2021 Issues

In 2021, Save the American River Association will continue addressing a wide range of issues, including:

E.coli BACTERIA – For several years, a team of SARA members has been taking and testing water samples in the Lower American River.  Dangerous levels of E.coli bacteria have been found in several areas where people swim and fish, including Lake Natoma.  The most dangerous levels have been found at Tiscornia Beach in Discovery Park.

Likely sources are sewage that homeless campers on the Parkway dump in the river.  Another source could be leaks from the aging sewer lines that local agencies have placed near the river and its tributaries.

The state Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board is now also conducting tests in the river, but has yet to identify sources of the bacteria.

Sacramento County placed some signs along the river asking people not to drink the water and to wash hands and shower when they return home.  SARA has been urging county officials to install signs with more explicit warnings and to close Tiscornia Beach to swimmers.

PROTECTING EAGLES – The federal Bald & Golden Eagle Protection Act provides for criminal penalties for persons who “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap collect, molest or disturb” eagles.

But a pair of nesting eagles with three chicks near Lake Natoma were constantly being harassed last spring by photographers who were too close to the nest.  One man who was there frequently was observed yelling and swearing at other people.  Another man tried to put a ladder on the tree under the nest.   On two occasions, a helicopter for KCRA-Live Copter 3 flew within 200 feet of the nest.

The nest is on U.S. Bureau of Reclamation land.  SARA was unable to get bureau officials or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to patrol the area and protect the eagles.  SARA’s attorney then sent the two agencies a letter demanding that they enforce the law.

That got some patrols in the area and docents were asked to come back and talk to people who were disturbing the eagles.  The bureau is supposed to develop a plan this fall for protecting the eagles during the next nesting period.

WATER TRANSFER FROM THE LOWER AMERICAN – The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) got a water right from the Lower American River when they were operating the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant.  The plant was closed in 1989, but SMUD kept the water right.  Earlier this year, SMUD tried to sell 6,000 acre feet of water from the Folsom Reservoir to the City of Roseville for each of the next three years.

SARA members went before the SMUD Board of Directors and presented evidence that it essential to keep as much water as possible in the reservoir to protect the cold pool at the bottom of the reservoir.  That water is released in the fall to lower water temperatures in Lower American where the fishery has been devastated by low flows and high-water temperatures.

SMUD officials ignored SARA’s testimony.

SARA members then went to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and were able to stop the water transfer.  They are now working with state officials in an attempt to revoke SMUD’s unused water right.

FISHERY IN THE LOWER AMERICAN – The fishery in the Lower American River has been devastated by low water flows and high temperatures during critical spawning periods.  Working with the Sacramento Water Forum, SARA members have been able to increase flows in the Lower American.  But the flows still need to be increased to protect the fishery.  And SARA members continue to pursue that goal.

DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL – An out-of-town developer hopes to build million-dollar homes on 41 acres between Folsom Boulevard and the American River.  The site overlooks William B. Pond and River Bend Parks on the Parkway.  The upper 21 acres on the property are suitable for home construction.  But the lower 20 acres are in the river flood plain and have prime habitat for wildlife.  An endangered Swainson’s Hawk has been spotted in the area.

The land is within the City of Rancho Cordova.  As this project goes through the development process, SARA will be working with nearby neighbors and other stakeholder groups to stop development of the lower 21 acres.

NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PLAN – Sacramento County’s Regional Parks Dept. is developing a Natural Resource Management Plan that defines criteria and standards to monitor, evaluate and protect the Parkway’s resources from overuse, and provides steps to be taken to restore areas that have been overused.  SARA is monitoring the process and providing input when appropriate.

BANK PROTECTION – The Bank Protection Working Group helps advise, plan, design and implement bank protection features on the Lower American River.  They support federal, state and local efforts to provide the highest level of flood protection for the surrounding community and the conservation of natural resources along the Parkway.  SARA has a representative in the Group.

SUPERFUND CLEANUP – For years, Aerojet Corp. dumped chemical waste on its property in Rancho Cordova.  The waste contaminated groundwater which has spread under thousands of acres in Rancho Cordova, Fair Oaks and Carmichael.  A federal Superfund cleanup is underway to remove the contaminated groundwater.  SARA has a representative on the cleanup’s Citizen Advisory Committee.

BUSHY LAKE – Sacramento State University has an academic program on habitat restoration that is conducting a major restoration project in the Bushy Lake Area.  SARA has two representatives on the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

LAKE NATOMA SHORELINE – For several years, the City of Folsom has been developing plans to allow hotels, restaurants and other business to be built on the Lake Natoma Shoreline.  SARA is monitoring the effort and will not allow it to occur.

LEGISLATION – SARA representatives work with a coalition of environmental groups that works on bills in the California Legislature.  In every legislative session, there are bills to gut the California Environmental Quality Act and the coalition gets them killed.  Among the bills we supported in the last session was one that bans highly toxic rat poisons which are a threat to wildlife.  Several years ago, a SARA representative helped write the bill that banned throwaway plastic bags.

CONSERVANCY – SARA representatives help write the legislation that established the Lower American River Conservancy Program which administers grants for projects and restoration efforts on the Parkway.  SARA President Stephen Green is the state Senate’s appointee to the Conservancy Advisory Committee.

PG&E MITIGATION – The state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife has ordered PG&E to conduct habitat restoration projects in the Parkway to compensate for the clear-cutting that the utility did in the lower end of the Parkway last year.  PG&E has chosen three sites totaling 11 acres.  One south of Sunrise Blvd. and two more west of El Manto Dr.  SARA is involved in the development of plans for the mitigations.

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