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Woodbridge wants to keep Lodi Lake dry until May

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Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2004 10:00 pm

Lodi Lake may remain dry an extra month until about May 1 if the Woodbridge Irrigation District receives approval from several water interests.

Lodi Lake is typically drained in November and refilled with Mokelumne River water about April 1 each year. But the Woodbridge district has requested a month's delay so that the contractor building the new Woodbridge Dam can construct a large portion of a new fish bypass during the spring, said Tim Gatschet, the dam's project manager for F&H Construction.

In requesting the delay to filling Lodi Lake, Woodbridge asks that the release of 200 cubic feet per second of water from Camanche Dam be delayed until May 1, said Woodbridge Irrigation District Manager Andy Christensen.

"We're building a new dam," Christensen said. "It's a major undertaking."

Construction of the new $8.5 million Woodbridge Dam began in January. Half the dam has been removed. It will be replaced this year. The other half of the dam will be replaced in

2005, with the project scheduled for completion late in 2005.

Rich Prima, Lodi's public works director, didn't express concern over the postponement of recreational opportunities at Lodi Lake.

"(Woodbridge) doesn't need our approval, that's for sure," Prima said.

EBMUD officials, who provide domestic water to portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, say they don't have a problem with Woodbridge waiting a month to fill Lodi Lake.

"East Bay definitely wants to cooperate because we are happy to see that Woodbridge is building the dam," said Gerald Schwartz, Central Valley liaison for EBMUD.

The California Department of Fish and Game has already given its blessing to waiting until May to fill the lake, Christensen said, but Woodbridge still needs authorization from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, which protects Chinook and steelhead salmon found to be endangered in Valley waterways.

Jerry Blackwell of F&H Construction mixes grout Tuesday to be used in sealing the inside and outside of the new fish pipe extending from the fish ladder at Woodbridge Dam. Inside the narrow pipe is Gordon Walker, also of F&H Construction. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

"We don't think it will have any negative impact on fish," Christensen said.

The fish bypass will extend 2,000 feet from the irrigation district canal to an area between the dam and the bridge crossing Lower Sacramento Road between Mokelumne Street and Woodbridge Road.

The bypass is intended to prevent fish from swimming into the Woodbridge Irrigation District canal and head to farms in Woodbridge, west Lodi and Thornton. The new bypass will be 30 inches in diameter, 18 inches larger than the current bypass.

The new fish bypass from the Woodbridge Dam's fish ladders cuts through the backyards of nearby Woodbridge residents' backyards. The boat ramp in this yard is barely missed. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

Dave Phillips of Phillips Farms said he won't have a problem with his winegrape production, although farmers growing row crops may be affected.

"Because we had a wet winter, I think we'd be fine," Phillips said. "For the grapes, I think we're fine."

Phillips said he hopes Lodi receives a little more rain in March and April, but if he needs irrigation water before May 1, he can pump water from wells on his farm.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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