NOTICE: Delta National Heritage Area Advisory Committee Openings (Deadline: Aug. 16, 2024)

OAKLEY, Calif. (July 19, 2024) – The Delta Protection Commission created a new advisory committee on Thursday to recommend policies, processes, and governance as the Commission implements the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area Management Plan.

The National Heritage Area Advisory Committee is governed by the charter approved Thursday. It succeeds the NHA Management Plan Advisory Committee, whose work is done now that the Management Plan has been submitted to the National Park Service.

In addition to advising the Commission, Committee members act as ambassadors to the diverse partners and communities in the NHA.

The committee is chaired by the Delta Protection Commission Executive Director or their designee, and has two members of the Delta Protection Commission and 12 members of the public. There will also be non-voting ex officio members representing the Legislature and public agencies.

Interested members of the public may apply to serve on this committee through 5:30 p.m. Aug. 16. The Delta Protection Commission is expected to make the appointments Sept. 19.

Committee members are expected to attend six bimonthly in-person meetings per year, which are held in the NHA at rotating locations. Four seats will expire in September 2025, four in September 2026, and four in September 2027. The expiration date for individual seats will be chosen randomly at the first NHA Advisory Committee meeting.

Apply for the openings here, or use the form below.

If you have questions, please email

Delta Happenings – July 16, 2024

Water Recreation Access, Pear Fair, Delta Heritage Forum, Delta Meadows, Road Work

Read this issue


  • Delta Water Recreation: Access Is Everything
  • Delta Meadows General Plan
  • Delta Heritage Forum
  • Road Work and Closures
  • Nominate a Delta Champion
  • Delta Agency Meetings
  • Community and Civic Events: Pear Fair, Obon, Taste of the Delta
  • Harmful Algal Blooms – New Danger Alert at Discovery Bay

Delta Water Recreation: Access Is Everything

A smiling woman and man rowing a scull boat on a river

Tricia Canton (Photo courtesy of Delta Sculling Center)

Water defines the Delta, and access to water defines people’s connection to the Delta.

For both Dr. Pat Tirone and Tricia Marie Canton, there was no access in the beginning. Their early time as Stockton residents was completely disconnected from the water that flows through the city.

“I lived here for three years and didn’t know the Delta was here,” said Tirone, a physical therapist and graduate of the 2024 Delta Leadership Program.

When she first stumbled onto a city park with water access, she saw not the water and boat ramp that were hidden from view, but a private boat club, and it was unclear whether she even had the right to access the water.

Then she came across a rowing club that was raising money at a shopping center one day. That’s when she learned the public does have access to the water, and that there were ways to enjoy it without buying a power or sail boat or joining an exclusive yacht club.

That launched her into something that would become not just a personal passion, but a professional one: sculling.

Canton’s path was different. Born and raised in Stockton, she discovered her love of water only when she moved to Southern California to attend UC Irvine, becoming an avid beachgoer.

Then in 2014, at the age of 28, she had a ruptured brain aneurysm and three strokes that nearly killed her, leaving the entire left side of her body paralyzed. Her family was told she would probably never walk, talk or even breathe on her own again, and they moved her back to Stockton to take care of her.

This is where both Canton’s and Tirone’s stories would meet.

A woman walking outdoors

Pat Tirone

As part of Tirone’s rehab work, she spent much of her time taking her clients into nature, often at Berkeley’s Bay Outreach and Recreation Program, which had an entire barn full of adaptive recreational equipment. But as soon as her clients were discharged from rehab, their access to those opportunities ended.

“My husband listened to me complain that there was nothing like that in our community and finally told me to put up or shut up,” Tirone said. So together they started the Delta Sculling Center in Stockton in 2013, buying boats, renting storage space for them, and acquiring gear needed to adapt to rowers’ various needs.

“Rowers joined us as volunteers, and all a sudden we had a whole program,” she said.

Canton learned about Delta Sculling Center in 2022.

Being immunocompromised, she had been confined to her home since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, and her rehab stopped during that time. As the pandemic was receding, her doctor told her about a program that teaches people with disabilities to row, and that’s when she contacted “Coach Pat.”

The Sculling Center had a way to compensate for poor grip in her left hand: a Velcro connection to the oar, and a handle that would release if the boat turned over so the connected oar wouldn’t drag her down. The Center also had gear that would help her climb into the boat. And of course, volunteers who would row with her.

She used her arms more in her first session than she had the entire time since the aneurysm, and rowing has increased her endurance and strength. Just last week, she set a new personal record: 7 km on a day when her goal was 5.

