California's two U.S. senators introduced a bill in Congress on Monday to designate the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a "National Heritage Area."
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced the bill, which creates formal recognition for a "nationally important landscape" that has unique "natural, cultural, and historic resources."
All that is true of the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, a water supply crucial to the nation, and a place rich in history that contributed to the birth and success of the state.
"The national heritage area designation provides the recognition and resources that local governments need to ensure a sustainable future for the Delta," Feinstein said in a statement.
The senators introduced similar legislation in 2011, as did Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who represents the Delta in the House. The designation is also supported in the Delta Reform Act of 2009, a state law that sought to improve management of the region.
These earlier efforts were misunderstood by some critics as an attempt by the federal government to take over land in the Delta or impose new regulations. That is not the case.
Though the National Park Service oversees the heritage area program, the designation does not create a new national park or impose any new rules. The agency serves in an advisory role, and provides only technical and planning assistance and limited financial aid to local governments that wish to promote unique natural and cultural assets.
Among other things, heritage area status helps promote activities such as walking and biking opportunities, local historical fairs, restoration and preservation efforts, and educational tours.
If the bill is approved, the Delta would become California's first national heritage area. Other areas with the designation include the Mississippi Delta, Niagara Falls and the Hudson River Valley.
For more information on the program, visit: www.nps.gov/heritageareas/.