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Permits enter 14th year of federal government review
Paradise Cut looking west from the southern end of Manthey Road. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Paradise Cut — a normally dry area that serves to takes pressure off the San Joaquin River when it nears flood stage — is targeted for widening.
River Island has applied for the permits to increase the area of Paradise Cut by a third going from 600 to 800 acres.
Cambay Group was told it would take 18 months to get federal and state approval when they applied for the permits to do the work. That was in 2002. Now 14 years later officials are hopeful that River Islands’ permits will be approved by 2018.
“There were only two comments from two agencies,” noted River islands Project Manager Susan Dell’Osso. “The government agencies we have been dealing with have been very workable. The big problem is how regulations have changed.”
As soon as the permits are obtained, Dell’Osso said Cambay Group intends to start work to add the 200 acres and construct improved levees to protect an additional 6,716 home sites in the 11,000-home planned community being developed in Stewart Tract.
The expansion is being done primarily to provide more habitat for the endangered riparian rabbit.
Some rural south Manteca residents and farmers have argued making Paradise Cut bigger could significantly reduce the need for flood protection improvements on the east side of the San Joaquin River.

Paradise Cut takes
floodwaters to Old River
Floodwaters in Paradise Cut eventually make their way to the Old River. While 300-foot wide levees being created on the northern side of Paradise Cut to connect with similar levees along the San Joaquin River will protect River Islands from a 200-year flood event it is not considered to do anything of significance to help those east of the river obtain the same level of flood protection.
The cut does take pressure off the main channel but it isn’t large enough where it connects back to the Old River to be effective after a certain point.
The real advantage — if it can be called that — of Paradise Cut in previous 100-year flood events in 1955 and 1997 are levee failures. In the previous two flood events that have a one in 100 change of occurring in any given year the levee failures along Paradise Cut flooded the 4,900 acres on Stewart Tract with between one and five feet of water. That won’t happen with the 300-foot wide levees River Islands has put in place.
Paradise Cut has little water in it much of the year. It runs beneath Interstate 5 just north of the Interstate 205 interchange along the southern edge of River islands.
The River Islands Paradise Cut project is based on a proposal made years ago that resurfaced in 2001 in an Army Corps of Engineers report to create a river bypass to reduce the potential for flooding in Manteca, Lathrop, and Stockton.
The Lower San Joaquin River Flood Bypass Proposed 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.
Engineers determined expanding the Paradise Cut would reduce flood stages significantly at Mossdale Crossing — 1.8 feet under a 50-year event as well as under a 100-year event such as the 1997 flood that inundated 70 square miles between Manteca and Tracy.
At the same time it would offer habitat and migration territories for juvenile steelhead, salmon and spawning split tail that are driving some water use debates.

1998 vision for
Paradise Cut work
 It would also allow upstream reservoirs to be managed more conservatively to reduce water releases during the rainy season and spring runoff to conserve water for summer use.
David Kennedy, the longest serving director of the Department of Water Recourses, in 1998 wrote the following about the Paradise Cut bypass proposal in the forward of the second edition of “Battling the Inland Sea”: “Recognizing the futility of simply raising the levees, flood control experts will now evaluate the feasibility of removing levees in some locations and simply letting future flood flows pond onto adjacent lands. Further, consideration is being given to opening up some form of bypass through the south Delta to relive pressure on the levees as the San Joaquin River flows into the Delta. It is hoped these issues will be resolved and changes will be made before the next flood.”
Cambay Group wants to set levees back on the north side of Paradise Cut as well as on the south side. They provided $700,000 for land acquisition and agreed to spend money to do the necessary work that was pegged at between $1.8 million and $3 million five years ago.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email