’s own consultants recommended that setbacks and vegetation protections be put in place to protect the species. Yet, for years, the Board has refused to put science-based, common-sense regulations in place to prevent further development on stream banks and to protect critical streamside vegetation. Marin County has now lost two lawsuits over its failure to comply with environmental laws to protect coho salmon, yet it continues to approve more development projects near streams.

The Sierra Club, the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), and partner organizations are demanding that the Marin County Board of Supervisors follow scientific recommendations and enact a comprehensive, common-sense ordinance that will preserve critical coho habitat by protecting vegetation and limiting development on stream banks.


Here are four steps you can take to help save coho salmon:

  1. Make a call for coho! Call the EACH of the Marin County Supervisors to tell them it is time to take action to protect our coho salmon: Kate Sears: (415)473-7331, Katie Rice: (415)473-6159, Judy Arnold: (415)473-7371, Damon Connolly: (415)473-7354, and Steve Kinsey: (415)473-7331.
  2. Sign our online petition to the Marin County Board of Supervisors.
  3. Come to one of our free “State of the Marin Coho Salmon 2015” presentations by SPAWN Legal Program Director (and long-time Sierra Club member) Doug Karpa to hear an update on the health of the endangered coho salmon population in the Lagunitas Creek Watershed. Karpa will take questions and comments and share actions citizens can take to help ensure these iconic native fish remain a part of our landscape for generations to come. Find details at
    1. Thu, March 26, 7 pm: San Anselmo Council Chambers, 525 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo
    2. Mon., April 6, 7 pm: Corte Madera Town Center Community Room, 770 Tamalpais Drive, Suite 201, Corte Madera
    3. Wed., April 15, 7 pm: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Bay Model, 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito
  4. Join the California Coho Task Force to help make this campaign a success. For more information or to join the campaign, contact Doug Karpa at

— Doug Karpa, Legal Program Director, Turtle Island Restoration Network

Banking on California’s groundwater: strategies for a precious and imperiled resource

An Unregulated Past

Hydrologic Cycle. Image courtesy

Hydrologic Cycle. Image courtesy

Water pumped from underground aquifers has long been a major source of California’s water supply. In normal rainfall years, groundwater provides about 40% of water for urban and agricultural uses. In dry years, groundwater supplies closer to 60% of our water. But unlike the surface water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, whose use has been regulated by the State since 1928, groundwater has been largely unmonitored and unregulated. Anyone owning property over an aquifer has been free to drill as big and deep a well as they could afford, and pump out as much water as they wanted.

Under this model, property owners were in theory limited to using the pumped water on the land overlying the basin only if there was no surplus water in the basin, but since most of California’s large basins remain at least partially unmonitored, the question of whether or not pumped groundwater was “surplus” has been largely ignored.

The lack of groundwater regulation and periodic droughts led to a tragedy of the commons. Well owners hurried to pump as much water as possible before their basins went to court or went dry. NASA satellite observations show that between 2003 and 2010, the Sacramento and San Joaquin basins lost enough groundwater to nearly fill Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S. In 2012 and 2013, these basins further declined at the steepest rate observed since NASA began monitoring groundwater.

A Regulated Future

Governor Brown and the California State Legislature addressed California’s groundwater problems by passing the state’s first-ever groundwater legislation in 2014. The legislation identifies groundwater basins of high and medium priority, most of them in the Central Valley, and requires a local groundwater-sustainability agency to be established for each of these basins by 2017. These agencies will have the power to require well monitoring and regulate groundwater extraction. Agencies managing basins subject to critical overdraft will be required to have a plan in place to sustainably manage their basins by 2020. All medium- and high-priority basins must achieve sustainability by 2040 or be subject to State Water Resources Board control.

These new laws are being met with mixed and sometimes hostile reactions in Central Valley farming communities, where groundwater rights are considered private property rights, and water scarcity is perceived as a lack of surface storage and an excess of environmental regulation.

Groundwater banking as an alternative to surface storage

The Sierra Club opposes building new dams, and for good reasons. Above-ground storage projects damage local ecosystems and are bad investments, providing little additional water at enormous cost. Potential groundwater storage has more than ten times the storage capacity of all of California’s reservoirs combined. Many environmental organizations and the State see groundwater banking as a solution for providing water reliability in the future.

