Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Town leaders see base site as Rio Vista's environmental gem in the making

Town leaders see base site as Rio Vista's environmental gem in the making
By Susan Winlow | Daily Republic | September 28, 2009

Rio Vista mayor Jan Vick looks over the remains of the abandon Army Reserve Base on the Sacramento River. Photo by Mike Greener

RIO VISTA - Along the banks of the Sacramento River in the tiny hamlet of Rio Vista lie 28 unused acres -- the former Rio Vista Army Reserve Center.

In its present state, the locked-up base could be a photographer's dream with its river vistas, evening sunsets and old buildings, some crumbling amid overgrown ivy and blackberry bushes.

But the facility, which is approaching the century mark, and the land it sits on is a labor of love for current mayor Jan Vick and former mayors Jerry Rubier, Fred Harris, Marci Coglianese and Eddie Woodruff, who all see a long-term redevelopment vision.

The vision has been a lesson in tenacity and patience for everyone involved. Moving at a snail's pace with economically strapped government agencies in tow are tentative plans for the state's Department of Water Resources to put in a science center and more recent plans with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to locate a Delta smelt fish hatchery on the property.

'This is such a great project and it's certainly a win no matter what your political view is on things,' Coglianese said. 'That's why it's so alive.'

The federal agency has visited twice to view the possible fish hatchery location. Coglianese said the location was determined to be a good place for a refuge Delta smelt population and possibly some breeding but, Vick said, the agency needs time to find money for the project.

That could be a problem. Coglianese said the economy is probably the redevelopment project's biggest obstacle.

'It's pretty hard to get money for anything right now,' she said.

Financing the science center could be easier, Coglianese said, because the center's function is already in effect. The science center, which has been in the works for about six years, would give the DWR and other agencies an efficient location in which to do research and monitor the Delta's ecosystems. Currently work outposts and marine vessels are scattered throughout the Delta.

'They're in multiple facilities . . . all over the place, all over the periphery of the Delta . . . so this is an ideal location,' Coglianese said.

The project would eventually save money but the outlay would be costly, said Jerry Johns, deputy director of the DWR.

'In the long run it would be a better use of resources and save money,' he said, adding the project would probably be built using revenue bonds.

'Our contractors have a much better bonding rate that the state of California.'

For this science center, the city is operating under a signed memorandum of understanding with the state, which is due to expire soon. Vick said there should be no problem renewing the MOU but the city is anxious to move on to a more secure and permanent contract.

'The next step is to really get them to find the money to start working on the location, lease, design of the building,' she said.

The state is still interested in the project but it takes time to move the process through all the steps, Johns said. The state is still a couple years away from starting any type of construction, he added.

'We've got to go through our state approval process, which is cumbersome at best,' he said.

To 'help' the state and federal agencies along, the city appointed a seven-member steering committee last month that includes, among others, the former mayors, all of whom have been involved with the base project.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.