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High Water Flows Prompt Boating Ban
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Portions of the Mokelumne River remain closed to all boating and rafting traffic, due to unusually high water flow levels.

The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department received authorization from the county Board of Supervisors for the closure, affecting the river between the McIntire Road Fish Hatchery and the Bruella Road Bridge as well as from the Woodbridge Dam to Peltier Road.

Due to the unusually high release of water into the lower Mokelumne River from Camanche Dam, the Mokelumne River has become extremely hazardous to rafters and other boating traffic.

According to officials of East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), as a result of the large snow pack in the Mokelumne watershed, EBMUD is anticipating water release from Camanche into the lower Mokelumne as follows: 2500 cubic feet per second (cfs) in June, 1800 cfs in July and 1200 cfs in August. During the same period last year, the amounts were 500 cfs in June, 350 cfs in July and 325 cfs in August.

"The levels indicate water releases four to five times greater than last year," said Sheriff's Department spokesman Deputy Les Garcia. "Exacerbating the circumstances further is that the water temperature is at or around 55 degrees and is expected to become significantly swifter, cause a large vegetation growth that can become a dangerous obstacle to boating traffic and as well, draw more recreational rafters and boaters to the area."

According to the park ranger of the recreation area, it is common to have between 250 and 500 people rafting down the river on the weekends throughout the summer months. Those numbers often increase during the years with higher water releases.

"As the water conditions become more dangerous, we are concerned for the safety of the public, and the fact that the conditions will attract even more people to the area," explained Garcia.

Closure of the river is anticipated for a two-month period and is being done under the auspices of the Harbor and Navigation Code 660c.

"After the 60 days we can re-evaluate the water situation and determine if it is safe enough to allow recreation on the waterways," Garcia said.

It's not the first time such a drastic move has been made. The action falls in line with resolutions by the county board in 1995 and 1997, which closed similar areas of the Mokelumne River for the same reasons, in the interest of public safety.

"The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office will be conducting extra patrols and taking a zero tolerance approach," Garcia noted. "Citations will be issued to violators who enter the (restricted) waterways during the 60-day closure."

Also, officials are reminding all those planning to be on any waterways in the county during the summer recreation season to wear a life jacket while boating or rafting.