Author Archives: Christine Kohn

Progress Update on Long-Term Water Efficiency Standards

Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

Insights from Water Forum Alum Sarah Foley

Sarah Foley has been with CalWEP, previously known as the California Urban Water Conservation Council, since 2012. Sarah oversees the organization’s operations functions. She has extensive experience with both urban and agricultural water organizations in California. From 2002 to 2012 Sarah served as the deputy director of the Water Forum.

In 2018 the California Legislature passed new efficiency standards aimed at reducing water consumption in the urban sector. The new law (passed as SB 606/AB 1668) came in response to the state’s difficult 2014-17 drought, aiming to reduce water use by homes and businesses to ease pain in the next drought.

Well, the next drought is here, and the new standards are still in development. The residential component will require urban water providers to reduce per capita water use. For example, the proposed indoor standard is  47 gallons per capita per day (gpcd) by 2025 decreasing to 42 gpcd by 2030. Present indoor consumption is estimated in the 50 to 55 gpcd range. Separate standards will be imposed for landscape irrigation.

For the latest, we recently spoke with Sarah Foley, executive director/operations at the California Water Efficiency Partnership (CalWEP). The Sacramento-based group is monitoring the process and preparing to help water providers comply. Sarah previously served as deputy director of the Water Forum.

Water Forum: What is CalWEP’s role in shaping the standards? 

Sarah Foley: Our role has been to promote communication with everybody involved and help our members understand what’s going to be required. And then advocate for the funding that water agencies need to make these things happen.

Water Forum: Why will water providers need funding?

Sarah: Because the low-hanging fruit was picked off the tree a long time ago when it comes to water conservation. The early adopters, they’ve already adopted. And for somebody who can afford to remodel their home, well, you can only buy high-efficiency appliances now. But for people who haven’t done these things, that’s going to be hard. You can say a new toilet is cheap, but it’s not necessarily cheap for low-income people. If you want people to install a high-efficiency washing machine, that’s an $800 investment. That may be a significant amount of your monthly income. The thing I tell folks is, we’re getting to the point where if we need all these legacy toilets changed out, we’re going to have show up on doorsteps with the toilet and the plumber ready to go.

Water Forum: Is there any money in the program to help water providers?

Sarah: We hope there will be money. The pickle that we’re in is that people are told they have to conserve, and agencies now have to meet these standards, whatever they end up being. But the funding always comes later. It’s the classic legislative unfunded mandate. You tell people they have to meet X regulation, but the money only comes later, if ever. Some of it will have to be borne at the local level, and folks will just have to figure out how to pay for it.

Water Forum: When will water providers start enforcing the regulations?

Sarah: The first question is, when do they have to start meeting the standards? And we still don’t have total clarity on that. But in short, it’s going to happen over the course of several years. By January 1, 2024, they have to calculate what their targets are going to be. Then, they’ll be reporting to the State Board, and the State Board will have to decide how they’re going to enforce the standards. The first big deadline is 47 gpcd in 2025, which is spelled out in the legislation. The legislation says enforcement is to begin in 2027, but we will see what happens.

Water Forum: Who exactly is obligated to comply? Water providers or their customers?

Sarah: Water providers have to meet the sum of the standards — indoor plus outdoor plus commercial-industrial water use, and water loss (leakage) standards. All of that will align to give the water provider their target. The average consumer might be concerned, thinking, ‘Are the water police going to knock on my door?’ That’s not it. It’s an aggregate of everything used in a water agency’s service area. Nobody’s going to look at each and every household.

Water Forum: Will consumers see rate increases?

Sarah: If people aren’t getting the price signal on their water bills, it’s harder to make the conservation happen. If the water’s cheap, you’re still going to see a lot of gutter flooding. They’re certainly going to have to continue to embrace conservation and probably do more. But it does depend on the rate structure, and that’s a whole process in and of itself. More broadly, the question is, ‘How are we going to pay for all this?’ That’s the million-dollar question.

Water Forum: What should water customers be doing now?

Sarah: About 70 percent of water used at homes is outdoor water, and it’s very hard for people to contemplate how much that is. I don’t necessarily think removing your lawn is the golden ticket to conservation, because not everybody can or will yank out their lawn. But there’s still a lot you can do to be more efficient in landscape irrigation. As we see more landscapes transition to sustainable practices, that will be a sign that things are going well. The average citizen just needs to be very mindful of how they are using water in and around their home.

