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Garamendi-Feinstein Bill Introduced to Make Bay Delta a National Heritage Area

March 3, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced companion bills in the House and Senate (H.R. 1208 and its Senate companion), the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Establishment Act.

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 vast 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. A map of the proposed Heritage Area is available here.

“I’m proud to call the Delta my home. It sustains much of California’s agriculture; its beauty attracts admirers far and wide; and there’s so much history in the small communities that dot our landscape,” said Congressman Garamendi, the former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department. “With the Delta Heritage Act, Senator Feinstein and I are working together to help Delta residents improve this national treasure. We’ll do everything we can to give this legislation fair consideration in Congress.”

“Covering more than 700 square miles and nearly 60 islands and boasting more than 400,000 people, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the largest delta in the world and a critical resource for California,” said Senator Feinstein. “With a National Heritage Area designation, we can support a future for the Delta that is sustainable and bright.”

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 House bill’s original cosponsors are Congressmembers Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento, CA), Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena, CA), Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton, CA), and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord, CA).

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, helping 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 soil 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.

Congressman Garamendi has lived in the Delta town of Walnut Grove for decades, where he operates a pear orchard with his wife Patti.