Good news! On July 18, 2022, the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) and Caltrans settled the lawsuit over Caltrans’ plan to widen the Capital City Freeway bridge over the American River. Caltrans agreed to do these as part of the project:
• Include a bike-ped facility as part of the bridge widening, with access to both river levees. • Provide enhanced bat habitat in the vicinity of the bridge. • Mitigate loss of salmonid habitat, such as adding shade trees along the river.
And, in the design and environmental review of the subsequent and larger Cap City Corridor project from Midtown Sacramento to El Camino Avenue, Caltrans agreed to address induced demand, and assess the structural capacity of the bridge to accommodate potential future light rail trains.
Here’s the background:
Caltrans issued a “notice of preparation” five years ago for an environmental impact report (EIR) for plans to widen from three to five lanes each way the Capital City Freeway (SR 51) over the American River from Midtown Sacramento to El Camino Avenue (3.4 miles). Caltrans never produced the EIR. Instead, last year, it released a “mitigated negative declaration” for widening the east side of the CapCity bridge as part of a “deck replacement” project.
From the start, the plans for widening caused us concern for the increased traffic this would induce, along with the related increases in air pollution and greenhouse gases. When we realized Caltrans intended to proceed with the east side widening with no true environmental analysis, ECOS sued. Attorney Don Mooney of Davis, CA represented ECOS in the suit. ECOS thanks those who contributed to fund the lawsuit.
On July 6, 2022, the Environmental Council of Sacramento submitted a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board Administrative Hearings Office (AHO) supporting the AHO’s recommendation to cancel San Joaquin County’s application #29657 from 1990.
Below is an excerpt from the letter.
While not the subject of the AHO’s recommendation, the diversion of 147,000 acre-feet of American River Water to San Joaquin County, as envisioned in application #29657, would have substantial adverse impacts to the American River and would disrupt the Water Forum’s 29 years of work to meet water needs, protect river flows, manage river temperatures for salmon and steelhead, and restore aquatic habitats in the Lower American River. The up-stream diversion would likely impact river flows and summer temperatures. With climate change and the projected demand in this region, the river cannot absorb an additional 140,000+ acre feet of diversion and still maintain the fishery and full recreational potential of the lower American river.
ECOS Climate Change Committee – Focus on Transportation, THURSDAY, MAY 12 6:00 pm
Co-hosted by Ralph Propper, Climate Committee Chair and John Deeter, Transportation Team Lead
6:00 Let’s chat — Zoom break-out rooms
6:05 Welcome and brief introductions
6:10 Sacramento Regional Transit (Sac RT) staff will discuss plans for the coming year. RT’s fiscal status has improved, as ridership is increasing again.
Craig Norman (Director of Engineering) will discuss more frequent service on Folsom line, electric buses, low-floor light rail stations/vehicles, new LRT stations (Dos Rios station; Horn Rd. station near Rancho Cordova’s Kassis property)
6:30 SacRT and TOD – Traci Canfield will provide high level overview of the SACOG-SACRT Transit-oriented Development Action Plan written in 2020
6:50 CapCity Freeway Lawsuit Update – Betsy Weiland of SARA (invited contributor) to discuss impacts to river
7:05 Transportation Ballot Measure for November election – Steve Cohn of SacMoves (invited contributor)
Climate Action Plans for County and City of Sacramento
For July presentation — Valley Rail, San Joaquin JPA, by Dan Leavitt, Manager of Regional Initiatives, will update us on the Stockton to Sacramento segment of Valley Rail w/maps, station areas, station designs. Valley Rail is on the Sacramento Subdivision from Stockton to Natomas — on separate, parallel UP track(s) to Sac RT from Cosumnes River Blvd to R Street in Midtown. Service will extend to Natomas (Elkhorn Blvd), but planning work is being done with Butte CAG and SACOG for a future extension to Butte County (Chico).
On April 21, 2022, ECOS submitted a letter to the California State Lands Commission regarding the American River Bridge Deck Replacement Project. Below is an excerpt of our letter.
ECOS requests you pull this item from your consent calendar to enable a full discussion of this item. ECOS further requests that the Commission deny Caltrans’ application for a public agency permit and approval of a right-of-way map for the American River Bridge Deck Replacement Project.