Water Forum: Any words of wisdom for the Water Forum or water providers?

Sarah: Continue to invest in conservation programs, because they are working. This region has come a long way from when I first started at the Water Forum. The Water Forum Agreement has really positioned this region well in terms of our water supply and being able to meet challenges in dry years. Folks aren’t just doing that because they need to conserve water. They’re also doing it to save water behind Folsom Dam so fish have cold water in the fall. People really value that. And that’s why I say continue to invest in conservation, because climate change is real and its happening, and we want to be able to preserve the things that are important to us, like the Lower American River.

Water Forum: What are some good resources for readers to learn more, and where can they go to stay updated about the emerging water efficiency standards?

Sarah: Learn more at https://calwep.org/framework-updates/

Secrets from the Water Forum Cyclists

Posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2022

May is National Bike Month. Established in 1956 and promoted by the League of American Bicyclists, National Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling—and encourage people to give biking a try.

To celebrate, we asked several Water Forum members who are known cycling enthusiasts to share what they love about biking on the American River Parkway. Read their reflections below to learn about their cycling experiences and even some of their favorite spots along the trail.

Then don your Lycra (or not!), grab your cruiser, tandem or custom racer, and let’s get rolling!


Ansel Lundberg, Originator, SMUD (Public Caucus)

I love seeing all kinds of people spending time on the parkway—families, couples, friends, and maybe even a pro athlete every once in a while! I really enjoy how people feel safe to ride, walk and roll there because they don’t have to worry about cars messing with the vibe.

Sometimes I just ride a few miles across the river from downtown, and other times I’ll ride all the way from Northgate to Sutter Street in Folsom. I really enjoy the north-south section that parallels Howe Avenue and Campus Commons golf course. I ride the trail there to get to the grocery store, a soccer game, or the doctor’s office. It makes me thankful to have a separated bike facility so we can feel safe, and also reminds me of the investments we’ve made to protect our community from flooding while also allowing the river to have some freedom when the flows get high.

Generally. I am focused on bicycling only, although sometimes when crossing the bridge at River Bend or Hazel, I will pause to take in the view of the American. Other times I’ll ride out to William Pond or Watt Ave to have a picnic with friends and see how the river is flowing.

In college, I took a few English classes that focused on how we conceptualize “nature” in literature and culture. My studies helped me understand why I love the parkway: It is contained within an urban environment—a reminder that nature isn’t just “out there” or in the wilderness but can be in our backyard and integrated within our built environment as habitat, recreational space, or ecosystem services.


Bill Busath, Director, City of Sacramento Department of Utilities (Water Caucus)

My wife and I are normally biking on the parkway three to four times per week, and log about 40 miles per week on the parkway itself.

The parkway is one of the great treasures of the region, and the proximity to the river makes riding on the parkway very enjoyable for me. Our favorite stretch is William Pond to Negro Bar. We mostly do not stop along the way.

My only concern about the parkway is bike and foot traffic. Walkers and runners are particularly problematic as they are often not on the correct side of the pathway, and they are often not paying attention to how much of the bike path they are taking up.

Overall we love the parkway and are grateful that we have a world-class amenity like this in the area.


Mike Grinstead, Senior Civil Engineer, Sacramento County Water Agency (Water Caucus)

Years ago, I got to commute on the bike trail. That was awesome. Then I moved jobs downtown and take city streets. I bicycle commute most days. About 1,500 miles a year. The commute is four miles one way, so eight miles a day.

I used to ride from the H Street Bridge to Watt every other day when I worked off of Bradshaw. It was so beautiful. I loved the sunrises when you would hear the birds waking up. Had deer run alongside me. Would see the turkey rituals around spring. Dodged a rattlesnake or two. Even in the evening on hot summer days, the river would add a little cool breeze and the trees provided shade. Very different than the part of my ride along Folsom Blvd.

Our family rides to Sac State and up around the Guy West Bridge often. We enjoy stopping in the middle and watching the river in hopes of seeing a shadow of a large fish. If I had to pick a favorite place, I would say Guy West Bridge. The view is awesome, and I have shared smiles from there with my family often.


