While Dave Steindorf hunkered down in his office going through the vast book of verbiage that is the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Drum-Spaulding and Yuba-Bear Hydroelectric Projects (the projects that will bring us flow on the Yuba and the recently discussed Fordyce), the task of going out on a site visit to the Tuolumne River, Wards Ferry Bridge take-out, fell to Paul Martzen and myself.
Some background - currently, Turlock Irrigation District (TID) and Modesto Irrigation District (MID) are in the middle of relicensing their facilities on the Tuolumne River Project #2299. And while AW is helping Agency and NGO allies on Lower Tuolumne boating flows below Don Pedro Dam our main focus is the take-out for the 18 mile Class IV run from Merals Pool to Wards Ferry Bridge.
So last Tuesday many of those same Agency allies from the Lower Tuolumne below Don Pedro Dam came out for a paddle on the T above Don Pedro to experience the less than ideal take-out first hand. Of course to truly get the impact of this take-out we HAD to paddle the 18 mile Class IV run. Going down the Tuolumne for the first time were representatives from the National Park Service (NPS), the Department of Boating & Waterways and the State Water Resources Control Board. Also joining us were experienced rangers from the US Forest Service & the Bureau of Land Management, a rep from Don Pedro Rec, and guides from ARTA & Sierra Mac. Paul and I were the only private boater reps.
During the course of the paddle we were able to discuss Wards Ferry take-out issues as well as make some crucial connections for other projects - I literally bumped heads with Steve Watanabe from the Department of Boating & Waterways when we went over Clavey Falls in between me talking up Wards Ferry and randomly throwing in take-out issues for Slab Creek.
Anyway, long story short, we met up with the contractor representing TID & MID for the relicense and Tuolumne County engineers at the take-out and all physically experienced dragging our gear up to the bridge where we had a two hour pow-wow about improving Wards Ferry. Some of what we discussed on the paddle and at the meeting included:
• User groups and current/future capacity
• A road down to the shore on river right with staging areas and a turn around
• Engineering feasibility of said road or wider
• A boat ramp that could withstand the scouring of the change in river flow
• A no wake zone
• Improved trails on river right and river left
• Additional parking
• Moving the bathroom
• A bathroom with an actual door
• A bathroom with an unlocked door
• Securing the bathroom, parking and for that matter the entire site from vandals & thieves
• Law Enforcement
• Feasibility of an alternative site downstream
Only time will tell if TID & MID will contribute to any of these improvements in the relicense. If anything came out of this site visit it is the fact that the Agencies and NGO’s are now truly galvanized about making improvements through the relicense for the Tuolumne River and we will advocate for such during the course of this process. AW will continue to keep folks informed in the meantime feel free to contact me with any comments or post them here. Also here is a link to a video I put together – no slick production but at least it demonstrates/infers the very issues we discussed.