SRCAF Good Neighbor Policy: Not So Neighborly
Despite the stated commitment from the Sacramento River Conservation
Area Forum (SRCAF) to work to develop a Good Neighbor Policy that
will address and promptly resolve any loss or harm resulting from
activities within the Conservation Area, little progress has occurred.
Meanwhile environmental projects move forward at a rapid pace, without
the necessary safeguards to protect neighboring production agricultural
The Landowner’s Assurances Committee (LAC) was created to
draft a set of policies, appropriately named the "Good Neighbor
Policy" (GNP), to prevent, minimize, and mitigate natural resource
conflicts arising from ecosystem restoration projects in an attempt
to create a continuous riparian corridor from Keswick to Verona.
The goal of this group is to build the fences needed to make good
neighbors. However, progress on the document has been slow, agencies
have balked at the implementation of the policies expressed therein,
and stakeholders have become, understandably, increasingly frustrated.
To date, little progress has been made in regard to the actual
implementation of the GNP. Policies one and two have been approved
by the SRCAF Board, yet little has been done in terms of incorporating
these policies into restoration projects. As to the remaining policies
(3-6), it has become clear that the state and federal agencies are
reluctant to participate in furthering these goals, despite the
fact that they have been intimately involved throughout the process
and they are signators on the Memorandum of Understanding that formed
the SRCAF. The agencies are fully supportive of furthering the environmental
goals of ecosystem restoration, yet appear unconcerned with the
negative impacts invoked by their goals, ignoring the Constitutional
protections to private property.
A growing number of stakeholders have expressed the feeling that
commitments have been breached and that the concerns of flood control
and agricultural are being ignored. As a result, interested landowners
and other stakeholders along the Sacramento River have withdrawn
from the process, leaving a committee that is primarily made up
of and attended by members of environmental organizations and employees
of state and federal agencies. The problem is, this has the potential
to result in a loss of local control over issues affecting land
use and the natural resources that are so vital to our primary industry
The SRCAF promotes a concept called "Consensus", which
basically keeps everyone talking until they overcome all opposition.
No democracy, no voting. Private property rights organizations throughout
the country have pointed to this very process as the means to "the
end". Unfortunately, these predictions seem to be coming true.
Basically, the SRCAF consensus process has resulted in endless
discussions and analysis of these conflicts, without any satisfactory
resolution. Presently, attendance from the agricultural sector has
increasingly diminished, resulting in a committee dominated by environmental
organizations and state and federal agencies. Once all of the naysayers
have been run-off (those concerned with the negative impacts this
restoration is clearly having on production agricultural, flood
control, and rural communities), the remaining parties, environmental
organizations and state and federal resource agencies, will have
their consensus and be calling the shots, despite overwhelming opposition
from local interests.
Family Water Alliance has, and will continue to, attend the Landowner
Assurances Committee Meetings, including all of the numerous breakout
meetings, to assure that the interests of landowners, farmers, ranchers,
and people living in rural agricultural communities are heard and
addressed. We are dedicated to working to assure that the proper
safeguards and assurances are provided for as promised. Also, we
believe that local control of this process must be maintained; otherwise
the process must go.
Accolades must be given to those who have actively participated,
particularly Ben Carter, the dedicated Chairman of the LAC, (the
SRCAF landowner representative for Colusa County) and Shirley Lewis
(the SRCAF landowner representative for Butte County), both of whom
have patiently toiled to shape the GNP document to protect agricultural
and flood control. However, more input from those likely to be affected
is necessary to assure that we maintain local control over the resource
decisions that affect our communities. The "Good Neighbor"
Policy must be developed by those who have, and will continue to,
live and work in this neighborhood; not multi-national environmental
organizations and state and federal agencies.
In closing, it must be stated that there is some hope for optimism,
albeit guarded. Presently, the Cal. Dept. of Fish and Game and the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are providing feedback on the Voluntary
Dispute Resolution Process that hopefully will bear fruit. Moreover,
the SRCAF Landowner Assurances Committee recently received a grant
to work towards a solution on the GNP policies addressing "incidental
take" and "self mitigation".
Family Water Alliance considers these next couple of months as
a crucial test for the SRCAF, to see if they can provide the benefits
called for in the SRCAF Handbook and set forth in the GNP. It is
time to stop the endless discussions that have resulted in an empty
Forum. It is time to finalize and implement the GNP policies that
were promised before any more ecosystem restoration projects proceed
without the necessary safeguards and assurances.
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