For decades, meetings of state boards, commissions, committees and task forces have generated warehouses filled with studies, reports, analyses, attachments and addendums all focusing on the Delta, its problems and how to fix them.
In the meantime, the problems have grown steadily worse. Controversial, rejected proposals such as the peripheral canal have been resurrected as possible solutions.
Now the people who live in and around the Delta are starting to talk back and are generating some Delta documents of their own. At Thursday night's Mayor's Conference in Antioch, the cities in Contra Costa County were scheduled to sign onto the county's recently adopted Delta Water Platform.
The plan outlines the position of the county on such Delta issues as the potential negative impacts on local water users if a peripheral canal is built that takes high quality water from the north Delta and channels it along the edge of the Delta before shipping it to central and southern California.
The results of last night's conference meeting were too late for press time, but Oakley Mayor Bruce Connelley said at the Aug. 12 City Council meeting that he was impressed with the county's water plan and would support it at the conference.
I'm rather impressed that the county came up with something like this. It really hit the nail on the head, said Connelley. The Contra Costa County supervisors have joined with the five Delta counties to come up with a resolution they can sign off on about their concerns with the planning for the Delta. I will be recommending that we go forward with this and give the county our support on this document.
The following are excerpts from the county plan.
The health of the Delta has not been a priority, given the state's thirst for water. It is becoming increasingly apparent that an ailing Delta is detrimental to our health, safety and welfare. All indicators of a healthy Delta show significant decline. It is imperative to act quickly to improve the health of the Delta before irreparable harm is done.
Make short-term improvements such as repairing and upgrading levees; improving the water quality at Franks Tract; installing more fish screens at the pumps; habitat improvement and emergency response planning.
Keep conveyance of water to southern California flowing through the Delta channels rather than in an isolated peripheral canal around the Delta. This follows a common Delta pool ethos in which everyone who receives Delta water shares the responsibility to maintain, restore and protect this fragile ecosystem.
Opposition to the peripheral canal could be renewed unless several issues are addressed. These include maintaining water quality and supply for existing users, ensuring an adequate outflow of water to the Bay to reduce salinity and improving the Delta ecosystem before building the canal.
There are proposals to create a saline (tidal) ecological environment in the western Delta or with variable water quality (brackish/saltwater with fresh flow pulses) in place of the current freshwater regime.
Some studies are illustrating a conflict between a higher water-quality standard needed for human consumption and the optimal water quality for ecosystem health, with its myriad micro-organisms. This could create a conflict for western Delta water users.
Support multi-purpose water storage options that incorporate water supply, flood control, surface water and groundwater storage and ecosystem components.
Protect and restore the Delta ecosystem through research; restore native fish populations; restore the salmon fishery in the Bay-Delta ecosystem; pursue habitat improvement projects such as the Dutch Slough and Suisun Marsh restorations; and monitor the levels of toxic methyl mercury in the water.
Support and encourage water conservation in landscaping; reclaim wastewater for irrigation; institute mandatory water metering throughout the state; and eliminate high-water-use crops such as cotton, alfalfa and rice.
Advocate for local government representation in any new governance structure contemplated for the Delta.