The Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority is a public agency engaged in the stewardship of regional water and forest resources. The 550-square-mile Upper Mokelumne River watershed is located within Alpine, Amador, and Calaveras counties. The topography of the watershed is rugged with elevations ranging from 600 to 10,400 feet. The watershed is a source of drinking water for Amador, Calaveras and San Joaquin County communities and for about 1.4 million East Bay residents.

A vast majority of undeveloped lands within the watershed are managed by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. City and county governments regulate development within the region with many public services provided by local water agencies and other special districts. As a regional public agency, UMRWA's role is to perform water and forest resource planning, secure grant funding, facilitate forest fuels reduction and restoration projects, and leverage federal and state investments for widespread regional benefit.

UMRWA's goals are fulfilled in a variety of ways. Serving as the regional water management group for the Mokelumne-Amador-Calaveras (MAC) Region, UMRWA has developed the MAC Plan, a state approved integrated regional water management plan, and secured more than $11 million for infrastructure projects that benefit local communities.

Under a 2016 Master Stewardship Agreement with the US Forrest Service UMRWA serves as lead partner for forest project planning and contracting fuel reduction and restoration projects within the watershed. In that role the Authority has secured more than $12 million in funding from Sierra Nevada Conservancy, USFS, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, CalFire and the Wildlife Conservation Board and has facilitated forest fuels and restoration treatments on 4,225 acres of National Forest lands. The Authority also supports the Youth Watershed Stewardship Program, a public education program lead by Stewardship through Education, a local organization of teachers.

UMRWA is a Joint Powers Authority established in the year 2000 and comprised of six water agencies (Amador Water Agency, Calaveras County Water District, Calaveras Public Utility District, East Bay Municipal Utility District, Jackson Valley Irrigation District and Alpine County Water Agency) and the counties of Amador, Calaveras and Alpine. The Authority is governed by an eight-member Board of Directors. Quarterly governing Board public meetings are typically held at Pardee Center which is located about 4 miles north of Valley Springs.

The Authority was formed in the year 2000 to address regional concerns related to PG&E's anticipated divestiture of its Mokelumne River Hydropower Project as then called for under California's energy deregulation legislation. Acquisition of PG&E's Mokelumne River Project was UMRWA's primary objective during these initial years. When the US Federal Court approved PG&E's bankruptcy reorganization plan, Authority member concerns regarding the divestiture of the Mokelumne River project were generally abated and UMRWA acquisition efforts halted.

Following the elimination of the PG&E project acquisition as its objective, UMRWA in 2005 shifted its focus. New priorities relative to water quality issues and potential watershed projects were identified. Cooperative water supply planning efforts were also developed for the Authority's member agencies through the inter-regional water resource collaborative known as the Mokelumne Water Forum.

Shortly after the Integrated Regional Water Management Act was passed in 2008, the Authority expanded its purpose by assuming responsibility for water resource planning in the Mokelumne-Amador-Calaveras (MAC) Region. UMRWA was approved in 2009 by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) as the regional water management group for the MAC Region. The MAC Region was also approved and formally recognized by DWR as an Integrated Regional Water Management region.

From its founding in 2000, the Authority has served as a venue for addressing water resource issues of concern to those who enjoy and rely on them. Working in collaboration with agencies, organizations, and individuals within the MAC and neighboring regions, UMRWA has secured millions of dollars in grant funding to develop and implement broadly supported water resource solutions.

The Upper Mokelumne River watershed is located along the west slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Central California. The topography of the watershed is hilly to mountainous, with watershed elevations ranging from 600 feet to 10,400 feet at the Sierra Nevada crest. The entire 550 square mile watershed is located within Alpine, Amador and Calaveras Counties. Like many Sierra Nevada west slope watersheds which lie in proximity to urbanizing central valley communities, growth within the Upper Mokelumne River watershed is not a question of if, but when. The areas of highest concentrations of development lie in the western most portions of the watershed. Many of these communities originated during the gold rush era, and the aging infrastructure developed over the past many decades continues to be stressed by the demands of an increasing population and more stringent regulatory requirements.

The Youth Watershed Stewardship Program is a partnership between UMRWA, the Central Sierra Resource Conservation and Development (CSR&D) and its educational partner, Stewardship Through Education, LLC (STE). Funded and supported by UMRWA member agencies, the program reaches about 1,000 students each year in Amador and Calaveras counties. Children from traditional public schools, court schools and those in home schools have all participated in our programs. The CSRC&D and STE have forged partnerships with local water agencies, county governments, environmental educators and community groups resulting in new outdoor education opportunities for children. Program accomplishments since its inception in 2005 include the following:

(a) Published Circles and Cycles, the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Guide for Educators in Calaveras and Amador Counties, a K-12 curriculum with in-class and field trip lesson plans

(b) Developed Watershed Science Service Learning Module, stream-based high school science methods and lessons

(c) Conducted annual in-service teacher training for Circles and Cycles

(d) Mentored teachers in environmental education and associated field and lab activities, including web-based technical support, to achieve and maintain teacher self-sufficiency

(e) Maintained lending library of monitoring equipment, water testing kits, and science modules

(f) Provided grants to pay transportation costs to visit local streams, lakes, and water and wastewater treatment facilities

The guide, Circles and Cycles, the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Guide for Educators in Calaveras and Amador Counties, has six themes relating to stewardship of the watershed: Interdependency, Sense of Place, Journey of Waters, Riparian Habitat, Earth's Many Forces and California-the Changing State. These themes include lessons that help students map their own water supply, act out the water cycle, understand water and wastewater treatment, learn native plants and their uses by Native Americans, and study life cycles of aquatic invertebrates and salmon. In all three counties, water and wastewater agencies have agreed to have students visit their treatment facilities.

In the Watershed Science Service Learning Module, in-class and field lessons introduce young science students to water quality testing and the importance of these parameters to stream health. Students also measure numerous instream and bank features to evaluate whether physical features support aquatic life. Students evaluate land use impacts in the classroom and the likely impacts on streams. In keeping with the recent development of bio-criteria to identify cumulative adverse impacts to streams, students collect and categorize benthic macro-invertebrates, then evaluate stream health based on abundance, species tolerance, and biodiversity.

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