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Delta council is the big threat to Lathrop’s future

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POSTED August 21, 2012 11:22 p.m.

The biggest threat to the future economic viability of Lathrop isn’t the remnants of the foreclosure meltdown. Nor is it a future recession that could eclipse the dive we just took.

Instead it is bureaucracy on steroids in the form of the Delta Stewardship Council.

Even though they are doing a sheep act to convince critics they won’t morph into the Big Bad Bureaucratic Wolf like their kissing cousins - The Coastal Commission and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency - the fangs are still there.

And they are sharp. Very sharp.

In a nutshell, they are the “appeal” board of last resort for any development that someone believes is detrimental to the health of the Delta and its water clarity. Of course, that is in the eye of the beholder. No matter how much the stewardship council folks protest to the contrary, any land use decision - or development - after a certain point will be fair game for them to supersede Lathrop’s authority and that of all of the other redundant regulatory agencies between the city and the stewardship council.

Just how far can they go? No one envisioned the Coastal Commission when it was being formed being used to stop community Fourth of July aerial fireworks in the small community of Gualala after that august body determined they were scaring sea birds.

No community has more at stake than Lathrop. Not only is the entire city and future areas of logical annexation all in the secondary zone, but it includes the Stewart Tract home of River Islands at Lathrop. There are those still in power - and by chance serving on the Delta Stewardship Council which answers to no one - still smarting over a 1990s move that pulled Stewart Tract out of the primary zone and put it in the secondary zone back when Gold Rush City was the concept being mapped out for the 4,800 acres.

Technically, the portion of River Islands moving forward is out of the grasp of the Delta Stewardship Council. The waters are a lot murky for the second half that has yet to be protected by dry levees that in turn were joined together with existing levees to create the undisputed platinum standard - 300-foot wide superlevees.

River Islands after a decade of running the gauntlet of state and federal agencies trying to secure approval to strengthen the levees, found a way around the regulatory roadblocks. The creation of the superlevees via the backdoor wasn’t an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Their solution is exactly what many regulators advocate but then spend their careers blocking.

The unfortunate thing is River Islands still may not be allowed to do what every environmental group as well as state and federal protection agency has claimed they’ve wanted over the decades - restoration of the river side of the levees with vegetations and inlets to create a true ecological system. Not only that, it would be accessible by anyone and not just River Islands residents.

As for the entirety of Lathrop being in a flood zone, let’s not forget that is where much of Sacramento and most of Stockton lies. Then there is the City of Environmental Hypocrites - San Francisco - where much of its critical growth is on filled-in parts of the bay.

Yet the Bay Area and Southern California will escape the Delta Stewardship Commission’s fangs even though a correlation between growth in those communities and Delta health and water quality can be made. Every home you build in LA that depends on imported water via the Delta impacts the Delta just as much as a home built on River Islands. But all of the wrath - and it will be perceived that way one day as the process keeps moving down the garden path - will fall on San Joaquin County communities and those in other jurisdictions in and around the Delta.

The twin tunnels - Gov. Jerry Brown’s stealth peripheral canal concept - and the Delta Stewardship Council will severely hurt San Joaquin County to the benefit of Los Angeles, urban sprawl in the Bay Area, and large corporate farming interests in the southern San Joaquin Valley with politicians in their front and back pocket.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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