Successes in Groundwater Banking

In the area around Fremont, water shortages developed as early as 1910 as water was pumped out of the local basin by San Francisco and Oakland. The local water table was falling by as much as an inch a day. Area residents responded by voting in 1913 to form the Alameda County Water District (ACWD), the first water district in California, to manage the local water supply, including the groundwater basin. Using water purchased from the State Water Project, ACWD managed by 1972 to bring its water table back above sea level and halt saltwater intrusion. By percolating excess wet-year water into the groundwater basin and pumping it out in dry years, ACWD conjunctively manages its groundwater basin and surface water to supply between thirty and sixty percent of the water for the Fremont area.

Semitropic Water Bank Fails Bay Area Agencies

Canal and tank of the Semitropic Water Bank. Photo courtesy Chris Austin on Flickr, via

Canal and tank of the Semitropic Water Bank. Photo courtesy Chris Austin on Flickr, via

Although groundwater banking is a concept with great promise, in practice it can be unreliable, particularly when storage sites are located at a great distance from their depositors. A recent example of the failure of water banking just when it’s needed most is the 2014 failure of the Semitropic Water Bank near Bakersfield to deliver stored water back to Bay Area water agencies.

Semitropic’s banking system relies on an exchange program in which the Northern California agencies withdraw water flowing from north to south through the State Water Project aqueduct in exchange for depositing water in the Semitropic bank next to the SWP aqueduct in Bakersfield. ACWD, SCVWD, and the Zone 7 water district have, over the years, stored enough water in the Semitropic bank to supply all their customers for one year. Their ability to recover the equivalent amount of water was unexpectedly curtailed when the State Water Project (SWP) cancelled its north-south water deliveries in 2014. With no water flowing through the aqueduct to the Bay Area, Northern California agencies were not able to recover any of their banked water.

Another danger to the water stored in the Semitropic bank is the fracking wastewater injected into the aquifers in Kern County. In July of 2014, California ordered an emergency shutdown of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites in Kern County, fearing they may have been contaminating the groundwater basin that Silicon Valley depends on for its drought-year water.

For Reliability, Bank Locally

The new State groundwater regulations will help stabilize California’s groundwater situation, making groundwater banking and recovery more reliable. However, since the local agencies charged with regulating groundwater have in most cases yet to be established, and have until 2040 to bring their basins into a sustainable condition, current groundwater-banking projects should be undertaken with caution. The most reliable groundwater banking is local banking, and the most readily-available source for banked water is treated waste water, as demonstrated by the OCWD.

— Charlotte Allen

On the brink: is it too late to save the salmon of Redwood Creek in Muir Woods?


Photo of Redwood Creek via Flickr Creative Commons,

The federal government is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to save the endangered coho salmon, but the Sierra Club is concerned that these efforts are ignoring the real source of contamination—and meanwhile, our salmon are inching closer to extinction.

In Marin, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) collected comprehensive scientific research on our two most significant spawning grounds, Lagunitas Creek in the San Geronimo Valley and Redwood Creek, which traverses Muir Woods to reach Muir Beach and the Pacific Ocean (you can find the full text of NOAA’s “Recovery Plan for the Evolutionarily Significant Unit of Central Coast Coho Salmon” online here). As part of the habitat restoration effort, 15 million dollars was spent to restore Big Lagoon and Muir Beach. Yet these efforts did not save the latest generation of coho.

Thirteen adult spawners were counted this year but apparently none of the hatched fry from five observed nests survived. Scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirm that for the first time in Redwood Creek’s recorded history, the local extinction of this year’s coho has occurred.

Earlier generations, now 18 months and three years old, are in deep trouble too. In August, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service “rescued” the remaining coho in Redwood Creek and Mount Tamalpais State Park. They found no babies, instead transporting the 105 smolt-sized fish that failed to migrate out to sea to the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery in Sonoma. Although some of the smolt found this year may survive to spawn, the trajectory is not looking good.  Scientists warn of an “extinction vortex” for coho. A recovery threshold of 272 fish is the minimum indicated for Redwood Creek in the NOAA Fisheries Coho Recovery Plan.

All this begs the question: What happened to the coho young this year?

