Tuolumne - Wards Ferry Bridge Take-out


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.


Turlock Irrigation District and Modesto Irrigation District (the Districts) issued their Draft License Application (DLA) for the Don Pedro Project FERC P-2299 last fall and completed the Updated Study Report (USR) on Whitewater Boating Take-Out Improvement Feasibility Study (RR-02). So we have arrived at the point where stakeholders submit their comments on the DLA and USR as well as their recommendations for the Final License Application (FLA) regarding Ward’s Ferry Bridge Take-out. The next step is to help the managing agency (BLM) formulate mandatory 4(e) conditions for the license that address the Districts’ neglect and the decay of the take-out at Ward’s Ferry Bridge.

Following are the links to download the various stakeholder comments filed with FERC:

American Whitewater

Conservation Groups - including AW partner organizations Tuolumne River Trust, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Friends of the River - go to page 20.

Commercial Rafting Companies - ARTA, [URL=“https://www.dropbox.com/s/y4cv526p8rkt6tn/20140225-5055%2829154573%29SierraMacUSRWF.pdf”]Sierra Mac and [URL=“https://www.dropbox.com/s/jd5imiowcjwvrqz/20140226-5240%2829159371%29OARS.pdf”]OARS.

National Park Service

If folks have any questions/comments/rants feel free to drop me an email at theresa@americanwhitewater.org


USFS comments on Ward’s Ferry Bridge Take-out.


Here is the “I carry the big stick” comments from BLM! Go to page 7 down to 2.2.1 Proposed New Project Facilities.

That big stick as I mentioned is the mandatory 4(e) conditions that BLM can write specifically for the license regarding Wards Ferry Bridge. From their comments I believe it is fair to say BLM is “on it”!

For those of you who may be curious, below is 4(e) info I pulled from the Hydropower Reform Coalition Website:

[B]A. Section 4(e)- Conditions Applying to Projects Located within a Federal Reservation[/B]

Under Section 4(e) of the Act, 16 U.S.C § 797(e), FERC must consider environmental requirements for licensing a project within a federal reservation. A federal reservation under the Act is a technical term, defined generally as a national forest, tribal land, military reservations, and other lands and interests in lands reserved for other public purposes. They include any lands and interests in lands acquired and held for any public purposes by the federal government (they do not include national monuments or national parks, where hydropower licensing is prohibited).

There are two substantive requirements for licensing a project within a federal reservation:

FERC must find that the license will not interfere with or be inconsistent with the purposes for which the reservation was created or acquired.
A license must be issued on terms that the federal agency responsible for the reservation finds are necessary for the adequate protection and utilization of that reservation. This is not a veto power, and the land managing agency may not prevent FERC from issuing the license. However, the land managing agency’s conditions must be included within the FERC license or it cannot be issued.

[B]Equal Consideration - Section 4(e) [/B]of the Federal Power Act requires FERC to give “equal consideration to the purposes of energy conservation, the protection, mitigation of damage to, and enhancement of, fish and wildlife (including related spawning grounds and habitat), the protection of recreational opportunities, and the preservation of other aspects of environmental quality.” This is an important provision of the act with regards to land protection because it gives FERC the authority to include conditions in the license that set aside lands for recreational development, establish buffer zones along project shoreline, protect visual and aesthetic values of project lands, or protect lands for wildlife habitat. If the project is located on or within any federal reservation this section also gives authority to the responsible federal land management agency to file terms and conditions that protect the reservation to be included in the project license. Federal reservations include National Forests, National Parks, Land and Water Conservation Fund Act lands, National Trails, Wilderness Areas, National Wildlife Refuges, and other public lands.


I think I just discovered new love for the BLM, those comments are all business and damn good across the board.


The Districts Respond to all the comments regarding Ward’s Ferry Bridge - be forewarned it ain’t pretty. See page 16 & 17.


07 (2)

It is a long process and we are finally at a point where Modesto & Turlock Irrigation Districts have filed their Amended Final License Application that contain measures to address the Take-out at Ward’s Ferry Bridge. While most would agree the proposed mitigations could be a welcomed addition to the take-out - it falls well short of providing a safe recreational facility for all users.

Read more on the American Whitewater Action Alert to find out how you can speak up for improvements at Ward’s Ferry Bridge.