STATEMENT OF STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE, CONCERNING S. 29, TO ESTABLISH THE SACRAMENTO-SAN JOAQUIN DELTA NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA.
MARCH 7, 2012
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 29, a bill to establish the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area.
The Department recognizes the importance of the natural, historic, scenic and cultural resources within the proposed Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area, but recommends deferring action on S. 29 until a feasibility study is completed.A Feasibility Study for a Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area is underway by the Delta Protection Commission. National Park Service staff are currently reviewing the Commission's draft study for consistency with the interim National Heritage Area Feasibility Study Guidelines.The Department believes that it would be premature to recommend support for establishment of this national heritage area without an evaluation of its feasibility.
S. 29 would establish the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area within the counties of Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, and Yolo, in the State of California, with the Delta Protection Commission designated as the Heritage Area's management entity.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin is a rare inland/inverse Delta and the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. Its vast size, unique shape, and geographic location in the heart of California has produced a heritage of habitat and community diversity, industry, innovation, and a unique infrastructure.
A rapid rise in sea level following the last ice age 10,000 years ago inundated the alluvial valley of the Sacramento River and formed the Delta landscape. From the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers emerged a system of freshwater and brackish marshes and extensive grassland, oak woodland, savannah, chaparral, and riparian habitat rich with wildlife. Native Americans built villages and trading posts, and early fur traders such as Jedediah Smith trekked into the region in search of otter, mink and beaver.
Then, gold seekers on their way from San Francisco to the gold fields in the Sierra Nevada recognized the fertility of the Delta's soils. Beginning in the 1880s, with significant contributions from Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, East Indian, Portuguese and Italian immigrants and the development of innovative equipment, one of the largest scale reclamation projects in the United States converted the vast marshes into the predominantly agricultural landscape that characterizes the Delta today.
As one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country, the Delta exports crops throughout the world and contributes billions of dollars to the California economy. The Deltairrigates over seven million acres of the State's farmland and also supplies two-thirds of California's residents their drinking water.
Still an important natural area, the Delta is a key stopover on the Pacific Flyway and an important anadromous fish corridor. Its waterways provide leisurely retreats for large, nearby urban populations in the San Francisco Bay area and Great Central Valley.Agricultural-related tourism initiatives are springing up to showcase and share the region's agricultural traditions while wildlife friendly farming practices demonstrate how Delta farmland and habitat can coexist.
A Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area could promote a wide range of partnerships among governments, organizations and individuals to increase public awareness of and appreciation for the important natural, historic, scenic and cultural resources of the area.However, the Department would withhold a final recommendation until we have had an opportunity to review the completed feasibility study.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions you or any other members of the subcommittees may have.