Delta News

Meeting to explore emergency dams on 3 Delta sloughs

A proposal to temporarily dam three sloughs in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a drought emergency measure will be presented at a public meeting Thursday in Clarksburg.

The plan was first proposed last year by the California Department of Water Resources. The goal is to prevent salty San Francisco Bay water from intruding too far into the Delta, which is one possible result of low freshwater outflow in the Sacramento River.

The barriers are proposed on Steamboat and Sutter sloughs, which branch off the Sacramento River near Courtland; and on West False River, in the west Delta near Bethel Island. They would be constructed primarily of large rocks placed across the width of each slough.

DWR halted the project last year after late-winter storms provided adequate runoff to avoid salinity problems. The idea is being revived this year in case drought conditions again make salinity management difficult.

The temporary dams are intended to prevent Delta waters from becoming too salty for the 25 million Californians and 3 million acres of farmland that depend on it. By blocking the three sloughs, according to the plan, more freshwater flow on the Sacramento River will stay in the main river channel, helping to repel salinity downstream.

Some local farmers in the Delta worry the plan could harm their irrigation water supplies, because the dams may cause salty water to back up into the affected sloughs.

If the dams become necessary, they would likely be installed in May and removed in October. A preliminary environmental study has been prepared on the project, available online at

Thursday’s meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at Clarksburg Community Church, 52910 Netherlands Ave.

Call The Bee’s Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.