Kaweah River Politics

County Approves Kaweah River Plan for Commercial Operations in 2000

In a Dec 7, 1999 meeting of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, the Kaweah River Plan was approved for commercial operations on the Kaweah in 2000. Permits remain with the same 8 companies with maximum usage remaining at 8 rafts per day and 64 persons per day per company. Speaking against the plan were 2 Three Rivers residents including Milt Melkonian, outspoken riverfront landowner whose underlying motivation continues to be closure of the river. Speaking in favor of the plan were 4 persons including myself, Bill Pooley, Michael Clifton of Fresno, Beyond Limits owner Dave Hammond, and Whitewate Voyages owner Bill McGinnis. Michael brought up the "illegal blokage" of the traditional put-in at Pumpkin Hollow Bridge and recommended the Kaweah River Plan be expanded to include provisions for private boaters.

The issue of navigability was raised again to the board. County council Kathleen Bales-Lange responded to the question stating that while there were no laws they could find making the Kaweah explicitly navigable, the county had reviewed state law and court decisions in there finding that the Kaweah is navigable. The board further stated the county would not be doing anything to try and change the navagability status of the Kaweah. The board told Milt Melkonian and the audience that they would have to pursue the matter in the courts. Milt responded that they were pursuing that avenue.

Thanks to all who wrote letters to the Board of Supervisors. American Whitewater provided a letter to the supervisors with a clear message defending the navigability of the Kaweah River backed with summaries of California law and Court cases.

The issue of public Kaweah access is not dead by any means. The landowners group opposing river access has been dealt several defeats but they are still committed to pursuing their cause.

River Access Controversy articles reprinted from the Kaweah Commonwealth:

  • Kaweah Commonwealth, Sept 24, 1999 "Kaweah is Navigable"
  • Kaweah Commonwealth, Sept 24, 1999 "Slicky 4 acquitted.."
  • Kaweah Commonwealth, Sept 24, 1999 "Deputy-Sheriff Resigns..."
  • Bill Sanders' open letter of Oct 15, 1999 to the residents of Three Rivers and published in the Kaweah Commonwealth.
  • A recent Article in the Nov. 19, 1999 Kaweah Commonwealth reports the results of the recent Three Rivers town meeting which saw local residents organizing to try and combat what they see as newly interpreted rights of the public to use their private property.
  • Kaweah Commonwealth, Dec. 10, 1999 "County supervisors approve Kaweah River update plan"
  • Kaweah Commonwealth, Jan 21, 2000 CSD passes resolution on river access
  • Kaweah Commonwealth, Jan 21, 2000, Political Advertisement by candidate for Board of Supervisors and in opposition to the Public's Right to River Access

    California Law and Court Decisions on navigibility and public's right to Kaweah River access, by Jason Robertson, American Whitewater. Or, download a pdf of the document (10KB).

    Link to more information in theCalifornia Constitution and Code relating to the public's right to river access.

    Tulare County Board of Supervisors, Who's Who and links to county ordinance.

    The county and the riverfront landowners of Three Rivers need to understand that the Kaweah River is a already shared resource under state law. The management of the river needs to be expanded to better serve the public's interest by providing more access for legitimate recreational (navigational) purposes. The access at at Pumpkin Hollow Bridge needs to be reopened as a private launch point. Access at Dinely Bridge and in the Town of Three Rivers needs improvement. The easement points at the existing bridge crossings need to be developed for non-commercial public access. Potential abuse of easements need to be dealt with under existing or enhanced ordinances and local community involvement. The private boating community is inherently environmentally conscious and they do not want the river experience degraded anymore than landowners on the river.

    Bill Pooley, Kaweah River Page - webmaster and Kaweah River landowner

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    Last modified: 09.30.04