by Amanda Dove, Editor In Chief, Delta Sun Times
Concerned citizens from Discovery Bay and around the Delta filled the gymnasium at Discovery Bay School Tuesday night. The crowd (of approx. 600) hoped to dissuade the Bureau of Reclamation from continuing forward with plans to build two gates at Old River and Connection Slough, which will virtually cut off Discovery Bay from 1,100 miles of navigable Delta waterways. Concerns about the Two Gates project are serious. The project will almost certainly threaten Discovery Bay ’s water quality, aquatic life, boater safety, and the overall health of the Delta in the long-term. Property values, business survival and quality of life in the community of 17,000 residents are at stake.
The Two-Gates project is an $80 million dollar experiment, proposed to remain in place for five years. The experiment, proposed by (and paid for) by southern California water concerns and land developers, is a part of the California Department of Natural Resources modeling elements for the extremely controversial Peripheral Canal. If the two gates project can demonstrate it helps to protect the Delta’s endangered smelt population, this will help the Peripheral Canal project along in the approval process. The project is clearly pitched as a “Save the Smelt” project.
Discovery Bay Chamber of Commerce president-elect, Greg Spivak, put it well: “I’m amazed that Southern California is so concerned about these tiny fish that live only here, in the Northern California Delta.” This statement was echoed throughout the night, as speakers from the crowd stated again and again that this project is about increasing water to Southern California residents.
Many left frustrated, as it was clear that the Bureau of Reclamation intends to proceed with this project, despite dozens of legitimate concerns, and questions of the science and research that is actually in place for this project. The real concerns over the lack of research on the impact in Discovery Bay clearly demonstrates the need for an Environmental Impact Report, a move that Reclamation officials said they “would wrestle with” (whether or not it is needed). The Two Gates project must still obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, a last stop for public comment, which will likely take place within a month’s time. This will be an essential moment in Discovery Bay history. Even five years could change the Delta and Discovery Bay forever. Changing tidal flows and fish migration could lead to lack of fish and wildlife in the southern Delta, increased aquatic plant life growth (which is already inundating Discovery Bay), and decreased water quality (muddy and/or smelly water) due to the stagnate water that could result from stopping water flow 10-20 hours per day.
Even with all of the environmental impact concerns, boaters will be most affected. Boats would not be able to freely pass through these gated areas, forcing southern Delta boaters hours further to the east and north to reach their destinations. Those trying to reach Discovery Bay and the surrounding area would be severely deterred from making the effort to travel so far. Marinas such as Holland Riverside, Orwood Resort and Discovery Bay Marina would be the last place one might want to berth their vessel, being the furthest point away from the most desired destinations to the west.
Stay informed, write your elected officials, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Army Corps of Engineers.