In 2023, Save the American River Association will continue addressing a wide range of issues, including:
THE HOMELESS CRISIS IN SACRAMENTO COUNTY
The numbers of homeless people in Sacramento County have been growing steadily. Sacramento City and County officials now estimate that between 16,500 and 20,000 people were homeless in the county during 2022. In response to urging by Save the American River Association (SARA) and other stakeholder groups, the city and county are finally working together to aid homeless people and deal with the environmental impacts that the homeless people cause. The agencies have developed the Sacramento Local Homeless Action Plan – a group of strategies to provide housing programs and services for homeless people.
SARA worked with local legislators to secure $25 million in state funds to provide shelters and services to people camped in the American River Parkway. SARA also worked with county officials to enact two ordinances to ban camping on specified public lands including the American River and Dry Creek Parkways where the homeless presence has caused severe environmental degradation. SARA will continue to work with government officials to implement those strategies and ordinances, and to provide the relief to homeless people that is so sorely needed.
SARA representatives work with a coalition of environmental groups that monitor and develop legislation in the California Legislature. In every legislative session, they oppose measures that would gut or redefine environmental laws and regulations.
In recent years, more than $48 million in state funds have been secured for projects and restoration efforts in the American River Parkway. Efforts are underway to secure more funding for the Parkway in the current legislative session.
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.
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. 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.
DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL: FORMER KASSIS PROPERTY
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.
NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT PLAN
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.
LAKE NATOMA SHORELINE
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 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.
MEASURE A WAS DEFEATED
In the November election, Sacramento County voters defeated Measure A that would have increased the sales tax by a half cent for the next 40 years to fund transportation projects.
The funds would have been spent on some projects that would violate climate law, increase greenhouse gas emissions and potentially jeopardize the county’s ability to get state funds. The most controversial project was the proposed Southeast Capitol Connector, a 34-mile expressway linking Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Folsom. Another project would have built a bridge across the American River Parkway at Truxel Road to accommodate light rail and four lanes of vehicle traffic. It would have taken out five acres of prime habitat in the Parkway.
It is highly likely that there will be a successor or Measure A on the 2024 ballot. SARA will be working with a coalition of stakeholder organizations to ensure that environmentally damaging projects are not included.