Urgent Warning for South Delta Boaters

There’s a dangerous situation out on the water this weekend and for a few weeks to come. There is levee work being done around Woodward Island. Right now, there are large barges and tug boats moving along in the northern Twin Slough.

(Note: Officially, the parallel sloughs we call “Twin Sloughs” are named “Woodward Canal” on the north, and “North Victoria Canal” on the south, named after the islands they run next to.)

A boater was out there this week and came upon the barges. He slowed down but the tug’s powerful props were pulling his Mastercraft towards the barges, twisting it in the water. He said it was very difficult to control.

That leads to an even bigger concern that, since those parallel sloughs are favorites for waterskiing and wake boarding, if a skier/boarder drops when they get near the barge 5 MPH zone, the props could pull them in. Not good. In addition, Twin Sloughs gets very busy, particularly in the summer weekends. There isn’t room for boarders going two directions to pass safely on one side of the slough. So having barges fill up one of the canals is going to make it dangerous.

Please alert your friends and any of your younger clan that take boats out either for skiing/wake boarding or just to head to Ski Beach, to take caution around the barges that are working and moving through that area.

That area is a favorite due to the long, straight run and the partial tule berm in the middle that use to separate the two canals. That berm separates boat traffic in the two directions, a natural traffic control. It keeps the boaters safer when passing plus the tules calm the wakes. That coupled with a good wind direction makes ideal water conditions.

And it is the quickest way to get from Discovery Bay to Union Point Resturant.

We have been told it is open for boat passage, but recommend not skiing or wake boarding through that area while the barges are there. Even if you’re taking a weekday run and are the only boat, if your skier/boarder falls in that area, it could be dangerous for him/her.

Please pass this advice on to others.

We recommend instead skiing south on Old River. If you yearn for a long, straight run, head down to Victoria Canal. Another favorite of ours, not as straight but a good run, is the west side of Mildred Island. Or if not too crowded, railroad slough. (The north railroad slough gets crowded on weekends with big boats, and it’s not wide enough for two skiers to pass safely on the south.)

Why are the barges there?

They are doing levee work. The dirt is being dumped behind the levee to widen and strengthen it. They are going in a clockwise direction. When they finish along the south side of Woodward Island (Twin Sloughs), they will go north along the west side (Old River – they have a barge filled with dirt there now). They aren’t doing the north side (the slough along the Santa Fe Railroad trestle) but will do along the east (Middle River).

We have been airing our concerns with the people in charge, so hopefully in the future this kind of work isn’t scheduled in favorite recreational sloughs during prime recreational season.

The bridge construction

As you probably have noticed, there is also the bridge construction still underway on the east side of Woodward Island (Middle River). Its purpose is to replace the old cable ferry crossing.

Yes – we who fear the state is doing pre-work for the tunnels were suspicious about that high bridge, but the bridge is a San Joaquin County project. And San Joaquin County opposes the tunnels.

So, why a bridge to nowhere? The cable ferries are dangerous. A boatload of teens died years ago when they didn’t see the cable was up or notice the 5 MPH zone. Very dangerous, and not very efficient.

Who even goes to Woodward Island?

From the satellite view, there is only one farmhouse there.

However, the island has the two big, main water pipelines for the East Bay Municipal Water District (EBMUD), taking water to Alameda (Oakland, etc.) from (1) the Mokelumne River and (2) intakes on the Sacramento River near Freeport. You can also see the same two pipelines further west where they go near the Orwood Resturant and Marina. The island also has a major gas pipeline traversing it.

The county was worried if there was a major disruption to those pipelines, the old ferry wouldn’t be able to get repair people to the island quickly or efficiently. Hence the bridge.

The nice thing about the bridge was that boating needs were considered. It is 30 feet high in the center, meaning even large power boats and even the Rosemarie (Captain Morgan’s Delta Adventures large two-decker houseboat) can pass under without having to wait for an operator to open it, and without worrying about hours of operation.

For sailboats, cranes, other taller vessels, it isn’t as convenient but still possible. The center section can be removed by a crane.

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