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How low will SJ River go?

Drought worries business, anglers

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How low will SJ River go?

The San Joaquin River – shown here after it joins up with the Stanislaus – might not be getting much water from Millerton Lake if the Sierra snowpack doesn’t improve in the next two months.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED January 29, 2014 1:53 a.m.

LATHROP – Rich Hogan isn’t a farmer.

He doesn’t rely on a routine delivery of water to keep his crops satiated and he doesn’t worry about rain.

Okay. He worries about rain. Just about everybody these days is worrying about rain. And with a business – the Haven Acres Bar and Grill on the San Joaquin River – that is directly tied to the flows that come from Friant Dam and end up eventually dumping into the Pacific Ocean, Hogan keeps a keen eye on the tides and the tables and the word coming from on-high about the snowpack situation in the Sierra.

There is less than a foot of snow at some of the strategic travel points that provide access through the rugged mountains. While that’s great for travelers looking to get over into Nevada, it’s bad for people like Hogan that rely on the prospect of water to pay the bills.

And right now is not the time that he needs to be worrying about whether boats will be able to dock come June.

“The water has dropped about a foot – I see it every time I look out the window,” he said. “It’s something to keep an eye on. It’s not a major issue now, but looking at the fact that there isn’t any snow is something that we’re going to have to keep an eye on as summer gets here. That’s the biggest time of the year for us, and no snow means no water.

“We had something like this happen about 15 years ago – there was a severe drought. Hopefully this is something that we can pull out of.”

The sun baked shore of the San Joaquin River weren’t something that Brian Cassidy ever thought that he’d see in January.

But he also never thought that he’d be casting his line out into what amounted to shallow pools of water beneath the bridge at Mossdale Crossing either. The drop in water depth has exposed tiny patches of the deep, and it is making life difficult for fisherman like Cassidy.

Twice on Monday the longtime angler caught the bottom of the river and ended up losing his line. It’s something that all fishermen, he said, come to expect when they’re out trying to catch something. But it seems like there’s going to be a lot more of that this year than in the past.

“You come down here and you hear about how low the water is but you don’t expect to see things sticking out of the water like this,” he said. “I’m not even sure if you could pull a boat up to the dock. It’s crazy to think about what this will be like come summer if there isn’t any snow.”

For businessmen like Hogan, however, the water represents something else – his livelihood.

He recently purchased the Windmill Cove Marina, Bar, Restaurant and RV Park with the hopes that the growing area around Manteca, Tracy, Lathrop and Stockton will continue to provide a growing customer base of water sports enthusiasts and anglers passing through.

And it’s location near the Deep Water Channel will likely mean that access isn’t going away anytime soon.

But boats, he said, are going to need to be able to navigate the other waterways in order to get to Windmill Cove. And since the Delta is tide-dependent, if it continues to drop it could end up casting a dark shadow what he hoped would be a hopping summer launch.

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” Hogan said. “We’re in okay shape right now. The water would drop quite a bit to impact us, but it could happen.

“We just need rain.”

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