Monday, June 18, 2012

Does American Land and Leisure Know About Covered Actions? (updated 6/21)

Opened the Wall Street Journal this morning, and to my surprise, there was Brannan Island State Recreation Area on page 3 (pictures at link, article behind paywall).

The article about American Land and Leisure (ALL)1 taking over operations for Brannan Island provides enough grist for a series of blog posts.  I will spare you that, but offer a few quick thoughts/observations:

1.  It seems to me that this concession agreement is clearly a covered action that will eventually require a consistency determination with the Stewardship Council's Delta Plan.  [Update: It seems I was wrong about this.  Please click through to comments to read an explanation for why it is not a covered action from Dan Ray of the DSC.] 

2.  If ALL is more successful than state parks at operating Brannan (meaning they don't lose money, take care of the resource, and visitors are satisfied), will that make the realization of the ambitious State Parks plan for the Delta (which includes adding 4 new parks) more likely or less likely?

3.  From the article, it appears that State Parks is guaranteed some payment from ALL (maximum of fixed bid or a percentage) regardless of whether or not they turn a profit at Brannan Island.  If the state can get that kind of return on a park where costs were double revenue, the implications for the system are interesting.

4.  Most importantly, I am very glad the park isn't closing.

Funny for me to see this well written article written by Max Taves, as I have had a few recent conversations with him about Stockton bankruptcy and the regional economy.  I'll have to ask him about his impressions of the Delta.


  1. As the Delta Stewardship council's chief deputy executive officer and California State Parks' former planning chief, I can't resist commenting on Monday's observations.

    First, California State Parks' lease of Brannan Island State Recreation Area is unlikley to be a 'covered action' under the Delta Plan. California State Parksm, as the agency approving the lease, will make that call, but if I were there I would say that it is exempt from review as a covered action. One reason it is exempt is because, as simply an operating agreement for an existing park operated under a long-established park plan, State Parks' concession agreement is unlikley to cause either a direct physical change in the environment, or
    a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment, as so isn't a project under CEQA and is exempt from the covered action process under Water Code Section 85057.5. Even if Parks should conclude the concession agreement is a project, operation of the existing park isn't likely to have a signifcant effect on achievementn of the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply and restoring the Delta ecosystem, and so woudl be exempt from review as a covered action under Water Code Section 85057.5 (4). The final staff draft of the Delta Plan emphasizes this exemption by providing adminsitrative exmeptions except in unusual circulmstances for projects, such as this operating agreement, that are statutorily or ecategoriically exempt from CEQA (see CEQA's Class 1 categocial exemption for the operation, repair, maintenance, permitting, leasing, licensing, or minor alteration of existing public or private structures, facilities).

    Exagerated worries that the Delta Plan may create a burdersome regulatory process have driven much of the anxts about its imagined effects on economic development prospects in the Delta. But as this example shows, the Delta reform Act and Delta Plan have been crafted carefully to avoid uneccesary regulatory requirements on routine activities.

    We can all join in your best wishes for the success of the parks' new operator. State Parks' Proposal for Recreation in the Delta (, and its Central Valley Vision Implementation Plan ( which the Delta Proposal is based, both anticipate that recreation at state parks will be provided through partnerships with concessionaires, citizen organizations, and others. The Delta Plan endorses that strategy and recommends that state agencies cooperate with private businesses to provide receration (see the plan's recommendation DP R17).

    So good luck to American Land and Leisure. It's great to have another partner working to hep Californians enjoy and learn about the Delta.

  2. Dan,

    Thanks for correcting me. Sounds like there would be no issues unless they wanted to expand the operation in some way.

    I agree that the angst over covered actions is much greater than necessary. That will decline over time if it is implemented well.

    An economic development facillitator who could explain all that without scary references to CEQA and Water Code sections would help too!

    I am happy that State Parks found a solution, and I also wish much success for American Land and Leisure. Clearly, nothing in the Delta Plan discouraged them from making a bet on Delta recreation over the next 5 years.