It comes as our Congressman Tom McClintock is seeking to revive efforts to build the long dormant Auburn Dam, which would flood part of the American River Canyon — a popular recreation area.
(As for Jim Gates — see below — we’re enjoying some of his free-range beef this weekend, from BriarPatch Co-op. We also enjoyed some of Chuck Shea’s wonderful free-range chickens from his ranch, proof that good eats on the Fourth of July weekend is a nonpartisan effort. Chuck, a civil fellow, is a former CABPRO board member.) Here’s the release from Sierra Watch:
Jim Gates is eager to put a new “Save the Bear River” bumper sticker on his truck. As owner of Nevada County Free Range Beef, he runs cattle in Bear River Canyon. And he doesn’t want to see his grazing lands flooded.
The roots run deep. “This land is family heritage,” says Gates. “My uncle is buried there.”
But despite growing opposition, the South Sutter Water District took another step this week towards its proposal to build a massive 350-foot tall dam on the Bear River, scheduling the release of its long-awaited preliminary report for July 5.
Initial drafts indicate that the dam would flood the Bear River Canyon at Garden Bar Crossing to impound more than 310,000 acre feet of water — and send the water south, as far as 470 miles, to sell to distant water districts.
“This is a classic power play — destroying Sierra resources to service sprawl in Southern California,” says Peter Van Zant, Field Director of Sierra Watch. “But it’s not going to happen. Our Sierra rivers, canyons, farms, and ranches are worth more than a dam.”
Running between the Yuba and American River watersheds, the Bear River tumbles from the granite peaks of Emigrant Gap, through the remote reaches of the California foothills, and into the Central Valley.Historically, it’s one of the great markers of the Emigrant Trail; the crossing at Garden Bar was the last Sierra river crossing on the journey west.
In recent years, the Garden Bar Region — in the canyons below Highway 49 — lies at the heart of a collaborative investment in permanent protection of working ranches and thriving wildlands.
Those resources are at risk. Under the new proposal, the river would be blocked off and the Bear River Canyon flooded by a massive dam.
Presumably, water would be shipped south to serve the dam’s initial funders — urban water districts as far away as San Bernadine, 470 miles from the Bear River watershed.
The dam would back up the river and flood an estimated 2,500 acres of Bear River Canyon — including more than 900 acres of permanently protected open space.
With its unique set of values, Garden Bar has been a high priority for conservation funding. Placer Land Trust and Nevada County Land Trust have invested millions of private and public dollars to protect the region’s habitat, cultural, watershed, hiking, fishing, and ranching resources.
The proposed dam would actually submerge land that’s already been protected, including Garden Bar Preserve and Bruin Ranch.
The threat extends beyond local and immediate impacts. “The project could create a new template for an old-fashioned water grab: distant Southern California water users target a small, agricultural district through which to construct a dam, impound Sierra water, and wheel it south,” according to Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch.
Sierra Watch is working with local landowners and allied organizations to stand up for the Bear River, building a comprehensive strategic effort, including experts in water law and grassroots volunteers, as well as the new bumper stickers.
The message is apparently getting around. Last week, the Castaic Lake Water Agency in Los Angeles County pulled their support and dropped out of the planning process.
At its meeting this week, South Sutter Water District pledged to move forward with courting support, planning presentations to neighboring water providers Nevada Irrigation District and Placer County Water Agency.
More information is here.