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San Joaquin County must act quickly to protect Delta, attorney says

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Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 10:00 pm

The state is fast-tracking efforts to construct a peripheral canal to divert Delta waters to Southern California and the southern San Joaquin Valley, water attorney Terry Dermody told the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

"The difficulty is that there are a lot of diverse interests here," said Dermody, formerly the county counsel. "We want to continually be in the mix."

Several legislative bills have been introduced to address the proposed peripheral canal, Dermody said. Two of them, by State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, are scheduled for hearings next Tuesday before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee in Sacramento.

While Southern California interests are pushing for more Delta water to be transported in their direction, San Joaquin and the other four counties that encompass the Delta need to develop their own plan and submit it to the state, said Dermody and Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller. The other four counties are Sacramento, Yolo, Solano and Contra Costa.

"They're running at lightning speed," Ruhstaller said. "Their whole desire is to get this done immediately."

Dermody wasn't ready on Tuesday to recommend positions for the Board of Supervisors to take, but he will present a package of positions for the board to consider at next week's meeting.

A Bay-Delta Conservation Plan and members of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's cabinet have been busy developing a potential peripheral canal plan independently from each other, but the Legislative process has begun and effectively trumped the governor's and Bay-Delta committees, Dermody said.

"There are actually three tidal waves at once," Dermody said.

Wolk's legislative package calls for establishing a Delta stewardship council to balance the equal goals of the Delta ecosystem, creating water supply reliability and protecting the Delta and creating a conservancy to promote Delta-based tourism, agriculture, fishing, hunting and related economic activities.

The stewardship plan, Senate Bill 457, would create a seven-member council to approve the Delta Stewardship Plan to guide and shape management of the Delta.

The bill would require the council to appoint a Delta science and engineering board by March 1, 2010, and create a Delta science and engineering program.

The conservancy is covered in Senate Bill 458, designed to protect habitat, agriculture, recreation, public access, tourism, economic vitality and historical and cultural resources in the Delta.

Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, plans to introduce a bill on San Joaquin County's behalf, but Dermody said the county still needs to submit recommended language to her. The Huber bill will be introduced in two or three weeks, Dermody said.

In other action

  • The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors heard a report on Tuesday about new state requirements to reduce air pollution in an eight-county area between Lodi and Bakersfield. The report was from Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
  • The board approved a $20,000 settlement with Felix Costa & Sons, who sued the county. Costa claimed that the county Agricultural Commissioner's Office miscalculated the amount of fumigant to be applied to his cherry crop in 2005. Costa claimed that the improper fumigant made his crop less profitable. Chief Deputy County Counsel Kristen Hegge recommended that the Board of Supervisors approve the settlement because it is in the county's best economic interest.
  • Supervisors appointed James McCarty of Lodi to Lockeford's Harmony Grove Church Advisory Committee on Tuesday. Supervisors declined to appoint applicant Forrest Reid Allen of Citrus Heights and agreed to readvertise the second seat on the Harmony Grove committee.
  • The board approved the plans to resurface a mile of streets in Flag City, adjust manhole and water valve frames and covers and retrofit curb ramps to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act. Bids are due to be opened on April 30. Cost estimate is $1.1 million, which will be paid by Proposition 1B funds.
  • Since no one applied earlier this year for the vacant seat on the Thornton Municipal Advisory Council, the Board of Supervisors will readvertise the position. Applications must be submitted to the clerk of the board's office by May 1. For more information, call (209) 468-3113.

    News-Sentinel staff

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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