Sacramento lawmakers want state money for American River Parkway

Two cyclists watch an egret in a slough beside the American River Parkway bike trail as they ride near the 4-mile mark on Monday evening, June 17, 2013.
Two cyclists watch an egret in a slough beside the American River Parkway bike trail as they ride near the 4-mile mark on Monday evening, June 17, 2013. Bee file photo

The American River Parkway could receive millions in additional state funding under legislation introduced by Sacramento area lawmakers.

Assembly Bill 1716 would create a Lower American River Conservancy with a 12-member governing board. The conservancy would seek more state funds for habitat and water-quality improvements and recreational amenities such as trails.

Assemblymen Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, who represent sections of the parkway, introduced the bill this week and announced the plan Thursday at Discovery Park.

The parkway, a 30-mile urban forest, serves as a natural habitat and major recreation area that courses from the eastern Sacramento County suburbs to the central city. The conservancy would not cover the parkway from the Nimbus Fish Hatchery to the Folsom Dam, a section managed by the state.

Of the $760 million in state funds for river improvements in the last two decades, only $3 million has gone to the lower American River, McCarty said; $660 million of that money has gone to rivers with conservancies, he said.

Sacramento County supervisors have offered general support for the proposal, noting that they perennially lack the funds needed to maintain or improve the parkway. Sacramento County created the parkway and is responsible for the section from the central city to the dam.

The conservancy board would have three county supervisors, two Sacramento City Council members, a Rancho Cordova City Council member, five officials representing state agencies and a member of the public. According to the bill, Sacramento County would remain in control of the parkway.

State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, plans to back the legislation in the Senate.

“We have inherited a remarkable gift in the parkway,” he said Thursday. “It’s no secret that it has not reached its full potential. That is what this bill is about.”

Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris said the bill is the result of a constituent who approached him about the need for a conservancy, since similar agencies across the state have been effective at attracting state funds. He said he brought the idea to county officials, who in turn brought it to McCarty.

County parks director Jeff Leatherman said he could not comment on the county’s position on AB 1716 until the Board of Supervisors considers it as part of the county’s overall legislative package in February.

Supervisor Phil Serna noted that the legislation addresses the two concerns supervisors had when McCarty discussed the proposal last year. It spells out the county’s continued authority over the parkway and includes elected representatives for communities along the parkway on the conservancy’s board, said Serna, who helped draft the bill.