WaterFix: Impacts on the historic town of Locke

According to the Locke Foundation, in 1990, when the town of Locke was designated a National Historic Landmark, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior stated:

Founded in 1915, Locke is the largest and most intact surviving example of an historic rural Chinese-American community in the United States, including more than 50 commercial and residential buildings and covering approximately 14 acres along the east bank of the Sacramento River, south of the city of Sacramento. Locke is the only such community remaining in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which was a particularly important area of rural Chinese settlement.

1 Locke in 1920 Source: Locke Foundation

Locke historian James Motlow is the author of Bitter Melon, a compilation of historical photographs and oral histories of Locke. Motlow testified in the WaterFix Water Right Change Petition Hearing:

In 1882 the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the only law in American history that specifically forbade the immigration of people based exclusively on race. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was one of the few western sites where Chinese escaped violence, though not the impact of this law. Many came to the town of Locke. Locke was established in 1915 on land rented from the estate of Sacramento furniture dealer George Locke. Almost one hundred years later, after fighting for it for decades, the residents of Locke were finally able to own the land beneath their homes. Today, Locke is a place where the past is actively remembered. It is a kind of living museum, where thousands come every year to experience a vital history that is as relevant today as it was a century ago. Groups from a variety of historical and cultural organizations sponsor tours of Locke almost every week of the year.

2 Locke Main Street Source: National Park Service

Motlow testified that routing 24 hour a day construction traffic for the WaterFix on Highway 160 would make it impossible for people to enjoy cultural tours of Locke and would ultimately destroy the town by closing down the local businesses.

3Locke Memorial Garden Source: North Delta Cares

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act required analysis of WaterFix construction impacts on Locke and Walnut Grove. As explained in the WaterFix Final EIR/EIS, the NHPA requires that the lead agencies:

  • Identify an area of potential effects, and within these limits, identify historic properties.
  • Assess adverse effects.
  • Resolve adverse effects (typically through treatment, avoidance, preservation, or other mechanisms identified by the lead agency in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer and interested parties).

But as documented in 2015 comments by the County of Sacramento on the WaterFix Partially Recirculated Draft EIR/EIS, DWR did not follow the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act. The comments stated:

The RDEIR/SDEIS lacks an analysis of the effects of Federal undertakings on historic properties. The Project has not been evaluated at the programmatic level or at the project level. The RDEIR/SDEIS is deficient because analysis of cultural resource impacts has been deferred; instead, analysis is proposed as a mitigation measure. It is impossible to understand the impacts of the preferred project or select an environmentally superior alternative because the necessary evidence, analysis and determinations for all project alternatives have been impermissibly deferred.


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