Anne Sanger, Government Affairs Manager, City of Sacramento Department of Utilities (Water Caucus)

Bicycling on the American River Parkway is a great family activity! I bicycle about once a week, but our family’s annual Mother’s Day ride to Dos Coyotes in Folsom was a great tradition.

We ride for fun, so we stop often. My favorite stretch is William B. Pond, because the river is wide and you can cross the river on the foot bridge.

How the Water Forum will use fish ear bones to help evaluate flow management

Posted on Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

The Water Forum is using the ear bones of fish to learn insight into how different water release patterns and wetter vs. dryer years affect survival of different cohorts of juvenile salmonids.

Ear bones, you ask? Yes, ear bones. Specifically, the bones scientists know as the “otolith,” oval-

Credit: Cramer Fish Sciences

shaped bones in the inner ear that help fish sense gravity and movement. These bones record the life history of fish much like the growth rings in a tree trunk, except in miniature form: Most otolith bones are no more than 5 millimeters in size.

Otoliths are extraordinarily valuable because they contain daily growth rings. The size of the ring can tell us how fast a fish grew. Chemical information stored in the bone provides insight about the fish’s environment and food. Laser transects of the otoliths can tell us the entire life history of a salmon, including if the fish reared as a juvenile on the Lower American River, was released from the Nimbus Hatchery, or came from other tributary or hatchery in the Central Valley.

For the past four years, the Water Forum’s science team has been collecting otolith bones from dead fall-run Chinook salmon that spawned in the Lower American River. We now have amassed over 1,000 of these delicate gems.

Thanks to recent grant funding through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Water Forum team is cleaning and polishing the ear bones to expose the growth rings, which will then be analyzed at UC Davis using a mass spectrometer to reveal their microchemical make-up.

To ensure we analyze American River fish, we are looking for a unique strontium isotope — a kind of alkaline earth metal — that is different from all other tributaries and hatcheries in the Central Valley.

After spending time in the ocean, Chinook salmon generally return as 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old adults, with this return (known as escapement) dominated by 3-year-old salmon. In addition to looking at the chemical make-up, we will count annual growth rings in the otolith to understand the age of the fish and the year it left the American River (or outmigrated).  Since we collected otoliths over several years, during different water-year types, and from different run sizes, we are gaining valuable insight into the life history of fish that experienced significantly different environments and seasonal flow regimes as juveniles.

On a micro level, results from otolith analysis will provide critical insight into the extent to which different age classes contribute to a successful spawning population on the Lower American River, which is currently unknown.

At a broader level, this project is part of a larger, multi-faceted study that will be completed in 2023 focused on helping us understand whether one type of habitat restoration works better than others, and how to potentially fine-tune water releases to benefit salmon.

Since 2008, the Water Forum and its federal, state and local partners have invested millions of dollars to improve fall-run Chinook salmon and steelhead trout spawning and rearing habitat affected by the construction of Folsom and Nimbus dams. The Water Forum also provides scientific data to support Reclamation’s flow management decisions on the Lower American River. This study is important to evaluating and adapting this work to ensure these important species are with us for generations to come.

Join Your Water Forum Colleagues for Coffee, Conversation and Cleanup!

Posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Saturday, April 23, 2022
8 a.m. breakfast, 9 a.m. clean-up
River Bend Park at 2300 Rod Beaudry Drive, Sacramento 95827

Join your Water Forum colleagues as we fuel up and then head out to cleanup the American River Parkway on Saturday, April 23, at 8 a.m. at River Bend Park, as part of the American River Parkway Foundation’s Spring Cleanup event.

Held at eight locations throughout the Parkway, this is the Foundation’s second-largest annual cleanup and helps remove more than 10,000 pounds of trash from the Parkway.

The Water Forum will be offering breakfast, coffee and the great company of your colleagues starting at 8 a.m. before joining the Foundation’s cleanup event at 9 a.m. The Foundation will provide a safety briefing, as well as trash bags, gloves, water and a light snack for volunteers.

There are TWO STEPS to take to join us:

1:  Register for the Parkway Foundation’s River Bend cleanup event here.

2: RSVP to the Water Forum by Wednesday, April 20th (so we know how much food to bring) here.

Hope to see you there!

