Maven’s Minutes: Delta Stewardship Council’s implementation committee takes shape; Council discusses oversight role
With the first Delta Plan now adopted, the Delta Stewardship Council is turning their attention to implementing the comprehensive plan. Agenda item 10 for the June 27 Delta Stewardship Council meeting is an update on the progress of establishing an implementation committee and a brief discussion on how to select priorities and topics for Council oversight.
THE DELTA PLAN INTERAGENCY IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE TAKE SHAPE; COUNCIL ELECTS COMMITTEE CHAIR (AGENDA 10-B)
Executive Officer Chris Knopp updated the Council on the progress made in establishing the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee; staff is also recommending that the Council select a committee chair at today's meeting.
The Delta Reform Act directs the Council to establish a committee of agencies responsible for implementing the Plan. The point of the committee is to get things moving in the Delta, said Mr. Knopp, so the primary role of the committee is to address individual problems that are stymieing progress by creating a workgroup to develop recommendations. “The Implementation Committee will then have a clear range of options to select from, and ideally workable solutions will be part of the process, the idea being by focusing energy on specific issues, we can make something happen in a collaborative way among all the agencies, and do it in a very timely way.”
The biggest task has been determining who will be the representatives. So far, staff has received a uniformly positive response from the agencies and a desire to participate and see some action in the Delta, said Mr. Knopp. “One of the things we’re trying to balance here is keeping the group as small as possible so that it can be effective. One of the criticisms of CalFed was that the bureaucracy got so large, that it was unable to make a decision, so we’re trying to keep that in mind.”
Councilman Randy Fiorini said that he is encouraged by the meetings with both local and federal agencies, as well as those held with the leaders of the agencies that have authority in the Delta. “Part of my fear is that we’re a new state agency that’s been given limited authority but lots of responsibilities, and that we would be viewed as a pesky fly, but we were received with enthusiasm, and our role to help coordinate and synthesize the efforts of multiple agencies is viewed as a plus.”
The implementation committee is a high-level group that will meet once every six months, explained Mr. Fiorini. “The committee will identify four to six projects, actions, or initiatives to begin coordinating and implementing among the various agencies that have responsibilities: state, federal and local. Each one of those actions or recommendations will have a workteam assembled around it, and it’s at the workteam level where the locals, stakeholders, and interested parties will have the opportunity to meet and work together,” he said.
“For the locals in the Delta that are concerned about representation, there’s going to be adequate opportunity to plug-in,” said Mr. Fiorini. “The idea in assembling the implementation committee is that there needs to be a balance. You can’t ignore the fact that you have agencies in the Delta that have responsibilities to carry out the actions that we anticipate will take place.”
The public will have access to the implementation committee in several ways, explained Mr. Knopp. They can participate in workgroups, raise issues through agencies participating in the committee, or by raising an issue with the Council itself. “We wanted to make it clear that the public is involved through the Delta agencies, and we changed a couple of things and took some liberties by including a water agency representative and BDCP, as part of that to try and improve the visibility and accessibility of the implementation committee to the public.”
It was later clarified that the implementation committee meetings will be open to the public and there will be an opportunity for public to comment at those meetings.
The Council then went about nominating and unanimously appointing Councilman Randy Fiorini to chair the Implementation Committee. “The very existence of the Stewardship Council hinges on performance. And if we cannot effectively implement the plan we just adopted, then we have failed. There’s going to be a lot of processes going on, including the implementation committee, but I take very seriously this responsibility,” said the newly anointed committee chair, Mr. Fiorini.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Click here for the staff report on this agenda item.
- Click here to view the webcast for this meeting.
SETTING PRIORITIES FOR COUNCIL OVERSIGHT (AGENDA ITEM 10-C)
The Legislature expressed its intent to ‘establish a governance structure that will direct efforts across state agencies to develop a legally enforceable Delta Plan’ through adoption of the Delta Reform Act, and the Delta Plan’s Chapter 2, reflecting the advice of the Delta Vision Task Force, identifies oversight as an important role for the Council in coordinating actions of state and other agencies to implement the Delta Plan, said Deputy Executive Officer Dan Ray. “The Delta Reform Act gives you both the authority to hold hearings in any part of the state to carry out that oversight role, as well as request reports from other federal, state, or local agencies, and the Delta Reform Act authorizes you to consult specifically with a list of named agencies about particular issues,” said Mr. Ray.