Though the National Park Service and other agencies have spent over 15 million dollars on habitat restoration, they have failed to test the water in Redwood Creek for contaminants. Every year, an estimated one million visitors and several-hundred thousand vehicles use the road that runs alongside Redwood Creek, leading to Muir Woods. Along a four-mile stretch of that road, 15 of 43 culverts deliver contaminated storm water directly into the creek. Road runoff is a well-documented source of toxins in creeks, and water contamination could be a significant factor in the coho’s plight.

Car brake pads emit copper, a known neurotoxin. Government scientists have concluded that low levels of copper found in waterways harm sense of smell in young coho salmon, reducing their ability to avoid predators and confusing migration and spawning ability. Copper tests cost only 10 dollars.

Moreover, a 2013 study from NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Washington linked unidentified compounds in highway runoff to coho salmon death. In that study, toxic chemicals that washed into creeks in the rush of stormwater after a rainfall were found to be killing adult salmon before they could spawn.

coho salmon graph

Chart compiled by Laura Chariton.

According to a regional water board spokesperson, parking alongside Redwood Creek should not be allowed because of the known vehicle contaminants. Yet on any given day a mile-long queue of parked cars lines the county-owned road along the creek. The National Park Service has suggested adding a valet service and online registration system, which would only exacerbate the problem.

Many believe our government and agencies have failed in their responsibility to protect our salmon, favoring visitors over natural resources. This is an occasion for the County of Marin to step forward and do what the federal and state agencies are apparently incapable of doing; the county must follow up on the billions of dollars spent on plans and research and take active steps to save these fish. Marin County owns the roads and must manage them. If we want Muir Woods to continue in harmony with the legacy upon which it was founded, then we need to save its native wildlife from extinction.

The solution: give Muir Woods a break from individual cars. Clean the water and restrict use until we can begin to recover the two remaining coho populations that are on the brink.

—Laura Chariton

Read more about coho salmon in Marin in “Marin Supervisors pass toothless streamside ordinance–will our salmon survive politics?“.

Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that 1.4 million visitors and 350,000 vehicles use the road that runs alongside Redwood Creek leading to Muir Woods. These figures are actually one million and several hundred thousand, respectively.

Water bond virtues and vices lead Sierra Club California to a neutral position on Prop. 1

Sacramento Delta.

Photo via Daniel Parks on Flickr Creative Commons.

The $7.5 billion Water Bond (Prop. 1 on the November ballot) passed the legislature with near-unanimous votes and has been signed by the Governor. This is a very complicated bond with billions of taxpayer dollars at stake. The Club’s “no position” stance acknowledges the benefits of the bond, while also taking into account major concerns.

The Good:

There are some very substantial environmental benefits outlined in the bonds. These include about $1.3 billion for non-controversial watershed restoration; $810 million for regional water management, storm water management, and efficiency; and $900 million for groundwater treatment, planning, and management. We strongly support these conservation and restoration programs. The bond will allocate more than $500 million to ensure safe drinking water for low-income disadvantaged communities in the southern San Joaquin Valley, and provide funding to clean up groundwater pollution in the Los Angeles basin. Real dollars will be available to ensure that communities around the state that are literally without water because of severe drought and serious groundwater pollution will get clean drinking water.

The proposition also explicitly prohibits spending any of the funds on the construction, design, maintenance, operation, or mitigation of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, Governor Brown’s proposal to build twin tunnels around the Bay Delta in order to ensure the continued export of unsustainable quantities of Delta water to Southern California.

The Bad:

So what’s not to like? Unfortunately the water bond also authorizes $2.7 billion (more than one third of the total bond package) for development of three environmentally damaging water storage projects. Because the water bond required a 2/3 vote in both houses of the legislature, Republicans were able to drive a hard bargain and obtain the $2.7 billion for surface storage in the Central Valley, including three projects Sierra Club has opposed because they are over-priced, inefficient and unneeded. These are the proposals to raise the Shasta Dam, and to build two new dams, one off-stream using Sacramento River water at Sites (Colusa County) and one upstream of Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River (Temperance Flat).

