Delta advocates want more details about the mysterious “property acquisition plan” (part 1, part 2) that received quite a bit of attention last week.
In a letter to state and federal officials on Thursday, the Local Agencies of the North Delta asked loads of questions about the origin of the document and what it might mean for Delta property owners whose farms lie within the footprint of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed twin tunnels.
Among other concerns, the group said that the existence of such a plan while the environmental review process is still underway suggests that alternatives are not being seriously considered. The plan “is concerning on many levels,” the group said.
The extent to which the contents of the plan remain relevant is subject to debate, however.
The document itself is undated. State officials say they didn’t even have it until tunnels opponents recently obtained it from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and posted it online.
Apparently the document dates back to August 2014 and is “very similar” to a 2013 document that was based on discussions starting in 2012, said Nancy Vogel, a spokeswoman for the state’s Natural Resources Agency.
In other words, it’s dated. The tunnels plan has since been tweaked to reduce impacts in the Delta; the “new” document doesn’t reflect that, the state says. (In fact, the document refers to the tunnels project as the “Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” a moniker that as of last spring is no longer the formal name.)
While the acquisition plan lists 300 properties as potentially being impacted by the project, state officials say the current, up-to-date number is 192 properties.
And the implication that hundreds of farms would be taken in their entirety through eminent domain is also inaccurate, the state says. (“State plans to take hundreds of Delta farms” was the headline in an Associated Press story that appeared in Tuesday’s Record.)
About 70 or the 192 properties are “impacted” only in the sense that easements would be required to build the tunnels beneath those properties. For those 70 properties, there would be no disruption on the land surface.
As for the others, according to a fact sheet provided by the state, “most of the parcels with potential surface impacts would involve a partial acquisition, not a complete parcel acquisition.”
Those clarifications aside, Osha Meserve — an attorney with the LAND group — told me Friday that the document remains relevant because the fundamental nature of the tunnels project hasn’t changed.
“There are some different properties, perhaps, but it’s pretty much the same,” she said.
And if nothing else, the mere existence of the document is a reminder to Delta residents that after four decades of talk about some kind of “isolated conveyance” through or around the Delta, the idea, at this point, is far more than just conceptual.