Congressman Jeff Denham — who has helped local agencies get the federal government to look at fish predation on the Stanislaus River instead of just releasing more and more water — is now vowing to do what he can to ease perennial flooding concerns south of Manteca along the San Joaquin River.
Denham, R-Turlock, was at the site of a levee breach two miles west of Airport Way Monday night as farmers used their equipment to prevent a major catastrophe. If they were not successful it would have flooded numerous farms and the homes of upwards of 500 people.
“What I saw (Monday) night was a community of local farmers working together at a moment’s notice to repair the levee break, saving crops, livestock, homes and assets without the delay of bureaucracy,” Denham said.
The congressman — when told the Army Corps of Engineers is still reviewing a permit submitted by Cambay Group in 2002 to do work in the Paradise Cut that serves as a bypass to take pressure off the San Joaquin River — indicated his office will look into the matter.
“We will do whatever we can to speed it up,” Denham said.
Cambay Group — the developers of River Islands at Lathrop — are committed to paying for the work that will accomplish two things. One is to bring the capacity of the bypass up to what the Army Corps of Engineers originally designed it to handle. The other is to restore wildlife habitat.
River Islands Project Manager Susan Dell’Osso said the Army Corps told them it would take 18 months to review the permit when it was submitted in 2003. She has been told it now in the environmental review process.
Proposed Paradise Cut
work would take 3,000
cubic feet per second
off of San Joaquin River
The work would take an additional 3,000 cubic feet per second of water off the San Joaquin River as it makes its way through arguably its most fragile section in terms of levee protection between Vernalis at the confluence of the Stanislaus River and Mossdale to make its way to the Delta.
The work would take Paradise Cut up to the Army Corps design capacity of 15,600 cubic feet per second.
There is a second permit pending with the Army Corps that was filed in 2006 to increase the capacity of Paradise Cut that runs under Interstate 5 just north of the junction with Interstate 205 and reconnects with the Old River channel to the west of Stewart Tract (River Islands at Lathrop).
It is a result of an amicable settlement reached with various environmental groups that had sued Cambay Group contending building River Islands at Lathrop would contribute to global warming.
The work outlined in the permit would be paid for by Cambay Group. It involves setting the levees back on the south side, and reconfiguring the weir to allow year round water flow that would also enhance wildlife habitat.
They would also pay for the 200 acres needed to widen the bypass to bring it to 800 acres.
Second proposed project for
Paradise Cut would lower
San Joaquin River by 1.8 feet
Federal hydrologists have said it would lower the San Joaquin River at Mossdale where Interstate 5 crosses the river by 1.8 feet.
“It (the Paradise Cut work) wouldn’t benefit River Islands but it would help the region,” Dell’Osso said. “Given what is coming out of Don Pedro now, taking the river down 1.8 feet would help a lot.”
Dell’Osso added even though a previous federal study recommended such improvements to take pressure off the levees as the San Joaquin River nears populated cities such as Lathrop, Stockton, and Manteca just like the Yolo Bypass does to enhance flood protection for Sacramento, she doesn’t believe the Army Corps itself would ever fund the work let alone do it.
The River Islands project is based on a proposal made years ago that resurfaced in 2001 in an Army Corps of Engineers report to create a rive bypass to reduce the potential for flooding in Manteca, Lathrop, and Stockton.
It was also part of the Lower San Joaquin River Flood Bypass Proposal that was formally submitted to the California Department of Water Resources in March 2011 by the South Delta Levee Protection and Channel Maintenance Authority and other partners. It was an effort to secure $5 million to create the new flood bypass in the last corridor of undeveloped land between Tracy and Lathrop.
That proposal noted it would offer habitat and migration territories for juvenile steelhead, salmon and spawning split tail that are driving some water use debates.
It would also allow upstream reservoirs such as Don Pedro and New Melones to be managed more conservatively to reduce water releases during the rainy season and spring runoff to conserve water for summer use.
“We work with the Corps to ensure residents have the appropriate level of flood protection, but its clear more needs to be done to capture water so we don’t have another problem like this in the future,” Denham said. “If the state spent more time and investment on water infrastructure than High Speed Rail, then we wouldn’t have this problem.”
Denham stepped up to
help obtain balance in
water vs fish battle
Denham authored legislation signed last month by then President Obama that could ultimately increase the endangered salmon’s population on the Stanislaus River and reduce water releases that have been ramped up with no back-up research in a bid to improve survival rates.
The legislation contains specific language requiring federal agencies to work with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District to address the best ways to protect Chinook salmon. Specifically it directs the Secretary of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service to research the impact of non-native predators such as bass on Stanislaus River salmon and to develop a pilot program to address the problem.
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