Staff has been considering how topics for Council oversight should be identified and is seeking direction today from the Council as they begin to think about how to schedule and layout a series of oversight activities over the coming months, he said. Staff proposes selecting topics based on three principles:
- Matters that will need Council action to set policy or provide direction such as prioritizing state investments in Delta levees or developing a Delta Finance Plan;
- Important Delta management issues that other agencies are deciding but which the Council may influence,such as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan or the State Water Board's process to update the Bay Delta Plan;
- Reports on progress, opportunities and obstacles in implementing the Delta Plan, such as reduced reliance on the Delta through improved regional self-reliance, or the progress and implementation of habitat restoration projects.
“In each case, we would be asking for reports from the relevant agencies; we would review these reports in public hearings and compile panels of other experts or stakeholders that could contribute information or their own evaluation of an issue to the Council,” said Mr. Ray. “We would then draft staff reports that might form the basis for white papers that the Council could issue that would consolidate our own analysis with the information received from the hearings and from agency reports.” From that, the Council could make recommendations to implementing agencies, or recommendations to the Legislature or Congress about funding needs or revisions to laws, he said.
The Council could also adopt guidelines, said Mr. Ray. “The law gives you the authority to adopt not only regulations, but guidelines; these wouldn’t be regulations that affect others, but they really would be directions to the staff about how you want certain activities carried out, such as the Delta Science Plan or other recommendations you might have about how we should work on things.”
Councilman Fiorini noted that the staff report for this agenda item cites Ellen Hanak's testimony at the April 25 meeting, but it leaves out one key element of the recommendations that she made to the Council. “She recommended that a survey should be conducted of each of the state and federal agencies to determine what’s in their inventory of their current actions and plans, and I think that’s a critical first step,” said Mr. Fiorini.
Mr. Ray indicated he was thinking that would be an item for the implementation committee; Mr. Fiorini replied, “I think it’s a misconception that the implementation committee is going to be some super committee that does all these things. It’s just a subdivision of the Council; the Council has the oversight responsibility and the coordination and so on and so forth. I think it’s critical to get that inventory of what is already in place, what is planned in the near future, and then, as a Council, we can sort out, with the overlay of our 73 recommendations, what’s not ready for prime time yet and needs more hearings and discussion and conversation and what is ready to go.”
Chair Phil Isenberg gave some observations, and noted that under the proposed principle, ‘reports on progress, opportunities and obstacles’, the possible topics listed are reduced reliance and Delta habitat restoration, and offered one additional suggestion. “We’re not quite at a drought year but we’re inching closer to it, and if history is any guide, it could be multiple years. We are directed by statute to include as inherent in the coequal goals, our duty to promote statewide water conservation, water use efficiency, and sustainable water use,” said Mr. Isenberg. “As you know, the Department of Water Resources told us they only receive the Urban Water Management Plans that are purportedly to be in consistency with the statute, 20% savings by the year 2020, but DWR does not have the money or staff to review them to determine whether they are adequate or accurate.”
Mr. Isenberg continued: “The reason why I raise the point is the statute in the inherent objectives includes statewide water conservation, it is not simply the conservation of exporters, and if there’s anything that our Delta Plan does well is that there is an obligation of everyone in the entire state to be prudent in the use of water, not just somebody else, and that aspect of it, I think, is very important.”
During the public comment period, Greg Zlotnick of the San Luis and Delta Mendota Authority had some suggestions and observations, including this: “I thought conspicuously absent from the list [potential topics for oversight] was the recommendations from Chapter 5 of the Delta Plan; what can be done more quickly and prioritized to help develop the economic resiliency and sustainability of the Delta itself. Whether it has to do with economic opportunity, infrastructure investment, emergency response issues, all those sorts of issues in Chapter 5, would make sense since there's not really others out there pushing those things.”