by Ruth Roberts
With less than two weeks to go before the close of public comment on the 2-Gates Fish Protection Demonstration Project, members of a newly formed Discovery Bay coalition are working to extend that comment period on the proposed project that many feel would cause irreparable damage to the Delta and forever alter the recreational lifestyle and property values of the waterfront community.
The San Francisco Bay and Delta Foundation (SFBDF) was formed 10 days ago following a public forum hosted by the Bureau of Reclamation. The public meeting was designed to solicit input from the community on the project, but left many residents with more questions than answers.
“The takeaway (from the meeting) was that we don’t know what the effects of 2-Gates will be, but they range from not good to devastating,” said Mike Guzzardo, SFBDF publicity chairman. “We feel that they (Bureau of Reclamation, one of the project’s collaborators) are making assumptions on work they have not done. We are concerned that they have not done an EIR (Environmental Impact Report) on the southern Delta and specifically Discovery Bay.”
The 2-Gates project is a five-year experimental program designed to save the Delta smelt by rerouting them away from the water pumps on Old and Middle rivers in Byron.
The project is a joint venture by the State Department of Water Resources, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation and the Southern California Metropolitan Water District, and would implement the installation of gates at Old River between Holland Tract and Bacon Island, and at Connection Slough between Mandeville and Bacon Island. The automatic gates would be closed at various times of the year for as much as 10 hours per day, depending on flood tides.
Fearful that the project would pass without appropriate public input and research, Guzzardo, along with residents including SFBDF Chair Dave Dove and Vice Chair Karen Mann, created the organization and immediately began soliciting support. In the past 10 days the SFBDF has held two meetings (both at the Discovery Bay Yacht Club) that were attended by more than 100 residents, and has raised $7,000 in donations for the soon-to-be nonprofit organization’s operating expenses.
“What does that tell you?” asked Mann. “It says that our small community is standing up and saying ‘whoa, wait a minute.’ No matter what our differences are (as a community), we are all coming to this as a united front. I’m fired up to see people so excited about this. We are going to make sure our hamlet is protected.”
Dove said the immediate focus of the group is to slow down the process and elicit as much community support as possible. “Right now we just want to extend the public comment period so they (Bureau of Reclamation) can do an EIR of Discovery Bay and surrounding areas,” said Dove, who hand delivered more than 400 public comment cards to the Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento this week. “We feel this project will have a very detrimental effect on the Delta.”
Pete Lucero, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation, says that federal agencies such as the bureau do not conduct environmental impact reports but rather environmental impact studies (EIS), of which the currently completed environmental assessment is the first step. Should an EIS be necessary, it would be conducted after the close of the public comment period and following the results of the environmental assessment.
“It all depends upon how the EA (environmental assessment) comes out,” said Lucero. “We’re still in the public comment period, and an environmental impact study, if done, would be done after we receive and evaluate the comments.”
As to whether the Discovery Bay group wields the clout to extend the public comment period, which is set to close on Nov. 17, Lucero said it was a possibility. “I can’t tell you exactly what the probability of that is at this point, but I can tell you it is not an uncommon practice.”
Guzzardo said that while the SFBDF is still brand new, the time for residents to get involved is now. “We found out about this 2-Gates project about 10 days ago and people are up in arms,” said Guzzardo. “Our challenge right now is time, and it’s critical that everyone in the area fill out a comment form with clear and salient points.
“None of us are experts in this area. We’re just a group of concerned yacht club members, area business leaders and residents. This project affects recreation, emergency services, farmers in the area and the health of the Bay as well as the Delta. These are all issues, the impact of which we don’t fully understand. We’re just trying to get the word out.”
Comment forms and additional information will be available at tables set up this weekend from noon to 5 p.m. at the Safeway in the Sandy Cove Shopping Center, and at the Boardwalk at the Discovery Bay Marina.
Donations to the SFBDF may be mailed to 2465 Discovery Bay Blvd., Suite 200, Discovery Bay, CA 94595. Additional information may be found on the SFBDF Web site, http://www.nodeltagates.com.
Public comments should be sent to Mario Manzo, Bureau of Reclamation, 2800 Cottage Way, MP-730, Sacramento, CA 95825, e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 916-978-5094.
For additional information or a copy of the Draft EA/FONSI, call 916-978-5060. To be added to the Demonstration Project mailing list, call 916-978-5112 or e-mail email@example.com.