New above-ground storage projects would not only damage their local ecosystems, but would be bad investments, providing little additional water at enormous cost. According to an analysis done by the Fresno Bee, the five major reservoir projects being studied by the State (Temperance Flat, Sites, and raising the Shasta, Los Vaqueros, and San Luis Reservoir dams) would provide only an additional 520,000 acre feet of water in a dry year at a combined cost of $8.86 billion dollars. That’s a cost of $17,000 per acre-foot, or 8 times the record prices being paid for water in this critically dry year! The reason new and raised dams won’t deliver much additional water is because most of the water they are capable of storing is already spoken for.

The world is much different today than during the dam-building heyday in the 20th century. Climate disruption has begun and precipitation patterns are already changing. New dams won’t respond to that. The sooner the special interests that drive dam development in this state recognize this 21st-century reality and focus instead on moving aggressively to enable regional resiliency through conservation, efficiency, recycling, storm water capture, groundwater management and the like, the better off we will all be.

Lobby EBMUD for Mokelumne Wild and Scenic protection

Photo by Katherine Evatt.

Photo by Katherine Evatt.

Your support for SB 1199—state Wild and Scenic designation for the Mokelumne River—is needed on Tuesday, August 12. SB 1199 has traveled a long road, but last week it was put in “suspense” at the Appropriations Committee. That means it is alive, but side-tracked.

The backing of the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) Board is absolutely critical now to show needed strength and help the bill to advance. The EBMUD Board meets this Tuesday, August 12, at 1:15 pm, at 375 11th Street in Oakland. If you are available, please attend this meeting and urge the Board to adopt a position of active support for SB 1199. Briefly state one or more of the following points:
  • It is in the best interest of EBMUD customers’ drinking water supply and future salmon restoration efforts to protect the 37-mile stretch in question from the construction of upstream dams or diversion facilities.
  • EBMUD should not defer to Tea Party-dominated Amador County, where a small group of politicians continues to try to impose language on the bill that would set a terrible precedent, weakening the California Wild and Scenic Act itself and endangering future bids to protect other rivers.
  • Major constituencies in the EBMUD service area have passed resolutions of support for Mokelumne Wild and Scenic protection, including the Richmond City Council (in 2009), the Berkeley City Council (in 2009), and the Oakland City Council (this month). The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors  recently reaffirmed its support.
  • Sierra Club California—representing the views of nearly 150,000 Californians—and the San Francisco Bay Chapter strongly advocate state Wild and Scenic protection for the Mokelumne River.
  •  Passage of SB 1199 will allow all Californians, including communities in the watershed, to benefit in perpetuity from the environmental, recreational, scenic, touristic, cultural, and historic values the Mokelumne River offers.
If you can’t attend the EBMUD Board meeting in person, please send a short email incorporating the above talking points to the following EBMUB Boardmembers:
Your local advocacy can make a real difference in our struggle to help preserve a unique natural resource in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Save the “Moke,” a river for all! Read more about this issue in “Wild and Scenic protection for the Mokelumne River is not out of the woods.”

Wild and Scenic protection for the Mokelumne River is not out of the woods

Wild and Scenic Mokelumne River Your help is needed for a final push to keep the Mokelumne River permanently free of additional dams and major new infrastructure!

SB 1199—state Wild and Scenic designation for the Mokelumne River authored by Berkeley Senator Loni Hancock and co-sponsored by Foothill Conservancy and Friends of the River—has thus far survived the gauntlet of the state legislature. Having passed through the Senate and the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, the bill now must make its way through the Appropriations Committee on August 6 before it can face a full Assembly floor vote and make it onto the Governor’s desk.

SB 1199 would ensure that the approximately 37-mile stretch of river in question, just upstream of the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s (EBMUD) Pardee Reservoir, will maintain its fine habitat and recreational, cultural, economic, and scenic value. The bill enjoys strong support both in the Bay Area and in the Sierra foothills counties of Amador and Calaveras that border the river.

“Upcountry” Amador County and foothills water agency officials oppose SB 1199, fearing that the bill’s passage would cut them off from future Mokelumne water rights. According to information provided by the bill’s sponsors, however, precedent from other California Wild and Scenic rivers shows these fears to be unfounded.

EBMUD, which delivers water to approximately 1.3 million customers in the East Bay, derives 90% of its supply from the Mokelumne River. Sierra Club Bay Chapter members have joined with Foothill Conservancy and Friends of the River members in lobbying EBMUD to support SB 1199. Directors Andy Katz, Doug Linney, and Lesa McIntosh  were readily supportive, but others—having been heavily lobbied by other water agencies and local governments on the “Moke”—have been slow to embrace SB 1199.

