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Garamendi's Bill Designates Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta as National Heritage Area


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By: Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA)

WASHINGTON, DC, March 8, 2013 – Today, Congressman John Garamendi (CA-3) with original cosponsors Representatives George Miller (CA-11), Doris Matsui (CA-6), Jerry McNerney (CA-9), and Mike Thompson (CA-5), along with Northern California County Supervisors, announced introduction of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area Establishment Act. The bill, H.R. 1004, is the identical House companion to S.228, legislation recently introduced by Senator Feinstein.

The legislation would establish the Delta estuary as a National Heritage Area to be managed by the Delta Protection Commission. The goal of the National Heritage Area is to protect and promote the history, resources, and economy of the Delta community. Property owners and tribes are explicitly protected in the bill and capable of opting out of any recommendations. The bill will have no effect on water rights or water contracts and creates no new regulatory authority or burden on local government or citizens.

"The Delta is the heart of the California water system, a magnet for tourism, and home to a vast array of farm products. The Delta Heritage Act helps local communities sustain and enhance the vitality of this national treasure," said Representative Garamendi, who for 35 years has lived in the Delta town of Walnut Grove, where he operates a pear orchard with his wife Patti. Representative Garamendi served as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department from 1995-1998.

"The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is an important resource for California and the largest inland delta in the world—and we must treat it with the respect it deserves," said Senator Diane Feinstein. "The National Heritage Area designation provides the recognition and resources that local governments need to ensure a sustainable future for the Delta."

"The Bay-Delta's waterways, communities, farms, and ecosystems form a fragile resource that is crucially important to California and the nation as a whole," said Representative George Miller. "This legislation is a key step towards the proper recognition and preservation of the region's heritage."

"The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is one of our nation's greatest national resources, providing fresh water to communities throughout California," said Representative Jerry McNerney. "It is home to some of the most productive farming land in the state and provides wonderful recreational opportunities for the citizens of the region. Preserving the Delta's integrity is vital for not only the farmers, families, and small business owners that depend on it for their livelihoods, but for the sustainability of the state's water supply."

"By protecting the Delta we are protecting our farmers, fishers and small businesses whose livelihoods depend on it," said Representative Mike Thompson. "This bill is good for our communities, our economy, our natural resources and the Delta's abundant wildlife. It should be passed and the Delta should be designated a Natural Heritage Area."

"Congressman Garamendi's bill (H.R. 1004) will provide a valuable opportunity for the County of Sacramento and other Delta Counties to work closely with residents to preserve and enhance the unique culture, history, agricultural heritage and economy of our Delta communities," said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, Chair of the California Delta Protection Commission.

"Designating the Delta as California's first National Heritage Area is a critically important step toward preserving and enhancing the unique history and agricultural legacy of the Delta," said Solano County Board Chair Linda Seifert. "This designation, championed by our congressional delegation, will assist the Delta Protection Commission as it works to protect, maintain, and restore the overall quality of the Delta environment."

"I would like to thank Congressman Garamendi for introducing H.R. 1004, legislation that would establish a national heritage area in our Delta region," said Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza. "We support this effort because the designation would help Yolo County to permanently protect and enhance natural habitat, agriculture, and recreation in the Yolo Bypass and Sacramento River Delta. It is also likely to lead a much needed increase in federal dollars for these efforts."

"The National Heritage Act is very important to Delta interests and will serve to represent and protect local communities, their history, and their future as a national heritage area," said Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Piepho. "We appreciate the Congressman's leadership and support of our Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta at the national and local levels."

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area Establishment Act authorizes federal assistance to a local process already required by State law that will elevate the profile of the Delta and provide the means to conserve and protect its valued communities, resources and history.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the most extensive inland delta in the world. Its approximately 60 islands are protected by 1,100 miles of levees, and are home to 3,500,000 residents, including 2,500 family farmers. The Delta offers recreational opportunities to the two million Californians that visit the Delta each year for boating, fishing, hunting, visiting historic sites, and viewing wildlife. It provides habitat for more than 750 species of plants and wildlife.

By 1492, the Delta supported the largest settlement of Native Americans in North America. The Delta was the gateway to the gold fields in 1849, after which Chinese workers built hundreds of miles of levees throughout the waterways of the Delta to make its rich peat soils available for farming and to control flooding. Significant migrations of Japanese, Italian, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Greek, South Asian, and other immigrants called the Delta home.

 

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