Archive Page 4

Barges in the Delta! Yikes!

Several boaters have had encounters of the close kind with tugboats maneuvering large barges around Woodward Island recently.

In August I posted an Urgent Warning for South Delta Boaters after a friend of mine had “too close” of an encounter with a tug pushing a barge on Twin Sloughs. (The locals call the parallel sloughs named North Victoria Canal and Woodward Canal “Twin Sloughs.” These are high populated recreational lanes for skiers and wakeboarder near Discovery Bay.)

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.

The barge work since moved to Old River on the west side of Woodward Island. There are several huge barges rafted together there. Old River is much wider, so not as much impact to boaters . . . usually.

What ere they doing? 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 finished along the south side of Woodward Island (Twin Sloughs), they moved to the west side (Old River). They aren’t doing the north side (the slough along the Santa Fe Railroad trestle) but will do along the east (Middle River).

New Concerns!

We’ve gotten multiple reports from boaters of large power boats having issues with these barges over the past few weeks.

Our friends in a power boat encountered a tug trying to maneuver a barge under the Orwood RR Bridge. Our friend had called Channel 16 for the bridge opening and the tug boat operator, who was also on Channel 16, warned the power boat to stay back. He was having trouble getting his big barge through the bridge opening. Our friend did, and then when clear followed the barge through the bridge.

He slowly followed the barge until it pulled over to the side to tie up with the other barges. Then then passed, but noticed a strong pull from the tug’s powerful engines.

More disconcerting were two DBYC boaters heading north a few weeks ago when they encountered a large barge being pushed by a tug in the center of Old River. It was our President Karen Mann who was single-handing her power boat, following Charlie Weever in his power boat. They debated what to do as the tug and barge filled up most of Old River. Eventually, they had room (barely) to pass the tug and barge. But it was a harrowing experience. They had the depth to pass, but had to watch the rocks on the levee and watch the barge activity. Like other boaters have reported, Karen said it was all she could do to keep her 20,000 pound power boat from being twisted by the tug’s powerful engines. Worse, the tug honked at them. She and I talked about the situation and both wondered, what is the right protocol? Are we supposed to not pass tugs pushing barges? They go very slow. We don’t know where they are heading. What are the rules?

Other Discovery Bay boaters have reported having scary times passing the tugboats maneuvering barges in Old River.

So I did some research and here’s what I’ve found. If anyone has more to add, let me know and I’ll update this blog. But yes, it apparently is allowed to pass tugs pushing barges. But we do need to be cautious.

  • The speed of a ship, towboat or tugboat can be deceptive. A tow can travel one mile in seven minutes — a ship even faster — and it generally takes 0.75 to 1.5 miles to stop. If a water skier falls 1,000 feet in front of a moving tug or tow, the skier has less than one minute to get out of the way. Yikes. Take note!!!
  • Large vessels must maintain speed to steer, and they must stay in the channel.
  • A pilot’s “blind spot” can extend for hundreds of feet in front of tugboats.
  • In narrow channels, a tug’s or tow’s powerful engines can cause a smaller vessel to be pulled toward the tow when passing alongside.
  • “Wheel wash” is a strong current caused by towboat or ship engines that can result in severe turbulence hundreds of yards abaft a large vessel. This is the scary phenomena both our Mastercraft ski boat friend felt but also Karen with her 20,000 lb. vessel.
  • Sailing on inland rivers can be hazardous, and sailors (boardsailors, too) should know that a tow or tug can “steal your wind,” so you won’t have the same wind you started with when executing a maneuver near a commercial vessel.
  • Ships, towboats and tugboats use VHF channels 13 and 16. If you are unsure of situation or their intentions, contact them. Remember, you are sharing the waterways with vessels operated by highly trained and conscientious professionals. If you have a true emergency or need information, they can and will help if properly contacted.

The above was from From: https://www.soundingsonline.com/news/operating-around-tugs-and-barges
Original Source: http://www.americanwaterways.com

That last item was of particular interest to me. I didn’t know we could contact the tug boat operators on channel 13 or 16 and ask them to advise us.

MORE INFORMATION:

TugBoats
https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wp-content/uploads/operating_near_commercial_vessels_safety_tips.pdf

Cheers to the Coast Guard!

I was concerned when our friends said they were delayed trying to get back to Discovery Bay from DYC a week ago because the Orwood Railroad Bridge over Old River broke down.

