A Local Community Perspective: Delta Bills, Part II

The Delta contains numerous small and large communities that will be impacted by the bills, if passed.
The Delta contains numerous small and large communities that will be impacted by the bills, if passed.

This is the second in a series of postings on conflicting perspectives about the five Delta-related water bills now under discussion in Sacramento.

I am not providing the opinions I’ll pass on over the next few days to validate them or my own perspective, but provide them to help you understand a few other perspectives. Each of them make some good points and miss the mark on others (in my opinion). I’ll let you decide which is which.

Today’s blog posting is a perspective – not on the bills since the opinion was written before they were introduced – on local community impacts of the recommendations in the Delta Vision Plan that led to the bills.

The author, Mike McGowan, is a local government official in the Delta.  

Still to come: agricultural, environmental interests in support of the bills, Bay Area urban, water exporter, and Southern California perspectives – if I can find them all.

Quoted from the Sacramento Bee VIEWPOINTS

My View: Local perspective needed on Delta future

By Mike McGowan
Special to The Bee
Published: Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 – 12:00 am | Page 15A

Ever hear the phrase, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water?” In the 1500s, the phrase was taken quite literally.

Once a year, a large metal tub was filled for the family bath that started with the men of the house, then served the women and children, and last, the babies, all of whom were bathed in the same water. As one can imagine, the water was so dirty that by the time the babies were bathed, it would have been easy to lose someone in it. Hence the phrase.

Today, it’s a phrase I hear repeated often, associated with state proposals regarding the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Yolo County leaders and the leaders of the four other Delta counties – San Joaquin, Solano, Sacramento and Contra Costa – are concerned that state decision makers are throwing out the baby with the bath water – the good with the bad – as they try to balance the multitude of interests that rely on the future of the Delta.

We recognize there are significant statewide issues to be addressed in the Delta: reliable water for urban and agriculture use; public safety, including flood protection and protection for existing infrastructure; the state’s economy; and the health of this estuary of international significance. The solutions are going to require some give by everyone. But the Delta is more than a plumbing fixture, and you’ve got to listen to the locals and involve us in the solutions if we are truly going to save it.

To date, discussions have focused largely on one issue: an alternative means for conveying water around the Delta popularly known as the peripheral canal. While the participants in the state-led Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Planning processes have come late to this realization, we want the entire state to understand that the Delta is not a blank slate. People live here. People work here. People fish and boat and walk their dogs here. This needs to be front and center in all of our discussions.

This means we have to start addressing the magnitude and scope of the changes state leaders are proposing for the people and the communities in the Delta. The Delta Vision Plan calls for 100,000 acres of enhanced or created habitat in the Delta. In Yolo County, the Westlands Water District, the Metropolitan Water District, and for-profit mitigation bankers are already buying thousands of acres for conversion of agricultural land to habitat. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan suggests changing operations in the Yolo Bypass to flood it every year late into the spring, submerging prime agricultural lands and causing economic hardship. The plan proposes converting high-value existing habitat for endangered species. Existing plans to protect habitat in Delta counties are threatened.

Just in my supervisorial district, the Clarksburg wine industry grows 11,000 acres of high-quality wine grapes with an annual economic impact of over 7,000 California jobs, $233 million in wages, $380 million in retail value, and $122 million in federal and state taxes. The agricultural economy in the Delta is worth over $500 million, and there are communities in the Delta, like Clarksburg, Walnut Grove, Isleton and many others that rely on farming to sustain their economies. These are at risk, and no attention is being paid to what will happen to them if the state’s proposed changes are implemented.

We hope that it will indeed be possible to address all of the issues and come up with solutions that minimize adverse effects and maximize benefits, but we won’t get there by ignoring reality. Attempts to address Delta issues will be unsuccessful without local involvement and ultimately without relying on those at the local level to help make it happen. The Delta is not a blank slate, a blank spot on the map. People live here. Think about that.

Mike McGowan is the chairman of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and represents District 1, which includes West Sacramento and Clarksburg.

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