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 www.foothillconservancy.org.
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 mindspring.com.