A contentious planned expansion of Pardee Reservoir on the Mokelumne River is being shelved by utility leaders.
The East Bay Munincipal Utility District will soon release a revised draft of the environmental impact report concerning the project. Expanding the resevior, built in 1929, would have flooded a two-mile stretch of the Mokelumne near Jackson ranging from the Middle Bar Bridge to possibly past Highway 49.
Chris Shutes, spokesman for the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, called this a very important victory for river conservation activists.
"The potential expansion of Pardee Reservoir was something all of us saw as not just a bad idea itself, but an indication of the direction the (normally) fairly progressive EBMUD was taking," said Shutes. "This is an important change of direction."
The plan was approved in 2009, but environmental activist groups, including the Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, filed suit, saying EBMUD had violated the California Environmental Quality Act. A Sacramento Superior Court judge challenged their 2009 environmental impact report and voided the board approval, requiring a new impact report that addressed more specifically the expansions impact on important resources.
EBMUD staff have spent the last six months on environmental impact research. Specifically, they looked at the historic Miwok Indian grounds in the area, the Middle Bar Bridge in Jackson and the effect the expansion would have on recreational rafting on the Mokelumne. One aspect the judge felt was not properly addressed was possible alternatives to expansion. Since then, talks with the Contra Costa Water District concerning the potential expansion of the Los Vaqueros reservoir in Contra Costa County have gone well, according to Charles Hardy, spokesman for EBMUD, who confirmed the district prefers not to embark on regional projects without community support.
"There are other ways to get water to customers between now and 2040," said Hardy.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.