Delta National Heritage Area

Heritage Area News


The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area, which was proposed in legislation by Congressman Garamendi (H.R. 357) and Senator Feinstein (S. 316) in early 2019, was included as a provision of S. 47 (John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act), passed by both houses of Congress in February, and signed into law by President Trump on March 12. The Commission’s first task will be to prepare a statutorily-mandated management plan.

View March 12, 2019 press release. 

What is a National Heritage Area?

National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. NHAs are lived-in landscapes. Consequently, NHA entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs.

NHAs are a grassroots, community-driven approach to heritage conservation and economic development. Through public-private partnerships, NHA entities support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism, and educational projects. Leveraging funds and long-term support for projects, NHA partnerships foster pride of place and an enduring stewardship ethic. NHAs have no effect on water rights, property rights, or hunting and fishing rights within the designated area.

For more information on NHAs around the country, visit the National Park Service website.

Legislation History

The 2009 Delta Reform Act charged the Commission with developing a proposal to protect, enhance, and sustain the unique cultural, historical, recreational, agricultural, and economic values of the Delta as an evolving place (Water Code section 85301). The proposal includes a plan to establish state and federal designation of the Delta as a place of special significance, which may include application for a federal designation of the Delta as a National Heritage Area (NHA).

The Commission completed a NHA Feasibility Study (PDF), incorporating public involvement throughout its process via public meetings and presentations, stakeholder interviews, review memos, and study team meetings. Public involvement and partnerships are crucial to NHA planning and management; they reflect local stakeholder ownership of the NHA, as well as local capabilities to recognize, maintain, and enhance the heritage resources of the region.

Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman John Garamendi introduced legislation in January 2011 to designate a Delta NHA, with the Commission as the management entity. In June 2012, the National Park Service reviewed and found that the Commission’s Feasibility Study met the criteria for NHA designation, subject to Congressional approval. The study was submitted to Congress for consideration and to the Delta Stewardship Council for inclusion in the Delta Plan.

While the legislation did not advance during the 112th, 113th, 114th, and 115th Congress, legislation to establish a Delta NHA was incorporated into the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act in the 116th Congress and was signed by the President on March 12, 2019 (see News above). Prior to Congressional designation of a Delta NHA, the Commission embarked on the Delta Heritage Area Initiative (DelHAI) to advance and elevate recognition of the Delta’s unique values.

Partner Site Development

The Commission aims to raise the profile of venues that are open to visitors and can educate the public on one or more of the five NHA themes:

  • Theme 1:  At the heart of California lies America’s inland delta
  • Theme 2:  Conversion of the Delta from marshland to farmland was one of the largest reclamation projects in the United States
  • Theme 3:  Multi-cultural contributions and experiences have shaped the Delta’s rural landscape
  • Theme 4:  The Delta, California’s cornucopia, is among the most fertile agricultural regions in the world
  • Theme 5:  The Delta lies at the center of California’s water resource challenges


Please contact the Commission if your site should be considered for partner site designation.