“At this time, there are absolutely no construction activities being done nor planned for the coming year,” said Pete Lucero, Reclamation public affairs officer. “This project is still in the very early stages of the process and the EIS (Environmental Impact Study) and EIR (Environmental Impact Report) are no where near being complete.”
The Frank’s Tract project is a joint undertaking between the state and federal government to improve water quality and fishery conditions in the Delta. The DWR and Reclamation are studying and evaluating the feasibility of installing operable gates to control the flow of water at locations up and down the Delta. The Frank’s Tract Project is located at Threemile Slough and False River. If eventually installed, the gates would block off False River (near Bethel Island) and force boats coming from Antioch and Pittsburg to navigate in a complete circle around to Bethel Island before getting onto the San Joaquin River, adding potentially hours of extra boating time.
“We heard that the DWR is planning on starting the installation of the gates on False River and we are very concerned,” said Karen Mann, commodore of the Discovery Bay Yacht Club. “We are going to fight this, but they have a lot of power. Already there are five or six barges out there and we’re wondering what they are doing. Whatever happened to transparency?”
Lucero said that activity near Frank’s Tract is most likely exploratory work to determine what materials would be needed for the project. But nothing, insisted Lucero, can be done, determined or decided until the EIS and EIR are complete.
“Although the project is still on the table, the EIS/EIR are for figuring out alternatives and options,” said Lucero. “The studies are for seeing if the project is still a viable one.”
Contra Costa District III Supervisor Mary Piepho remains a vocal opponent of the projects. “Contra Costa County and myself personally remain very concerned about any gate proposal and their impacts on the Delta and its economy,” said Piepho, who lives in Discovery Bay. “We remain focused on the fight and we’ll do all we can to interject reason and protection of the Delta while others focus on using the Delta as a plumbing fixture.”
And for many such as Piepho who oppose the Frank’s Tract Project, the controversial gates are all too familiar. The proposal is only one of a number of joint ventures by the DWR, Reclamation and the Southern California Metropolitan Water District to implement the installation of such gates up and down the Delta. The automatic gates would be closed at various times of the year for as much as 20 hours per day.
Some believe the projects, touted to save the Delta smelt and improve water quality, contain a hidden agenda: the construction of a peripheral canal. Groups such as the Discovery-Bay based San Francisco and Delta Foundation (SFBDF) continue to work to halt the construction of the fish gates, and in fact scored a victory last year when the Obama administration called for the delay of the Two-Gates project near Byron, pending additional information.
Mike Guzzardo, publicity chairman for SFBDF, is hoping for success a second time with Frank’s Tract. “We, of course, think this is a very bad idea and we are trying to get everyone involved and educated,” said Guzzardo. “This (Frank’s Tract) would greatly affect Bethel Island, but it would affect everyone on the Delta.”
Upon completion of the EIS/EIR, a public comment period of 45 days will be held in which citizens can make their voices heard – just as they did for the Two-Gates Project. “While we are still considering the Two-Gates Project,” said Lucero, “we are looking at other alternatives in the Delta to try to persuade the Delta smelt to behave the way we want them to. We got exactly what we wanted with the public meetings – public input – and we will do the same thing with Frank’s Tract. The whole process is designed to keep the government from going willy-nilly. The process works if given the chance.”
Mann echoed Lucero’s sentiment. “For us, this is all about quality,” said Mann. “Quality of life, quality of family and quality of the Delta. We all just look at each other sometimes and say: how do we do this? How do we win? How do we fight this? It’s all very frustrating.”
To learn more about the Frank’s Tract project, visit www.water.ca.gov/frankstract.
For additional information on the Delta, go to www.restorethedelta.org and www.nodeltagates.com.