A messy aftermath: Residents concerned about debris, erosion on Mokelumne River

Sep. 15—Residents of a senior community in east Lodi want to know which agency is responsible for removing downed trees from the Mokelumne River.

Joyce and Mike Tracy said the heavy storms that hit Lodi at the beginning of the year caused three trees to fall into the river in March, blocking water flow downstream.

As a result, water levels have risen to the top of the riverbank, causing damage to properties in the Casa de Lodi community at 29 Rio Vista Drive.

"Debris is coming from upriver and stopping there because it has nowhere to go," Joyce Tracy said. "It's really starting to smell. I've seen a surfboard, a tire, a bumper with a license plate. It's just getting ridiculous."

Joyce Tracy said she has called more than a dozen agencies to come remove the debris and the trees, but to no avail. She said each one told her and her neighbors to contact other agencies, who in turn, told them to contact other agencies.

Fire departments, the Department of Water Resources, and San Joaquin County Public Works have all observed the pile-up, she said, and all agreed it was unsafe. They just could not determine who is responsible, she said.

"We've seen guys in kayaks or on jet skis flip over because they try to go sideways through the trees," Mike Tracy said. "Not only is (the pile) unhealthy, it's dangerous if boats come down the river."

Joyce Tracy said that particular stretch of the river is very popular among boaters, as a kayaking club with some 30 members come through on a regular basis.

Fishermen also travel up river, she said, and she has even seen houseboats.

"We take the canoe out or a couple of kayaks too," she said. "We moved here for the river."

Jacque Doane has suffered the brunt of the damage from the fallen trees, as one fell on the ramp behind her home and completely destroyed the structure.

Her homeowners insurance wouldn't cover the damage, citing an act of God, so she's had to pay $4,000 out of pocket to have the ramp repaired.

It will be completed today, but she still cannot enjoy her backyard.

"The tree sat in my yard before (Case de Lodi management) came and cut a piece off," Doane said. "They left a big chunk in my yard, and the trunk."

Doane said the first tree, which only fell in the water, took a huge chunk of riverbank with it. However, that changed the flow in the river, she said, causing erosion near two other trees, one of which landed on her ramp. The other almost landed on her house, she said.

"It's unbelievable," she said. "It gets worse very day. As soon as it starts raining again, it's going to wash away more of the bank and cause more trees to fall. Someone needs to do something."

San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services director Tiffany Cacho said staff has been aware of the trees and debris for about a week.

She said Thursday afternoon that the county will be coordinating with the Central Valley Flood Protection Board to clear the area. There is no timeline as to when crews will be out on the river, she said.

"We are committed to resolving it," she said. "Regardless of who's responsible, we're going to resolve it in some way."