Over many generations, the Delta has been overtapped and bureaucratically manhandled to provide stability to California’s water delivery system. Roughly a decade ago, the state began the difficult process of trying to develop a credible plan for the future.
In 2009, the Delta Stewardship Council was created to achieve the co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply and restoring the Delta’s ecosystem to protect its unique cultural, recreational, natural resource and agricultural assets.
However, the council has neglected most of its mandate. In recent years, it has behaved more like the “Tunnels Stewardship Council,” becoming little more than a shill for the proposed tunnels project that threatens to destroy the Delta as we know it.
For this reason I introduced Assembly Bill 1876 to end the council in 2020 and transfer its duties to the Delta Protection Commission, which has been a responsible steward for a quarter century. The bill is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.
The Delta is the largest estuary on the Pacific coast. Under no scenario could the tunnels be built and operated while protecting the Delta’s ecosystem, $5 billion agricultural economy, $750 million recreational economy and way of life. Iconic fish species that depend on the Delta – salmon, smelt, steelhead and green sturgeon – are already endangered. The tunnels threaten to push them into extinction. How is this responsible stewardship of the Delta?
The Delta Stewardship Council consists of seven members, including four appointed by the governor. Gov. Jerry Brown has stacked the council with members who have tunnel vision and little or no connection to, or regard for, the Delta.
Plus, we already had the Delta Protection Commission and the Delta Conservancy. The Delta Stewardship Council is overkill, and its nearly $27 million budget a pointless drain on the state treasury.
The Delta Protection Commission, with a budget of less than $1.6 million, has a diverse membership: One supervisor from each of the five Delta counties, three regional city council members, three landowners and one representative each from the State Lands Commission, Caltrans, the Natural Resources Agency and the Department of Food and Agriculture. Many of the duties specified for the Stewardship Council are within the scope of the Delta Protection Commission.
AB 1876 would eliminate these redundancies and put the Delta’s future in hands of a commission that is far better equipped to balance regional and statewide interests and make decisions that actually reflect the intentions of state law.
If protecting the Delta is important to you, I urge you to participate in Tuesday’s hearing on AB 1876 and join me in defending the Delta.
Jim Frazier, a Discovery Bay Democrat, represents the 11th Assembly District. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.