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FALL 2010

Sacramento River Forum Unanimous Support For Hardpoints

For years M&T Ranch/Llano Seco Ranch Pumping Plant and the City of Chico wastewater outfall facilities have been in jeopardy because of a gravel bar forming in front of the facilities located near the City of Chico on the Sacramento River. Discussion of what should, and should not, be protected from the meandering river has been a topic of discussion at the Sacramento River Conservation Area Forum (SRCAF) Board of Directors meetings for many years.

When the SRCAF was formed, community members felt it imperative that while river meander is part of the natural process of the river, particular hardpoints on the river need to be protected. Examples of those hardpoints include bridges, pumping plants and other infrastructure. So when City officials and M&T ranch manager asked the SRCAF to affirm that their infrastructure and pumping plant needed to be protected, it should have been a simply request.

There has been significant scientific work done to determine what the best long-term solution is for M&T/Llano Seco and the City of Chico. While the problem was being studied 300,000 tons of gravel has been removed from the river to prevent the pump’s fish screens, inlet and Chico’s sanitation plant outfall from being buried. Temporary fixes such as dredging or moving the facilities downstream, only buy a few years. The City of Chico spent $8 million last year to move their outfall 1,200 feet downriver to stay ahead of the migrating gravel bar. Their engineers have told city officials this is not a permanent fix as their outfall will also soon be threatened at this new location. After the alternatives were looked at, the rock spur dike alternative rose to the top of the list as the most practical long-term fix to the problem. The rock spur dikes would need to be placed across the river to force the gravel downstream and prevent the buildup of gravel in front of the pumping plant and wastewater outfall facilities.

While the environmental documents for all the alternatives are still being prepared the most likely solution has encountered opposition from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) who has a 137 acre conservation easement across the river where two rock spur dikes would need to be located. TNC is opposed to the spur dike alternative because it would limit river meander on the conservation easement and will destroy the natural process of the river.

After lengthy discussion at the SRCAF Board Meeting in September, the Board did ultimately affirm their handbook and unanimously vote that M&T Ranch/Llano Seco Ranch pumping plant and the City of Chico’s wastewater outfall facilities are hardpoints. It is unclear if when the time comes, there will be support for the long-term fix.

This issue is precedence setting for the North State. As multimillion dollar infrastructure projects are retrofitted on the river to address environmental concerns, there needs to be some assurances that those investments will be protected for the long-term.■

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