14,850 acres of farmland threatened
BY CRAIG W. ANDERSON
If the Delta Wetlands Project is successful, agriculture on Bouldin Island, shown in the picture, will be gone forever.
Like a 25-year-old zombie, the Delta Wetlands Project has lumbered out of the shadows again to threaten Delta farmland by flooding two islands for water storage, turning two others into habitat and eliminating 14,824 acres of productive farmland in the process.
The Delta Wetlands Project – a public-private partnership of Semitropic Water Storage District and the corporation Delta Wetlands, owner of the lands involved – intends to flood Bacon Island and Webb Tract and to convert Holland Tract and Bouldin Island into habitat islands. The plan is when wet years occur, that water on the flooded islands could be pumped south to be stored underground in Kern County – by Semitropic – to be used in dry years. The water supply for Southern California would be enhanced, much as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s twin tunnel system would ship additional Delta water southward.
Farm Bureau concerns
San Joaquin County would lose a total of 8,390 acres (8,132 of prime farmland) and Contra Costa County stands to lose a total of 6,534 acres, 4,374 being prime farmland.
Ripple effect on businesses and jobs
Among the positive aspects of the project claimed by Delta Wetlands website is that the conversion will "provide significant new employment and income for the region" an assertion subject to debate.
Good land threatened
He said San Joaquin County officials are addressing the loss of productive ag land and they "want the mitigation done in the affected counties, not 200 miles away."
Nomellini commented, "To their credit, Delta Wetlands Project said they will be building up levees on the flooded islands."
The neighbors are eight islands, six tracts and one cut, along with Highway 12 which cuts across Bouldin Island slated to be a habitat.
More EIR comments
EIR documents describing the project note, "This conversion [to flooded and habitat-only islands] and subsequent loss of agricultural production is not consistent with [Contra Costa] county’s agricultural principles to maintain and promote a healthy and competitive agricultural economy or to protect and preserve areas suited to prime agricultural production."
"No mitigation is available to reduce this impact to a less-than-significant level," the EIR said.
The EIR also quotes crop information from 2007 as noted in the 2008 San Joaquin County agricultural commissioner’s annual crop report, and crops and their production may have changed in the intervening five years.
Another note in the EIR says, "In 2008, Webb Tract produced approximately 55 percent of Contra Costa County’s field corn crop … [the] loss of Webb Tract’s agricultural production would substantially reduce the countywide production of this crop."
Bouldin Island’s conversion to habitat would result in a "net loss of an estimated 15,344 tons of corn, 2,967 tons of rice and 8,492 tons of tomatoes," again based on the 2008 San Joaquin County crop report reflecting 2007 crop production.
Portions of Holland Tract would be exempt from conversion to habitat – marina properties, parcels on the southeastern corner of the island, the Wildlands parcels and several small parcels along the levee held by outside interests – and "a net increase in crop production [would result] because no harvested crops are currently grown on Holland Tract." That assumption was based on 2007 information.
Defeat not defeating
A lot to be agreed upon
It appears a final resolution and approval of the Delta Wetlands Project is several years down the road where that zombie resides, ready to take prime productive farmland at the whim of a public-private entity.