Restore Flow to the Dried-up Lower Kern River
The Lower Kern River, one of the great rivers of California’s Sierra Nevada, has long been disregarded as a living ecosystem and public resource. Water diversions, primarily for agriculture, consistently dry up the lower 25 miles of the river. The river’s dry condition has shrunk sensitive riparian habitat, killed fisheries, contributed to a rapidly falling groundwater aquifer and deprived Bakersfield (a city of 500,000 people) access to the recreation and respite provided by a living river. Contrary to California law, water users in the Kern watershed assert that their water rights do not come with any obligations to keep water in the river.
The California State Water Resources Control Board is currently holding a water rights hearing for the Kern River, a rare opportunity where the top decision-makers in California water are giving attention to this long-neglected river. The Board must act now to address the issues on the Kern River by initiating an additional hearing to determine how to restore flowing water to this desiccated river. Long delays between State Water Board proceedings, requirements imposed by California’s groundwater sustainability law and the stresses from increasingly severe droughts only increase the urgency of fixing the Kern River now.
Please urge the State Water Board to hold a hearing focused on the flow needs of the Kern River to ensure that the river can be healthy and flow again.