On June 24, the board voted unanimously to modify its position slightly, from “oppose if amended” to “support if amended.” It is a move in the right direction, but several directors want to see the bill amended to the satisfaction of the most staunchly-opposed upcountry interests before giving it their full support.

While the state Assembly Natural Resources Committee passed SB 1199 in a 6-3 vote, its chair, Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro, also requested that Senator Hancock do everything in her power to find acceptable compromise language. It will be a challenge to reach a compromise without voiding the protective powers of a Wild and Scenic designation. A strong show of support from Assemblymembers could help pressure the holdouts in Amador and Calaveras Counties to agree to reasonable provisions.

With the legislature in recess through early August, Assemblymembers will be in their home districts gauging their constituents’ views on pending legislation. Let’s be sure that they hear from many of us that we want the “Moke”—a river for all—to be saved for posterity!

For more information on SB 1199 and the Mokelumne Wild and Scenic campaign, go to


Contact your EBMUD director and ask them to adopt a full “support” position for SB 1199.

Visit, call, write, or email your Assemblymember and ask them to pledge their support for a broadly protective SB 1199. Ask your friends and relatives in other parts of California to do the same, particularly if they are in Central Valley and Southern California districts.

If you are in Assemblymember Bill Quirk’s district (20), your voice is especially needed! Urge him to vote “aye” on SB 1199 at the Appropriations Committee!

Attend the August 6 Assembly Appropriations Committee meeting and briefly state your support for SB 1199!

For more information on any of the above or to help with this campaign, contact Chapter Water Committee co-chair Sonia Diermayer at 510-336-1102 or sodier at

Will Mokelumne River win state “wild and scenic” protection from the legislature?

The Mokelumne River's Elektra Run. The lower part of the Electra Run would have been under water if Pardee Reservoir were enlarged. Photo by Katherine Evatt.

The Mokelumne River’s Elektra Run. The lower part of the Electra Run would have been under water if Pardee Reservoir were enlarged. Photo by Katherine Evatt.

Update (May 31, 2014): SB 1199, to give wild-and-scenic protection to the Mokelumne River, passed the state Senate today. Now it moves on to the Assembly.

State Sen. Loni Hancock has introduced Senate Bill 1199, proposing state wild-and-scenic-river protection for the Mokelumne River.

We who drink water from the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) have a special responsibility towards the Moke­lumne, from which we get 90% of our water.

The Moke—as it is affectionately called by communities on the river—starts high in the Sierra Nevada near Ebbetts Pass and flows west through the foothills of Amador and Calaveras Counties. PG&E’s hydroelectric system generates power from the river before EBMUD’s two major dams—Pardee and Camanche—impound its waters and divert them to the East Bay. Other local water agencies take sips along the way. What is left of the Moke eventually meanders into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta near Stockton.

Despite dams and diversions, the Moke­lumne serves active fisheries, Native Californian culture, and recreational and economic interests, and is an important symbol and centerpoint of upcountry life. A proposal by EBMUD to enlarge Pardee Reservoir and submerge more of the river as part of its 2040 Water Supply Management Plan was finally dropped in 2012 after a lengthy battle by foothill communities, ultimately including a successful lawsuit. But EBMUD and other agencies on the river could at any time resume their efforts to build more and bigger dams.

A 37-mile long portion of the river just upstream of Pardee Reservoir is eligible for federal protection as a wild and scenic river, but current prospects for a successful vote in Washington DC appear slim. Therefore Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River, and others are now focusing on a bid for state wild and scenic designation. The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors voted its unanimous approval in February. While not as powerful as federal protections, this would be a solid step toward saving the remaining free-flowing portion of the river in perpetuity. The existing EBMUD and PG&E facilities that supply our water and produce power on the Mokelumne would not be affected.

The Sierra Club participated in the 2009 campaign to oppose EBMUD’s expansion of Pardee. That year the club made it a specific element of its California Water Policy to support wild and scenic status for the Moke. The Sierra Club appreciates and strongly supports Hancock’s legislation!


