The California Bay Delta is the focus of much state and federal government attention. The primary zone of the Delta is about a half million acres with fewer than 12,000 people residing there; however, since the construction of the Central Valley Project in the 1930s and the State Water Project in the 1960s, it has become the pump house for California’s water supply. And nothing in California is more political than water.
This page attempts to explain the alphabet soup that touches various aspects of the Bay Delta. I wanted to link to an agency or non-profit’s page that would explain it for you, but until I find such a resource (available for free), this will have to do.
The Bay Delta was once a much larger, swampier place when the first pioneers arrived in California. The Gold Rush in 1848 increased the interest in navigable rivers and the growth of Sacramento created a need for better flood protection. Over time the Bay Delta transformed into more of a man-made landscape and the natural habitat for native species was almost entirely eliminated.
We now know that we need the natural systems to help replenish the water supply, maintain water quality and provide other benefits. Today we seek a more balanced approach where agriculture, recreation, and natural habitat can exist in an integrated landscape.
And for better or for worse, the state’s economy and population is dependent on the Bay Delta to continue to be a collection point and transportation for a large portion of California’s water.
In 2009 the State Legislature brokered a huge legislative package known as the Delta Reform Plan. It created the Delta Stewardship Council (www.deltacouncil.ca.gov) to create the Delta Plan. The Delta Plan will incorporate the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (see below). It also is to be informed by the Delta Protection Commission’s (www.delta.ca.gov) Economic Sustainability Plan. If you are not already confused, hang on. The Delta Stewardship Council is also the “court of appeals” for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. And the Delta Protection Commission has land use planning authority for the “primary zone.”
The Legislature went further. They also created the Delta Conservancy (www.deltaconservancy.ca.gov) to implement habitat conservation and promote the economic well-being of the Delta, the Yolo Bypass and the Suisun Marsh.
The California Bay Delta Conservation Plan (www.baydeltaconservationplan.com) has supplanted the Cal-Fed Bay Delta Program. This is the operations, mitigation and restoration plan for the State Water Project (Department of Water Resources) and the Central Valley Project (Bureau of Reclamation) so they can receive permits from the agencies that regulate endangered species to build and operate water facilities for the next 50 years.
And we haven’t even talked about flood protection yet.
We live in a complex society with many competing interests, so we cannot expect a simple structure to manage a complex system. At the same time, how does the average citizen get their arms around it? The same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. Occasionally I will post about one of the agencies or organizations in the Bay Delta and hopefully this will help inform people living and visiting the Delta. Or drinking the water.
If your curiosity is piqued, you may also enjoy the water-related publications at the Public Policy Institute (http://www.ppic.org/main/policyarea.asp?i=15).
A great blog on Delta water issues and news: http://blog.sfgate.com/tphilp/