Although Bill Ferrero lives in Stockton and works for the Cal-Waste Recovery Systems sales department during the week, his true passion is the Mokelumne River, and has been since 1957 when his parents built their family home on Turner Road near Lodi Lake when he was only 4 years old.
“I grew up on the river, I’ve been fishing it for over 60 years,” Ferrero said.
By the age of 6, Ferrero had already begun hunting, fishing and exploring what would later become the Lodi Lake Wilderness area, cementing his love for the life aquatic. This same passion for the river would eventually motivate him to found Mokelumne River Outfitters in 2006, guiding clients along the Mokelumne River and teaching them how to fish.
Ferrero has also been involved in water conservation since the 1990s, for which he received the Frank R. Beeler Watershed Stewardship Award at the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s 24th annual October Barbecue, which was held Friday at the Pardee Reservoir in Amador County.
Named for Frank Beeler, who was once Lodi’s water and wastewater superintendent before passing away from cancer in April 2009, the award recognized Ferrero’s efforts in helping EBMUD organize the Mokelumne River clean-up for the past 19 years, as well as his work with the San Joaquin County Kids Don’t Float program that provides between 300 and 400 life vests to children each year. He has also participated in 63 documented water rescues, which he says more often than not involve people entering the river’s recreation area while drinking alcohol, a combination that he does not advise.
“Everybody’s a good swimmer until they get into 60-degree water, then things can go wrong very quickly,” Ferrero said.
As for the river clean-up, Ferrero picks up trash every time he goes out onto the river, according to his wife, Debby. More than pounds of trash were found between the Camanche Dam and Stillman Magee park this year, he reported, including items such as an iPhone, a hat bearing the words, “Let’s Make the X-Files Great Again,” a bluetooth speaker and five hard-boiled eggs inside of a plastic container. Approximately 40 percent of the trash collected was recyclable, Ferrero said, consisting mostly of bottles and cans.
The award was presented by James Jones, the wildlife biologist with EBMUD’s Lodi office who nominated Ferrero, eliciting feelings of pride from the members of the Ferrero family in attendance.
“It’s well deserved, he didn’t expect it and he doesn’t do it for the recognition. Bill does it because that river is a part of him. Every time he takes fishing clients out, he picks up trash,” Debby said.
Although Ferrero is proud of his accomplishments, he refuses to take all of the credit for himself, instead sharing the glory with EBMUD’s full-time employees.
“The real stewards of that river are East Bay MUD. I’m a weekend warrior, but these guys do it every day,” Ferrero said.