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May 2011

DFF's Focus on Conservation with Ron Forbes

"Beginners may ask why one fishes if he is to release the catch. They fail to see the trout, sucking in the fly and fighting the rod is the entire point in our sport. Dead trout are just so much lifeless meat."
----------- Earnest G. Schwiebert Jr.

We won a big one for the Mokelumne River!

Two years ago, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) released the district’s 2040 water plans and planned three public input meetings to discuss their options. The plans included the raising the height of Pardee Dam, a water conservation option and a desalinization option. Steve Johnson and I attended the first meeting in Lodi. The meeting was attended by approximately 30-40 people. A member of EBMUD’s board presented and discussed all three options and commented on their board’s leaning toward raising the height of Pardee Dam. Their intent was obvious. Their prime intent was to raise the dam and the other two plans were merely “window dressing”. Johnson pulled the rug out from them by commenting he had read the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on raising the dam, but couldn’t find the EIR’s for either the water conservation plan or for the desalinization plan. They assured us it was there so Steve as them to find it. They scurried around their computers but could not come up with either plan. EBMUD was at it again. The plans, of course, don’t exist.

EBMUD was to have another public meeting in Jackson three days later. However, this time over 300 hundred people attended and it was standing room only. Those attending were furious with the plan. By expanding the Pardee Reservoir, EBMUD would have major negative effects on the Mokelumne River. Some of the negative effects would:
• Flood 2 miles of the river wiping out the Middle Bar Run
• Destroy historical resources
• Destroy cultural resources
• Cause the removal for the Middle Bar Bridge which is the only major fire/emergency evacuation route for the local population
• Loss of the rivers recreational value for the city of Jackson
• Loss of business income generated by the river for the city of Jackson

The Foothill Conservancy, under Chris Wright and Randy Berg, organized opposition against EBMUD. Some of us in Delta Fly Fishers attended 5 of these meeting and helped in gathering signatures opposing the water district. It was interesting to see the groups who opposed their plan. The groups represented a wide diversity of interest. Some of the major groups were East Bay customers, foothill residents, tribal groups, local governments, local business, federal agencies, recreational groups, historical groups, conservation groups, and even PG&E, according to Chris Wright of the Foothill Conservancy.
Finally, the Foothill Conservancy, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), and Friends of the River took EBMUD to court. On April 11 , 2011, Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley, of Sacramento, gave his judgment against EBMUD.

In his judgment, Frawley found fault with the water district in that it:
• Did not analyze impacts on the river’s recreational resources.
• Did not consider the rivers historical resources
• Did not consider the river’s cultural resources
• Did not consider the safety issues involved in removing the Middle Bar Bridge
• Did not describe or mitigate the impact on Miwok ancestral sites or gathering places
• Did not consider other water sources of water supply already in existences such as Los Vaqueros Reservoir

In my research on the issues we were dealing with, I looked at East Bay’s maps to find other possible water resource locations EBMUD could use. In talks with Randy Berg of the Foot Hill Conservancy he was upset EBMUD was not even considering Los Vaqueros as a possible future water source. The reservoir is under the control of the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) near Brentwood and has the capacity of holding 100,000 acre feet of high quality water. And it’s near the East Bays users. So why not look at the source instead of going through the issues of raising a dam? And how had I missed its location in my research? The answers were at best childish. A managing Director of EBMUD and his opposite number at CCWD, dislike each other to the point that they will not deal with one other. And the reason I could not find Los Vaqueros Reservoir on the map was because East Bay left it off. This is childishness to the point of audacity.
The next step in protection of the Mokelumne River is to have it declared a Wild and Scenic River. If we can secure Wild and Scenic status, we will not have to fight anymore misguided attempts by EBMUD to alter the Mokelumne. Delta Fly Fishers will be involved with these efforts. As these plans go forward the newsletter will keep you informed.
Pending Issues

Two other important issues are still pending and should be resolved in the next two months. The first is the extension of waivers for agribusiness in complying with California’s Clean Water Act. The 33,000 to 35,000 farm operations in California is the major unregulated source of water pollution in the state. The state’s Water Quality Control Board’s decision will have a direct effect on the Delta and California’s groundwater quality.
The second issue is the suit against the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) by the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta. This is a major loss for our fisheries and we have been seriously betrayed by DFG who fail to protect the striped bass fisheries. The issue now must go before the DFG Commission and the back to court for final approval by the judge. In the next months we will examine both issues.

 

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