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Gualala River protected by the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

Governor Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill 1168 on July 23, 2003, adding segments of the Gualala and Albion Rivers to the California Wild and Scenic River system as “recreational” rivers.
Wild & Scenic Gualala River, estuary
Wild & Scenic Gualala River, estuary
photo credit: PT Nunn, 2004

Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-Eureka) introduced the bill to protect the two rivers after Alaska Water Exports, Inc. attempted to divert huge quantities of water from those rivers for shipment to southern California via giant “waterbags”. The state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act generally bars dams, reservoirs and other water diversions.

“The Albion and Gualala rivers are places of extreme beauty and scenic treasures, and this bill ensures that they be maintained as the recreational paradises they currently are. The Wild and Scenic designation will protect the rivers for the hundreds of species of fish and wildlife in the area,” said Berg.

The Gualala Point Regional County Park and other camping, boating, and fishing facilities at the Gualala’s entrance and along its lower reaches provide visitors and residents with outstanding outdoor recreational opportunities.

The river flows nearly to its mouth through restful valleys of mixed redwood and Douglas fir forests. Visitors can observe, often at close range, many species of birds – great blue herons, ospreys, grebes, loons, mergansers, and owls, for examples. Restoration efforts are beginning to show signs of recovery of salmonids in the river, so that the Gualala may again be a the nationally recognized fishing destination it was in the early 20th Century.

A sandspit protects the Gualala River from the Pacific Ocean. Behind the sandspit is a highly productive estuarine ecosystem of major importance. Because the sandspit is not artificially breached, it is a rare reference system, but one that visitors can see and enjoy. Although not fully understood by scientists, the complex and dynamic habitats are used as food sources by numerous species of fish and wildlife, including many resident and migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.

For more information about Assembly Bill 1168, see the California Legislative Information website.

Wild & Scenic Rivers Protection Improvement Bill Signed
September 2004: Gov. Schwarzenegger signs legislation to strengthen environmental protections for California’s Wild & Scenic Rivers, including the Gualala.

Diverting water from a Wild & Scenic River?
October 2007: Mendocino County studies a plan to divert water from the Wild & Scenic Eel River. If they succeed, the Wild & Scenic Gualala River would also be threatened.