#WeLoveOurRiver

A creek thrives again in Rancho Cordova… with a little help from nature’s “ecosystem engineers”

Posted on Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

By Erica Bishop

Habitat naturalization works, and we have Cordova Creek to show for it.

The creek in Rancho Cordova actually didn’t have a name, as far as we know, until the 1960s. That’s when it was lined with concrete and became known as Clifton Drain, named after the gentleman who initiated the lining project to protect area soils from erosion. However, as this area became part of the American River Parkway, the community became more aware of its potential and interested in revitalizing it.

In 2016, the Water Forum began working to restore the sterile concrete-lined storm drain into a more natural state in partnership with the Sacramento County Regional Parks Department, Wildlife Conservation Board, California Native Plant Society, SAFCA, City of Rancho Cordova, and Soil Born Farms.

The project team removed all the concrete in the channel, used native cobbles to help slow down flows, and planted native riparian and upland vegetation, including willow trees.

Finished in 2017, the newly-named Cordova Creek was soon recognized with an award for “outstanding environmental stewardship” by the Sacramento Environmental Commission. And they weren’t the only ones to notice the project—beaver families soon moved into the area.

Beavers are nature’s original ecosystem engineers, and their dams can help bring deep incised channels back to life by backing up water and making it available for riparian trees and plants, which once established, serve as food and habitat for birds and other species.

Currently, there are four beaver dams and one lodge in Cordova Creek, which enrich

Adorable video of Cordova Creek’s beavers. Many thanks to wildlife photographer Carl Salmonsen for sharing his wildlife cam footage!

the naturalization project in several ways:

  • Beaver dams create slow-moving pools, enhancing conditions for other fish and wildlife by providing shade and woody material, and helping to filter fine sediment from the water.
  • They help protect the Lower American River by trapping litter from upstream neighborhoods before it can wash into the river.
  • They offer a great place for the Water Forum to compare temperatures around the dams with temperatures recorded in the rest of the channel.
  • Finally, they provide a great opportunity to observe the natural interaction between a native species and the dynamic riparian corridor along the creek.

Click to expand

That said, the beaver dams present several challenges since the backed-up water can flood portions of the nearby interpretive trail and low-water crossing built in 2017. Also, since the beavers never stop building, flow patterns around the creek can change from one day to the next. Devices called “pond levelers” can help mitigate high-water impacts from beavers without affecting their health or habitat.

Today, what was once a concrete drainage now resembles a natural creek, with a tree canopy providing deep shade to keep the water cool, along with a wealth of other vegetation that attracts wildlife. The willows are huge, and deer often visit the creek. The creek is an amazing spot to step into the shade and enjoy the sound of the birds. The riparian plantings have done so well that it’s actually hard to get to the creek in a few places now. Although it has taken a few years, the native upland vegetation planted during the project is also established enough that the irrigation can be removed.

The creek is especially important because it is one of the few tributaries of the Lower American

Check out this engaging interactive from the High Desert Museum’s experience “Dam It! Beavers and Us” that demonstrates how beavers can transform a riparian habitat into a thriving, lush spot teeming with wildlife.

River in which water flows year-round, providing vital refuge for many species even during hot summer and fall months. That’s because it benefits from treated groundwater discharged from the nearby Aerojet industrial facility.

Cordova Creek also has become a major asset for the community, which includes the adjoining Cordova Meadows neighborhood and Soil Born Farms, providing educational opportunities for Parkway visitors and local school groups to learn about the ecosystem, often led by the team at Soil Born Farms.

But the work isn’t done. Funding for the first project wasn’t sufficient to naturalize the final 400 feet of creek, where it connects with the American River. The Water Forum is currently working with a large stakeholder group to plan the next phase for this short, but complex portion of the creek.

Once complete, this formerly paved ditch will be connected to the Lower American River in a functional way, serving as a vital refuge area for wildlife, demonstrating how successful projects are the result of great (if sometimes unexpected) partnerships.

Will there be a Miracle March?

Posted on Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

By Jessica Law

California has just concluded the driest January-February period in recorded history. The March 1 survey of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, key to water supplies across much of the state, reflects the trend as well, showing the snow water content at 62 percent of average for the date.

We at the Water Forum are hoping for a “Miracle March” that brings in above-average precipitation to reverse this trend. But we are also prepared for the reality that missing out on all that moisture in January and February—normally the wettest months of the year—likely means we will face a third consecutive drought year ahead.

