California Rivers Report

Introduction and Overview

"For almost two centuries, Californians have poured vast amounts of resources into controlling and exploiting their most precious resource. With few exceptions, these efforts have worked against, rather than in concert with, natural river processes. Today, land use planners, naturalists, bureaucrats, and even many of the engineers who have remade the rivers of the state are recognizing the economic, aesthetic, and environmental benefits of a symbiotic blending of the design of man and rivers."--Jeffrey F. Mount, California Rivers and Streams: The Conflict Between Fluvial Process and Land Use, U.C. Press, 1995 at 347.

Phil Schermiester
California's magnificent rivers have shaped the state's history and will continue to shape its future. California's rivers and streams influence our geography, our economy, and our natural heritage. The past 150 years have witnessed the harnessing of California's rivers for mining, agriculture, flood control, and urban growth; indeed, rivers have been the driving force for the state's economy. But as with other natural resources, the challenge lies within balancing the development of these resources to meet human needs with their role in maintaining ecosystem health for wildlife and humans alike.

In response to intensifying pressures on land and water resources in California and across the American West, TPL has begun to create the Western Rivers Program. The mission of the Western Rivers Program is to preserve and restore naturally functioning rivers and improve water quality using market-based tools. These include the purchase of recognized property rights via fee-title and easement of riparian and watershed lands, and the purchase of water rights, diversion rights, and hydropower rights for conservation purposes. We are using California as a pilot state before expanding our efforts into a region-wide program.

In 1993, the California State Lands Commission produced California's Rivers, A Public Trust Report, which was one is a series of reports that examined the status and trends affecting public trust lands under the jurisdiction of the Commission. Jacobs, et. al., described the condition of rivers in California and their watersheds, causes for their alteration and degradation, and made suggestions for their restoration. The Commission's report was an extremely useful reference in the preparation of the State of California's Rivers, as it provided good background information and a sound basis for our research.

Phil Schermiester
The State of California's Rivers report divides the state into seven major hydrologic basins and surveys the status of California's 80 major rivers. The text broadly describes the important biological and physical aspects of each watershed and river, the major threats to river system health, the general trend of river protection and restoration efforts, and information on public access and recreation opportunities. In addition, contact information for agencies and organizations involved in protection and restoration efforts in each watershed is available. The report provides a multitude of maps, including a map for each watershed using land ownership as the base data layer; and a map for each hydrologic basin and of the state using vegetative cover and topography as base data layers. These maps indicate important geographic features as well as major roads, cities, and counties.

Californians have made great strides in recent years to protect and preserve rivers statewide. TPL's collaborative approach to doing conservation work is dependent upon the involvement of many partners at all levels. It is our hope that this report will serve as an important tool for all for those involved in river protection and restoration efforts, including local, state, and federal agencies, nonprofits, individuals, and others. This report will also provide TPL with information for project development in watersheds across the state.

Posted 12/2001

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