BACKGROUND: When we bought in Discovery Bay, we knew that the Santa Fe Railroad line cuts off Discovery Bay and the other marinas and communities at the south end of the Delta) and the rest of the Delta, to Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay and out to the Pacific. There are only two waterways from the very south Delta to the north: Old River and Middle River. Between the two is the Sante Fe RR trestle. There are redundant RR bridges, one at Old River and one at Middle River. The Old River bridge, called the Orwood RR Bridge, typically operates 24×7. Before buying property in Discovery Bay, understood that Discovery Bay was protected by being ever cut off from being able to go to/from the Delta because if the Orwood Railroad Bridge over Old River ever broke down, the alternate Middle River RR bridge would be put into 24×7 operations. Therefore, boaters from Discovery Bay and other areas in the South that are too high to fit under the closed RR bridges, would always be assured that if they took their boats out, they would be able to get home.

RR-Bridges
Map of the location of the two railroad bridges (the Orwood RR Bridge over Old River and the Alternate RR Bridge over Middle River). The Santa Fe line that could, without bridges, cut off boater access between Discovery Bay and the South Delta and the rest of the Delta and to the Pacific.

OrwoodRRBridge
Photo of a boat coming through the Orwood RR Bridge

THEN RECENTLY: I saw emails from our Discovery Bay Yacht Club (DBYC) Fleet Captain about upcoming maintenance work on the Orwood RR Bridge (probably due to the breakdown a few days prior). The fleet captains were checking to see if the maintenance shutdowns would affect any cruise-outs or people going to/from their outings.

I’d always understood that the Alternate Middle River RR Bridge was supposed to go into 24×7 operation whenever the Orwood RR Bridge went down so we had guaranteed 24×7 access in and out of Discovery Bay. However, few years ago when the Orwood RR Bridge went down, I called the US Coast Guard Bridge Chief who was very nice but informed me that the alternate bridge had had a fire and wasn’t operable. That gave me angst. I worried that we may be out on an outing with kids and grandkids and not be able to get the boat home on Sunday night. We would need to find a marina north of the bridge that we could arrange to leave the boat at. That can be difficult if you are moving the boat when marinas may be already shut down. Then finding an Uber driver willing to come to an out-of-the-way location, preferably with two kid’s child seats. With six or more of us, that’s two Ubers and they are not very plentiful in the Delta. Or trying to find a willing friend or neighbor. Not a disaster in the scheme of things, but does make boating a less pleasant outing.

My bigger fear was if there was no real commitment to ever fixing the alternative, then if there was a massive breakdown, did Discovery Bay and other south Delta boaters face the possibility of being cut off from the Delta for long periods of time? If that was the case, that would be a real hit on our home values and economy. But the Bridge Chief said they were going to repair it so I figured it was a short-term issue.

So now, years later, the issue came up again and it didn’t seem the Alternate Bridge had swung into operation. I was surprised. I reached out to the Bridge Chief again. What a prompt, nice email I received in return! I was impressed. He even apologized if the prior breakdown had given boaters issues. The USCG are the boater’s friend.

I’m happy to report that the Alternate RR Bridge is available. I didn’t know it, but the Bridge Chief said it’s always available with 12-hour notification. Whew! That is a relief. In addition, the Coast Guard has committed to open the alternate on demand if Orwood is down and inform Discovery Bay boaters about any outages or planned maintenance. How nice.

My real estate friend said she’d get that information spread to other agents. It’s a good selling point for Discovery Bay homes – that the US Coast Guard has a commitment to supporting boaters going in and out of our area.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been impressed with the RR Bridge operations. I think, and I’ve heard others agree, that the Bridge Operators are the nicest we’ve encountered anywhere in the Delta. They are always so polite, treat boaters with respect, and really seem to care about our convenience. Some other bridges are known for operators who grumble when they are requested for a bridge opening (even though that’s their job). But the RR Bridge operators are always apologetic if a train is coming and they need to make a boater wait. Whereas there’s no complaint from boaters – we certainly understand they can’t be opening the bridge when a speeding Amtrak is coming through.

A cute story about the Bridge Operators.

About ten years ago, our friend was selling his power boat to buy a sail boat (in preparation for one day sailing around the world. He and his wife are currently starting their eighth year of their circumnavigation journey). He was planning on keeping his new sail boat at Discovery Bay during the summer months, so we could anchor together at Mildred for weekend raft-outs.

Bringing his power boat back to Discovery Bay to sell it, Brian radioed the Orwood RR Bridge operator with a question: “Can your bridge accommodate a sail boat with a 70 foot mast?”

