DPC Letter: Twin Cities Composting Facility

The Delta Protection Commission reviews hundreds of local and regional land use projects in the Primary and Secondary zones of the Delta for consistency with the Land Use and Resource Management Plan (PDF) and submits comment letters to ensure projects stay on track with the Plan. Under state law (Public Resources Code Sections 29770-29772), any action taken by a local government or agency in the Primary Zone that is inconsistent with the Plan can be appealed to the Commission. Appeals may be brought by any interested person, or by the Commission itself. Learn more here.

March 4, 2024

Leanne Mueller, Senior Planner
Sacramento County Planning and Environmental Review
827 7th Street, Room 225
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Ms. Mueller:

We are providing comments on the application for a use permit for the Twin Cities Composting Facility located on the north side of Twin Cities Road, west of Interstate 5, in the Delta community on Parcel 146-0080-040-0000. As defined in the Delta Protection Act (the “Act,”), this proposed facility occurs in the Primary Zone of the Delta. As used in the Act the Primary Zone means “the delta land and water area of primary state concern and statewide significance which is situated within the boundaries of the delta” (California Public Resources Code Section 29728).

The Delta Protection Commission is a state agency charged with ensuring orderly, balanced conservation and development of Delta land resources and improved flood protection in the Primary Zone. The Commission reviews projects within the broad framework of the Delta Protection Act of 1992 and Delta Reform Act of 2009, which declare that the State’s basic goals for the Delta are to provide a more reliable water supply for California and protect, restore and enhance the Delta ecosystem “in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place” (Public Resources Code section 29702(a) and Water Code section 85054).

We understand that the County must issue a discretionary use permit for this facility and must conduct design review. This letter provides our comments and the results of our initial review of the project for consistency with the Act (California Public Resources Code Section 29700 et seq.) as well as our Land Use and Resource Management Plan (required by California Public Resources Code Section 29760), and our Economic Sustainability Plan (required by California Public Resources Code Section 29759).

Proposed local government-approved projects within the primary zone of the Legal Delta must be consistent with the Commission’s Land Use and Resource Management Plan (LURMP) (California Public Resources Code Sections 29700-29780). California Public Resources Code Section 29760(b) states that the Land Use and Resource Management Plan “shall. . .preserve and protect agricultural viability” and “shall. . .protect the delta from any development that results in any significant loss of habitat or agricultural land.” “Development” is defined by the Delta Protection Act as “the placement of. . . any solid material or structure” over land or water in the Primary Zone of the Delta (California Public Resources Code Section 29723(a)). A list of excepted activities that are not regulated as development are provided in California Public Resources Code Section 29723(b). None of these exceptions apply to the proposed facility thus it is regulated “development” within the meaning of the Act.

The Land Use and Resource Management Plan provides the following policy:

“The priority land use of areas in the Primary Zone shall be oriented toward agriculture and open space. If agriculture is no longer appropriate, land uses that protect other beneficial uses of Delta resources and that would not adversely affect agriculture on surrounding lands or the viability or cost of levee maintenance, may be permitted” (Delta Protection Commission 2010:12).

In addition to regulating development, the Delta Protection Commission is required to plan for and promote the economic sustainability of the Delta under the Act. The Commission prepares an economic sustainability plan to promote the “continued socioeconomic sustainability of agriculture and its infrastructure” in the Delta (California Public Resources Code Section 29759(b)(2)).

The applicant’s biological assessment indicates that the current project would result in the permanent loss of 39.4 acres of agricultural land (Madrone 2023). Between present and 2014, over 12,000 acres of farmland have been lost in the Delta (Delta Stewardship Council 2024). Our planning work documents that agriculture is the main economic driver of the Delta economy (Delta Protection Commission 2012:274). A dollar of agricultural crop revenue generates three to five times greater regional income than other leading revenue sources such as recreation or tourism (Delta Protection Commission 2012:274). For these reasons, the project would contribute to the incremental loss of agricultural land and the reduction of economic sustainability in the Delta.

The natural resource goals for the Delta also include the goal to “preserve and protect the natural resources of the Delta [and to] encourage compatibility between agricultural practices and wildlife habitat.” (Delta Protection Commission 2010:18).

The land in the project area proposed for conversion serves as foraging habitat for various raptor species including but not limited to Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni) (Madrone 2023). Swainson’s hawk is listed as a threatened species by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW 2024). CDFW must make the determination for a “threatened” listing based on facts demonstrating the presence of one or more of the factors provided in California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 670.1(i)(1)(A), including “present or threatened modification or destruction of [a species’] habitat.” The primary threat to Swainson’s hawk is loss of suitable foraging habitat, including suitable agricultural foraging habitat (CDFW 2016:3). The conversion of this parcel would reduce habitat for a threatened species that CDFW has identified as contributing factor to decline of the species consistent with its listing process and five-year review under California law (CDFW 2016).

To review the facts, the proposed facility:

  • Falls inside the Primary Zone of the Delta subject to our Plan,
  • Is inconsistent with the statutory mandates of California Public Resources Code Sections 29759 and Section 29760(b) to protect agricultural land and economic sustainability because it would permanently convert agricultural land to non-agricultural uses in the Primary Zone,
  • Is inconsistent with the natural resource policy goals of our Land Use and Resource Management Plan adopted under California Public Resources Code Section 29760 because it would reduce habitat for a threatened species, and thus contribute to one of the factors CDFW has identified as a cause of the species’ decline.

Note that California Public Resources Code Section 29770 allows “any aggrieved person” the right to appeal land use decisions taken in the primary zone for inconsistency with the Act or our Plan. The exact language states: “the ground for an appeal and the commission consideration of an appeal shall be that an action, as to land located exclusively within the primary zone, is inconsistent with the resource management plan, the approved portions of local government general plans that implement the resource management plan, or this division [i.e. the Act]” (California Public Resources Code Section 29770).

In closing, our contention with this project is not about its merits. It appears to be a valuable facility; however, it is in a location that makes it incompatible with California law and our mandate to protect the Primary Zone of the Delta.


Bruce Blodgett signature
Bruce Blodgett, Executive Director
Delta Protection Commission

CC: Patrick Hume, Supervisor, Sacramento County

References Cited

Delta Protection Commission. Economic Sustainability Plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. 2012. West Sacramento, California.

Delta Protection Commission. Land Use and Resource Management Plan for the Primary Zone of the Delta. 2021. West Sacramento, California.

Delta Stewardship Council. Updated Delta Plan Performance Measures Guidebook. Available: https://viewperformance.deltacouncil.ca.gov/ 2024. Sacramento, California.

California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW:3). Five Year Status Review for Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). 2016. Sacramento, California.

CDFW. 2024. State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California, January 2024. Sacramento, California.

Madrone Ecological Consulting (Madrone). Biological Resources Assessment Twin Cities Composting Facility. 2023. Citrus Heights, CA.