The Delta, My Home
The Delta is my home. For 32 years Patti and I have had the privilege of living and farming in the Delta. This is where we raised our children and where we enjoy the incredible beauty and diversity of nature. This is where we gossip with farmers over a cup of coffee at the local café.
We have fought floods in 1986 and droughts in between. When we moved to Walnut Grove 32 years ago the river was full of fishing boats alternating between the salmon runs and the stripped bass runs. It was once a rich aquatic habitat. It still is the largest and most important estuary on the West Coast of the Western Hemisphere; today it is a very sick estuary.
As a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Subcommittee on Water and Power, I'm glad that I'm in a position to defend our community from interests that seek to destroy.
The Delta’s (Preventable) Decline
I have watched the decline over the years. The fishing boats are mostly gone. The great thirst of a growing state population, industry and agricultural enterprises have drained the life out of our Delta. The ecosystem is collapsing and the reverberations will be felt along the entire Pacific coast as the marine environment declines. The fishing industry is in full retreat with economic losses of over $200 million last year. The problem has grown to even threaten those who pump the water from the Delta.
As our climate changes even greater stress will be placed on the Delta as competition for the water intensifies. It’s time to solve the Delta problem, and to do this we need a full and complete understanding of the science of the Delta ecosystem. We need a full understanding of the alternatives to more pumping from the Delta. Those alternatives include everything from reclamation of water in urban centers, to enhanced water conservation on the farm, industries and in the cities. We need to make sense out of the wild west chaos of the underground aquifers. And we need to protect the Delta Island.
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area
To further preserve and strengthen the culture, communities, and natural habitats of the Delta, I have authored legislation, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area, H.R. 486, which would established the Sacramento-San Joaquin National Heritage Area. The bill would supply $20,000,000 to the California Delta Protection Commission to create a National Heritage Area, with the federal government offering 50 percent cost-share for all improvements. If my legislation becomes law, we can do much to prevent soil erosion, enhance responsible recreation, farming, and fishing, and protect habitats. Private property owners and tribes are explicitly protected in the legislation and capable of opting out of any recommendations, but the type of projects the National Heritage Area would promote are things most landowners in the Delta would gladly have in their backyard.
Fighting Back Against Assaults on the Delta
In the few years I’ve been in Congress, I’ve been shocked at the full-frontal assault against the Delta and up-river communities. One bill authored by a Republican member of Congress in California even seeks to strip local and state control from decision-making, eroding decades of compromise and putting the fate of the Delta in the hands of federal bureaucrats who don’t understand our region. I have relentlessly pushed back against these efforts to destroy the Delta and will continue to do so. The Delta is my home; up-river communities sustain it; and I refuse to stand idly by while Republicans in Congress seek to destroy the largest estuary west of the Mississippi River.
Delta Visioning Process
The Delta Visioning Process’s twin goals of reliable water supply and enhanced Delta environment have great merit, but they can not be achieved in secret, or apart from those who live, recreate and work in the Delta. 500,000 people live in the Delta, creating a vibrant social fabric and a vibrant economy. The legislature and the governor must not repeat the mistake of the recent budget fiascos and make deals in secret. The complex interactions of science, ecological systems, water exports, political constituencies, and the extraordinary expense requires a thorough public vetting of all proposals.
Any discussion of a peripheral canal must follow a solid guarantee that protects the Delta economy and the terrestrial and aquatic environment of the Delta. The battle cry in the 1982 peripheral canal fight was “Policy before Plumbing.” To this date no solid lasting public policy is in place to guarantee both goals of the Delta Visioning Commission. Therefore the canal should not be part of any legislation.
The voice of the Delta must be imbedded in any proposal to establish a system of governance in the Delta. The proposal by the five counties that encompass the Delta has great merit and should be in any water legislation. You will find no Member of Congress more committed to protecting the Delta than me, and it's honor to serve this community.