The bridge operator, with a proud voice answered, “Yes sir! My bridge can go ‘vertical’!” He sounded like he was beaming.

And it does. Whenever we’d take the boats out during the summer, Brian would radio, “Orwood Railroad Bridge. This is the vessel Persephone. We are a sail boat with a 70 foot mast. Can you take your bridge vertical?”

The bridge operator would respond, “Aye, aye Captain. Going vertical!”

That was always fun.

One day when we approached the bridge from the south, there were multiple maintenance personnel in bright orange vests, swarming over the partially opened bridge. Brian radioed the bridge operator requesting a vertical opening. But the operator replied, “I’m sorry, Captain. But we are doing some maintenance here. You will have to squeeze through.”

Brian did a little gasp, knowing the clearance was in no way sufficient for his mast. Immediately the bridge operator came back on and said, “Just kidding, Captain. Going vertical!” (I think the railroad bridge operators enjoy their work.)

September Activity Report

I had a nice vacation in September to see the Fall Colors on a cruise from Quebec, Canada, down the St. Lawrence Waterway, with stops in the Maritime Provinces then on to Bar Harbor (Maine), Boston, and New York City.

Although it was advertised as a “Fall Colors Cruise,” there weren’t really any “fall colors” yet. It was still too early in the year, except for this one tree:
IMG_1697

Meanwhile, here on the Delta, a lot was happening. I have updated our Events Tracker page. That’s a page that has kept track of all of the activities related to the Delta since August 2009 when we found out about the Two-Gates Fish Protection Project, and shortly thereafter the Peripheral Canal/Delta Tunnels effort.

Since people don’t often check that page unless there is something specific they want to look up, here’s what happened in September:

  • Sep 17 – Delta Conveyance & Construction Design Authority (DCA) announces the formation of a “Delta Stakeholders Engagement Committee.” Immediately, there is an objection from STCDA and other concerned groups that the DCA is run by the water contractors (thus is hardly an independent agency).
  • Sep 17 – STCDA writes to Wade Crowfoot objecting the Stakeholders Committee reporting to the DCA, an agency run by the water contractors. Wade crowfoot responds.
  • Sep 19 – Newsom vetos SB1, the bill approved by the legislature to counteract the Administration’s roll-back of environmental protections.

    Response from STCDA: “We are very disappointed in Governor Newsom’s decision to bow down to the Trump administration’s roll back of environmental protections for the Delta and its fish species. SB 1 would have guaranteed the continued existence of environmental protections, including restrictions on over-pumping of Delta water for export. SB 1 was good for fish and for the people who live and recreate in the Delta. The veto causes us to question whether the new Governor’s supposed commitment to take concerns of Delta stakeholders seriously is genuine.”

  • Sep 19 – Karen Mann, President STCDA, is accepted on the Delta Stakeholders Engagement Committee. Even though we object to the process of having the Stakeholders reporting to the DCA (an agency run solely by the Water Contractors), Karen took a seat at the table to keep us involved with the activities.
  • Sep 26 – Disappointed in Wade Crowfoot’s response and decision to move ahead with the Delta Stakeholders Engagement Committee as part of the DCA, STCDA issues a letter of concern to Erik Vink, the Delta Protection Commission.
  • Sep 30 – Various groups oppose the Voluntary Agreements (VAs) being proposed as an alternative to increasing the Delta Flows. California Water Research details the issues with VAs.

Prioritizing Levees for Exports over Delta Communities

Please email your comments to the
Delta Stewardship Council, oal_amendRRP1@deltacouncil.ca.gov
today or early tomorrow, before their 1 p.m. Delta Levees Investment Strategy meeting. Tell them you object to prioritizing the water export levees over Delta communities and schools, exports over people.

What’s happening?

The Delta Levees Investment Strategy regulations target state funding for upgrading levees on 17 “Very High Priority” islands in the Delta (out of 144 total.) Under the proposed regulations, state funds can be spent for upgrades to the 36 “High Priority” and 91 “Other Priority” Delta islands only after all the levees on the 17 “Very High Priority” Delta islands are fully upgraded.

Funds are not anticipated for Discovery Bay, population 15,525, and Rio Vista, population 9,009, and which are second priority for levee improvements. And the Delta legacy towns of Clarksburg, Courtland, Locke, and the eastern bank of Walnut Grove are the lowest priority, even though Clarksburg and Courtland have public schools. (Walnut Grove is on both sides of the Sacramento River.)

