Mokelumne River earns Wild and Scenic protected status
June 29, 2018
Photo by Bill Schimpf
Northern California's Mokelumne River has officially been designated a Wild and Scenic River, signed into law on June 27, 2018 by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., becoming the 12th river in our state with this protection status. The designation applies to 37 miles of the North Fork Mokelumne and main stem running through Amador and Calaveras counties.
Under California's Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1972, Mokelumne River's extraordinary scenic, recreational, and wildlife values will be "preserved in their free-flowing state for the benefit and enjoyment of people of this state", and its waters on the five designated segments will be closed off to new onstream dams and major water diversions. This is a big win for the Moke since it's already tapped out with six dams and five working powerhouses. It's an important river, supplying water and power to tens of thousands of Californians in the foothills, Central Valley, and the entire East Bay of San Francisco.
The Mokelumne River offers critical, cold-water habitat for native salmonids. It is neither stocked nor managed as a fishery in any of the protected sections yet robust populations of wild trout persist in all of these reaches. This is a testament to the quality of the habitat and presence of cold, clean water.
CalTrout's Mike Wier has been involved with this project for over 10 years, working with Foothill Conservancy and many other important partners including Friends of the River. What he says of his home river: "The Mokelumne is not stocked with trout or managed as a fishery in any of the proposed sections yet robust populations of wild trout persist in all of these reaches. This is a testament to the quality of the habitat and presence of cold, clean water. And with eco-tourism as one of the world's fastest growing economic generators, the Moke has more potential to generate revenue for the community if the free-flowing sections remain free-flowing. Some sections of Moke could potentially be managed as recreational fisheries and with proper management, this river has the potential to be a trophy trout fishery. A free-flowing river connects with the hearts and minds of visitors much deeper than a reservoir."
Congrats and thank you to all those involved who helped earn these protections for this special river.