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Will flyway stop expressway?

Ripon worries refuge may impact road plans

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Will flyway stop expressway?

Part of the San Joaquin River Wildlife Refuge west of Ripon.

Photo contributed/

POSTED January 25, 2013 1:10 a.m.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is embarking on a proposed expansion of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge.

The problem here is that the conservation opportunity to acquire the land in an effort to restore a major migratory corridor through the center of the state could cut into a part of the City of Ripon’s general plan.

Elected leaders recently voiced their concerns about the federal government’s plan to acquire up to 22,156 acres along the lower San Joaquin, Tuolumne, and Stanislaus rivers in order to protect and restore the riparian habitat.

At the Jan. 15 meeting, Ripon City Council voted 5-0 to submit a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding concerns of the 1,150-acre proposed area within the general plan, including a 35-acre parcel of land just south of the Montecito Estates.

That area is already owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a wildlife refuge area, according to the city’s Director of Planning Ken Zuidervaart.

“I’m a conservationist,” said Councilman Chuck Winn, who, according to the proposal, is in favor of saving the fish, waterfowl and migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway. “But I do have concerns about expansion of government land.”

One member of the public was worried about litter and lack of upkeep near her property if that area southwest of Ripon were to become government land.

The 2040 general plan showed a planned future roadway called the “Olive Expressway” – a bridge crossing the Stanislaus River and into Stanislaus County – which would cross the river somewhere in the vicinity of Moncure and Mohler roads, Zuidervaart said.

In his staff report, he noted that the city wanted to ensure that the federal government plan not interfere with this future expressway.

In addition, the 2040 general plan has open space and conservation elements. Included is the city continuing to promote and encourage the preservation of open space areas along the Stanislaus River, calling for maximizing its potential for public enjoyment.

“Staff believes that the city should also ensure that any plans for refuge areas should include the opportunity for shared uses along the river corridor to facilitate and accomplish the goals set forth within the Ripon general plan of public enjoyment and recreational uses of this natural resource,” said Zuidervaart.

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