What is getting higher priority than Delta towns and schools? Islands marked as “critical for Delta exports,” and most of those have low populations, if any. Why aren’t the State Water Contractors paying to protect their infrastructure?

See the maps.

According to the article below, Central Delta Water Agency attorney Dante Nomellini Sr. noted that as a result of the rigid regulations, no, or almost no funds will be available for improvements to “High Priority” Delta islands, and none for “Other Priority” Delta islands. Thus the proposed regulations basically defund levee upgrades on 88% of Delta islands. For this reason, the Delta Levees Investment Strategy is opposed by the Central Valley Flood Control Association, the Delta Protection Commission, Central Delta Water Agency, Local Agencies of the North Delta, many Reclamation Districts, and the California Farm Bureau Federation, as well as California Water Research and Delta Defenders.

If you want to attend the meeting in person, it’s Thursday August 22. The hearing will start at 1 pm at the Park Tower Plaza, Second Floor, 980 Ninth Street Sacramento.

Write to the
Delta Stewardship Council, oal_amendRRP1@deltacouncil.ca.gov
today or early tomorrow, before their 1 p.m.

Read more from the California Water Research.

Fighting to Save the Delta as a Place, Fighting Construction Destruction

Governor Newsom is looking at a single tunnel option.

Some at the negotiating table are still failing to recognize the effect a through-Delta tunnel construction project would have on the Delta itself. On the Delta as a Place.

Let’s be clear: Construction destruction along a through-tunnel route will ruin the Delta communities, highways, waterways, and farms (from the north to the south) in all five Delta counties: historical towns in Sacramento County (Hood and Locke) and in Yolo County (Clarksburg), farmers in Solano County (Rio Vista), boating communities in Contra Costa County (Discovery Bay, Bethel Island), tourism, marinas, and water ways in San Joaquin County (Stockton and South Delta marinas).

Whether the water quality impacts of a single tunnel can be proven by the water contractors to be acceptable for the Delta environment or not, the fact remains that if a huge tunnel is built along the current through-Delta route proposed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), construction destruction will rip up the entire Delta for years, from Hood in the north to Clifton Court Forebay in the south, leaving smelly tunnel muck in its wake.

This is not protecting the estuary!

The only way to protect the estuary, the legacy towns, Delta communities, waterways, waterfowl, fish, and farmers is to locate the destructive construction project around the Delta, not through it. Or, better still, abandon the effort altogether.

In December 2018, we won the battle!

Save the California Delta Alliance’s Legal Council, Michael Brodsky, successfully exposed the issues with the through-Delta-route as well as the water quality impacts. He did so for three years, arguing brilliantly and bringing expert testimony to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) tunnel permit hearings. The testimonies forced the SWRCB to defer on approving the tunnel permits until the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) first approved the plan “consistent” with the Delta Plan. (Being consistent with the Delta Reform Act and the Delta Plan is a requirement for any project that affects the Delta.)

The Delta Plan has two co-equal goals, one of which is to “Protect the Delta as a Place.”

We proved the tunnel plan to be inconsistent with the Delta Plan:

  • It was proven that the location of the pumping facility and intakes would cause blight to the legacy communities in the north, the historical communities the Delta Plan is to preserve.
  • It was proven that gridlock on every Delta highway would occur from the construction traffic flooding into the small 2-lane rural levee roads, shutting down highways required for commuters, stopping goods from being delivered to Delta communities, and stopping Delta farm products from being able to be trucked out. A burden on the communities that could not be mitigated.
  • It was proven that the inundation of barges, construction docks, pile driving, etc. would virtually end tourism and boating during the duration of the project, still estimated at least five to six years, causing economic ruin to a significant number of marinas and related businesses. The Delta Plan requires preservation of recreation and boating.
  • It was proven that the barge traffic would require highway bridges to open that now never do due to commute traffic and/or the age of the old historic bridges; threatening to destroy historic bridges plus causing more commute gridlock.
  • It was proven that muck ponds would cause long-term impacts to Delta communities, marinas, and farms.

It seemed obvious that the project would need to find another route, if it were to continue.

The DSC Staff listened, and recommended that the tunnel plan not be approved as “consistent” with the Delta Plan. In the Staff’s recommendation, they cited the compelling statements made by Michael Brodsky about the construction destruction – throughout the Delta.

The DWR then pulled back their permit request. That should have been the end of the through-tunnel route.

But after a hiatus, work is continuing (drilling and design efforts) along the same, flawed route.

Construction destruction to the Delta would be avoided by going around the Delta, instead of through it.

