Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River (CA) - Improvements Challenged at Ward's Ferry

posted March 31, 2018
by Theresa Simsiman

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Rejecting the idea that their hydroelectric project causes any impact at Ward's Ferry Bridge, Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts (the Districts) filed a request for trial-type hearing before an administrative law judge that challenges the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) preliminary conditions to improve the long-standing whitewater take-out for the Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River. This past January BLM filed preliminary terms and conditions for the Don Pedro Hydroelectric Project 2299 which included requirements for long overdue improvements for safety and conditions at the Ward’s Ferry Bridge Day Use Recreation Area.  They also included a provision that would clear the Tuolumne River of logs and debris at Ward’s Ferry providing a safe accessible take-out area for whitewater boaters at all times. These preliminary conditions would be the responsibility of the Districts as the owners of the Don Pedro Hydroelectric Project. The conditions would be mitigation for Don Pedro reservoir levels that impact and contribute to the deteriorated state at Ward’s Ferry Bridge today. 

In a unanimous show of support for BLM and this 7-year effort to improve the safety and conditions at Ward’s Ferry, American Whitewater and our colleagues at Tuolumne River Trust, ARTA, Sierra Mac, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Friends of the River, OARS and All Outdoors filed a legal intervention to the trial-type hearing request. This intervention provides legal argument, witness lists and exhibits for all 18 disputed issues brought forward by the Districts. The witness list includes a mix of experienced experts including the Wild & Scenic Tuolumne Meral’s Pool Run namesake, Dr. Gerald Meral.  In addition, Tuolumne County who is charged with the safety, health and economic well-being of their community, authorized four expert witnesses to participate in the hearing. The entire intervention can be found here.

The complete process for a trial-type hearing follows a strict six-month timeline including discovery; hearing schedules; response to interrogatories and request for documents; depositions; updated witness and exhibits list; written testimony; hearing proceedings before the Administrative Law Judge and post hearing briefs. There is also the possibility of a 120-day stay for negotiations if both BLM and the Districts agree. Should BLM and the Districts consider this option, American Whitewater and our colleagues have requested to be involved and are ready to bring an ethic of collaboration and hard work to any settlement negotiation.  It is our hope these actions on the ground will result in a Ward’s Ferry Bridge Day Use Recreation Area that everyone can enjoy. Stay tuned.



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