Guest View: Prediction that San Justo won’t reopen

The boat launch leads to San Justo Reservoir

I don’t believe that taking the Band-Aid off slowly will make this any easier. It is obvious to me that the San Justo Reservoir, shuttered more than eight years ago for an infestation of zebra mussels, is never going to reopen for any water-related activities such as fishing or boating, and probably not for any public access to the water’s edge.
The primary reason is that the system-wide threat posed by the highly invasive and deleterious zebra mussel far outweighs the recreational value the reservoir provides. A simple cost-benefit analysis (cost includes risk) and the probable timelines will show that putting any money into restoring recreation at San Justo is a bad bet compared with using the same funds and time somewhere else in the county to provide and improve fishing and boating recreational facilities.
This does not excuse the excessive delays in the getting approval of an eradication plan, now under review in accordance with NEPA (The National Environmental Policy Act, the federal equivalent of California’s CEQA) as delays always increase costs. But no one has a timeline for even that. Once the review is complete, there is the matter of obtaining funding. And then there will the eradication process and probably a quarantine period to see if the pest returns. That could easily add another five years or, perhaps, 10 years. Or who knows?
OK, now what? Well, assuming it all goes perfectly, we would still need a control and prevention plan to make sure the invasion did not happen again and that would also need federal approval; here we go again.
Suppose the zebra mussels were eradicated tomorrow, given the nature of the threat, just how sure would you have to be that the invasion did not come back the way it came the first time before signing off on a control plan? The reservoir is used for both drinking water and irrigation water and is owned by the federal government, those three combined make it one of the worst places one could have this problem.
The second reason that returning water-related recreation to San Justo will be a low priority is that there are existing, and could be, future alternatives, like lakes, that post almost no system-wide risks. Not to say they could not get infested, just that the overall impacts and threats would be infinitely less.
Then, there is the time factor, if you go without the San Justo recreation solution for 10 years or 15 more years, you can never get that time back. If, however, you take the same money you would have spent to design, approve, and implement a control plan through federal agencies and use, instead, it to identify and improve other recreation areas our residents may get to enjoy the alternative almost immediately. Getting 10 years of water-related recreation against the likelihood of a decade of nothing is big improvement.
Yes, I am being hasty, but time is money and lost time is gone forever. The answer seems obvious. The county government should forget San Justo except to try and speed eradication. They should immediately start identifying and codifying alternative facilities. The next step would be a report on those facilities and possible improvements.
The earlier the county comes to the decision that San Justo is not going to reopen for water recreation, the earlier they can get to work on providing other facilities for water related activities. I just hate spending millions on reports and uphill battles when the answer is inevitable.

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