In 2021, ECOS filed a lawsuit against Caltrans for this Project, asserting that their Mitigated Negative Declaration is inappropriate, for reasons cited below. Our subsequent settlement negotiation for this Project has not led to a resolution.
By Jessica Law | July 23, 2021 | Sacramento Water Forum
Severe drought conditions are back in California. Unfortunately, that means the Lower American River is headed into what may be some of the worst summer conditions we’ve seen on the river in recent memory.
I won’t sugarcoat it. Conditions in the river will be bad. However, the Water Forum and our partners are working hard to ensure conditions are as good as they can possibly be, and to minimize harm to fish and habitat.
What to expect in the coming months
PHOTO CREDIT: DWR, Lower American River 2014
As you may have seen on the news, we began this year with a near-normal snowpack. In most years, the snowpack melts and feeds our lakes and rivers. This year, the snowpack disappeared in the span of several weeks, soaking into the dry soil or evaporating—perhaps foreshadowing what may turn out to be the case study for climate change impacts on our water supplies and environment.
ECOS, as a Water Forum signatory, is working in concert with all of the Forum members to address the current drought. Unfortunately higher temperatures and periods of drought are increasing in the Sacramento region and we have to prepare for them. The following press release has some important water saving actions you can take and here is another one that will contribute to our current drought situation and the future impacts of climate change as well:
Begin the transition to a beautiful, low-water landscape in your home, business, or public space by removing half of the turf grass this summer. For every one thousand square feet of lawn removed, 90 gallons of water is conserved each time that lawn would have been watered. Now you are ready to add low-water, local native plants and drip irrigation this coming winter. The California Native Plant Society website has information on how to remove your lawn, lists of local native plants that fit your needs and landscape conditions, and tips on how and when to plant them. If you have trees in the lawn area being removed, don’t forget they will still need to be watered.
Landscaping while very important for all of us is a major source of water use. We want beauty and shade in our outdoor spaces; and insects, birds, and animals depend on the plants we choose to survive. Local native plants not only save water, they significantly contribute to the beauty of our region and are critical and highly desirable habitat for local insects, birds and animals.
Ralph Propper, Board President, ECOS
July 8, 2021
Sacramento, Calif. – The following statement was issued today by Jessica Law, Executive Director of the Water Forum, and Sean Bigley, Board Chair of the Regional Water Authority, in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Proclamation of a Drought State of Emergency, expanding the emergency to nine additional counties, and asking the public to voluntarily conserve 15 percent.
“The Governor’s announcement today underscores the severe drought conditions throughout California and in the Sacramento region.
“Sacramento-area leaders across the region’s major municipalities yesterday issued a news release imploring the public to increase their conservation efforts, and we support the Governor’s call for a voluntary 15 percent reduction.
“We understand that the public has continued to conserve since the last drought, and we applaud those efforts. Now, we are asking residents to do more. Increasing conservation this summer will help the environment of the Lower American River and decrease the potential for water shortages in 2022 if drought conditions persist.
“There are many easy and quick water-saving actions that can be taken today, such as dialing back sprinklers by two minutes (while continuing to water your trees), making sure sprinklers and drip irrigation run in the morning, adding mulch to conserve moisture and fixing household leaks.
“Also, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of the many rebate programs available to help with downsizing or replacing a thirsty lawn with beautiful low-water plants or upgrading to efficient irrigation and fixtures.
“You can find more water-saving tips, information about rebates and landscape watering guidelines at BeWaterSmart.info.”
The Sacramento Water Forum is a diverse group of business and agricultural leaders, citizen groups, environmentalists, water managers and local governments working together to balance two co-equal objectives: to provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sacramento region’s long-term growth and economic health; and to preserve the fishery, wildlife, recreational, and aesthetic values of the lower American River. Learn more at waterforum.org.
The Regional Water Authority (RWA) is a joint powers authority representing 20 water providers serving 2 million people in the greater Sacramento region. Formed in 2001, its primary mission is to help its members protect and enhance the reliability, availability, affordability and quality of water resources. Learn more at rwah2o.org.