Solano County

Solano leaders feel left out of Delta decision-making

By From page A3 | July 23, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Solano County officials say they’re on the outside looking in when it comes to California’s big plans to reshape the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta with twin tunnels to carry water exports and large-scale habitat restoration.

The recently released draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan Implementation Agreement hasn’t changed this view. The state Department of Water Resources, state and federal wildlife agencies and state and federal water contractors are to sign the agreement and decide how to make the Delta proposals a reality.

Solano County won’t get the chance to sign and help govern the Delta plan, though. A report to the Solano County Board of Supervisors says Delta counties and local agencies affected by the state’s Delta plans remain “relegated to a role well outside any decision-making bodies.”

Solano County supervisors heard an update on Delta issues Tuesday. Supervisor Skip Thomson, whose 5th District includes 86,000 acres of eastern county lands within the Delta, said the authority for Delta decisions is proposed to go to nonelected officials instead of elected officials.

“The same issue of governance we’ve been talking about for the last one-and-a-half years I’ve been on the board,” Thomson said before the session.

Delta county officials have met with state Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird over the past eight months to talk about the issue, he said.

“At this point, there’s nothing substantive that’s been proposed,” he said.

Solano County would have a representative on the 36-person Stakeholder Council. The council could advise and comment on Delta plans, but to an official involved with the plans, rather than to the decision-making bodies, a county report said.

The 738,000-acre Delta is a source of water to 25 million Californians and to farms, including cities and farms in Solano County. The state and federal governments pump water out of the south Delta near Tracy and ship it in concrete-lined canals to Southern Californian cities and Central Valley farms.

But water deliveries to the south have been disrupted by the presence of the tiny Delta smelt, which is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. Court decisions requiring pumping restrictions to protect the smelt have caused water shortages to Central Valley farms. Meanwhile, populations of the Delta smelt and other rare fish have fallen steeply.

The state and federal governments have released the Bay Delta Conservation Plan as the proposed solution. Twin tunnels are to take water targeted for southern exports from the Sacramento River near Sacramento under the Delta for 35 miles. About 145,000 acres of Delta habitat is to be protected or restored, with an emphasis on tidal wetlands.

Solano County officials have a long list of concerns over the Delta plans: Much of the habitat restoration seems targeted for county farmlands, water quality could change to the detriment of eastern county farmers who irrigate with Delta water and local cities such as Fairfield and Vacaville that use it and the Suisun Marsh could get saltier.

The county is crafting a comment letter for the 30,000-page Bay Delta Conservation Plan environmental document. County Resource Management Department Director Bill Emlen said the letter will be completed by week’s end or early next week. The deadline to submit comments is July 29.

Supervisors on Tuesday also heard an update on state efforts to replace the $11 billion water bond on the November ballot with a different water bond. The existing bond was crafted by the state Legislature for the November 2010 ballot and then was postponed to the November 2014 ballot amid the recession.

Two of eight water bond proposals are still active: $7.5 billion Senate Bill 848 sponsored by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and $10.25 billion Assembly Bill 2686 sponsored by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno. Gov. Jerry Brown has said he wants a $6 billion bond.

Solano County officials have talked of having a bond that allows the county to compete for money to relocate NorthBay Aqueduct pumps out of the Delta to the Sacramento River. They want to make sure bond money doesn’t go to support the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

A new factor in crafting the bond is the worsening drought that recently prompted the state to put fines in place for people who overwater their lawns. Meanwhile, different parts of the state have different interests concerning a water bond.

“Everybody wants something and nobody wants to give up anything,” Supervisor John Vasquez said.

Further changes are likely to the proposed water bond when the Legislature reconvenes in early August, with time growing short to act in time to place a bond on the November ballot. Solano County Administrator Birgitta Corsello said the state could make the decision in late August as an addendum to the ballot.

Replacing or removing the existing $11 billion water bond on the November ballot will take a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, Corsello said. Postponing the bond would take a majority vote, she said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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