FAIRFIELD — California’s Delta plans could lead to east Solano County farmland being converted to wildlife preserves, make Delta farm irrigation water saltier during droughts and hurt the county’s farm income, according to county officials.
The county is formulating a response to the state’s 30,000-plus-page Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The Solano County Board of Supervisors heard an initial report Tuesday and will hear more reports in coming months, prior to voting June 10 on a comment letter to the state.
At this point, the county has numerous concerns. Among them is that the state proposals to mitigate the plan’s effects on Solano County in some cases include the term “if feasible.”
Solano County can study the plan to death and make its comments, Supervisor Skip Thomson said. The bottom line is, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is bad news not only for Solano County, but the Delta, he said. No one on the board contradicted him.
“I believe the (Brown) administration – they think they are doing the right thing for the state of California,” Thomson said. “But I think they are doing the wrong thing for the state of California – and the Delta itself.”
To begin Tuesday’s presentation, supervisors got a primer on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta provides water to 25 million Californians and Central Valley farms through the federal and state water projects. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, small towns and marinas.
Massive pumps near Tracy take water from the Delta for export to the south. But the pumps can also kill rare fish such as the Delta smelt and pumping has periodically been curtailed by the courts, leading to Central Valley farmland being fallowed.
The state’s proposed solution is to build 35-mile-long twin tunnels to take water under the Delta. The state also proposes to preserve and restore 150,000 acres of habitat, with much of this habitat likely to be located in eastern Solano County’s Cache Slough area and in the county’s Suisun Marsh.
If all works as the state envisions, water exports to the south will be reliable and rare fish such as the Delta smelt and Chinook salmon will rebound.
But county officials said rare fish might not see their populations increase, despite the habitat restoration efforts. They expressed concern that the state will wait to deal with local water quality impacts until after the twin tunnels are in place and operating.
“You’re replumbing the Delta and you change course 10 years down the road – it’s not going to happen,” Thomson said.
County officials talked about the state’s proposals to turn a yet-to-be-determined amount of eastern county farmland into tidal wetlands. County Resource Management Director Bill Emlen said that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is vague about financial compensation to the county.
County Agricultural Commissioner Jim Allan said farmers upstream from farms converted into tidal wetland could be affected by having rare fish and creatures in their drainage area. Converted tidal wetlands could introduce more invasive species to farming areas, he said. Black birds attracted to the new habitat could eat sunflower seeds grown on Delta farms, he said.
“There’s going to be a lot of secondary effects to adjoining agriculture and upstream agriculture and the agriculture economy of the region,” Allan said.
Supervisor Jim Spering wanted details, such as how many millions of dollars are at stake for county agriculture.
“I think at some point we have to translate this into something people can understand,” Spering said.
County officials intend to present more details at future meeting. But they said the Bay Delta Conservation Plan itself is vague in some places.
Supervisor Erin Hannigan said the state’s plans are really about taking water from an already stressed Delta ecosystem.
“It still strikes me as kind of a shell game that it’s called the ‘Bay Delta Conservation Plan,’ ” Hannigan said. “It seems to me that ‘conservation’ is the last thing it is.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.