This Wednesday, the San Joaquin River Conservancy Board will consider the next steps on the River West Fresno, Eaton Trail Extension Project. Please join the meeting on zoom at the following link: https://zoom.us/j/93439362066, or by telephone at (866) 390-1828, conference code 787909.
On March 28, 2019, the Conservancy was sued by a group of people opposed to Alternative 1, who have created an organization called the San Joaquin River Access Corporation. Since that date, the Conservancy has been in negotiations with the plaintiffs and recently voted on a settlement agreement contingent on discussion and approval of certain provisions at a public meeting.
That meeting is taking place on Wednesday, August 12.
Unfortunately, the settlement agreement itself will not be disclosed to the public. Instead, the agenda includes the approval of Resolution 17-02 that was first brought forward for consideration and then rejected by the Board in January of 2019, and an addendum to the previously certified EIR approving a new Alternative 1.
Are you confused? So are we.
The new Alternative 1 has less parking (15 vehicles instead of 40), and moves the vault restroom and a new bus turnaround out closer to the river. But overall, we're pleased that the agenda includes some type of vehicle access from the vehicle access point that already exists.
The Resolution 17-02 approval is a bit of a head-scratcher. The Resolution states that the group of people who formed the access corporation and acquired a former landfill has met specific benchmarks necessary for the construction of Alternative 5b. This is an access point that the River Parkway Trust has opposed on principle since it was first identified as an alternative. It involves the construction of a road through Spano Park at the end of Palm Avenue, the destruction of a large group of mature Sycamore Trees, and the placement of a parking lot on a landfill property that will be unstable for years into the future.
After reading through all of the attachments in the Conservancy Agenda packet, it appears that the only condition that has changed since the Board originally rejected this Resolution, is that the State of California is now willing to pay $125,000 for an access easement on the landfill.
Think about that for a minute. The State of California wasn't willing to acquire the landfill parcel when it acquired the balance of the River West property and turned it down on multiple occasions after the initial acquisition of the property. But now the State is going to pay the San Joaquin River Access Corporation for "access" to this site.
I hope that you will join me at the Zoom meeting on Wednesday to ask the Conservancy Board questions about this project. What is the motivation to approve this access easement, and how do the actions on the agenda relate to the settlement of the litigation?
The Conservancy Board has the ability to continue the discussion rather than making a decision on Wednesday. Please join me in asking them to provide more clarification on these issues prior to voting on agenda item F2.