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Colusa OKs design plans for boat ramp
Pat Kittle is nostalgic for the days when 250 boats a day would enter the Sacramento River at Colusa at the peak of striped bass season.
Now he says the boats are gone, but he thinks they could return. In fact, he envisions a future Colusa with a booming fishing tourist economy.
That vision is one step closer to reality as the Colusa City Council this week approved the initial design plans and a mitigated negative declaration for environmental impacts for the proposed boat ramp project at the Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area.
The project still needs to meet the satisfaction of state and federal permitting agencies, a gauntlet of reviews and hurdles to clear.
"I think its hugely vital to our town," said City Councilman Greg Ponciano. "The character of this city, the river has a lot to do with that."
He said new a boat ramp is the cornerstone of future plans for development of the downtown area and is consistent with the city's General Plan.
The proposed 30-foot-wide boat launch straddles State Parks property and city property.
The design for the new boat ramp, which goes back a number of years, includes a floating dock, an expanded parking area, and other accessories.
Construction likely won't start until 2014 or 2015, due to various agency permits required.
"We're applying for funds on April 1 for potential awarding of grant funds in January of next year," said Bryan Stice, the city's senior planner. "But if the state Department of Boating and Waterways doesn't feel the application will be well received by other agencies, then the funding will be stalled until its viable."
That will be tricky for the city to negotiate because the other agencies, such as the US Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Regional Water Quality Control Board all want to see more design work, which could only be paid for by the grant from the Department of Boating and Waterways.
"We are in a bit of a catch 22," said Stice. "We're dependent on Boat and Waterways grant money to pay for the permitting and design, but they're hesitant not knowing the reaction of the permitting agencies. They don't want to throw money out to projects that might get snagged in the cumbersome permitting process when they could fund a project that is shovel ready."
"I hope there is continued forward movement," said Kittle, who has invested time into the project. "I've wanted to see a new boat ramp since 2002. I'm happy to see it get this far."
Kittle has attended Boating and Waterways meetings, kept pressure on City Hall by checking in monthly on its progress, and has assisted in fundraisers to provide supplemental funding if additional money for the project is needed.
"I know how nice it is for the community to have access to the river," said Kittle. He said its not just for fishermen. "Jet skis, water skis, law enforcement, search and rescue and of course, businesses would benefit from people that come here to fish."
His business, Kittle's Outdoor and Sport Co., would directly benefit.
"Fishing is still 25 percent of our business, but it used to be closer to 30 or 40 (percent) when we first started," said Kittle. "One of the impetuses for us to start our business here was all the boat trailers. There used to be easy access and good fishing. Now its silted out away from the boat ramp. Business has declined a lot. People take their boats to Wards or Tisdale."
Concerns about the proposed boat ramp plan were brought up during the public hearing at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Charles Yerxa, who was representing Roberts Ditch water users, wants protections to ensure access to the water pumped from Roberts for about 1,200 acres of farmland is secure.
"Roberts Ditch has been in existence for 120 years and we do have the right to access to the water," said Yerxa.
Family Water Alliance Executive Director Ashley Indrieri raised similar concerns and suggested that the council and Planning Commission be aware that conditions might require the ditch be closed for irrigation perhaps as a requirement for Army Corp approval.
"Environmental groups do not want to see dredging in that river," said Indrieri.
Stice said he is not aware of any conditions limiting access to Roberts Ditch access to water. He confirmed that in a recent meeting with the Army Corp, no such conditions arose.
"Army Corp did not tell us at that time that there would be any expectation that the ditch be closed or considered for abandonment," Stice said.
Stice said that the city did strive to include those concerned with Roberts Ditch in the planning process.
"We conferenced in those interests with designers to make sure they were participating," said Stice. "We are working continuously with them to make sure that Roberts Ditch access to water is in no way restricted."