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More Help Needed for Ward's Ferry Take-Out W&S Tuolumne River (CA)

Posted: 03/25/2019
by Theresa Simsiman

American Whitewater needs your help to secure future takeout improvements at Ward’s Ferry Bridge, the takeout for the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River. Recently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Don Pedro Hydroelectric Project that does not recommend a whitewater boating  take-out facility at Ward’s Ferry as a license requirement.  In fact FERC staff believes the Don Pedro Project has NO impact to the take-out. Instead, they believe the take-out problems at Ward’s Ferry are related to USFS management of boating permits, flows from the upstream non-project Holm powerhouse and Tuolumne County road management. In other words, FERC staff has an opinion that everyone else is to blame for the poor take-out conditions but not Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts’ Don Pedro powerhouse, dam or reservoir.

As boaters, American Whitewater disagrees with this inexpert opinion as we have all seen the pedestrian trails scoured away by varying reservoir levels caused by the downstream Don Pedro dam, not the flows from the upstream Holm’s powerhouse. We have also seen paddlers forced to stage equipment on the Ward’s Ferry Bridge roadway by fluctuating reservoir levels that leave uneven shoreline terrain or flood out shoreline real estate. None of which is caused by USFS management of boating permits or Tuolumne County road management. We need to set the record straight and show that the current relicensing is the time and place for access improvements.

Thankfully, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also believes the current relicensing is the time and place for access improvements and they fully intend to go forward with mandatory conditions outlined in the 2018 settlement agreement with Modesto and Turlock Irrigations District the owners of the Don Pedro Project. As part of this settlement agreement BLM issued conditions that would provide, at Ward’s Ferry, 2 new ADA vault toilets, 4-8 enhanced parking spaces, a vehicular service road with turn around on river right, an elevated hoisting platform on river left and hardened pedestrian tails to the river’s edge on both sides.  All of which would be maintained for the lifetime of a new hydropower license for the Don Pedro Project.

HOW YOU CAN HELP.

The FERC Draft Environmental Impact Statement is just that...a draft.  We have the opportunity to highlight the flaws in their logic and show them we care.  Here are ways you can help.

1. SUBMIT A COMMENT LETTER TO FERC BY APRIL 12, 2019. 

Submit your comment to FERC using the “eComment” system, which takes a couple of steps to complete. Go here -  https://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp After filling out your name, address, and email, the eComment system will send you an email with a link to submit your comment. Comments through this system must be text-only and under 6,000 characters. The Don Pedro Project’s docket number is P-2299-082, and this must be entered in the relevant field.

Below is a SAMPLE COMMENT  - feel free to elaborate on your experience on the Tuolumne River after the first sentence “I am a devoted paddler of the Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River”.

Dear Secretary Bose,

I am a devoted paddler of the Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River.  

I am writing to oppose the FERC DEIS Staff Alternative for the Don Pedro Project. Specifically, in the alternative, FERC staff does not recommend the installation of a whitewater boating take-out facility upstream of Ward’s Ferry because they believe there is no “nexus” or impacts caused by the Don Pedro Project.

I disagree! The impacts to the Tuolumne River shoreline at Ward’s Ferry bridge are caused by the fluctuating reservoir levels controlled by the Don Pedro Hydroelectric Project.  Boaters in need of even terrain and the space to stage equipment are forced on to the Ward’s Ferry Bridge road by the utter lack of adequate shoreline boating facilities that can withstand the constant scouring of Don Pedro Reservoir levels. For instance, Tuolumne River stakeholders have repeatedly provided improvements within their budget at Ward’s Ferry Bridge that have been washed away by the Don Pedro Project. This includes trail improvements coordinated by the Tuolumne River Trust, USFS and Commercial Outfitters.

Neither the timing of whitewater flows from CCSF’s Holm Powerhouse, nor the management of U.S. Forest Service boating permits nor the Tuolumne County Road management washes away or floods Tuolumne River shoreline at the Ward’s Ferry Bridge take-out but the Don Pedro Hydroelectric Project does! Whitewater boating facilities are indeed impacted by the Don Pedro project and should be addressed in the new hydropower license.

As such, I fully support the Bureau of Land Management’s mandatory 4(e) conditions that outline whitewater boating facility improvements at Ward’s Ferry Bridge as mitigation for the impacts of the Don Pedro Hydroelectric Project. These conditions provide long needed upgrades at Ward’s Ferry Bridge for the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River. In addition these conditions were drawn up by BLM with a wide range of stakeholder input from American Whitewater, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, Tuolumne County, Tuolumne River Trust and Tuolumne River Outfitters.  

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment.

Sincerely,

2. ATTEND A FERC STAFF MEETING WITH AW

In Modesto at the Double Tree hotel (1150 Ninth St, Modesto, CA), where FERC is seeking public opinion at 2 different times, both on Tuesday March 26th.

a.      Daytime meeting. 1-4pm

b.      Evening meeting. 7-9pm

c.      Theresa, California’s AW stewardship director, will be attending and help prep you on what to say and how to say it.  Contact her at theresa@americanwhitewater.org

3. ATTEND A FERC WARDS FERRY SITE VISIT WITH AW

At Wards Ferry on Wednesday March 27th.

 a. Meet Theresa at ~1:15pm on the river right side of the bridge for a 1:30 meeting w/ FERC.

 b. RSVP to Theresa so she knows to look for you.  theresa@americanwhitewater.org

Picture by Paul Martzen - Ward's Ferry Take-out

 

Theresa Simsiman
Sacramento, CA