As we discussed in our last blog about “weather whiplash,” early storms in October and December delivered

PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Innerarity/California Department of Water Resources (October 28, 2021)

lots of rain and snow to the central part of the state. That means the American River watershed and Folsom Reservoir, which serve the Sacramento region, are in slightly better shape than the rest of the state. The Central Sierra snowpack stands at 65 percent of average—whereas the Northern Sierra is currently at 57 percent.

Folsom Reservoir is currently about as full as it’s allowed to be at this time of year, given flood-storage requirements present during winter. As of March 2, it stood at 106 percent of historical average capacity for this time of year—a much better position than the significantly larger Shasta and Oroville Reservoirs, which are near historic low storage levels.

Looking ahead, it currently seems likely that Folsom Reservoir—operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation—will be able to end the calendar year with about 300,000 acre-feet of stored water. That’s a better outlook than last year at this time.

However, because of low storage elsewhere in the state, Reclamation may need to more heavily rely on Folsom Reservoir to serve other areas of the state that normally rely on Shasta and Oroville, and to satisfy water quality requirements in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The Water Forum is already watching this unfolding picture very carefully. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Reclamation as they manage Folsom to support our local water quality needs in the American River and ensure wildlife, like our fall-run Chinook salmon, remain in good shape all year long.

Could we get a Miracle March? A long-range forecast by the Climate Prediction Center at the National Weather Service indicates an increased likelihood for wet conditions across the northern quarter of the state during March. If that benefits Shasta Reservoir, it could significantly relieve pressure on Folsom Reservoir and the American River.

Also, a storm moving our way this week brings a bit of hope. Through Friday, the Sacramento region could see a half-inch of rain, while the Sierra Nevada could see as much as a foot of snow above 4,000 feet.

So, while we remain hopeful, Water Forum members are also staying focused on addressing climate change and severe conditions projected over the long term. Dry periods like this one are expected to become more frequent and to last longer in our region as climate change worsens. Rain or no rain, we must also prepare for another drought year and continue doing our part to conserve water.

Get to know a few of the engineers making a difference in the Water Forum

Posted on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

February 20-26 marks National Engineers Week—a time to celebrate how engineers make a difference in our world. Here at the Water Forum, engineers are found in every caucus and on the Water Forum team. In honor of this special week, we are proud to profile a few of the engineers who, indeed, are making a difference at the Water Forum, in their organizations and our community.

Click on each name below to learn more about that person’s educational background, professional experience, Water Forum involvement—and even their secret talent and what they love about the lower American River. #WeLoveOurRiver

And… THANK YOU to all of the wonderful engineers who were brave enough to participate in this project and answer our questions!


Water Caucus member Kerry Schmitz, Water Supply Division Chief with Sacramento County Water Agency, holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and started working with the Water Forum in 2009. Find out why she specifically asked to be assigned to the Water Forum and why she “can’t get away from water”—even in her personal life.

 

 


Environmental Caucus member Clyde Macdonald represents the Save the American River Association in the Water Forum. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Engineering and an MBA. You may know that Clyde worked virtually all of his career in the California legislature in various capacities, including serving as the lead staff person in the Assembly on the six years of Peripheral Canal legislation. But, do you know his secret talent?

 


Business Caucus member Holger Fuerst is Engineering Manager with MacKay & Somps Civil Engineers and represents the Building Industry Association in the Water Forum. He holds two bachelor degrees in Civil Engineering and Engineering Management. Learn about his salmon snorkeling adventures in the lower American River and his stint on the German National basketball team.

 


Public Caucus member Gary Bardini, Director of Planning for the Sacramento Flood Control Agency, holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. His 35+ year career has been dedicated to integrated water management—from his many years of public service at DWR to SAFCA today. Learn about his favorite work-related project so far (hint: it has to do with flood safety) and his favorite activity on the lower American River.

 


Ashlee Casey is a Senior Engineer at the Water Forum. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and master’s in Environmental Engineering. Her years in the Peace Corps in Suriname taught her “how to navigate complicated dynamics within relationships while also advancing conversations around technical concepts”—so ideal for the work of the Water Forum! Learn more about Ashlee, including her secret talent (Iron Chef anyone?).

