Kern River memories, photos sought

July 6, 2021
by Lois Henry
A new awareness campaign by the Bring Back the Kern group aims to pluck residents' memories of a flowing Kern River through Bakersfield.
Lois Henry

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The grassroots group Bring Back the Kern has launched a new public awareness campaign to pluck residents’ memories of a flowing river through Bakersfield.

Bring Back the Kern, formed in 2020, advocates finding ways for water to flow through the Kern River channel through town on a more frequent and consistent basis. The group has backed numerous events including river clean ups, environmental art projects, promoted a new river-themed children’s book and even sent Kern River themed craft beers to the California State Water Resources Control Board in support of a flowing river.

Group members and others have also made regular appearances before the State Water Board during public comments to ask that the board find in favor of the City of Bakersfield’s long pending application for water that was found to have been forfeited by an agricultural water district back in 2007 but has yet to be awarded to a new user by the state board.

In 2007, a court found that the Kern Delta Water District had forfeited some  of its Kern River rights for lack of use. The court didn’t have jurisdiction to determine who should get the forfeited water, however, and kicked the issue up to the State Water Board. The board found in 2010 that there, indeed, was water available on the river, but didn’t say how much or who should get it. Several agricultural water districts and Bakersfield have applied for the water. The city is the only entity that has pledged it would run the water down the riverbed to recharge the aquifer as well as provide recreation for residents.

In April, the water board announced it would finally hold a hearing on the Kern River, but still has not set any hearing dates.

While that long-drawn state process plays out, Bring Back the Kern continues to find ways to draw attention to what is now a dry channel in the middle of Bakersfield.

In its latest campaign, the group is asking community members to share pictures and stories about their memories of a flowing river. Submissions may be shared in both a virtual and physical gallery in early September and participants will be entered in a raffle with a number of river-themed prizes.

The goal is to tap into “Our community’s collective memory of times when the river was flowing and of people enjoying the river’s beauty, wildlife, and recreational properties” in order to “envision a future where a flowing river isn’t a rare occurrence, but is a standard feature of living in Bakersfield,” according to a Bring Back the Kern press release.
Interested persons may submit photos or video with a brief description of the event to contact@bringbackthekern.org using the subject line “A River Remembered.”  Select submissions will also be posted on Bring Back the Kern’s social media page.
Each participant will be entered into a raffle for prizes including:
  • 1 1/2 day outings for 2 people with Whitewater Voyages
  • 6 passes and 6 shirts with River’s End Rafting
  • 1 Guided 3 hour fly-fishing outing with Kern Anglers
  • 1 family bike rental from Bakersfield Bike Rentals
  • 1 $20 food gift certificate from Locale Farm to Table

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