Washington—The Senate today passed three bills authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area Act, the Santa Ana Wash Plan Land Exchange Act and the Contra Costa Canal Transfer Act.
The three bills were part of a broader package of public lands bills that also included Senator Feinstein’s California Desert Protection and Recreation Act.
“The lands package includes many important priorities for California,” Feinstein said. “The legislation includes a bill I first introduced 10 years ago to create California’s first National Heritage Area in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as well as two additional bills to facilitate smarter management of public lands and water infrastructure in our communities.
“I’m grateful that Senate leadership included these bills in the lands package and look forward to working with my House colleagues to send it to the president for his signature as quickly as possible.”
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area Act
The legislation would establish the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as California’s first National Heritage Area. It authorizes $10 million in federal assistance over 15 years to provide matching grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations. This federal funding is necessary to help implement the locally developed National Heritage Area management plan to promote environmental stewardship, heritage conservation and economic development projects throughout the Delta.
“Establishing California’s first National Heritage Area honors the important contributions the delta region has made to our state. This heritage designation won’t just preserve the delta’s rich culture and traditions, it will also ensure it remains the economic engine that drives the region’s economy,” Feinstein said.
The bill would have no effect on water operations in and around the Delta, water rights, water contracts or property rights, nor would it create any new regulatory authority or burden on local government or private citizens. The bill would also have no effect on fishing and hunting within the National Heritage Area.
Santa Ana Wash Plan Land Exchange Act
The legislation directs the Bureau of Land Management to exchange approximately 300 acres of land with the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District in the Santa Ana Wash, at the junction of the Santa Ana River and Mill Creek.
“Our bill strikes the right balance between protecting our environment and strengthening our economy. Consolidating pristine sections of the wash and moving mining operations to more suitable locations will allow the surrounding communities to benefit from smarter management of the entire Santa Ana Wash,” Feinstein said.
The 4,500-acre Santa Ana Wash is a patchwork of land parcels owned by the water conservation district or BLM. The land exchange would help consolidate 1,347 acres of open space to preserve and protect habitat along the river’s floodplain as part of the broader Santa Ana River Wash Plan.
The area is also occupied by two mining companies that extract materials for cement and concrete production. The bill allows these commercial operations to continue in the Santa Ana Wash in an environmentally sensitive manner.
Contra Costa Canal Transfer Act
The legislation transfers the title of the Contra Costa Canal System from the Bureau of Reclamation to the Contra Costa Water District to allow the water district to complete necessary safety improvements to the canal. Since the Contra Costa Canal has been operational, 82 people have drowned in the uncovered canal.
“Critical safety improvements to the Contra Costa Canal are desperately needed. The water district is ready to make those improvements, so there’s no reason for the federal government to stand in the way. This is a commonsense approach that benefits everyone,” Feinstein said.
Built between 1937 and 1948, the canal delivers water to homes and businesses throughout Contra Costa County, as well as to the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys for irrigation. The 48-mile system is currently an open canal, but following the transfer, the water district will enclose it in a surface pipeline to help prevent deadly accidents, including a drowning last year. It would also help improve recreation and land use around the canal system by revitalizing land located in the Concord Naval Weapons Station.