2022 Issues

In 2022, Save the American River Association will continue addressing a wide range of issues, including:


During 2021, there were an unprecedented number of fires on the Parkway. About 15 percent of the Parkway was burned, including a Sacramento State University habitat restoration project at Bushy Lake that had been underway for five years. Most of the fires started at or near illegal campsites.

Sacramento County has ordinances that ban illegal fires and the use of incendiary cooking equipment on the Parkway. But the ordinances have not been enforced. County officials claim they lacked staff to do the necessary enforcement.

SARA worked with state and county officials to expand services for illegal campers and expand county staff to deal with fire-related issues. The county approved funds to hire four new park rangers, create an Environmental Impact Team consisting of one ranger and four ranger assistants, and a Fire Fuel Reduction Team with four maintenance workers.  Funds also were approved to equip the teams. SARA representatives will be monitoring the work of the teams.

Sacramento State professors plan to undertake a new habitat restoration project. There would be fire breaks next to the project site and fencing to keep out illegal campers who had been causing damage in the area. SARA representatives will be monitoring the protections and will make sure that the fencing will allow Western Pond Turtles to enter the project site where they have been nesting.


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. The most dangerous levels have been found at Tiscornia Beach in Discovery Park.

Likely sources are sewage that illegal 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 Control Board is now conducting tests in the river, but has yet to identify sources of the bacteria. SARA has been urging officials to close Tiscornia Beach to the public.


More than 30 years ago, San Joaquin County filed an application with the state Water Resources Control Board to claim water from the American River. The application has been amended four times and now would take 174,000 acre feet of water from the Folsom Lake Reservoir without storage or control by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). That is a huge amount of water. If stacked on a football field, it would be 33 miles high. Loss of that water would dramatically reduce the yield of the reservoir and also reduce the ability of USBR to meet water needs and to manage flows and temperatures in the river. SARA joined the Water Forum and other organizations in opposition to the application and is urging the Water Board to permanently cancel the application.


Agribiz and related interests are working to put a measure on the 2022 ballot that would set aside two percent of state revenues ($3.5 billion) annually for projects to increase California’s water supply. Among the controversial projects to be funded are the proposed Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River and the Sites Reservoir which would take water from the Sacramento River. It also would fund restoration of sections of the Friant-Kern and Delta-Mendota Canals and the California Aqueduct which have been damaged by subsidence caused by over-drafting of groundwater. Projects would not be required to demonstrate legal or financial feasibility and regulatory oversight would be diminished. SARA will be part of a coalition of environmental and stakeholder groups that will oppose the initiative.


The fishery in the Lower American River has been devastated by low water flows and high temperatures during critical spawning periods. Conditions in the river have worsened during the ongoing drought. 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.


An out-of-town developer hopes to build million-dollar homes on 41 acres in Rancho Cordova 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 floodway and have prime habitat for wildlife. Two-story homes would be built directly adjacent to the river potentially violating set-back requirements in the American River Parkway Plan and the Parkway Corridor Combining Zone. Public easements on the lower acreage would be obliterated. SARA is working with a coalition of Rancho Cordova citizens, businesses, and the environmental community to stop the development.


In 2008, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved the development of a Natural Resources Management Plan to define criteria and standards to monitor, evaluate and protect the Parkway’s resources from overuse, and provide actions to restore areas that have been overused. The plan finally will be implemented in the coming year and SARA will be monitoring its implementation.


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.


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, Folsom, Fair Oaks and Carmichael. A federal Superfund cleanup is underway to remove the contaminated groundwater. And proposals have been put forward to develop areas where contamination remains. SARA has a representative on Superfund’s project’s Citizen Advisory Committee.


For several years, the City of Folsom has been developing plans to allow hotels, restaurants and other businesses to be built on the Lake Natoma shoreline. SARA is monitoring the effort and working with the Folsom community to ensure any projects or activities are consistent with the American River Parkway Plan 2008 and the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area Plan.


SARA representatives work with a coalition of environmental groups that monitor and develop legislation in the California Legislature. That work will continue in the coming year.

Two bills approved in the last session provided $12,090,000 to improve public access in the Parkway and provide new facilities and habitat restoration at Sutter’s Landing Park. SARA will be monitoring implementation of those developments.


SARA representatives helped 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 LAR Conservancy Advisory Committee.





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