Delta National Heritage Area Proposal

Heritage Area News

SENATOR FEINSTEIN AND CONGRESSMAN GARAMENDI INTRODUCE THE SACRAMENTO-SAN JOAQUIN DELTA NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA ACT IN BOTH CHAMBERS OF CONGRESS. In early 2019, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman John Garamendi introduced companion bills in the Senate and House that would designate the Delta as California’s first National Heritage Area, to be managed by the Delta Protection Commission. The goal of the National Heritage Area is to conserve and protect the Delta’s communities, resources, and history.

On February 7, 2019, the Senate incorporated the Delta National Heritage Area and five other proposed National Heritage Areas into another bill, S. 47. The bill was passed by the Senate on February 12 and will be considered by the House of Representatives.

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 has been introduced in the 116th Congress (see News above). Pending Congressional designation of a Delta NHA, the Commission has embarked on the Delta Heritage Area Initiative (DelHAI) to advance and elevate recognition of the Delta’s unique values.

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.