Friday, April 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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County prepares responses to state Delta water plan

Delta Waters Flyover with Joel Carey

An aerial photo of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. (Daily Republic file 2012)

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From page A1 | January 29, 2014 | Leave Comment

FAIRFIELD — Solano County is reviewing more than 30,000 pages of the state’s elaborate Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta rescue plan and has begun listing such concerns as farmland lost to habitat restoration and diminished water quality.

The county, along with other agencies and the public, has until April 14 to submit comments to the state on the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday discussed the county’s still-evolving responses.

Supervisor Skip Thomson didn’t question the motives of Gov. Jerry Brown and others who support the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, but criticized the results.

“In my humble opinion, their plan is going to destroy the Delta as we know it,” Thomson said.

The Delta is 730,000 acres with rivers, sloughs, islands behind levees, farmlands, marinas and small communities. Eastern Solano County contains 86,000 acres of the Delta, much of it farmland in such places as near Cache Slough and on Ryer Island, which can be reached by ferry.

A major problem is that massive pumps in the south Delta used to put water into aqueducts bound for Central Valley farms and Southern California cities change flows in south Delta sloughs. This can kill fish protected by the Endangered Species Act, such as the Delta smelt. Court decisions to protect the smelt have limited water shipments from the Delta, causing Central Valley farmland to go fallow.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan focuses on trying to save 56 species of rare creatures and plants while also keeping Delta water flowing to farms and cities. A key proposal is to build twin tunnels from the Sacramento River north of the Delta to take water for more than 30 miles under the Delta to the aqueducts. Another is to restore, create and protect up to 146,000 acres of habitat.

Many fish species can be found in Solano County’s Cache Slough and Yolo Bypass areas, said Roberta Goulart, a consultant to the county on Delta issues.

“This is indeed a very hot area for preservation of species,” Goulart said.

Solano County has preserved its farmland in the eastern county, Thomson said. Compared to areas in other counties that have subdivisions, the eastern Solano County farmland is “easy pickings” for the state to take for habitat, he said.

County officials have been working with the state to find out how much habitat might be created in the eastern county, Goulart said. No answer is yet available.

In addition, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan addresses Suisun Marsh. The marsh is 115,000 acres of wetlands, sloughs and uplands south of Suisun City. Much of the land is owned by private duck clubs and by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Much of the marsh is managed wetlands behind levees. Duck clubs and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife flood and drain the land at certain times of the year to grow plants favored by waterfowl.

The state could breach levees to create tidal wetlands to benefit rare fish. But Suisun Resource Conservation District Executive Director Steven Chappell voiced a concern to the Board of Supervisors.

This done on a large scale would create a bigger tidal area. Unless fresh water flows through the Delta to fill this area, salt water from the ocean will fill it, Chappell said.

Suisun Marsh has brackish water. Having enough fresh water in this brackish mixture has long been a concern of the district, which represents marsh property owners.

Another county concern is how much fresh water will enter the Delta, given that the twin tunnels pumps would be located north of the Delta. Less fresh water entering the Delta means less fresh water flowing out the southwestern end in Solano County. Chappell said it’s difficult to tell what would happen under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, because one factor is how the water conveyance system gets operated.

Supervisor John Vasquez noted that state and federal reservoirs north of the Delta release water at certain times under state water quality laws to maintain an X2 zone. This is the zone where fresh and salt water mix.

But that may be no guarantee that fresh water under a twin tunnels regime would continue to flow as far southwest as it does now and at the same times. Goulart said the regulations could change.

County officials have heard reports that the comment time for the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan could be extended by 60 days.

County Resource Management Director Bill Emlen said his department will continue to give the Board of Supervisors updates on the Delta. Eventually, the board will be asked to approve the county’s written responses to the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. 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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