IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT
LOCAL INTERESTS OPPOSE CACHE CREEK WILD AND SCENIC DESIGNATION
Assemblymember Lois Wolk has introduced Assembly Bill 1328, a legislative
proposal that would place a 31-mile segment of Cache Creek into
the states wild and scenic rivers system. However, there are serious
concerns whether that change would actually help or harm the creek.
This proposal is basically a solution looking for a problem –
where none exists.
In response to this proposed legislation, the Cache Creek Preservation
Coalition (CCPC) was formed by numerous concerned stakeholders in
an effort to protect the resource values of the creek, as well as
the ongoing, locally driven, collaborative process that has served
this watershed so well over the years.
The subject stretch of Cache Creek proposed for designation is
primarily located in Yolo and Lake Counties, with a small stretch
that also forms a portion of the Colusa County border. Local public
agencies, communities, farmers, environmentalists, and recreational
enthusiasts have been working together for generations to preserve
this vital resource. These local efforts have been successful, resulting
in a well managed, environmentally sound watershed that serves the
interests of all. As such, the question must be asked, why fix what
California’s Wild and Scenic River system was created to
protect stream courses which are "natural and free flowing."
Cache creek is neither; the stream flows are completely regulated
by dams upstream. In fact, the creek would not be flowing at all
for many months of the year if it were not for releases from these
dams. Also, a wild and scenic designation would subordinate all
of the current uses of the creek, and all of the management efforts
that protect it, to the sole purpose of keeping it natural and free-flowing,
declaring that to be the highest and best use of the water in the
As a result, flood control for public safety, irrigation for farms,
recreation, and water supplies for the communities downstream would
all become secondary uses, of lower priority and therefore subject
to restriction if they are in conflict with the nonexistent "natural
and free flowing" character of the creek.
Further, numerous beneficial activities that have been occurring
along Cache Creek may be immediately threatened by a wild and scenic
river designation, including: the control of mercury pollution;
protection of the area from invasive, non-native vegetation; and
increased efforts at water conservation through conjunctive use.
Cache Creek has been deemed an impaired waterway due to the large
amount of mercury that filters into the Creek. This has caused water
quality problems within this waterway, the Sacramento River, and
the Delta. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act specifically prescribes
that the waters of the designated stretch be unpolluted, thus illustrating
that Cache Creek is not fit for designation. Moreover, the designation
is likely to result in burdensome regulatory hurdles to pursue remedies
to address this problem.
Perhaps most important, AB 1328 in its present form, threatens
to undercut a water conservation program that is currently pending
before the State Water Resources Control Board. This is a critically
needed, environmentally responsible plan that embraces the principles
of conjunctive use that are championed by the CALFED Program to
protect groundwater resources and the flows in the creek during
wet and dry years.
Lastly, some proponents of this policy action have publicly stated
that their goal is to have Cache Creek Designated under the federal
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act within the next ten years. A federal
designation will severely restrict the ability of the Cache Creek
Watershed Forum from continuing its ongoing, successful work with
multiple local stakeholders involved in protecting the Creek, and
may serve to negatively impact existing water rights upon which
farmers in Yolo County rely to irrigate their cropland.
This proposal is a divisive and unnecessary action that could threaten
many of the resource values that the local communities have worked
so hard to protect. Additionally, it undermines the local control
and cooperation among the diverse groups that have been working
for years to protect Cache Creek. The very concepts promoted by
AB 1405, another Lois Wolk bill that was enacted last year entitled
the California Watershed and Protection Act, which promotes voluntary
local and collaborative partnerships for watershed stewardship.
Ironically, the Assemblywoman’s current proposal is in direct
conflict with her previous bill that promotes the very activities
that the opponents to Wild and Scenic endorse.
The proponents of Wild and Scenic claim the need for the designation
is to prevent dams from being built on this portion of the creek.
But the bill is completely unnecessary for that purpose. No dams
are proposed for that area. In fact, experts say that no dams in
the designated area are even possible. They are not feasible politically,
financially or from an engineering standpoint. Also, the opponents,
in an effort to compromise, have specifically agreed to a legislative
prohibition of dams on this designated stretch.
Moreover the segment of the creek affected by the proposed designation
does not even flow through the district that Assemblymember Wolk
represents, and the proponents of the bill are primarily special
interest environmental organizations from outside of the watershed,
including: The California Wilderness Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife,
Environmental Defense, Friends of the River, and The Bay Institute.
Assemblymember La Malfa, who represents the majority of the subject
area, is opposed to the proposed wild and scenic designation.
The Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted to support the Wild
and Scenic designation (4-1), however that support is dependent
on amendments to the bill that address several of the resource concerns
expressed by the local stakeholders. Yolo County Supervisor Duane
Chamberlain, who represents the subject area, voted to oppose the
designation. The Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation
District, whose board members are appointed by the Yolo County Board
of Supervisors as experts in regard to the water issues specifically
pertaining to the subject waterway, unanimously voted to oppose
this legislation. a fact overlooked by the Yolo Supervisors in voting
A small sampling of the opponents to the Cache Creek Wild and Scenic
designation include the following: The Colusa County Board of Supervisors,
Lake County Board of Supervisors (unless amended), the City of Woodland,
Whitewater Adventures and Cache Canyon River Trips, Inc. (rafting
companies along the creek), The Cache Creek Conservancy, Lake and
Yolo County Resource Conservation Districts, and Colusa, Yolo and
Lake County Farm Bureaus. This list represents almost all of the
affected stakeholders, from a variety of sectors, who work, farm,
recreate, and undertake environmental stewardship activities within
the Cache Creek watershed.
Local control, respect for water rights and private property rights,
water use efficiency, water quality, flood control, recreation,
and local environmental stewardship practices are all at issue in
this debate. If you wish to find out more information, please feel
free to contact FWA or go to preservecachecreek.com.
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