Delta plan’s one glaring omission: the Delta

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Delta plan’s one glaring omission: the Delta

By Michael Fitzgerald

January 27, 2013

Record Columnist

“Gov. Jerry Brown snubbed the Delta region in his annual State of the State address this week. Sometimes it seems Brown has it in for us.

“The governor’s record can be read as the actions of a man who feels toward our region something between indifference and outright hostility.

“Here’s a telling speech excerpt.

‘Central to the life of our state is water and one-sixth of that water flows through the San Joaquin Delta.

‘Silicon Valley, the Livermore Valley, farmers on the East side of the San Joaquin Valley between Fresno and Kern County and farmers on the West side between Tracy and Los Banos, urban Southern California and Northern Contra Costa, all are critically dependent on the Delta for Water.’

“So Brown said he’s going to protect that water supply with the peripheral tunnels.

“State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, nailed the glaring omission.

“Thursday, Wolk said, ‘he mentioned everyone in the state who relies upon water passing through the Delta, except for the Delta itself and the people of the greater Delta region.’

“Brown’s rejection could be dismissed as a rhetorical slip. His record raised doubts.

“In 1975, during his first term as governor, Brown halted completion of Interstate 5.

“The nearly finished freeway stretched from Mexico to Canada. Brown saw to it a 24-mile gap remained, 90 percent of which was in San Joaquin County.

“He halted construction of the Crosstown Freeway, too.

“To be fair, Brown halted road projects elsewhere, as a way of cudgeling legislators to fund mass transit.

“When he served as state attorney general, Brown monkey wrenched Stockton’s General Plan 2035. Again, to be fair, Brown’s intervention caused Stockton to rein in sprawl. That ultimately may benefit Stockton.

“But I doubt Stockton’s benefit was uppermost on Brown’s mind. More likely he flexed his muscle to advance progressive environmental law.

“Certainly his record shows he’s willing to harshly subordinate the city’s interests.

“As Governor 2.0, Brown has championed a variation of the peripheral canal, piping out Delta water through two tunnels 30 miles long and 40 feet wide.

“The political process by which this plan was arrived at was appalling in the way Delta representatives were shoved out of the room.

“Said Congressman Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, ‘He has shown time and again that he does not take San Joaquin County residents into consideration. …’

“The resulting plan is to revive an ailing estuary by sucking more water out of it. With a consequent economic hit to this region.

“Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, called it, ‘A plan that doesn’t recognize and protect the needs of the people who actually live and work in the Delta, that threatens its environmental health and the survival of its native species. …’

“Brown rarely visits Stockton, though it is California’s 13th largest city. He occasionally attends private fundraisers hosted by a prominent business family.

“A charitable interpretation is that Brown cannot be everywhere in a 770-mile-long state of 38 million people.

“A political appraisal is that San Joaquin is far from California’s major population centers and Democratic donors.

“But neither California’s size nor its political makeup stopped Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from visiting the Valley scores of times. And he was a Republican.

“Schwarzenegger also created the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, a public-private agency devoted to boosting the Valley. What has Brown done?

“Of course, Schwarzenegger also signed the original water legislation behind the canal.

“A call to the Governor’s Office was returned by Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency.

‘The state has spent $700 million strengthening levees since Brown 1.0, and an additional $300 million is in the pipeline, Stapler said. Proof of a regional commitment.

‘The peripheral tunnel plan also calls for 100 square miles of habitat restoration, Stapler said.

‘If you talk about the Delta as a special place – which it is – if you’re able to bring back some of the natural character, … your ability to make it a place people will want to visit and cherish more is greatly enhanced,’ Stapler argued.

“Still. Our region defeated Brown’s first push for a peripheral canal. There are those who believe Brown still resents that loss.

“This region again stands in the way of his grand plan. And his apparently profound hunger for legacy. Perhaps that’s why he sometimes acts as if this place is just clay, to be fashioned into something great for the benefit of other Californians.”

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