But it’s about more than that. “On land I have to worry about gravity, other people, and the terrain – if it’s slippery, if there’s an incline, if there’s gravel, if there’s sand,” she said. “On the water, I’m just free.”

Beyond that, nature is endlessly delightful, a chance to encounter ducklings growing from one outing to the next, sea lions swimming near the boat, herons threatening to “drop bombs,” or the rush of dozens of blackbirds lifting from a powerline all at once.

And then there are the local landmarks, like the miniature Statue of Liberty at the confluence of the San Joaquin and Calaveras rivers. Canton rowed there recently with Tirone’s husband Bob, and they spontaneously sang God Bless America.

Experiences like these are what Pat Tirone cherishes about her time on Delta waters as well. “The other day, I was out rowing by myself and the sound of all the birds at 6 in the morning was just overwhelmingly beautiful,” she said. “I just turned the recorder on my phone on, laid it down on the deck of my boat and captured their beautiful music. In the middle of Stockton! What a gift.”

All people need to be able to connect with this gift – the water that is the lifeblood of the Delta – is access.

Learn more about:

  • The Delta Sculling Center. The center is a non-profit whose mission is to provide inclusive rowing opportunities to people of all abilities. Tagline: “Where EveryBODY Sculls,” and “EveryBODY” includes adults of all ages, military veterans with disabilities, and middle and high school aged youth, especially those who come from under-resourced parts of the region.
  • The Delta Aquatic Center. The Delta Sculling Center has been instrumental in the development of the Delta Aquatic Center of Stockton project, a new facility in Stockton that would increase access to the water for the community. A $2.5 million grant from the Delta Conservancy is funding planning for the project.


Delta Heritage Courier – July/August 2024

Courier: Delta Heritage Forum, Anza Trail Project, Grants, Exhibits, Events

Read this issue:

  • Coming Friday, Nov. 15: Delta Heritage Forum
  • Article Explores Racial Hierarchies in the Delta
  • Anza Trail Photo Project Participants Soughty
  • FESTAS: A Medieval Tradition Thrives in the Delta
  • Asian American Heritage Park Progress


Delta Happenings – July 2, 2024

Clarksburg Trail, Grants for Marinas, Isleton Park, 4th of July

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  • Grant Awarded for Clarksburg Branch Line Extension
  • Marina Operators Can Apply for Grants
  • Watch Park Progress in Isleton
  • Nominate a Delta Champion
  • Delta Agency Meetings
  • Community and Civic Events: 4th of July, Pear Fair
  • Harmful Algal Blooms – Reports Are Increasing

Delta Happenings – June 18, 2024

Medieval Portuguese Tradition, Yolo Trails, Webb Tract Project

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  • Festa! A Medieval Tradition Thrives in the Delta
  • Weigh in on Yolo Trails
  • Crawdad Festival Photo Gallery
  • DPC Supports Abandoned Vessels Legislation
  • Webb Tract Project Meeting Planned
  • Nominate a Delta Champion
  • Delta Agency Meetings
  • Community and Civic Events: Juneteenth, Drought Response Forum, Rio Vista Anniversary
  • Harmful Algal Blooms Report

Letter: DPC Supports H.R. 7719, Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Removal Act of 2024

Diane Burgis, Chair (Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors)
2101 Stone Blvd., Suite 200, West Sacramento, CA 95691
(916) 375-4800 |

June 14, 2024

The Honorable John Garamendi
United States House of Representatives
2004 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Subject: Support for H.R. 7719, Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Removal Act of 2024

Dear Congressman Garamendi:

I write to express the Delta Protection Commission’s strong support for this legislation. The Commission has long advocated for removal of abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) from Delta waterways, and remediation of the environmental damage ADVs cause to the rivers and sloughs that are vital to irrigating farmland, supporting recreational and commercial fisheries, and providing enjoyment in all kinds of water recreation. ADVs pose real and significant threats to public safety and property from navigation hazards, and damage to docks, marinas, and levees.

The Delta Protection Commission is a California state agency charged with protecting and enhancing the unique values of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a resource of state and national importance that, largely owing to your tireless efforts, was recognized by Congress as California’s first and so far only National Heritage Area in 2019. The Commission provides a “forum for Delta residents to engage in decisions regarding actions to recognize and enhance the unique cultural, recreational, and agricultural resources of the Delta” [Public Resources Code (PRC) § 29703.5(a)]. As such it includes representatives from city and county governments in each of the five main Delta counties, Delta reclamation districts, four state agencies and one non-voting, ex-officio member each from the Senate and Assembly.

