For years, starting when our kids were 5 and 7, our family would drive from Sunnyvale to the Delta nearly every Friday night during the summer. We’d launch our ski boat at Russo’s Marina on Bethel Island and head off somewhere, find a quiet spot to anchor, put up the canvas and roll out the sleeping bags, and tie up for the night. We’d spend Saturday and Sunday on the waterways, teaching the kids to ski or pulling them behind on the “enterprise” (blow-up) or just jumping of the back swimming. Or we’d find a small beach for the kids to make mud pies and have fun. We’d barbecue at night with the sun setting behind us. The Delta has amazing sunsets.
Figure 1. Boat Camping with the kids at Mildred Island in the Delta
When we upgraded to a bigger boat to camp on, we took both boats to Mildred Island on the weekends to anchor out at night and then use the ski boat during the day on the slough just west of Mildred Island waterways to ski. We fell in love with the Delta, so moved to Discovery Bay when we retired.
Mildred Island is about half way between Bethel Island and Discovery Bay, in the center of the South Delta. Mildred Island flooded in the early ’80s and was never reclaimed, making it the perfect anchorage spot. Mildred is where most boats anchor in the South Delta.
Figure 2. Mildred and other Anchorages near Bethel Island and Discovery Bay
Having a nice anchorage near by is one of the draws for buying a home in Discovery Bay. Being close to fishing, ski/waterski sloughs, and an anchorage is why Bethel Island has over 30 marinas all the way around the island. Most boats come from the near surrounding areas (Bethel Island, Byron, Oakley, and Discovery Bay) but others come from San Francisco, Benicia, Stockton, etc.
Mildred is a well-known anchorage. On Labor Day, the Sea Ray Club brings about 60 boats and form a complete, perfect circle: quite an engineering feat. The Grand Banks Club, Bayliner Club, Discovery Bay Yacht Club as well as other groups and clubs use the Mildred Island anchorage regularly. In addition, numerous small groups and single boats anchor at Mildred Island for a weekend, a week, or more. No other South Delta location can provide an anchorage for so many boats.
Figure 3. Sea Ray Club “Full Circle” at Mildred Every Year (From Sea Ray Club Website)
The only other anchor area for more than a handful of boats in the South Delta is what the locals call Horseshoe Bend, west of the Connection Slough Bridge (see Figure 2 above). Horseshoe Bend can support perhaps up to 20 boats.
Besides these two anchorages, there are only a few sloughs in the South Delta where one or several boats can slip in behind some tules and anchor for the night or weekend, but no other anchorage.
What plans does the State have to protect the Mildred Island Anchorage?
ANSWER: None. Just the opposite. The State will make Mildred unusable as an anchorage and hard to get to for eleven (yes 11) years.
Figure 3. Construction at Mildred Island and Connection Slough
As you can see in Figure 3, the State plans to build a huge dock and have barges, construction, 24×7 pounding and bright lights from June 1 to October 31 each year (i.e., all summer months) for eleven years right next to the Mildred Island Anchorage. It certainly won’t be a peaceful anchorage any longer. It looks like they may even wipe out the levee where the doggie beach is. They will leave behind a giant, smelly muck pile, just west of a peaceful pristine anchorage. Unbelievable!
They will also put a dock and barges in Connection Slough. There they say they will try to allow traffic (5 MPH), but I do not trust them to do a reasonable job of notifying the public ahead of time of closures and delays.
Their plans show other brown areas, construction of some sort, potentially blocking the way to Mildred Island from the South. Again, I do not trust them to do a reasonable job of notifying the public ahead of time of closures and delays and not blocking boats from getting to or returning from Mildred Island.
Implications for Recreation (Skiing/WakeBoarding)
Besides making it difficult to get to Mildred from Connection Slough, the State will also be wiping out recreational boating (skiing and wakeboarding) along the western side of Mildred Island. That is the second favorite ski site after Twin Sloughs. While there are also nice sloughs on the south side and east side of Mildred, during busy weekends those are the sloughs the big formula boats and big cruisers take. Especially during a big can poker run, skiing or wakeboarding those sloughs is not advised
What can we do?
Send in your comments before January 30th that our town doesn’t want the State to wipe out the main anchorage for the South Delta. Yet this is the State’s plan in its Final EIR/EIS on the California WaterFix.
Even after people identified Mildred Island as the important primary anchorage for the entire South Delta in comments in 2013 and 2016, and in person at BDCP meetings, the Final EIR still failed to include Mildred Island as one of the key Recreation Sites in the South Delta or to refer to it at all.
Table 15-15 that lists important Recreational Sites throughout the Delta does not include Mildred Island nor Horseshoe Bend. Both should have been included and discussed in the analysis, primarily a discussion about what is the value of keeping boats in the Bethel Island marinas or the value of boating from Discovery Bay.
The EIR also fails to adequately identify the actual boating need. There are probably 4,000 boat berths in Discovery Bay counting private docks and the Marina. Yet the EIR only analyzes marinas and doesn’t count boats per marina. The analysis of where boats are and where they go is missing from the EIR.
The Final EIR Chapter 15 – Recreation, fails to adequately analyze activity in the Delta. As a result it does not consider the economic impacts or safety implications for the South Delta communities and boaters: Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Bullfrog Marina and other marinas where these boaters who come to Mildred Island go for supplies, fuel, or other shopping. (Anchored boats typically have another small boat, ski boat, or tender where they can get fuel and supplies during their anchor-out).
The analysis in the EIR is inadequate, incomplete, and flawed.
STCDA is still working to fight for the rights of the Delta communities as well as the fish. An alternative Rep. Garamendi and others have proposed is a portfolio of solutions, with one component being a single, smaller 3,000 CFS pipe. Even if the proposal for a smaller, less damaging pipe is accepted, there will still be a tunnel along the same alignment, causing perhaps shorter-term impact, but still ruining our waterways and the Mildred Island Anchorage.
There are alternatives regardless of what size pipe they decide to run:
- Pick their Eastern Alignment Alternative. Instead of going through the Delta, the only way to save it is to go around the Delta.
- A the least:
- Move the barge location away from the Mildred Island Anchorage. Metropolitan Water District owns the entire Bacon Island. If moved south where the road/overpass is and construction activity were kept isolated to the western channel, boat traffic could still pass on the east, under the Bacon Island Bridge.
- Maximize accessibility to/from Mildred Island from Bethel Island and approaching from the south on Middle River.
- Locate the muck pile as far south on Bacon Island as possible.
- If not the entire Eastern Alignment, at least reroute as far east as possible around Mildred Island and the waterways south of it. That would leave boating open in the South Delta as well as not impacting fish and fowl.
Boating communities deserve at least some commitment from the State to try to maintain navigable, usable, scenic waterways and minimize impact from their tunnel construction destruction.
Send in your Comments
Email your comments/objections to this plan to: CalWaterFix@water.ca.gov. Note: This link also adds a BCC to our mailbox for reference. In 2013 it took them THREE YEARS to post people’s comments!