The San Joaquin River Conservancy board meets Wednesday (Dec. 13), 10:30 a.m. at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District (808 Fourth Street, Clovis).

One item is on the agenda: Where to build a new access point to the planned Eaton Trail expansion? The choices are Spano Park (known as Alternative 5B) at the end of Palm Avenue north of Nees Avenue, at River View Drive (Alternative 1) or some kind of combination.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand is the lead supporter of the Spano Park alternative; Sharon Weaver, executive director of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust, favors the River View Drive plan.

A 1992 state law created the regional planning agency and also specified the selection of the 15-member river board.  Of the 14 members (one position is vacant), five of them also hold a publicly elected position; 10 of the 14 are based in the Fresno-Madera-Clovis area (the other four are out of Sacramento).

GV Wire took an informal poll of the 14 members. The results:

Alternative 1 (River View Drive) Alternative 5B (Spano Park) No decision yet No response/decline to answer
1 3 8 2


So, who are the members of this state agency that will decide the access point? All serve four-year terms:

Four Members Are Publicly Elected Officials

Andreas Borgeas is a supervisor from Fresno County. He is the board chairman.

Steve Brandau represents District 2 on the Fresno City Council. That area includes both proposed access sites.

Borgeas and Brandau strongly support the Spano Park plan. They released a Facebook video voicing their support before the Nov. 15 meeting.

Brett Frazier is a Madera County supervisor. He supports the Spano Park plan.

“My goal is to have as much access to the river as possible. I believe the only way to get there is to find a common ground solution that both the locals and state can get behind. The quickest way to gain access for all, in my opinion, is to pass Alternative 5B with tight timelines that need to be met. If those timelines are not met, the project should move on to Alternative 1,” Frazier says.

Will Oliver is a Madera city councilman. He tells GV Wire he is still mulling over the two options.

Brandau and Oliver serve in place of the Fresno and Madera mayors, respectively. The law allows the mayors to serve on the board or to designate someone from their city councils.

Three Members Are Citizens of Region Chosen by Governor

One is from Madera County, one is from Fresno County and one is from the city of Fresno. In addition to residency qualifications, the Madera/Fresno county representative must either be on a list submitted by an environmental organization to the county (and then the list is forwarded to the governor) or a property owner in the area. The counties alternate those two criteria whenever they submit a list of names. The citizen’s representatives are:

Bryn Forhan represents the city of Fresno and has served on the board since 2002, appointed by Gov. Gray Davis (and re-appointed by Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown). She has had her own consulting company and in the past worked for Community Medical Centers and for Jim Costa when he served in the Assembly.

Forhan is undecided: “I want to hear the public input. It is very important. I want the meeting to take place before saying which way I will vote.”

Paul Gibson represents Fresno County as a property owner. According to his bio when Gov. Brown appointed him, he is a farmer and businessman. He declined to answer his views on the access point when asked by GV Wire.

The third position, representing Madera County, remains vacant. Cynthia Fettik Dolph most recently held the appointment.

Although Gibson and Forhan’s terms expired Jan. 1, 2017, a quirk in the statute allows them to serve until a replacement is named (or they are reappointed).

Eight Positions Represent State and Regional Agencies

John Donnelly is the executive director of the California Wildlife Conservation Board in Sacramento, a position he’s held since March 2007.

“I think any additional access along the San Joaquin River will be a plus for the people of Fresno and Madera counties as well as others who visit the San Joaquin River from other parts of the state.  I have not made a decision as to whether Spano Park (5B) or River View Drive (1) is the best option.  Once I have all the facts before me and hear the presentations on December 13, I will decide my preferred option,” Donnelly says.

Julie Alvis represents the California Natural Resources Agency, where she is deputy assistant secretary. A department spokeswoman said Alvis is not ready to commit:

“The Natural Resources Agency supports the state’s goals of protecting parks and open space and public access to them. Our Agency representative Julie Alvis will be listening and evaluating the proposals at next week’s meeting with those goals in mind and will consider what is most feasible to get us to improved public access in a timely way.”

Julie Vance is the Fresno-based regional manager of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. She has conflicted feelings. On one hand, she says the Spano Park project is the costlier of the options. But she says she cannot dismiss the objections of neighbors at the River View Park alternative.

“Alternative 1 is the less expensive and more straightforward option for Fresno access to the Riverview West property.  However, the San Joaquin River Conservancy needs to work with our local agency partners (specifically, the city and county of Fresno), and they do not support Alternative 1,” Vance says.  “Alternative 5B, which is supported by the city of Fresno, provides good Fresno access, but it has outstanding and potentially significant issues related to an old landfill.  If we could get some certainty or at least certainty on deliverables (fee title holder, cleanup plan approval, etc.) for Alternative 5B, it might make sense to pursue that alternative but to have Alternative 1 as a backup plan should things stall out or prove infeasible.

“In short, I am not yet decided, at least on an either-or vote.  I do think that meeting somewhere in the middle as described above is possible.”

Kent Gresham is the Friant-based superintendent of the San Joaquin sector representing the state Department of Parks & Recreation.

The department released this statement to GV Wire:

“San Joaquin Sector Superintendent Kent Gresham will not be making a decision until he hears the draft resolutions, public comments and any additional information that will be provided at next week’s board meeting.”

Karen Finn is the program budget manager in the state Department of Finance.  “I am not making any pre-decision. Will wait to hear all the information presented at the board meeting,” she says.

Jennifer Lucchesi is the executive officer of State Lands Commission, which is based in Sacramento. The commission voted 3-0 at its Nov. 29 meeting in Fresno to instruct Lucchesi to support the River View Drive option.

Roy Spina is the director of the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District board. That is a seven-member body with members appointed by the city of Fresno, city of Clovis and Fresno County. Spina has served as the Clovis appointment to the board since 1994. He did not respond to GV Wire’s request through the flood control district by time of publication.

Carl Janzen is the publicly elected board member of the Madera Irrigation District, serving since 1998. He is a retired dairyman from Madera. He will listen to the debate before deciding.

“There is still testimony to be heard. I want to keep an open mind. We need public access. It would be wonderful to have access at three points,” Janzen says.


One Response

  1. Mark Turgeon

    It’s easy for someone to select access through a neighborhood when they do not live there. I dont live in River View Drive area I couldn’t afford to but don’t judge the people who own homes there for not wanting the traffic I dont blame them. They should access the area in a more commercial area not through someone’s neighborhood just because it’s easy access. I grew up in southeast Fresno an moved out to a quiet neighborhood after 50 years of noise and traffic. Find an access that doesn’t affect families and homes just because some people are more successful is not a crime. The Palm Ness is better not any homes or neighborhoods to disrupt have courtesy of others.


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