The City Council Tuesday night pledged support for efforts by Councilman Bruce Connelley and resident Roger Mammon to fight the proposal to build a canal along the edge of the Delta. The canal would take fresh water from the Sacramento River in the north Delta and ship it south to Central Valley farms and Southern California residents, bypassing the rest of the Delta.
“If they build a peripheral canal and start exporting water around the Delta, our west Delta is going to be a stagnant, salt-water pool,” said Mammon. “It’s going to be contaminated with agricultural runoff … for you and I to consume.
“What will happen to the property values out there? Who’s going to want to buy a home by a cesspool? There’s families here and recreation interests here – and the people who want the water (in southern California) just don’t care.
“The city of Oakley needs to get more involved because we are a Delta city and have the largest tidal estuary on the west coast of North and South America right out our front door – and they are going to kill it if we let them. Oakley needs to get more involved because it’s the right thing to do.”
The canal, which was rejected by California voters in 1982, is making a comeback due to widespread agreement that the current system isn’t working. The Delta ecosystem has been in decline and many fish, particularly endangered species, are dwindling. Some Delta levees are expected to fail in the coming decades, especially if there is a significant earthquake in the area, which could contaminate the Delta.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan has been proposed to help protect endangered fish while still guaranteeing a reliable water supply for about 25 million Californians. Several options are currently under environmental study, with the strong possibility that a peripheral canal would be built to convey water either by itself or in a dual conveyance with an upgraded pumping system.
Connelley is suspicious that top state officials, whom he characterized as beholden to central and southern California water interests, don’t have East County’s interests at heart when it comes to modifying the Delta.
“It’s obvious that there’s no public trust in our higher levels of government,” he said. “The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a Trojan horse. It’s really about building a peripheral canal. Time is running short (to stop it). This will be accelerated, because Arnie (Schwarzenegger) wants it done before he leaves office.”
Mayor Carol Rios said the council should send letters to state legislators “to let them all know how we as a city are extremely concerned about what’s going on and ask them how we can be helpful. We can let them know the amount of voters in this area that will be extremely concerned and watching what they are doing. We can start being partners and making sure that they understand that they a have a partner with us.”
Councilman Jim Frazier told Connelley, “I would like to thank you for your passion about water. I’m on board. I feel your pain. You’ve got my support. I’ll sign it in blood if you want.”
Connelley suggested doing more outreach to residents by advertising Delta meetings on the city’s electronic marquee and writing letters to the editor providing updates on Delta issues. Councilwoman Pat Anderson asked that he sign his letters as an Oakley resident, not as a councilman, otherwise she wants to see the letters before they are sent.
Rios agreed to get the other 19 cities in the county to join in the lobbying effort. But council members balked at Connelley’s suggestion to also join with like-minded nongovernmental groups such as the California Sport Fishing Alliance and Restore the Delta.
City Manager Bryan Montgomery said that Oakley could send a letter supporting the concerns being put together by Antioch officials about the environmental impacts of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. For more information on that plan, go online to www.resources.ca.gov/bdcp.