Posted by: Jan | August 10, 2018

Building the Bridge to Nowhere (aka Woodward Island)


As we took our STCDA Sunset Cruise aboard Captain Frank Morgan’s Rosemarie this week, from Twin Sloughs Captain Morgan pointed out barges in the distance. He said that they were starting construction of the Woodward Bridge on Middle River.

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Barges in the distance, seen from Twin Sloughs

As we rounded the corner to go north past Ski Beach we could get a better look at the barges with cranes on them for construction.

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We passed the old cable ferry that the new fancy bridge will replace.

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Woodward Island Ferry

Seen from Google Maps, the ferry crossing goes between Bacon Island Road (which you can get to turning left off Highway 4 after the Middle River Bridge) which ferries vehicles across to Woodward Island.

Ferry

When I first heard about this bridge, I asked myself, “Why would they build a fancy, 30-foot high bridge to get to Woodward Island? What’s there?” Looking at Google Maps, I could only see a single farmhouse. “Why would this farmer get this fancy bridge?” I asked.

I was very suspicious with the Delta Tunnel project being planned. I was told though that the main purpose was that East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Mokelumne Aqueduct, the major source of water for the East Bay including Oakland, crosses Woodward Island. The concern was if there was a major issue, maintenance crews needed better access than the ferry can provide.

EBMUD Pipeline

Even with that explanation, most of us on the boat remained skeptical that there isn’t some underlying desire to get that fancy bridge in place to help with the tunnel effort in some way. (Sung to the music, “Suspicious Minds.”)

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Ferry ramp on Woodward Island with barges in the background – smokey sunset

I wondered why there was a cement truck trying to get to Woodward Island – the one that had gone plunging into Middle River in July, when the driver went back instead of forward on the ferry. Now it makes sense – they were starting on the construction of the bridge.

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July 6, 2018 – Cement Truck falls off the Woodward Ferry into Middle River

At least, the bridge will be high enough (30 feet above the water for the mid-span) for the Rosemarie and other big boats to go under. It will not be operated, but there will be a center span that can be removed by a crane to allow big equipment to pass if needed.

Side Note: You have to wonder if when they try to just build one bridge, they don’t know enough about the Delta to know how to keep their one cement truck out of the drink, how will they handle their 24×7 line of construction trucks traveling across narrow levee roads and bridges for the massive construction project they are planning. The Delta just is not a place for huge construction projects!

There is another reason that there may have been urgency for this bridge to be built that is not to aid the tunnels but because of the tunnels. EBMUD has been contesting the Delta Tunnels project because the tunnels runs directly under Woodward Island. EBMUD believes the tunnel drilling through soft alluvial soils will cause settling that will affect their pipeline and they want the WaterFix project to pay for pumps on both sides to ensure the EBMUD water can keep flowing. So they would need that bridge to get the pumps in stalled and any emergency crews to the island if the tunneling causes havoc.

That brings up the other huge issues with the tunneling plan. Not only does it cause EBMUD issues, the Kinder Morgan fuel pipeline also crosses Woodward Island, and the bridge will help for any emergencies there.

Speaking of emergencies, an even bigger concern is that the Sante Fe Railroad is on pilings between two sloughs just north of Woodward Island. Tunneling activities has been known to twist railroad piers which would be disastrous if it caused issues with that line. It is a heavily used freight and Amtrak line. We saw the Amtrak pass as we were on our smokey Sunset Cruise.

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See how the train is on piers – that’s a big concern with tunnels going underneath. Yet levees and trains aren’t listed as a problem in the WaterFix EIR.

Related/References:

  1. “Woodward Island Bridge Project (ferry replacement)” – Initial Study
  2. “Ferries are a Dying Breed in the Delta” – RecordNet News
  3. “Another Week, Another Project affecting the Delta” – Prior STCDA blog about the new bridge/ferry replacement project
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