November 15, 2019
Forest Health Projects Reduce Risk of Catastrophic Wildfire
EBMUD and Sierra foothills partners tend thousands of acres to protect water quality and improve forest resilience
The East Bay Municipal Utility District and its partners in the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority are poised to complete forest health projects that improve resilience to wildfire and protect water quality and water supplies for the East Bay. As of fall 2019, nearly 4,000 acres of overgrown forest have been treated or are under contract for completion.
EBMUD and Sierra Foothill agencies have joined together to combat the threat of catastrophic wildfire by thinning thousands of acres of dense, overgrown forest in the Mokelumne River Watershed, which is EBMUD’s primary source of water. This fall, the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority (UMRWA) is completing its third year of forest management work aimed at improving forest health north of Highway 4 between Cottage Springs and Bear Valley.
“I am very gratified that EBMUD, as a member of UMRWA, is working to protect EBMUD’s water supply, national forests and Sierra Foothill communities with these projects. We plan to work with our partners to increase these efforts in the future. We understand the connection between watershed health and our water supply,” said John Coleman, EBMUD board member and UMRWA board chairman.
Project activities focus on thinning overgrown forests within the Stanislaus National Forest, in particular, areas along roadways where wildfires are most likely to ignite. Crews are also restoring meadows to improve water quantity and quality.
Creating space between healthy, mature trees reduces the spread of high-severity fires, improves water saturation into soils, and slows evaporation of winter snowpack. Maintaining the snowpack longer into the summer season improves the water supply downstream.
The Mokelumne River and its watershed have been the source of EBMUD’s high quality water since 1929 when EBMUD completed construction of Pardee Dam and the aqueduct system which conveys this water to the East Bay where it’s treated and delivered to customers. Catastrophic wildfires in the Mokelumne watershed would significantly impact the quality and reliability of EBMUD’s supply. Forest thinning, meadow restoration, and related projects reduce that threat.
These projects are made possible through collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other partners. Funding was provided by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, an agency created by the State of California, under the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) and the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access For All Act of 2018 (Proposition 68) grant cycles and in support of the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program.
For more information about these projects, go to www.umrwa.org.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District has a proud history of providing high-quality drinking water for 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. EBMUD’s wastewater treatment serves 685,000 customers and protects the San Francisco Bay.
UMRWA is a joint powers authority comprised of Amador, Calaveras and Alpine counties and six water districts, including Alpine County Water Agency, Amador Water Agency, Calaveras County Water District, Calaveras Public Utility District, East Bay Municipal Utility District and Jackson Valley Irrigation District. UMRWA was created in 2000 and was approved in 2009 by the California Department of Water Resources as the regional water management group for the Mokelumne-Amador-Calaveras Integrated Regional Water Management Region, which includes major portions of Amador, Calaveras and western Alpine Counties.