As a primary function, the Commission maintains and oversees implementation of a comprehensive long-term Land Use and Resource Management Plan (LURMP) that includes goals and policies aimed at protecting, maintaining, enhancing, and restoring the overall quality of the Delta environment. Public Resources Code applicable to ADVs requires that the LURMP policies must “preserve and protect open-space and outdoor recreational opportunities,” “preserve and protect opportunities for controlled public access and use of public lands and waterways consistent with protection of natural resources and private property interests,” and “preserve, protect and maintain navigation” [PRC§29760 (b)(9-11)].

The Commission has worked with local law enforcement marine patrol units, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways (Boating and Waterways), State Lands Commission, Recreational Boaters of California, CalRecycle, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and other stakeholders to promote and facilitate abandoned vessel removal. The Commission’s collaborative project with the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to identify and map ADVs within the Delta in 2019 led to state legislation that provides limited funding for removal of commercial ADVs by the State Lands Commission. Additional funding by Boating and Waterways supports removal of recreational vehicles. The USCG can only remove hazards to navigation. Thus it typically falls to local law enforcement marine units with limited resources to remove non-commercial ADVs in their counties. However, the scope of all these efforts is significantly constrained, largely due to funding, and limitations on where and how federal agencies such as the USCG and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) could assist.

The Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Removal Act, H.R. 7719, would bring much needed cohesion to this patchwork management by providing additional funding and organization. Significantly, the bill would authorize the Corps to remove any abandoned vehicles regardless whether they impede navigation, and to create and maintain a national inventory of ADVs. Such an inventory could help identify more regional-based solutions and coordination in areas such as the Delta where there is overlapping jurisdiction among responsible agencies.

Thank you for your commitment to finding solutions to this complex public safety issue of concern to Delta farmers, residents, and business owners, and the many visitors who come to the Delta.


Bruce Blodgett
Executive Director

CC: The Honorable Laphonza Butler, U.S. Senator
The Honorable Alex Padilla, U.S. Senator
The Honorable Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. Representative
The Honorable Josh Harder, U.S. Representative
The Honorable Doris Matsui, U.S. Representative
The Honorable Mike Thompson, U.S. Representative

Festa: A Medieval Portuguese Tradition Thrives (and Evolves) in the California Delta

When Azorean Portuguese arrived in the California Delta during the Gold Rush, they brought with them a Medieval tradition that has proved resilient in a sea of constant change: the Holy Ghost Festa.

“My dad always talked about ‘the footsteps, the footsteps, the footsteps,'” said Jim Souza, one of the organizers of the Freeport/Clarksburg Festa. The oldest in the Delta, it was founded in 1893, and has been held at the same hall since 1905.

“He was referring to the fact there was a lot of history there.”

The particulars of this tradition have changed, but its core tenet remains the same: feeding people, for free, as an act of generosity and sharing.

Festas began the 1400s in mainland Portugal, inspired by the lore of Queen Isabel, who took food from her own table to feed the poor during a famine. But their roots trace back even further to a radical utopian ideology promulgated by an Italian monk born in 1132. (Story continues below photos.)

When the Portuguese settled in the Azores in the mid-1400s, they took the tradition of Festa with them, and it thrived there, even as it mostly died off on the mainland. Azoreans comprise the bulk of Portuguese who immigrated to California in the 1800s, and the tradition followed them here.

For Souza, Festa has always been part of his life. “I was born into it,” he said. “My parents were involved in it. That’s where they made their first connection!”

As a kid, Festa meant getting a new pair of jeans and cowboy boots and maybe a hat that he’d wear to the dance. “And obviously you’d see all your cousins and Portuguese friends and whoever else came along,” he said.

Festa also involves the crowning of a young queen, in honor of Queen Isabel. Professor Diniz Borges, the founding director of the Portuguese Beyond Borders Institute at Fresno State, said the queen is a feature that arose in California.

“There were no queens in the Festas in the Azores. We don’t know where or why it started, but they’ve become part of the tradition in California,” he said. And now some Azorean Festas have begun adopting the tradition.

The Queens Court in television news coverage of the 2024 Freeport/Clarksburg Festa – click to watch video.

An even newer evolution is the growing presence of non-Portuguese at Festas. “More and more they attract a lot of outsiders,” Borges said. “I’m happy to say we now have queens who are not of Portuguese backgrounds, and people playing in marching bands who are of different ethnicities as well.”

But there is one constant that dates back to Medieval origins: “They are religious in nature, but the church doesn’t control them,” Borges said. “There is a Mass, there is a coronation, but the whole idea of the serving of food free of charge to everybody, the idea behind the celebration, whether it’s music or parades or whatnot, is it’s all done by a committee of men and women.”

