Activist says latest threat to Delta is Delta Levees Investment Strategy
by Gene Beley, Delta Correspondent

June 8, 2015 6:28am
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•  Pitting the value of islands and levees against each other

•  “This is really dangerous”


Is the California Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast of the Western Hemisphere, an integrated system, or is it just a bunch of individual islands, rivers and sloughs?

Appointees of the governor will soon have their say and that, warn Delta environmentalists, could be a life or death point for the embattled Delta.

“The Delta Levees Investment Strategy is a horrible project,” said Rogene Reynolds, chairman of the environmental group Restore the Delta in remarks delivered to a meeting of the Clarksburg-based North Delta Community Area Residents for Environmental Stability (also known as North Delta CARES).

Watch a video of her talk here

Rogene Reynolds tells North Delta C.A.R.E.S. why the Delta Levees Investment Strategy is a "horrible project" from Gene Beley on Vimeo.

Arcadis US Consultants are under contract to prepare documents for the Delta Stewardship Council that will give a financial worth for the levees to the state based on a scoring system they are creating, she said. However, while establishing priorities on levees, the consultant’s report has not yet identified the state’s interests, Mrs. Reynolds and Delta farmer Mark Wilson said.

Mrs. Reynolds said this new “tool” being created is “fraught with errors.”

When Arcadis US finishes it, they will turn it over to the Delta Stewardship Council and train them how to use the tool.

“Then it’s ‘goodbye consultants’ and the Stewardship staff will use it to advise the California Legislature,” Mrs. Reynolds said. “They will rank the islands even though they’ve been told over and over again that the Delta is a system.”

Mrs. Reynolds and Anna Swenson, of North Delta CARES, said residents of the Delta should urge their reclamation districts and everyone they know to get involved in this immediately because the deadline for comments on the basic principles is June 15.

Further, they say, a notice has just gone out about an environmental impact report with two meetings in the North Delta and one in Stockton by the end of June.

Mrs. Reynolds said the first thing she did was try to compare the Arcadis US report’s data on their resident count where she lives in Reclamation District #544 in the South Delta. And the report’s data just for that district is far from accurate, she says.

“The report said there are 17 residences and we have more like 56,” said Mrs. Reynolds. ”It said there are 27 houses when there are 78.”

If the report’s data are correct, then Delta residents must like living together. She said that the report says Ryer Island has 320 people -- in four houses. On Sutter Island, it said there are 111 people and 10 homes, she said.

A Sense of Urgency

“So I think all of you would be well advised to get into the Delta Levee Investment Strategy website and find the tract where you live and test their numbers,” she said. “I’m concerned that they do not have accurate measurements in their levee miles. I have no way to ‘ground proof’ that myself. I need to get to the Reclamation District people to talk to them. But you can certainly do it by knowing your neighbors and know if they counted your homes correctly.”

“Don’t worry about the house count because it is all relevant,” the consultants and Cindy Messer, the Delta Stewardship Council person in charge of the report, told Mrs. Reynolds. “And though it might be off, it doesn’t really change the relationship between the ranking of the islands and the tracts in terms of priorities for funding.”

“I’m not going to buy that,” said Mrs. Reynolds. “The reason is, ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ The tool is computer programmed. It is going to be used to advise the Delta Stewardship Council.”

And that will have clout, she told her listeners, because it “will be used to advise the Legislature regarding what the state should do with dollars for levees. That’s why this is really dangerous.”

She said if the wrong information is used, “they are going to come up with wrong priorities. If they can’t even count the properties that they are suppose to be protecting, then I don’t trust their count on anything else.”

Mrs. Reynolds said the reason the Arcadis US consulting firm’s count is so far off is they are using county tax assessor’s rolls and determining how many parcels have a substantial increase in value. “That would indicate to them that there is a new home on the property. The census block for the Delta is huge. It isn’t separated by reclamation districts, islands or anything else. To extrapolate the information apparently would be extremely difficult. “

She also said the study shows two schools in the South Delta that aren’t even in existence any more.

“We need to object, protest, and get in the middle of this and contact the Stewardship Council with correct numbers,” she said.

Mrs. Reynolds also feels the report is undervaluing Delta agricultural land. “They are not looking at $12,000-$50,000 an acre,” she said.

Mrs. Swenson said she thinks the local reclamation districts and experienced civil engineers should have more input into the process of putting a value on Delta levees because they have more years of experience dealing with the local levees.

“What is happening is the state doesn’t have enough money to fix the problem of bringing all these levees up to a 200 year standard,” said Mrs. Reynolds. “They would like to spend less than they are spending now. I think it ties into the Delta Protection Commissions’ project to create a cross the Delta Assessment District that would include East Bay M.U.D., the railroads, and whoever else benefits from the Delta levee infrastructure. So if it were done correctly, it would show where the infrastructure is and who benefits. This would perhaps be justification for certain entities to pay more.”

Mrs. Swenson suggested that they get the water contractor conveyors taxed for using the Delta levees like a toll bridge.

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