‘Think about the message’

County supervisors met Tuesday to deal with a proposed 120-acre solar farm in the Delta. One project; one land-use decision. (Read all about it here.)

But Bruce Blodgett, head of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, broadened the issue as he argued against cancelling a Williamson Act contract to pave the way for the solar array.

“Think about the message,” he said.

The land may indeed be foul, as its owner claims, but taking it out of agriculture would contradict everything residents of the Delta are fighting for — that is, preservation of Delta ag in the face of California’s growing thirst, Blodgett said.

“$2 million this county has spent to say, ‘We need agriculture in the Delta,” Blodgett said. “Today you’re being asked to say, ‘No, we don’t need agriculture in the Delta. We need to go to solar.’

“Think about the message… Think about what Westlands (Water District) and Metropolitan Water District are going to say when it’s San Joaquin County supervisors who kick this can down the road, when it’s San Joaquin supervisors who say, ‘Maybe our prime land isn’t really prime.’

“… This application makes 100 percent sense for the Robinson family. We get that.  We understand that this is the best thing for them. This is the worst thing, in terms of precedent, for San Joaquin County.”

While supervisors didn’t cancel the Williamson Act contract, they did determine that the proposed solar farm is consistent with the county’s general plan, effectively allowing the owner to proceed if the state agrees. The vote was 4-1, with Supervisor Ken Vogel opposed.

“With all the different work I’m trying to do in the Delta, I don’t feel in this particular instance I can be supportive” of the landowner, he said. “I wish I could be.”

Michael Hakeem, an attorney representing the landowner and developer, said he didn’t believe approving the project would set new precedent.

“You control every project,” he told supervisors. “Every (project) stands on its own.”

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