The National Heritage Area processes now going forward in the Delta differ from the usual NHA process. Where are the opportunities? What should we be concerned about?
Think tanks concerned about private property issues have noted that NHAs are usually proposed by national and local Green groups working with the National Park Service as a management entity drawing boundaries and using federal funds to influence land use decisions within those boundaries. In their analysis, the effect is to undermine private property rights. Regulators “browbeat” landowners into becoming “willing sellers.”
According to these think tanks, NHAs are pushed by congressional representatives who hand out money to national Green organizations or wealthy local interests.
From what RTD has seen after doing a cursory review of a few NHAs, they sometimes revitalize areas, such as the Erie Canal region. Sometimes, they fail to do much.
So how does the usual process compare to our situation in the Delta? Senators Feinstein and Boxer have introduced a NHA bill in the Senate, and Congressional representatives Garamendi, Miller, Matsui, McNerney, and Thompson have introduced companion legislation in the House.
But that was done AFTER passage of last year’s SB 1 on Delta Governance and the Delta Plan. The Delta Protection Commission is doing a feasibility study for an NHA because the California legislature has already ordered them to study this or some comparable designation.
Water Code Section 85301 requires the DPC to report to the Delta Stewardship Council with recommendations that may be included in the Delta Plan. Section (b)(1) says that the DPC “shall include in the proposal a plan to establish state and federal designation of the Delta as a place of special significance, which may include application for a federal designation of the Delta as a National Heritage Area.”
The interests that went to Senator Feinstein last spring for the assistance that led to the NHA designation bill were not environmentalists and a few wealthy landowners, but the five Delta counties. County representatives have all expressed support for this effort as a way to increase awareness of the region and protect Delta agriculture, communities, and infrastructure.