RBOC Urges that Boater Concerns with Emergency Drought Barriers be Resolved

RBOC is urging the state Department of Water Resources and the US Army Corps of Engineers to address boater concerns with the Emergency Drought Barriers proposed for the Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta.

This project consists of three temporary rock barriers that would be installed, a single barrier at three locations, in the north and central Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta (Delta): Sutter Slough, Steamboat Slough, and West False River.

RBOC appreciates and understands the critical need to protect water quality and water supply in the Delta. As the state and federal governments identify and take actions in order to accomplish this objective, there must be an open and transparent process, clear science-based criteria for actions that are taken, the engagement and participation of stakeholders and beneficiaries, and the protection of the environment and endangered species.

Based on statements made in public workshops, it is not clear at this point that each of these will occur. It appears that an informal group of unnamed individuals within several governmental entities will make decisions within the proposed project on whether and when barriers will be installed and removed, without public notice or involvement, without a clear set of criteria, and without assurances regarding the protection of the environment or endangered species.

It also appears that funding sources for the installation and removal of the barriers within the proposed project have already been identified, targeting one special fund source for the removal rather than a funding structure that involves the participation of the many stakeholders that will benefit from the project.

The proposed project will restrict or prohibit navigation on established waterways in the Delta. The single boat passage within the proposed project will only assist vessels up to 24 feet long and up to 10,000 pounds. A significant number of boaters will be effectively prohibited from navigating through important and popular Delta regions.  The duration the proposed barriers may remain in place is poorly defined and as a consequence may violate the "Public Trust" doctrine regarding navigable waterways. This could require the State to install and maintain the operation of locks on a continual basis.

It is the policy of RBOC to advocate to protect the rights of recreational boaters to assure access for continued navigation by recreational boats on the waters of the Delta wherever any control structure (such as, but not limited to gates or barriers whether temporary or permanent) is planned for placement across a navigable Delta waterway. In these instances, RBOC seeks assurances that as any changes are contemplated which further alter Delta navigable waterways that alternatives are identified and implemented to the satisfaction of RBOC that will best preserve and sustain recreational boat passage at each location.

Consistent with this policy, RBOC seeks to have operable boat locks installed as an integral design component to mitigate for the placement of any control structure across any navigable Delta waterway. All control structures and boat locks or other alternatives satisfactory to RBOC for recreational boat passage are to be installed, maintained and operated without cost or expense to recreational boaters.