Thursday, 02 August 2012 21:28

BLM to Study Impacts of Permitting Commercial Rafting on Upper Moke

Amador County – The Bureau of Land Management began to take input on a three-year study of impacts on Amador County and Calaveras County from potential permitting of commercial rafting operations on the Upper Mokelumne River off Electra Road.

Jeff Horn, outdoor recreation planner for BLM said the meeting is part of the beginning stage of the study to take public input. About 85 people attended, including supervisors from both counties, and candidates from Calaveras.

Horn gave a presentation on BLM’s intent, which is to permit up to 5 commercial rafting outfitters, allowing each up to two runs a day on the Upper Moke River, with up to 12 people per run, for a total of 240 people per day on the river among five commercial companies. He said it would not be a “flotilla” but would be one or two boats at a time. The companies would be selected by lottery, and he said they would likely be from Northern California and maybe from two counties away.

People living along the river spoke in support of commercial boating. One said commercial outfitters “should have to make the same improvements that other commercial operations do,” and if it becomes Wild & Scenic, all commercial use should end.

Horn said the meeting was to take public comments on a feasibility study for commercial activities on the Mokelumne River from Electra Road to the Middle Bar take-out. But he said no one at the meeting was writing down or recording the comments, and those who wish to comment should do so in writing by Aug. 15.

The meeting began the process of the Environmental Assessment for the impacts on the Mokelumne River for those commercial activities, and will help with the production of a feasibility study. Amador County Recreation Agency Executive Director Tracey Towner asked about East Bay Municipal Utility District’s existing study. Horn said the new study would replace it, and it was requested by East Bay Municipal.

Supervisor John Plasse asked if permits would indemnify Amador County for commercial use of the small, winding roads, as Horn in his presentation said BLM would seek contracts indemnifying East Bay MUD, PG&E and BLM.

Supervisor Brian Oneto asked if Middle Bar Road was the main access route, and if the project is expected to increase traffic. Horn said it was the main route, and traffic would be expected to increase.

Oneto asked what BLM would be doing to mitigate impacts on the roads. Horn said the federal government does not cover that. Oneto asked if that could be modified in the permit and mitigations. Horn said “probably not,” and “it would take an act of Congress.” He thought the Forest Service maintained the roads. Plasse corrected him, saying Amador County maintains Electra Road up to the cattle guard just above Vaught’s Beach.

Story by Jim Reece