Access to the San Joaquin River still up in the air for Fresno

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The river access impasse continued Wednesday at the San Joaquin River Conservancy board’s monthly meeting — after hours of back and forth between residents and members of the board produced no sure path to public access to the river.

The meeting began at 10:30 a.m. and didn’t wrap until close to 3:30 p.m., with a half hour lunch break in the middle. As the meeting dwindled, many on the board expressed their frustrations as talks only continued to come to a head.

“Let’s stop debating, let’s make a motion, move forward and if there’s lawsuits we’ll deal with that later,” said Nathan Magsig, who’s relatively new to the board. “If not, god bless us, we can get to the river. We’ve debated this thing for over a decade.”

In the end, the board made a motion for staff to look into all required documentation for Alternative 1. That proposal would create an access point through Riverview Drive in the Woodward Bluffs neighborhood.

Many supporters of that one say it’s the environmentally sound option, like Tom Bohigian. During the public comment period, he said he really wants public river access, “But we’re also going to protect the majority of the old grove trees that are on this 500-some acre parcel.”

The other proposed plan taking much of Wednesday’s debate was Alternative 5B, which was approved in a Dec. 2017 vote. However, it was rescinded after subsequent votes.

5B would create an access road off Palm and Nees avenues that would cut through Spano Park. Supporters of this plan, including Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, say this would be the quicker option since it’s already undergone environmental review. It’s also already part of the city’s General Plan.

Supporters of 5B say looking into Alternative 1 further is only adding to the already big timeline.

“The possible amendment to the Fresno General Plan, additional California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements — it’s all going to take time,” said Richard Sloane, a 5B supporter.

There were talks of compromising and merging the two plans in some way, however no motion was able to successfully pass with those intentions.

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