The State announced it’s plan today to spend $28 million to install a dam in False River for 5 months. (The two dams in the North Delta are not going to be installed this year.) The claim is the dam is needed to keep salt water from intruding into the Delta tainting fresh water used for drinking water. The alternative to the dam is to manage the water supplies to the corporate farmers in the Central Valley like they are supposed to be doing according to the legislature’s co-equal goals.
The permit application process is underway, and DWR hopes to begin installation of the emergency barrier on May 8. It will be erected across West False River, between Jersey and Bradford Islands just west of Franks Tract. This action will be taken even with the significant impacts they will cause.
The dam will be annoying to boaters having to go the long way around to travel west of there to Antioch, Benicia and San Francisco. The impacts are much more significant for Bethel Island and the owner of Bradford Island.
The DWR dares to have this statement on their website: “Based on an environmental analysis and more than nine months of discussion with Delta residents and water district managers, DWR concluded that through environmental commitments and mitigation, the emergency drought barriers would not have significant environmental impacts.”
Really? Yes, there have been discussions. But no one has been listened to and the concerns not addressed. And how could they have concluded there will be no environmental impacts?
At a meeting mid February with Paul Marshall from the DWR in Clarksburg, many concerns were raised. The Bethel Island representative explained that Bethel Island’s economy is based on being on the primary path between the Delta and points west. He said after the economic downturn, Bethel Island is just starting to make an economic recovery and stated, “The economic impacts on my island are huge. You might as well be doing a public condemnation of the value of our island.”
He also had concerns that the dam will be changing the water flows dramatically and which undercut their already fragile levees. “You will rip docks that were never designed for these flows. It’s almost an insult. Your economic impact study for our island is almost nonexistent.”
The Bradford Reclamation District representative added, “I would like to demand a public hearing of the False River Barrier.” She added, “One ferry is the single access to the island of Bradford. What are you going to do to be sure these folks can always get to their homes.” She also noted that millions of dollars of public funds is being committed without a cost benefits analysis.
There have been numerous requests for the DWR to go to Bethel Island over the past year to meet with owners there plus the nearby farmers. The DWR was asked point blank at the meeting, “Are you or are you not going to have a meeting in Bethel Island over the False River Dam?”
He responded, “No – at this point we hadn’t seen the absolute need for it.”
That’s the way it is. First they said they only needed to produce a Negative Declaration and not go through the EIR process. Obviously that was not correct. Now, instead of addressing the numerous comment letters and input received, they are just going to go ahead and install the thing.