Prior to the California Gold Rush, cool, contaminant free rivers flowed from the headwaters to the sea and sustained life for indigenous communities and wildlife. Today, the Sierra Nevada is the source of 60% of California’s developed water supply, but the rivers that deliver this water and the cultural lifeways they support are in peril. The Sierra Fund’s focus on rivers seeks to revitalize First Nation resilience, restore critical riverine habitat for wildlife, and regain efficient and effective water storage capacity behind existing impoundments.
“Projects in the Sierra Nevada that seek to address opportunities for fish to migrate upstream and to restore water storage capacity must acknowledge the historic context of “what happened here” and work with the unique and pervasive landscape-level features that shape headwater ecosystems. Specifically, this work must take into account antiquated debris control dams built to hold back hydraulic mining waste and the need for reservoir sedimentation maintenance activities that abate ongoing mercury contamination.”Carrie Monohan, Ph.D., Program Director