San Joaquin County representatives have grave concerns over a recommendation by the Public Policy Institute of California and experts from University of California, Davis, that water be transferred to Southern California and to farms in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
"Our county stands to be the big loser in this," said Acampo resident Tom Hoffman, president of the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District's board of directors.
"This is a very political issue," Hoffman said. "We know who's behind it - the money in Southern California. So what does Northern California get out of it? Not very much."
The Public Policy Institute report recommends that California build a canal to pipe fresh water from the Sacramento River around the Delta instead of continuing to send it through.
The study says that continuing to channel water through Delta levees is risky and costly. It also concludes that fortifying the Delta's 74 islands would be a waste of taxpayer money.
"A number of people saw small sections of it, but only a couple evaluated the whole document," said Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Alliance. "I would characterize it as a sales brochure (rather) than an analysis of the Delta."
"Ultimately there are two choices: no exports, or a peripheral canal. Keeping the Delta as it is, is not one of them," said co-author Jay Lund, an engineering professor at the University of California, Davis, who helped author the report.
What is the Public Policy Institute?The Public Policy Institute of California describes itself as a private nonprofit organization dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research.
The institute was founded in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. Headquarters are in San Francisco, but a Sacramento center opened in 2007.
The staff has expertise in a number of fields, including economics, demography, political science, sociology and environmental resources.
For more information, visit www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=810.
Source: Public Policy institute of California
Kevin Kauffman, general manager of the Stockton East Water district, which has been working with the North San Joaquin district in trying to replenish the parched groundwater basin in the east and north parts of the county, sees the Public Policy Institute's report as another step toward making the peripheral canal a reality.
"I'm not conspiracy minded, but this is clearly a conspiracy," Kauffman said. "They're doing it for good reasons. They want to keep the Southern California economy from suffering, but it's hurting Northern California.
"Can Stockton East and San Joaquin County stop it? Probably not," Kauffman said.
Nevertheless, he added, county leaders must continue to impress on state officials the need to protect the water quality and quantity in the Delta.
Hoffman, the North San Joaquin board chairman, noted the fragile status of the Delta.
"It would reduce the viability of Delta itself if you take water out of the Sacramento River before going to the Delta," Hoffman said.
"I don't think they looked at all the options," Hoffman said. "One option that North San Joaquin suggested is to take the water around and to the south Delta before you take it out. People don't want to even look at that idea."
Jennings said the peripheral canal plan proposed by the Public Policy Institute would sacrifice about a half-million acres of Delta farming.
"It would destroy the Delta as we know it," Jennings added.
Hoffman said, "I know they need the water down there (in Southern California). But do we even have a say in this? It's going to be a battle, it really is."