Souza became the youngest president of the Freeport/Clarksburg Festa’s organizing council at 17, and he remains a key organizer to this day. It is a mountain of work – “five days of preparation, one day of festivities, one day of cleanup.”

But it’s worth it.

He tells the story of a psychic advisor who came with a potential buyer to view the property next to the Hall where the Festa is held. The advisor told the buyer he could see someone on one side of the property who wasn’t happy.

“What do you see over there?” the buyer asked him, nodding at the Hall, Souza recalled.

“There’s just nothing but happiness,” the advisor said. “There’s children everywhere and they’re all smiling.”

Delta Cities and Towns with Festas

2024 Festas

The Portuguese Society of America publishes a list of Festa dates and activities (PDF).

Documentary About Festas

The Portuguese Beyond Borders Institute produced the following short documentary about Festas:

Delta Happenings – June 4, 2024

March Through the Delta, Mussel Sticker, Crawdad Festival, Bat Tours

Read this issue


  • Delta History: a March for LGBT Rights
  • Invasive Species Action Week
  • Yolo Bat Talks and Tours Are Back
  • Nominate a Delta Champion
  • Delta Agency Meetings
  • Community Events: Isleton Crawdad Festival, Juneteenth, Water Workshop
  • Harmful Algal Blooms Report

Delta History: a March for LGBT Rights

People marching with a rainbow flag just outside of Locke, California.

Video screenshot of One Struggle One Fight marchers as they left Locke in March 2009

Gay activism in California is often associated with cities. But in March 2009, a group of activists took their cause on a march through the rural Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – not a region known for protest marches or gay activism.

The trek was a five-day walk from San Francisco to Sacramento to call for the repeal of Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban that California voters added to the state Constitution in 2008. Organized by One Struggle One Fight, the march went through Walnut Creek, Antioch, Isleton, Locke, and Elk Grove before finishing at the steps of the state Capitol.

Three of the Delta’s five main counties voted in favor of Prop 8, so it might not have looked like sympathetic territory. But march co-leader Seth Fowler said that was part of the point.

“One Struggle One Fight was about direct action and talking to people. There was a really big urban/rural divide, and the question was, ‘How do we make queer people real to people who are mostly just interacting with headlines about us?’”

One answer: by walking through their towns.

He said there were times on the march when he could sense discomfort among people they interacted with.

But there were also many warm welcomes. What the 30 or so marchers were doing “is such important work” the Rev. Christy Parks-Ramage told them when they gathered at the First Congregational Church of Antioch. “And it’s work that we as a congregation have struggled with.”

The church had recently become “open and affirming,” officially welcoming LGBT people in its ministry. The decision caused a split, and so many congregants had left that the church was selling its building to forge a new path.

The marchers also found welcome in the tiny town of Locke, with a population hovering around 70. Locke was built by Chinese immigrants in 1915, two years after the state passed a law forbidding land ownership or long-term leases by non-citizens, so they couldn’t own the land they built on. (So-called Alien Land Laws were invalidated by the California Supreme Court in 1952.)

In an email to fellow organizers, Fowler described his advance visit to Locke, where he met with the Locke Foundation and discussed the march going through the town. “They were receptive and excited at the prospects of becoming the Gayest Town in America, if only for an evening,” he wrote.

Woman standing behind an old wooden statue of a seated bodhisattva in her home.

The wooden statue of Guanyin, bodhisattva of compassion, now lives in the Locke home of Deborah Mendel and Russell Ooms (not pictured).

When marchers spent the night in Locke, they stayed in a former Baptist church. “There was a really large wooden statue there of Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion,” Fowler recalled. “It felt like a very lovely synchronicity to have this being of compassion watch over us as we slept there.”

He reveres Guanyin to this day.

Russell Ooms, who owned the church building at the time, said the group was delightful. “Locke is a quiet town, and suddenly it was filled with energy,” he said. “It was exciting. They were exciting.”

The marchers left behind a gift for the town: a donation to the Locke Foundation, commemorated in a tile that now lives at the Locke Memorial Park. And at least one of the townspeople – Stuart Walthall – joined them at the march’s finale: a rally at the Capitol.

The marchers ultimately got their wish about Proposition 8: It was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. And public opinion in California about gay marriage changed even faster, going from majority opposition in early 2009 to majority support in early 2010.

This year, on Nov. 5, California voters will decide whether to remove Prop 8 language from the state Constitution.

Videos from the march:

Commemorative tiles on a wall

The marchers made a donation to the Locke Foundation during their stay, commemorated with this tile. (Photo ©Deborah Mendel, used with permission)

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