The Audacity!

The State’s “Alternative” to wall off Middle River could significantly block navigation!

One of the alternatives in the Final EIR/EIS is that instead of tunnels, they would wall-off Middle River and make it their own private pipeline through the South Delta. This would block ALL boats from Discovery Bay and the rest of the Delta south of the railroad tracks from going East to Mildred Island, Bullfrog, Lost Isle, or Tiki Lagoon).

Even worse, today if the Orwood RR Bridge isn’t operable or needs maintenance, the railroad operates the alternate RR Bridge on Middle River, 24×7, year-round. But with these dams, boats too tall to fit under the railroad trestle would be blocked from getting to the alternate bridge; hence would be blocked from going to/from Discovery Bay to the rest of the Delta. That is scary, atrocious, and according to the “Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899,” illegal. Although it is not the current preferred alternative in the EIR, it is still atrocious that this idea of walling of Middle River keeps coming up in various State plans and projects.

Help us fight Governor Brown’s continual attacks against the Delta and our waterways! Help Us Save the Delta – Please Donate!

Figure 1. “Operable barriers” are actually dams that will block all boats!

In your comments to the Final EIR/EIS tell them “No Delta Gates! No Barriers!” Tell them to “Remove Alternative 9 from the California WaterFix Final EIR/EIS and never consider it again. It would violate the Rivers and Harbors act, violate the law, and violate the Delta Plan.” We still have through January 30th to comment. You can email comments as many times as you want to

To make sure the boaters aren’t ever totally blocked, the railroad was required by law to build two alternate bridges.

Boaters have always had the government’s guarantee of navigation. When building the railroad line, the railroad was required to install two identical drawbridges. The main railroad bridge is the Orwood RR Bridge on Old River. That bridge is operated 24×7 year-round. The bridge operators are always very accommodating for boaters. They apologize if they make us wait around until an Amtrak or freight train passes. We certainly don’t want a train to come roaring in when the bridge is open! It is rare to have to wait around for more than five to ten minutes, and even then the bridge operator apologizes and tries to squeeze some boats through between trains if a second train is coming along in a short while. They are very good at their job.

Figure 2. The railroad tracks and the sloughs on each side: “Railroad Sloughs”

The RR bridge needs to be able to accommodate any boat that has a command bridge and definitely sailboats. Our friends were bringing their sailboat up from Alameda to have it in Discovery Bay during the summer and anchor out with us at Mildred Island.

Figure 3. Sailboat at Mildred Island

Our friend asked the bridge operator if the bridge could accommodate a seventy-foot mast, since normally the bridge is at a slant, high enough for power boaters but not for a sailboat. The operator proudly replied, “Oh yes, captain! I can take this bridge ‘vertical’!”

Figure 4. The Orwood RR Bridge vertical after a sailboat had passed

One day there were maintenance people with orange vests crawling all over the partially-raised bridge. We were following our friends sailboat, we with our command bridge boat. Our friend radioed the bridge operator and asked him if he could open the bridge all the way for their seventy-foot mast. The operator apologized and said, “Sorry captain. We’re having maintenance done. Try to squeeze through.”

Our friend sputtered a little, not sure what to say and sure his mast wouldn’t fit under when the operator got back on the radio and laughed, “Just joshing with ya, Captain. Going’ vertical!” and opened the bridge up all the way. Whew!

But what happens if the bridge does have a mechanical failure? Well, that’s why there are sloughs on both sides of the railroad tracks (which we refer to as the Railroad Sloughs) and an identical alternate bridge on Middle River. If the Orwood RR Bridge on Old River has a failure, the operator will walk down the track and start operating the Middle River Bridge 24×7.

We are never trapped. We can always access the entire Delta. That is the law.

Our State and the water contractors seem to think they are above the law!

Although “Alternative 9 – Through Delta/Separate Corridors” is not the current “preferred” alternative, it was the through-Delta “Peripheral Canal” plan, the preferred alternative in the original BDCP Plans. It is atrocious that the state considered it originally, and that we still see it in the California WaterFix Final EIR/EIS. It needs to be removed from all future plans! The State and the Water Contractors who are writing the California WaterFix plan (i.e., the Delta Tunnels Plan) seem to think it is all right cut South Delta boaters off from the rest of the Delta! The audacity!

“Operable Barriers” are unsafe for any boat to pass through – they are the same as a dam

From researching the “Two-Gates Fish Protection Project” in 2009, where the State wanted to put gates on Old River and Connection Slough, we know these “Operable Barriers” are so unsafe boats should never get near them. They were, according to the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC), a violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act which requires protection for navigation.

For the Two-Gates project, the RBOC stated that the only way to ensure safe passage of boats through such blockages would be the installation of actual boat locks to accommodate boats that navigate the waterway. But on the narrow sloughs like the South Railroad Slough, a lock would also be too dangerous for boats waiting for passage. Plus a barrier on Twin Sloughs would forever ruin that favorite waterski slough.

The very informative and useful comments made by the RBOC against the Two-Gates project describes in detail all of the problems with these “Operable Barriers,” how unsafe they are for boaters, and why they are actually “dams” that totally block any boat passage, large or small.

Similar gates, besides Two-Gates, have been proposed to control salinity in the past. We need to fight back at any project that shows these horrible structures in our waterways.

Help us fight Governor Brown’s continual attacks against the Delta and our waterways! Help Us Save the Delta – Please Donate!

1 Response to “The Audacity!”

  1. 1 dhammett January 28, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Jan,(You and I met at the DBYC yacht club about a month ago) Is there a complete map of the Alternative 9 proposal? The reason I ask is that I do not see or understand how the water would be transported from Middle River to Clifton Foreman. Will that be done by pipe/tunnel or through Victoria Slough? And then it woul dc need to cross old river. Victoria Slough is one of the best places to wakeboard or ski in the Delta. If that waterway is blocked off temporary or permanent, I think many more people woul dc voice their opposition.  Anyway, thanks for all of the hard work! Dave Hammett

    Sent via the Samsung Galaxy S7 active, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

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