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According to Foothill Conservancy President Katherine Evatt, the main purpose of the proposed designation is to prevent the construction and expansion of dams that would cause further impoundment of water within the designated segments, protecting those segments as “free-flowing in perpetuity.”

An earlier effort to designate the same portions of the river as Wild and Scenic was embodied in Senate Bill 1199, introduced in 2014 by East Bay Sen. Loni Hancock. That bill was supported by the Foothill Conservancy and the Friends of the River, but was not supported by local water agencies due to concerns about possible infringement of their water rights. Hancock’s bill ultimately died after being held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“After years of urban Assembly members introducing broad Wild and Scenic designations to the Mokelumne River, I introduced AB-142 allowing the locals who live and depend on the Mokelumne River to have a seat at the table,” Bigelow stated Tuesday.

Following an extensive investigation, the CNRA issued its first draft of a recommendation in January. Foothill Conservancy and Friends of the River officials were satisfied with the recommended special provisions, but local water districts “apparently found them inadequate,” Evatt said.

Over the next few months, Amador Water Agency, Jackson Valley Irrigation District, Calaveras County Public Utility District and the Calaveras County Water District managers and water rights attorneys coordinated with Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River and CNRA to negotiate amendments to the special provisions.

The final report recommends special provisions that ensure existing and pending water rights, as well as applications for future water rights. Those provisions also protect the existing operations of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the Roaring Camp Mining Co. on the Mokelumne River.

However, within those provisions the state would not allow or fund any future changes or projects on the river that cause an “adverse effect,” defined in the CNRA report as a “significant impairment of flows that would otherwise exist within designated segments.”

“However, this process allowed the people of Calaveras and Amador counties to ensure that any potential designation of this segment of river must have specific protections on water supply, recreation and the economic future of the river,” Bigelow said. “While I am not supportive of binding this waterway into perpetuity, I am thankful those who call the Mokelumne River home were able to have their voices heard.”

Local water agencies have not yet issued their official positions on the final report, but Mancebo anticipates that the general managers will recommend that their respective boards resolve to support the CNRA proposal. The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors has indicated that it will support the efforts of CCWD and other water districts to advance the special provisions in the Wild and Scenic designation.

Moving forward, Mancebo hopes to see a bill that includes the special provisions recommended by the CNRA move through the legislative process within the next year. He said that efforts will be taken to “defend that (special provisions) language from change” if there is any effort during the legislative process to modify the CNRA recommendation.