article photo 4

Cosumnes River - Illegal Fence Blocking Access at Latrobe Road Bridge (CA)

Posted: 12/11/2014
by Theresa Simsiman

In the summer of 2013, American Whitewater’s Regional Coordinator, John Simpkin, started the tedious task of gathering the facts and information to help American Whitewater get illegal fences blocking public access to the Cosumnes River at Latrobe Road Bridge removed.  Years prior to this a local boater, Steve Ruhnau, witnessed a landowner cementing and welding the iron fences to the bridge. Citing only the individuals who party and leave trash under the bridge, the landowner included sharp iron finials on the top of each fence designed to keep everyone out.  A pointed problem given Latrobe Road Bridge serves as the take-out for the Cls IV Cosumnes River run starting at Highway 49 and the put-in for the Cls III-IV run that takes boaters down to Highway 16. 

Since anecdotal accounts from the 1960’s identified the northwest access of the bridge as the traditional access point, American Whitewater decided to approach the owners of the North end of the bridge - El Dorado County.  In a letter to El Dorado County Parks and Recreation, American Whitewater outlined the Latrobe Road Bridge fence issue, asked the County to verify if the landowner had an encroachment permit and if not when we could expect the fence to be removed.  County Parks responded confirming that they had an easement at the bridge, that they had no record of an encroachment permit for the fence and that they would make a site visit to further assess the situation.

In Spring 2014 County Parks detailed to American Whitewater that they had spoken to County Counsel, that they would be turning over the issue to the County Department of Transportation (DOT) and that they hoped to have things resolved by the Fall.  Acting in good faith, American Whitewater saw no harm in affording the County extra time to resolve the problem given that the drought provided little opportunity for boatable flows.  Unfortunately, upon follow up in October, conversations with County DOT yielded a less that satisfactory outcome. Essentially, County DOT declared that they were exploring the idea with County Counsel to make the fences permanent. Citing safety concerns, the fences obstructing public access to the Cosumnes River remain today. 

Contemplating permanently blocking public access to the Cosumnes River is ironic when you note that El Dorado County was involved in a precedent setting river access issue on the South Fork American River in 1979.  Long story short, back then the County issued an ordinance banning rafting and boating below Chili Bar Dam.  Thankfully, this ordinance was overturned because it denied the California constitutional right of the public to the use of and access to a navigable waterway.  (See People ex rel. Younger v. County of El Dorado (1979))

In a effort to remind the County of their obligation under County, State and Case Law, American Whitewater issued a letter to County Counsel keeping the California State Lands Commission in the loop.  It is unknown how El Dorado County will respond but American Whitewater will keep moving towards removal of the illegal fences at Latrobe Road Bridge.  Stay tuned!

Photo by Steve Ruhnau