Bid to Buy Delta Islands Approved by CA Supreme Court

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on July 19, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The sale of five small islands located within the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta will proceed as originally planned following the California Supreme Court's review of the matter. It's a decision that some Northern California groups have opposed from the very beginning.

The buyer, the Metropolitan Water District, has intimated that the islands may be used to provide access to a proposed tunnel system, a project that many fear may be used as a pathway to divert water to Southern California during these worrisome times of drought.

Attempts to Halt the Sale

Environmentalists and other interested groups in Northern California raised every legal claim they could find in order to halt or slow the sale. When rumors came out that Metropolitan Water District was considering either using or destroying two of the five islands that are in the path of a proposed delta tunnel system, efforts were redoubled to stymie the sale's moving forward.

Previously, talks were in place to convert the area into a fish and wildlife habitat. But even though the agency has stated unequivocally that it has not finalized any plans for the area, the mere possibility of the tunnel system has many Northern California interests worried, as it could be used to pipe water from the Sacramento River southbound. The project has a proposed price tag of $15 million.

Lawsuits Keep on Coming

Besides opposition by environmentalist groups, MWD officials said last week that the agency still faces a handful of lawsuits related to the purchase of the islands, according to the LA Times. At least one of those suits alleges a breach of contract while yet another is a complaint that the agency did not properly follow environmental law before carrying out the purchase of the land.

Even though the state's highest court gave its approval, the remaining lawsuits could mean that this project won't happen until years into the future. Groups opposed to the purchase couched the purchase in terms of "great public importance," hoping to draw even more public and legal scrutiny to the issue.

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