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Responsible Planning and Land-use decisions for the San Joaquin River Corridor


Intensive land-use practices and proposed urbanization of lands surrounding the San Joaquin River threaten the river’s historical/cultural resources, water quality, the fish and wildlife populations, and increase the potential for flood damage.  Proposed projects are not consistent with land-use and water plans and fail to identify many individual and cumulative impacts, creating potential for significant local and regional environmental and economic impairments.  As well, responsible agencies are failing to act to protect the valuable public resources of the San Joaquin River.

New rural cities proposed. 

Lands surrounding the San Joaquin River are being targeted as new growth areas for Fresno and Madera Counties.  Currently planned new growth areas will consist of privately developed ‘new towns’ and ‘villages’ that would cover nearly 20,000 acres with approximately 50,000 dwelling units providing housing for more than 150,000 people.  This area of growth surrounds the San Joaquin River and Millerton Lake, and is approximately twenty (20) miles East of the city of Madera and eighteen (18) miles North of downtown Fresno.  While the planned developments would provide commercial and industrial zoning to promote localized jobs and commerce, most urban connectivity would be with North Fresno commercial centers located ten (10) miles South of the development area. 

Development proposals include privately developed communities in the unincorporated areas of Fresno and Madera counties, including projects covered in the Rio Mesa Area Plan, the Friant-Millerton Regional Plan, and other subdivision projects in the area outside any formalized planning area but adjacent to the growth areas.  While local land-use decisions are being considered concurrently for these projects, the cumulative impacts to our natural resources are not being adequately addressed through the CEQA or the local approval process.  The Specific Plans for these developments may represent projects from only one or several property owners, public agencies are minimally involved in the project planning process, and public input on resource issues within the plans is essentially absent until approval hearings.  

Comprehensive water planning for the Madera County and Fresno County growth areas has not occurred.  Estimates for water use by project vary depending on location, type of water delivery, and on-site conservation practices.  Project water supplies are planned to be Central Valley Project (CVP) water delivered through the river or lake, rechargeable fractured-bedrock groundwater aquifers, or other recycled water recovery methods.  The total water consumption for these projects engaged in current project planning could exceed 36,000 acre/feet per year.  Current CVP water deliveries average only 175 acre/feet for municipal use and approximately several thousand acre/feet for agricultural use.  Changes from agricultural to municipal and industrial use will involve multi-layered approvals from both State and federal agencies.  Permanent urban supply contracts can have a significant impact to agricultural water users throughout the state.

Other agricultural, industrial, and infrastructure projects. 

Industrial and agricultural projects within the San Joaquin River corridor include aggregate mines, dairies, agricultural facilities, commercial and independent farming operations, and in-stream projects such as weirs, dams, bridges, canals, and water transfers.  Four dairies were recently established on the San Joaquin River floodplain near Mendota putting nearly 48,000 cattle on the sites without adequate permitting or CEQA process.  Mining expansions in the river channel were recently approved expanding existing operations below Friant dam.  Proposals for new transportation infrastructure including river crossings are being studied in conjunction with the Highway 65 corridor investigation.  A replacement dam at Mendota Pool is also being proposed.  

 

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