Keene, LaMalfa say no to wild and scenic

No one’s ever mistaken Northstate Assemblymen Rick Keene, R-Chico, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, for environmentalists, and they showed why this week as the only members of the Natural Resources Committee to vote against adding 31 miles of Cache Creek to the state’s Wild & Scenic Rivers system. The creek flows out of Clear Lake to the east where it joins the Sacramento River.

Assembly Bill 1328 would protect the stretch of river where it flows primarily through public lands in Lake and Yolo counties and including parts of LaMalfa’s district. The bill was authored by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and gained some bipartisan support when it got a yes vote from Assemblyman Tom Hartman, R-Huntington Beach, helping it pass out of committee by a 7-2 count.

Testifying on behalf of the bill was Steve Evans, former general manager of the Butte Environmental Council and current conservation director of the Sacramento-based Friends of the River, as well as Helen McClosky, a farmer, registered Republican and LaMalfa constituent from Capay Valley.

The bill, if passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed by the governor, would prohibit the construction of dams and diversions.

Evans said both Keene and LaMalfa, who is the committee’s vice-chairman, were strident in their opposition to the bill

“They were in and out of the room during the testimony,” Evans said. “What it boils down to for them is a philosophical opposition,” Evans said. “[LaMalfa] doesn’t care if people in his district supported this or not. He’s not against it for any practical impact; he just doesn’t want more government involvement.”

Keene said he had been lobbied by residents who lived in the Cache Creek area, including Sierra Club members who oppose the bill.

“The community has been working well together,” Keene said, comparing the effort to the Quincy Library Group forest management plan in which disparate interests in Plumas County came together to hammer out a forest management plan in the 1990s.

“This bill is a one-size-fits-all approach that does not meet the [interested parties'] needs best,” Keene said. “They would like the state to stay out of it.”

He said the bill could stop restoration and flood control work currently in progress.

Actually, the bill, according to an independent analysis, protects the existing rights of the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District and the Lake County Watershed Protection District. And the bill’s extensive list of supporters includes the Sierra Club California, the Sierra Club Lake Group and the Sierra Club Yolono Group.

According to a press release, Wolk indicated she is willing to work with the bill’s opponents to try to craft into the bill language that addresses water rights concerns that have been expressed by Lake and Yolo county residents.

A call to LaMalfa was not returned by press time.