Contact  your state senator and assembly­member at:

State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814,

or you can find e-mail information at:

Urge them to support SB 1199. EBMUD customers should emphasize that you want to ensure that what is left of the free-flowing Mokelumne River serves the environment and its local communities, and protects the quality of the East Bay water supply.

On May 13 the EBMUD Board voted to oppose SB 1199 unless it is amended. Contact your EBMUD board­member at:

P.O. Box 24055, MS 42
Oakland, CA 94623-1055

Urge the Board to reconsider and support SB 1199.

To help circulate petitions, contact Bay Chapter Water Committee co-chair Sonia Diermayer at

For more information go to

Sonia Diermayer

Meeting water needs through savings, not tunnels


There are better ways to address California’s water challenges through regional solutions to improve water security–improving water independence, creating jobs, and reducing environmental impacts.

  • Residential water-efficient technologies. Landscaping uses roughly half of residential water. Replacing thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping, installing smart irrigation technology, using rainwater and graywater, and promoting aggressive rebate programs for efficient appliances could reduce urban water use by 30%.
  • Maintenance of existing infrastructure. About 10% of urban water is lost through leaks in aging distribution infrastructure, wasting energy and precious water. Let’s fix the leaks.
  • Water meters for all households. California should accelerate the timeline for every home and business to have a dedicated water meter. Cities currently have until 2025 to complete this process.
  • Detailed usage reports for consumers. In one portion of an East Bay pilot study, home usage reports led to a 6.6% reduction in water use.
  • Water recycling. Recycling of municipal wastewater could be expanded to save up to 2.3 million acre-feet annually, according to the Department of Water Resources.
  • Improved agricultural water efficiency. Agriculture uses 75 – 80% of California’s water. Agricultural conservation strategies—including weather-based irrigation controllers, drip irrigation, and climate-appropriate crop selection—could yield over 3.4 million acre-feet in water savings.
  • Sustainable groundwater management. California is one of the few states in the nation that does not regulate groundwater. As a result we’re experiencing unsustainable levels of overdraft (removing too much groundwater), damage to aquifer (underground) storage capacity, and dramatic land subsidence.
  • Water-neutral development. SB610 and SB221 require proof of available water supply for new development projects. These laws should be strengthened to more effectively prevent unsustainable growth.

Such measures could reduce statewide water demand by 9.7 million acre feet/year. That’s more water than is exported from the Delta even in rainy years.

The tunnels are a risky and expensive proposition.

The tunnels would provide a false sense of water security and encourage unsustainable use of water in cities and farms across the state.

This project would burden Californians with an enormous financial commitment without guaranteeing any additional water for agriculture or urban areas. In dry years like 2014, which scientists predict may become the norm due to our changing climate, there may not be enough water to move through the tunnels.

If we gamble $67 billion on building the giant tunnels, there will not be enough money to invest in local solutions that would improve water security throughout the state and create local jobs through investment in smaller infrastructure projects.


Write to the Governor at:

State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Ask him to continue focusing on developing regional resilience to drought and to drop his proposal for Delta-damaging tunnels.

For more information, go to

Berkeley Climate Action Coalition quarterly dinner, meeting, and drought discussion — “California’s Drought: How did we get here? What can we do?”

20140222droughtCalifornia’s Drought: How did we get here? What can we do?”

Wednesday, March 26, 6 – 9 pm, Ed Roberts Campus, Osher Rooms, 3075 Adeline Street (between Tremont and Woolsey Streets, at Ashby BART). Accessible by the #12 and #49 AC Transit buses. Wheelchair-accessible.

This past January Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency in California due to extreme drought conditions. Just what has led to our water woes and what can we do about them? Join speakers from East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Sierra Club Bay Chapter Water Committee, Greywater Action, and the city of Berkeley for brief presentations and discussion about the East Bay’s water supply, on-the-ground actions you can take, how the “twin tunnels” proposal fits in, and longer-term solutions. Co-hosted by the Sierra Club Bay Chapter.

We’ll share a delicious meal, network, and move forward with Coalition projects. Not yet part of a Coalition working group? This is a great opportunity to get involved in a transportation, energy, water, land-use, or outreach project. Invite friends, colleagues, and neighbors, and help keep growing our local climate movement!

The event is free, but we do need your RSVP by Wed, March 19, to or (510)548-2220, ext. 235.