 


 

Ashlee Casey, Senior Engineer, Sacramento Water Forum

Posted on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Water Forum Staff

Educational background

Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, University of Portland (Oregon) and a Master’s in Environmental Engineering, Michigan Technological University

Professional experience

Leading and supporting water resources planning projects in California, including drought planning, flood management, and feasibility level analysis.

Favorite work-related project so far 

I served in the Peace Corps in Suriname and was a liaison for UNICEF during my second year. The program I supported was aimed at improving the health in remote villages through awareness and training related to water and sanitation issues, and required significant coordination and facilitation with partner organizations, technical staff, and the people living in the villages. Through the process I learned a tremendous amount about myself and how to navigate complicated dynamics within relationships while also advancing conversations around technical concepts.

History with the Water Forum

Joined as staff in November 2021.

Why it is important to be involved in the Water Forum

As a Sacramento resident and a parent with young children, the threats to our region posed by climate change can be overwhelming and daunting. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to support the efforts of working toward regional water supply reliability while simultaneously protecting the lower American River.

Most valuable lesson learned (or advice) when it comes to coming to agreement

Listen and keep an open mind.

What’s unique about the American River region

There are not many cities in the world with a resource like the American River Parkway. The scale and level of community commitment to the protection and preservation of the Parkway, for both environmental and recreational purposes, is so special. The parkway offers a needed reprieve for humans and wildlife alike in an otherwise very urban area.

Favorite location and/or activity on the lower American River

Running the horse trails is my most frequent activity, but canoeing sections of the river with my family is probably my favorite.

Secret talent

Using random ingredients to make dinner in 30 minutes or less.

Personal motto

This one is hard. I guess I have a few that I remind myself of to help keep me centered… “All you can do is your best” and “Everything is temporary and change is constant.”

Gary Bardini, P.E., Director of Planning for the Sacramento Flood Control Agency

Posted on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Public Caucus

Educational background

Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. I’m also a Licensed Civil Engineer.

Professional experience

35 years of public service with the State of California and the Sacramento area providing strategic planning, policy development and engineering services to promote integrated and sustainable management of the state’s water resources. At SAFCA, I direct the formulation, refinement, coordination and policy administration for SAFCA’s strategic and project-level planning initiatives. Prior to working for SACFA, I served as the Integrated Water Management Deputy Director for the California Department of Water Resources.

Favorite work-related project so far 

At Folsom Reservoir, the completed auxiliary spillway alleviated dam safety concerns and provided needed release capacity to safely implement conditional storage under Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO). The associated 2019 water control manual update lowered the intuitional barriers previously inhibiting a formalized FIRO operation.

FIRO as the future of flood operation is well recognized. The recent technology advancement in weather forecasting and improved understanding of atmospheric river phenomena as related to flood events in California have increased flood forecast skills for both volume and timing. Reliable seven- to ten-day-ahead forecasts are already achievable. This creates opportunities to refine reservoir operation to allow additional conditional storage in flood control space to increase water supply and environmental benefits. The recently completed Lake Mendocino FIRO Viability Analysis demonstrates the maturity of such a 21st-Century practice.

History with the Water Forum

Co-partner with the Water Forum on the Lower American River Task Force (LARTF) focuses on flood, environmental, and recreational management issues affecting the lower reach of the American River from Folsom Dam to the Sacramento River. In 2002, Task Force participants collaborated in preparing the Lower American River Corridor Management Plan (RCMP) to successfully provide a framework for integrated management of this reach of the river. Recent issues addressed by the Task Force include U.S. Army Corps bank protection upgrades, the Natural Resource Management Plan, the update of the Folsom Dam Water Control Manual.

Why it is important to be involved in the Water Forum

Over the past 30 years, SAFCA has completed various projects to reduce flood risks for the Sacramento area. One of the remaining programs needed to reach SAFCA’s goal of 500-year flood protection are completion of American River bank protection projects and implementation of the American River Multi-Objective Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) Program. SAFCA’s involvement with the Water Forum is critical to the success of these initiatives.

Most valuable lesson learned (or advice) when it comes to coming to agreement

Continue to balance future water needs with environmental protection that build on these existing regional and multi-agency-specific efforts. Water agencies in the American River Basin continue coordinated planning efforts to improve flood risk reduction and regional water supply reliability such as the North American Basin Regional Drought Contingency Plan, update to the American River Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, and the Regional Water Reliability Plan.

