OAKLEY – Jersey Island, owned by the Ironhouse Sanitary District, has long been a literal dumping ground for the sewage district. Next, it might be the next battleground over development growth.
The island is located between Oakley and Bethel Island on the San Joaquin River. Ironhouse currently grows fodder crops such as hay and alfalfa on the 3,520-acre island. The District purchased the island for $3 million in 1993. The District is permitted to apply biosolids on the farm fields. Biosolids are an organic, nutrient-rich soil amendment that are produced through the wastewater treatment process. For years, maintenance of the levees surrounding the island has cost the district about $1 million per year according to Chad Davisson, the district’s general manager. Now, the outside sale of biosolids has covered much of the levee maintenance but the district wants to turn its burden into a profitable asset.
Facing the increasing costs of climate change and rising sea levels, the island sits from 4 to 18 feet below sea level, the district teamed up with Montezuma Water Inc. to come up with a development plan. On Tuesday night, Davisson presented their proposal to the Oakley City Council.
The island proposal envisions:
- 450 single-family homes
- A hotel
- A “retail village”
- Wind turbines
- A marina
- A sports and recreation center
The interior and northeast portion of the proposal shows roughly 800 acres of “wildlife and habitat refuge.”
Montezuma Water, the developer, will pursue inclusion of Jersey Island into the City of Oakley’s sphere of influence over the next year. This would be the first step towards annexation of Jersey Island into the City of Oakley — a multi-year process — which would be necessary for the existing proposal. Oakley residents would have to vote to extend the city’s urban limit line — a boundary that marks the outer limit beyond which urban development will not be allowed — to allow for annexation.
Davisson admitted to the Council that the proposal faces “significant environmental and regulatory hurdles” before becoming a reality.
He said further on Wednesday, “I appreciated the invitation by the City of Oakley to come and present. There is a lot of great work happening and unprecedented partnerships between the City, Diablo Water District and Ironhouse Sanitary District that we believe will significantly benefit our community.”
He added, “With respect to the future of Jersey Island, our goal is to achieve the highest and best use of the island. What that will ultimately look like will be the result of community stakeholder input, environmental review, zoning, etc. The District believes that Jersey Island is a jewel of the Delta and this project will provide regional economic benefit and enhance the quality of life for folks living in and around Contra Costa County.”
The island proposal has already drawn opposition from a regional environmental group, the Greenbelt Alliance, which has met individually with Ironhouse Sanitary District Board members, county Supervisor Diane Burgis, county staff, the Montezuma team, and other stakeholders to share information on what it sees as the risks this development poses to climate goals, economic viability, and public safety. Greenbelt Alliance has stated its hope that Jersey Island remains “a haven for many of the Bay Area’s native avian and aquatic species and an important recreational asset for the county and neighboring jurisdictions.”
In other actions Tuesday night, the Council:
- Approved the sale of property at 204 Second Street for $50,000 to Juli Del Barba Favalora;
- Approved declaring a 40,000 square foot city-owned property near the planned train platform as surplus;
- Heard a consultant group’s report on the city’s economic development plan that includes a light industrial park.
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