Launch 19 confusion

By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun

Photo by Ashley Loza / Kern Valley Sun
These signs, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Dam Modification SITREP, have caused confusion about which roads are closed and whether Boat Launch 19 is being closed for good.

There has been some confusion about the future of Launch 19 at Main Dam; specifically how and where to access the popular boat launch, and if it will even reopen once the Isabella Dam Safety Modification project is completed.

Fishermen and boating enthusiasts are confused and worried about the wording on a sign that has been posted at the entrance of Launch 19’s parking lot. The sign boldly states that Launch 19 will be permanently closed at the end of this month, on May 29.

But, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the sign is poorly worded and the closure is only temporary during the construction of the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project.
Although the completion of the DSMP is several years down the road, it is – and always has been – the intent of the Corps to reopen Launch 19 once the massive project has been completed. Despite how the sign currently reads, Richard Brown, Public Affairs Specialist with the Corps, has confirmed that Launch 19 will be reopened at the conclusion of the project.

There is also a bit of confusion about access to Launch 19. In their monthly Situation Report for May, the Corps first announced that Ponderosa Drive would be closed by May 5, advising boaters to use Barlow Drive for access to Boat Launch 19.

But when signs were installed, it was just the opposite. Barlow Road is closed, and boat traffic is diverted to Ponderosa Drive for access to Launch 19.

In a statement released by the Corps on Monday, Brown clarified that for now, they have delayed the closure of Ponderosa Drive, at least until after Memorial Day. Barlow Road has been closed beyond Eva Avenue, and there is no access to the boat launch from Barlow Rd.

Until further notice, access to Boat Launch 19 is available only via Ponderosa Drive.

Signs have been placed on Barlow Road indicating the detour to Ponderosa Drive.

Some of the confusion and change as to which road is open for access to Launch 19 could be attributed to the not-yet-completed boat launch ramp at French Gulch Recreation Area.

During public meetings and Environmental document, the Corps has maintained that once the DSMP got underway, Launch 19 would be temporarily closed during the duration of the project. As mitigation for the loss of Launch 19, the Corps proposed construction of a new boat launch ramp at French Gulch Recreation Area. Additionally, to help with the anticipated increase in boat traffic, the project included the widening of Highway 155 at the entrance to French Gulch Recreation area, which included expanded turn lanes.

While the highway modification project is nearing completion, the boat launch ramp has been delayed by rising lake levels and high winds. The new boat launch ramp is expected to be completed sometime in June.

Because the French Gulch boat launch would not be ready for use by Memorial Day – the first major holiday of the summer season – the Corps announced that Launch 19 would remain open through the Memorial Day weekend, but would close shortly after the holiday weekend on May 29.

After May 29, boaters will have to use alternate launch sites until the completion of the new boat ramp at French Gulch Recreation area expected to be sometime next month.

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