The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is an expansive inland river delta and estuary in northern California in the United States. It is formed at the western edge of the Central Valley by the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and lies just east of where the rivers enter Suisun Bay (an upper arm of San Francisco Bay). The city of Stockton is located on the San Joaquin River on the eastern edge of the delta.
The delta consists of myriad small natural and man-made channels (locally called sloughs), creating a system of isolated lowland islands and wetlands defined by dikes or levees. The delta's so-called "islands" are not really islands in the classic sense, but they are referred to as such because they are completely surrounded by water and are so isolated in many cases that they are accessible only by boat, ferry or aircraft.
An extensive system of earthen levees has allowed wide-spread farming throughout the delta. Its peat soil makes it one of the most fertile agricultural areas in California and arguably even the nation, contributing billions of dollars to the state's economy. Farming of the peat bog, however, also releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases making the Delta one of the largest contributors to global warming in California. Certain specialty crops, such as asparagus, are grown in the delta in quantities unmatched anywhere else in the United States.
The delta and its "Thousand Miles of Waterways" are a recreation destination. The warm, breezy summers are popular among water skiers and boaters and even the chilly, foggy winters draw fishermen and hunters.
Starting in the late 19th century, Chinese workers were used to construct hundreds of miles of levees throughout the delta's waterways in an effort to reclaim and preserve farmland and control flooding. These levees confine waterflow to the riverbeds.
Levee failures in the delta can result in the flooding of vast tracts of both agricultural land and developed cities. On June 3, 2004, a 350 foot (110 m) section of a levee 10 mi (16 km) west of Stockton collapsed, flooding the Upper Jones Tract, a island. Tens of thousands of people live near these levees (in many cases, right next to them), in scores of communities ranging from Tracy in the south to Stockton in the east, Sacramento in the north, and the San Francisco Bay Area in the west. In light of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster affecting similarly low-lying river delta regions in Louisiana and Mississippi, there has been a strong outcry for the state of California and/or the federal government to thoroughly inspect and, if necessary, strengthen and repair the delta's levees.
A typical levee was constructed as being approximately trapezoidal, 10 ft above original ground level, and approximately 30 ft wide at the base rock armoured on the river side. The construction was a colossal engineering undertaking.
Further, the Delta's fish population is in question. The Delta smelt, a key indicator species for the health of the Delta's ecosystem, was found in 2004 to be on the edge of extinction.
The administration of the region is also in flux. CALFED, a federal-state program in charge of the Delta, is on the verge of financial insolvency.
A number of solutions have been proposed. A first set of alternatives would maintain the Delta in its current homogeneous freshwater state. The second would return the Delta to a heterogeneous mixed salt water-fresh water body, and would serve in the Delta's current water-supply with a series of aqueducts. A third, extreme, set would abandon the Delta as a resource.
A strong movement is emerging to construct a Peripheral Canal to redirect water flowing from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers directly to man-made aqueducts headed south and west. Senator Diane Feinstein and Governor Arnold Schwarznegger have both declared their support for such a project.
All solutions, however, aim to produce a Delta which simultaneously supports a vibrant ecosystem and continues to supply fresh water to the [[Central Valley Project], the [[State Water Project] and the Bay Area.
EDITORIAL IT'S THE WATER A PLAN AT LAST FOR CALIFORNIA'S FUTURE A plan at last for California's future.(Editorial)(Editorial)
Nov 06, 2009; AFTER years of feuding and wrangling by legislators, governors and environmentalists, lawmakers this week have agreed to a...