Fear can be a wonderful thing.
It can spur people into action.
That is the best way to describe the growing fury in San Joaquin County over the intentions of the Delta Stewardship Council.
The folks at the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) see their role simply as one mandated by the California Legislature to pursue “co-equal goals.”
Simply stated the DSC is supposed to pursue a more reliable water source for all of California and at the same time preserve and enhance the Delta ecological system while taking the needs of the Delta community ranging from agriculture to recreation into consideration.
To do so, they contend they have been given no new power except to make the endless hodge podge of programs in place already work and to do so in such a manner that the Delta community isn’t treated like road kill.
Naturally community leaders in and around the Delta - but especially the secondary zone - look at the DSC with the same apprehension residents of Pompeii viewed the showers of ash and pumice falling down on them. You can tell them that it is all being done for the greater good of nature but you can’t help thinking that forces stronger than you are going to wipe you off the face of the earth.
In the case of the Delta community those forces are south state urban water interests, big cooperate farms in the Southern San Joaquin Valley, and the more strident among the environmental protection movement who replace the goal of “protection” with “perfection.”
California water war history provides absolutely no comfort in terms of how the actual Delta and the communities in and around it are viewed and can expect to fare.
The DSC folks are at a loss to figure out what the cry and hue is about on the part of San Joaquin County as well as cities, agencies, and various groups from trade organizations to the farm bureau is all about. After all, they have tried to engage local leaders by setting up what were essentially seminars on the tasks the DSC has and how it intends to proceed.
But it wasn’t until they dropped responses to selected environmental documents on projects ranging from a traffic study for an intersection in Thornton to a change in a road project in Mountain House that they got much of a response. Call it a courtesy dry run to give local agencies an inkling of what they can expect from the DSC.
In a nutshell, locals view the DCS for what it is - yet another layer of government.
That means the DSC determines whether something in the secondary Delta which includes a part of Manteca, Lathrop, much of Stockton, and half of San Joaquin County is somehow effecting what they oversee. Then they make sure existing rules are followed.
No wonder why some see the DSC as a sort of a new government water boarding torture when it comes to local land use.
In response the DSC can say with a straight and honest face that under law if it impacts their primary mission they are required to throw in their two cents worth. And local folks understand that two cents worth could add plenty of cost to a project even if it is simply to delay it for months.
The funny thing is how the DSC’s primary objective seems to set up the Delta communities as the sacrificial lamb without realizing it - or at least pretending not to.
A neighborhood road change in Mountain House impacts the Delta environment. It’s hard to argue that point. But it is safe to say that impact is minuscule compared to a project such as the tens of thousands of homes proposed for the Newhall Ranch in Southern California that will draw even more water from the north state that must pass through the Delta.
The DSC under law is focused on land use in the primary and secondary Delta zones that has relatively little impact on water use and therefore key Delta issues. Yet it will ignore projects hundreds upon hundreds of miles way that will have a major impact.
Without a mechanism that applies the same scrutiny on land use in areas where water is exported to in California as it does to land uses in the secondary Delta, the DSC is going to be perceived as a puppet of powerful water interests.
If they can somehow do what no others have ever done and divide up the state’s water fairly without laying waste to the Delta and local economies the only encore that could top that would be walking on water.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.