Here's a quick update on the San Joaquin River Conservancy's action at their August 12, 2020 Board Meeting.
The board approved an addendum to the project environmental impact report (EIR) that allows for vehicle access at Alternative 1. The design for the access is slightly modified from the original plans, and includes an approximately 1-mile walk between the parking area and restroom. The access is much reduced from what was originally planned, but we are pleased that this access point is now included as part of the approved project.
Unfortunately, the board also approved "reasonable progress" on the benchmarks that were supposed to be met by the neighbors group incorporated as the San Joaquin River Access Corporation (SJRAC). This action keeps Alternative 5b in the project as well, which includes the construction of a road through Spano park, down a steep bluff, around a stormwater retention basin, and over to a parking area on a former landfill.
During closed session, the Board also approved a settlement agreement with the SJRAC to end their litigation against the Conservancy regarding Alternative 5b. We don't yet know what the settlement agreement says, as it will not be released to the public until it is signed by all parties.
The terms of the settlement agreement represent the major unknown in this process, and will most likely dictate whether any new access to this property actually comes to fruition. The critical issue is whether alternative 1 and alternative 5b are contingent upon one another. If they both have to be built or neither can be built, then the neighbors have effectively prevented any improvements in public access at this 500+ acre site.
We remain cautiously optimistic that something good will come out of the completion of this process, and look forward to reviewing the settlement agreement when it is available.
Thank you to everyone that participated in this lengthy public debate about access at River West. Because of your efforts, the approved project changed from having no vehicle entrance to the site in Fresno to two vehicle entrance sites in Fresno (though we maintain that alternative 5b is so expensive and impractical that it will never be built).
We extend a special thank you to Conservancy Board Member and Madera City Council member Santos Garcia for his efforts to achieve equitable public access throughout the San Joaquin River Parkway.