Securing the economic health of the Delta is a goal of the Delta Protection Commission’s Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), a document required by the Delta Reform Act of 2009.
At the Delta Stewardship Council’s September meeting, Mike Machado, executive director of the Commission, discussed the ESP, which is meant to inform and guide the Council’s policies for the economic sustainability of the Delta within the overarching Delta Plan.
While there is plenty of common ground between the Commission and the Council, Machado shared the Commission’s feelings about the complex issues before them.
“How do you fix the Delta without destroying it?” he asked.
Machado then offered a variety of recommendations regarding agriculture, recreation, tourism and infrastructure services including:
• improving the levees;
• maintaining or enhancing the value of Delta agriculture;
• initiating a process to streamline local, state and federal regulations;
• limiting regulation of covered actions;
• creating an agency to build awareness about the region and;
• establishing a Delta Fund to implement recreation and tourism strategies
He noted that the Commission does not recommend building any type of conveyance through the Delta. Nor does it want to see tidal marsh in the South Deltabecause that could eliminate a large amount of agricultural land, which is considered the most important enterprise in the Delta.
Machado said 50 percent of jobs in the Delta region are directly connected to farm employment and the multipliers for the industry are considered enormous. For instance, milk is worth $2 billion to the Delta annually, but the dairy products milk yields are worth $12 billion. There are also fears that the businesses that support agriculture will disappear and that mitigating compensation for lands and businesses will be lost.
“We all know what the impact of agriculture is and what it takes to keep it going,” Machado said.
The Commission is also concerned that too much land will be dedicated to ecosystem restoration, which it feels will hamper agricultural development in the region.
Council Member Randy Fiorini said dedicating land for restoration is inevitable to meet the requirements of the Delta Reform Act. He felt the Commission’s proposal needed to account for that point more effectively.
“The reality is [restoration] will happen. But there needs to be a formula to show [the number of acres] that can be transformed and then develop an economic impact proposal from that.”
Council Member Pat Johnston raised the idea that the two different groups may be approaching the situation in two different ways, adding that the Council has one charge and the Commission seems to have another.
“What parts of the report are consistent with the Delta Plan?” he asked. “The prism that the Commission views the coequal goals [of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration] is a potential impediment to economic activity. It seems that you’re looking at this with only one value, economic value.”
“The report is not deficient in how we look at coequal goals,” Machado responded. “We need to work through acceptance of the recommendations in the Delta Plan. Our concerns are from a local government perspective.”
As Chair of the Commission, Council member Don Nottoli noted that “It’s an economic plan…but it also focuses on a way of life,” he said. “People may say, ‘you met the coequal goals and the Delta evolved, but what did it evolve to?’”
The Delta Protection Commission released the latest version of its Economic Sustainability Plan on Oct. 10, 2011.
The Delta Protection Commission does not want tidal marsh in the South Delta, fearing it would eliminate a large amount of agricultural land. The Commission expressed its views during a recent Council meeting where Commission members also explained the recent version of the Economic Sustainability Plan.
To view a draft of the ESP, please click here.