“What’s happened is that we have formed a fundraising committee because we really believe this is going to go to litigation,” said Mike Guzzardo, SFBDG publicity chairman. “We hope it won’t and we don’t want it to, but it may and we want to be prepared.”
The 2-Gates project is a five-year experimental joint venture by the State Department of Water Resources, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation and the Southern California Metropolitan Water District. The program is designed to save the Delta smelt by rerouting them away from the water pumps on Old and Middle rivers in Byron, but many feel that the 2-Gates is the precursor to a peripheral canal.
“We’re focusing on the Gates issue for right now, but yes, I think they are the precursors to the canal,” said Guzzardo.
The proposed project would implement the installation of gates at Old River between Holland Tract and Bacon Island, plus a Connection Slough between Mandeville and Bacon Island. The automatic gates would be closed at various times of the year for as long as 10 to 20 hours per day, depending on flood tides.
The SFBDF was only recently formed, but in its short time, managed to get the Bureau of Reclamation to extend its public comment period by two weeks, to Nov. 30, and gathered hundreds of comments from local residents and folded those comments into an 85 page document highlighting the group’s concerns about the project. The report was submitted to the Bureau of Reclamation a few weeks ago and Guzzardo says they (SFBDF) are awaiting a reply.
“We know that they (Bureau of Reclamation) have to respond to the comments, but I don’t know what the time period is,” said Guzzardo. “We would like them to agree to have a public hearing and decide to do an environmental impact report.”
Pete Lucero, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation said Guzzardo’s request for a public hearing and environmental impact study, remains to be seen.
“We are preparing responses to the over 1,400 comments we got (gathered from Discovery Bay as well as other Delta areas) and we have to respond in documentation,” said Lucero. “The Army Corp of Engineers still has their public comment period open until Dec. 31 and we’ll have to respond to those comments as well, so it takes a lot of effort and time. There’s no limit to the window (of response) it will take as long as it takes. Someone has to read the comments, categorize them and facilitate what answers are required.
“If we do an EIS (environmental impact study) there will be a whole period of scoping and there might be a (public) hearing, but again, we have to get the responses done first before anything else can happen.”
Guzzardo says the optimist in him remains hopeful the Bureau will do the right thing.
“I think that we have shown them (Bureau of Reclamation) some things in the 85 page document that they hadn’t considered, and we have been thorough and detailed,” said Guzzardo. “I understand that it is expensive and takes a lot of time (to do an impact report) there’s a reason for it.”
Continuing to strike while the iron is hot, the SFBDG has plans to create a regional round table comprised of members of the foundation as well as regional government to work together to create a plan for moving ahead.
“This really isn’t an us versus them mentality,” said Guzzardo. “The communication is very open and we just want to know how we can work together on the water issues that affect all of us. We’re all public citizens and it’s an environmental issue that we are all concerned about.”
Donations to the SFBDF may be mailed to 2465 Discovery Bay Blvd., Suite 200, Discovery Bay, CA, 94505. Additional information may be found on the DFBDF Web site at www.nodeltagates.com.