What’s unique about the American River region

The lower American River is the only urban waterway to be designated a “Wild and Scenic River” by state and federal governments. Nearly 5 million people each year to enjoy its unique ecological resources and recreational opportunities. With 43 species of fish, including endangered steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, the river also provides important habitat for the anadromous fisheries of the Sacramento River Basin. It is also home to a rich diversity of wildlife and waterfowl. The City of Sacramento and adjacent metropolitan areas comprise the largest growth area in northern California in the past two decades.

Favorite location and/or activity on the lower American River

Rafting down the river and observing the surrounding natural environment.

Secret talent

No secret talents. Just a promoter of better integrated water management.

Personal motto

Take risks.

Holger Fuerst, Engineering Manager, MacKay & Somps Civil Engineers, Representing the Building Industry Association (BIA)

Posted on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Business Caucus

Educational background

I grew up in a Navy family in Germany. There, I graduated with my “Abitur” after 13th grade. (Back then, Germany had an additional year of high schooling compared to the traditional school system in the United States). For five of those early schooling years, I lived in and went to school in Washington, DC where my dad was stationed at the time. After graduating high school, I came back to the United States to go to college at the University of the Pacific (UoP) in Stockton, CA from which I graduated with two bachelor degrees in Civil Engineering and Engineering Management and a minor in math. During my time at UoP, I played Division 1 basketball on a full-ride scholarship. Following college, I entered the engineering consulting profession and got my professional engineering license (P.E.).

Professional experience

I have been employed in private sector engineering consulting in the Sacramento region for almost 32 years with a primary focus on entitlement engineering and processing of large-scale communities/master-planned communities.

Favorite work-related project so far 

Given that entitlement processing of large-scale master-planned communities in California will typically take 10+ years, there is no such thing as “instant gratification” with such projects. It is thus the small victories along the way that make it all worthwhile for me as a consultant. And the fact that it takes a team of consultants, each experts in their own fields, to make it all happen is extremely gratifying. As an engineer, I find that working in a very dynamic team environment under a constantly changing regulatory framework can be very challenging, but keeps it interesting and rewarding. I get to work side-by-side with any and all parties involved in the entitlement process, from numerous other consultants, to investors, developers, builders, various stakeholders, and staff from regulatory agencies, including policy makers at various levels—never a dull moment.

History with the Water Forum

Having worked with Jim Ray for over 20 years, I couldn’t help but get exposed to the Water Forum and its impact on local water agencies’ ability to implement capital improvements. Long-term water supply reliability is a critical component of being able to meet the regional housing demand for years to come and, as such, has always been a key part of my work.

Why it is important to be involved in the Water Forum

(See above response.)

Most valuable lesson learned (or advice) when it comes to coming to agreement

Mutual respect, listening and understanding, and a willingness to compromise are key to reaching agreement on contentious issues.

What’s unique about the American River region

Everything…  Its history, its biodiversity, its location (running through the heart of this region), its recreational value, its value as a critical water supply source….  It truly represents the uniqueness of the Sacramento region.

Favorite location and/or activity on the lower American River

My wife and I are very active, outdoorsy types that love to boat, fish, and scuba-dive. As part of our local dive club activities, we participate in the annual Great American River Cleanup where we as divers float down the river and pick up as much trash off the bottom as we can. It’s definitely a worthwhile activity.

But one of my favorite activities on the lower American River has got to be a “salmon snorkel” that we’ve done several times with our dive club. During the peak of the fall salmon run, we would enter the river just below the salmon gate below Hazel Ave. wearing our wetsuits and snorkel gear. Then we’d float head first down-river while coming face-to-face with numerous salmon. Definitely a unique experience.

Secret talent

Not sure that there’s anything ‘secret’ about my history playing basketball at the highest international level, but in 1987 and 1988 I got to join the German National Team and play in international tournaments all over the world prior to the ’88 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Unfortunately, our team did not qualify for the medal rounds. These days, I’m learning to kite surf—a ton of fun, but not so easy to learn when your body tells you that it’s not as young anymore as you want it to be.  😁

Personal motto

Work hard-play hard, and keep a healthy balance in life.