Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Full Reservoirs Bring RSR Bridge Reprieve

Just a few months ago, we learned of plans to construct a water pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Intended to address Marin County’s substantial drought, the pipeline would have been developed with unprecedented speed, with groundbreaking planned for spring of 2022 and water flowing by July. Because of the speed required to complete the project on time, Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) planned to bury the pipeline underneath the San Francisco Bay Trail on its approach to the Richmond side of the bridge. Such an effort would have necessitated a three month closure of the path, during which time active transportation users would have needed to make use of a shuttle.

However, due to the substantial amount of rain that Marin has recently experienced, the matter is no longer so pressing. The County’s reservoirs are at 93% of capacity, well above their average at this time of year. Normally, a project of the scale of the proposed pipeline would require an environmental impact report (EIR) as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Up to this point, the District planned to use an emergency exemption to the requirement for an EIR, which would permit the abbreviated timeline. 

Because that emergency no longer exists, a full EIR will need to be completed, which will evaluate the full suite of environmental impacts such a project will bring about. These documents are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of pages long and take a long time to complete. While it’s not possible to say how much time this will add to the project, it’s safe to assume it will be at least 6 to 12 months before an EIR is completed and the project would go to construction.

What does this mean for the multi-use path and the pipeline? MCBC has never taken any stance against the pipeline itself – we have merely advocated for bike/pedestrian access to be preserved as much as possible. With the greater analysis required by the full EIR, we are hopeful that MMWD can find an alignment for the pipeline that does not entail a multi-month closure of the pathway. 

We will keep our members and supporters informed of future updates on the pipeline, and any opportunities to advocate for preserving access for people outside of cars.

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