One of the DWR’s alternative routes was the Eastern Route. There may be additional issues with that alternative. And even if an alternative route is shown to be a good plan, proof that the exported water would not continue to damage the fisheries would still need to be proven.

Bottom line: The through-Delta route is totally unacceptable.

And the fight continues.

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.

TwinSloughsNew
(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.

Franks Tract Plan Revisited

Sometimes getting involved produces results!

The Bethel Island folks have been very worried about the State’s plans for Franks Tract, a State Recreational Area – their livelihood depends on it. Most would prefer the state does nothing to alter it, not trusting state agencies. And I personally was quite livid when I saw the meeting announcement they had attached the prior, rejected plan. We had many meetings where the Bethel Island folks and Delta boaters had objected to that plan. And yet there it was again!

But, amazingly, the CA Division of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) did actually listen (unlike the tunnel-related agencies: DWR, DSC, JPA, and the other three-letter acronym agencies, who have never really listened to the Delta community concerns).

“We are pretty much starting from scratch,” said Brett Milligan, who is working with CDFW as a consultant. “We are starting over on our alternatives.” He continued that their first plan looked only at their fish habitat and salt intrusion issues but hadn’t considered the impacts on the Delta communities, fishing, and boating.

Boating access to False River would have been eliminated — another hotly contested aspect of the plan that is not likely to be present in future iterations.

“They’re trying really hard to appease the users of the Bethel Island area, the Franks Tract area,” said Karen Mann, a resident of Discovery Bay and current President of STCDA, who attended the meeting. “I’ll give them that.”

The Press article here: Read More …

DWR restarts tunnel meetings

The state began a series of meetings with the water contractors to determine how the contractors would pay for a downsized single tunnel project. Michael Brodsky, our STCDA Legal Council, attended. His thoughts about the meeting were:

“This is like putting the cart on top of the horse as no environmental review has even begun on a single tunnel project and the state should consider alternatives to a tunnel. The Contractors should be figuring out how they will pay to replace exported Delta water with their own newly developed local and regional supplies, including conservation, water recycling, desalination, and other technologies that don’t destroy the Delta.”

And: “Not very much at all happened at the meeting. They all left before noon (less than 2 hours there; was scheduled for all day). Perhaps they will get more into the meat of it next week when they meet again.”

https://water.ca.gov/News/Events/2019/July-19/PublicMeetingfortheSWPContractAmendmentforDeltaConveyance#

DCA Continuing Delta Tunnel Project Design

Tunnel Design Work Forges Ahead!

Even though the Governor has cancelled the Delta Tunnel project and DWR has been sent back to the drawing board, Metropolitan Water District and other water contractors are pushing to get a one tunnel project started ASAP. And they are having some success.

California Water Research has sounded the alarm that the Joint Powers Authority continuing Delta tunnel project engineering design.

Who are the Joint Powers Authority?

Well, in 2018, DWR delegated the design and construction of the WaterFix project to the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA), a Joint Powers Authority (JPA for short) created by the State Water Contractors (i.e., the exporters like Metropolitan Water, Westlands, etc.) Do you remember when we went to the first meeting of the DCA and were abhorred that the newly elected President of the Board, Tony Estremera, from the Santa Clara Valley Water District, was joking with Karla Nemeth, head of the DWR, that he was looking forward to a nice, long construction period?
NiceLongConstruction
Tony Estremera and Karla Nemeth (Photo courtesy of Gene Beley)

What? No one in the Delta is looking forward to this destructive construction at all, let along a nice long one!

Why didn’t their work get stopped when the Governor cancelled the tunnels?

On May 2, 2019, DWR sent a letter to the DCA stating that all approvals for the WaterFix project had been rescinded. But the letter also stated:

As the Department embarks on a new environmental review process and pursues new environmental permits, it will do this in tandem with design and engineering work needed. … This approach provides the greatest opportunity to deliver a project ready for construction with minimal delay.

In other words, they are planning that a one tunnel project “leverages” the prior design.

Is that a bad idea? There has been a lot of money spent on the current design.

Yes it’s a bad idea! The current project had two huge areas of concern, which is why that project was rejected by the Delta Stewardship Council Staff.

Michael Brodsky, our legal council, successfully argued that the WaterFix (two Delta Tunnel plan) was inconsistent with the Delta Plan (the legal document that any project affecting the Delta has to be consistent with and acceptable.) The DSC Staff agreed! It was then that the DSC recommended DWR rescind the project. And they did. That was a huge win for the anti-tunnel coalition.

