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Rich Farrington
06/06/2014 2:22 PM

Designation of the Mokelumne River as a Wild & Scenic River by SB 1199 (newly amended May 28) places unnecessary obstacles in Amador Water Agency’s ability to serve the County’s needs. Here’s how:

1) Free-Flowing — SB 1199 would prevent adding water storage capacity to any of seven existing high country reservoirs because of the restriction that taking water “shall avoid an adverse effect on the free-flowing condition” of the downstream designated river segments.

2) County of Origin Water Rights — SB 1199 severely jeopardizes the Water Agency’s utilization of “County of Origin” Water Right that has been reserved by the State for use in Amador County because of the “free-flowing” restriction.

3) Water Curtailment — The State has just ordered AWA to stop taking water from the river for Upcountry customers, our only source of water, due to the drought and our junior water right. We now can only use what’s left of our storage in Lower Bear River Reservoir, and hope the drought will end this year. Additional curtailments for our other service areas may be forthcoming. More back-up water supply is needed as evidenced by this year’s critical drought.

4) Drought/Climate Change — Extended droughts and climate change will reduce the amount of water available to us in the future unless the Water Agency is able to store more water in existing reservoirs upstream from the proposed designations. SB 1199 would make more water storage unlikely.

5) Too Expensive — State and federal grants and low-interest loans would be denied for any new project “that could have an adverse effect on the free-flowing condition” of the river (PRC 5093.56). This prevents funding for planning and raising an existing dam upstream of the designated sections and using water to fill it, making water too expensive and not feasible to provide.

6) Not in Brown’s Plan — SB 1199 doesn’t comply with Governor Brown’s 2014 Water Action Plan that calls for adding more water storage in the State because of the drought and climate change.

Water Agency representatives have met with the author, Senator Hancock, of Berkeley, to offer compromise provisions used on another wild river to protect our water rights and the river. They were rejected.

Water and water rights are like gold. We shouldn’t give them away or put roadblocks on their use, which is what SB 1199, as written, would do.

Rich Farrington is the Amador Water Agency’s District 3 Director.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
Arleen Lindstedt
06/13/2014 2:28 PM
I respectfully disagree. As a relatively new resident to Amador County, I am thrilled to know that the beautiful Mokelumne River may be selected to receive the distinction of “Wild and Scenic.” I understand that concerns and questions exist regarding the effects and intent of SB 1199. I hope my experience and perspective will help clarify.
I spent most of my life in Nevada County. When younger, we played and fished on the Yuba River. The “river” was the place for parties and picnics. For some, it provided release and tranquility. However, it wasn’t until our local conservation group focused attention on the river that we began to take responsibility for the South Yuba and what it provided.
Fifteen years ago, the South Yuba became a state-protected “Wild and Scenic” river. As in Amador County, some residents became alarmed. When there is change, there is always controversy. But this is what happened:
• The community began to take more responsibility and interest in the integrity of the river and our watersheds.
•The river became “revered”: Instead of taking its magnificence for granted, the community began to truly care and support efforts to support and maintain the river.
•The river was recognized as an important community amenity, resulting in more support for local businesses, boosting tourism, and attracting involved, caring, and contributing new residents to the county.
Private land owners in Nevada County are using their land as they did before designation (state law specifically states that there will be no effect on private property rights). Along and near the river, property values have risen. The community thrives; there has been no negative impact.
Wild & Scenic is a “win-win” situation for all. I am thrilled that residents of Amador and Calaveras counties have been given this incredible opportunity.
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