Southern California Water Agencies Looking to Buy NorCal Delta Islands

The four islands being considered are just outside of Stockton.

A group of SoCal water agencies consisting of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and a trio of water agencies in Kern County have come together in the joint plan to buy the four agricultural islands in the San Joaquin River Delta.

The islands are currently controlled by Delta Wetlands Properties and Zurich American Corp., affiliates of a Swiss insurance company and have been for the last two decades. Their previous plan, and one the group looking to purchase has considered as well, is to turn the islands into reservoirs. Two islands alone could store 70 billion gallons of flood and rain water from wet years and be pumped south in dryer years.

Eric Averett, general manager of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District, one of the three Kern County agencies in on the deal, noted the strategic location of the islands.  “It might facilitate the California WaterFix just because of where it’s at. There’s a variety of interests, I think, at play.”

Averett also revealed there is still a lot of details left in working out the deal, including financial terms.

The California WaterFix, just in case you forgot, is the controversial $15.5 billion plan to re-engineer the plumbing and delivery systems to the San Joaquin Valley and other parts of Southern California.

One critic of the plan is Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, and she also has concerns about the island purchase could lead to conflicts in the already complicated arena of water rights. She likened it to “cutting in line” as property owners along a waterway get senior “riparian” rights. “Whether there’s a (tunnels) project or not, it’s a way for them to hold onto the water,” Barrigan-Parrilla said.

More on the possible land purchase can be found here.