Remind me why the two tunnel plan was rejected?

One: The destructive construction project would ruin the Delta because it goes through the center of the estuary waterways.

  • It would cause blight on the historic legacy communities in the North Delta because of construction impacts. This directly conflicts with the Delta Reform Act requirement to protect legacy communities and the rural nature of the Delta.
  • It would destroy boating and recreation throughout the Delta. Marinas and related businesses would close. This also directly conflicts with the Delta Reform Act requirement to protect boating and recreation.
  • The influx of columns of heavy construction trucks would cause gridlock on the majority of the Delta roads and highways and ruin a majority of the small two-lane levee roads.

Therefore, it seems obvious that any new plan must pick an alternate route, like going East around the Delta instead of through the center of the Delta.

Two: The water contractors have been exporting too much water for decades, which has decimated the fisheries. Even if they only take the same amount of water combining the export amounts via the new tunnel and current pumps combined, that is still too much.

Therefore, while a new tunnel may provide more operational flexibility and export reliability, any new plan must reduce overall exporting amounts.

So what happens next?

  1. Delta activist groups are pushing back and working to rescind the JPA’s design engineering contract and stop any work.
  2. The Governor called for stakeholders to be involved in the planning this time. That must happen.

Here is a good report about the situation: Joint Powers Authority continuing Delta tunnel project engineering design.

Delta Activists Meet & Greet


Clockwise from top left: (1) Delta Farmers Market gathering place; (2) Karen Mann, Gene Beley, and others chat around the appetizer table prior to the meeting; (3) Attendees Melinda Terry and her brother in front and Laura Scheidegger enjoying the discussion; (4) Gene Beley, the Delta’s intrepid videographer of all meetings; (5) Barbara Barrigan-Parilla from Restore the Delta

A public meeting was held last night, “A Gathering of Activists.” The meeting was hosted by Bill Wells, California Delta Chambers and Visitors Bureau. It was a public meet and greet to get people throughout the Delta who have been working to stop the Delta Tunnels project together.

Thanks so much to Ken and Laura Scheidegger for hosting the event at their Delta Farmers’ Market on the intersection of Highways 160 and 12, in the middle of the Delta. Laura and her team were wonderful, the wine and appetizers great. I didn’t know about the place but what a nice place to stop by during the day or for a glass of wine after work when commuting around the Delta.

The first speaker was Ken Scheidegger who spoke about their dream to build a Delta Discovery site to better educate people traveling through the Delta on the wonders the Delta can provide. Ken spoke about the need to raise money to finish the Center in order to teach visitors about the Delta so that they care about the Delta and help protect it. Good luck on their worthwhile efforts!

Speakers included Barbara Barrigan-Parilla who talked about the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority trying to modify the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement so the current design contracts would cover the project redesign. This would likely result in only small project changes from WaterFix. She noted that the DCDCA meeting is on Thursday but had to leave the meeting early to meet with supervisor Don Nottoli.

Erik Vink from the Delta Protection Commission (DPC) talked about implementation of National Heritage Area designation. Congressional authorization was for $10 million over a 15 year period. There are 55 NHAs. Park service has funds for $150k for first year, $250k for next year and subsequent years. He lso talked about importance of making people care about the Delta. Deirdre thanked him for the Delta Protection Commission letter saying that the project would cause an “existential crisis” for North Delta legacy towns and that DWR had “failed to grapple with the realities of the project” and “thoroughly failed to mitigate” the impacts. I thought it was a key reason the entire twin tunnels project was cancelled. Folks cheered. Mariah, from Restore the Delta, talked about her experience attending the DPC Delta leadership program and what a great program that is.

Sean Kearns, Assembly Member Jim Frazier’s Delta & Contra Costa field representative, thanked everyone for their efforts.

Melinda Terry, North Delta Water Agency, said how North Delta Water Agency got involved in the tunnels fight. They had a contract for water with DWR, with guaranteed water quality.

Karen Mann, President of Save the California Delta Alliance, described her multi-generation background in the Delta and what the Delta means to her. She explained how the Delta Alliance organization started by opposing the Delta Gates project, then became active in the Delta tunnels fight. She gave a shout out to Jan McCleery, founding president of STCDA. Folks cheered.

Deirdre Des Jardins explained that Governor Newsom was saying that they had to build a single tunnel because of sea level rise and earthquakes. She said that the tunnel engineering failed and California Water Research was going to challenge it. Folks cheered.


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Sassy the Salmon
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The Fable of the Farmer and the Fish
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