Delta News

Feds seek comment on plan to dam three Delta waterways

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public comment on an emergency proposal by California water officials to temporarily dam three channels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in response to the drought.

The proposal by the California Department of Water Resources calls for constructing rock dams across Sutter and Steamboat sloughs, which branch off the Sacramento River near Courtland. A third barrier is proposed on another channel, called False River, where it joins the San Joaquin River near Oakley.

The Corps has authority to review and issue permits for the project under the Rivers and Harbors Act and the Clean Water Act. It will accept public comments as part of that process through April 16.

DWR officials say the goal is to make the most of limited freshwater outflows that might be available in the main stem of the Sacramento River. The barriers would allow that fresh water to be held in the river, rather than branching into the side channels. This would concentrate its force and better hold back salinity that naturally would creep in from San Francisco Bay as river flows dwindle because of the drought.

But the project could increase salinity for hundreds of farmers and other water diverters downstream of the barriers along Steamboat and Sutter sloughs. It also is likely to lower water levels in the sloughs, which could cause some of those water diversions to become inoperable. And it will block boating access to the sloughs.

The barriers are proposed to be installed in May and removed in November. Comments may be submitted to: Bill Guthrie, Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, 1325 J Street, Room 1350, Sacramento, CA 95814-2922; or by email to William.H.Guthrie

Related stories from Sacramento Bee