The Delta Conservancy, a State-designated agency for implementing ecosystem restoration in the Delta, has approved a Strategic Plan outlining the priorities, goals and objectives of the agency. However, without a stable funding source, the future role of the Conservancy remains uncertain and will likely be shaped by the completion – or not – of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the Delta Plan.
The Delta Conservancy, created by Delta Reform Act of 2009, is California’s newest conservancy. A conservancy is a type of state agency created to focus policy support and funding for efforts that protect and restore natural resources across a regional landscape. Each conservancy is governed by a board that includes a mix of local representatives and state officials and is intended to provide a direct role for local government in their region’s resource management decision-making. Conservancies have authority to acquire, exchange and improve land from willing sellers, but they do not have any regulatory authority over land use and cannot acquire land through the power of eminent domain.
The Delta Conservancy has been given two mandates by the legislature that the Conservancy considers to be “coequal responsibilities”: to act as a primary agency for implementation of Delta ecosystem restoration, and to support efforts to advance environmental protection and the economic well-being of Delta residents. To accomplish this, the Conservancy will work in collaboration with local governments, organizations, and interested parties to protect and enhance habitat restoration, preserve Delta agriculture, and provide increased opportunities for tourism and recreation.
One way the Conservancy plans to achieve these objectives is to convene and lead a voluntary Delta Restoration Network that will be open to agencies, organizations and landowners involved in Delta restoration and habitat management. The network will act as a forum for coordination and information sharing that will encourage coordinated actions among willing parties and is seen as a way to bridge the gap between high-level Delta planning efforts and on-the-ground implementation of projects.
Another high priority for the Conservancy is to develop models for land management that preserve the economic uses of land. For example, agriculture can be managed in ways that are beneficial to wildlife, and restoration projects can incorporate revenue-generating uses such as boating and fishing. Developing multi-purpose landscape models and recognizing privately-managed lands which provide ecological value will be incorporated into the Conservancy’s restoration framework for the region.
The Strategic Plan attempts to create a path forward for the Conservancy whose uncertain future will largely be shaped by funding opportunities. The Conservancy was created without a concurrent funding source, the intention being that it would receive funding through the passage of the water bond. The water bond includes $1.5 billion that could potentially fund Conservancy projects, plus another $750 million for other projects that would promote sustainability in the Delta. However, with the bond now not scheduled to be brought before the voters until 2014, the Conservancy will have to look to other possible sources for funding, such as existing bond funds, appropriations from the General Fund, carbon offsets for carbon sequestration under AB32, and revenue-generating partnerships with major private or non-profit entities.
The role of the Delta Conservancy will also be shaped by the outcome of the Delta Plan and the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan planning processes currently underway. With these regional plans in effect, large amounts of restoration within the Delta will be taking place, potentially creating a central role for the Conservancy in their implementation. However, without these plans in place, how much the Conservancy can accomplish will largely be determined by how much funding can be secured from other sources.
The Strategic Plan, unanimously approved by the Conservancy at its June 27th meeting, was developed with extensive input from stakeholder organizations in agriculture and other sectors, local government officials, and public meetings. The Delta Conservancy’s Strategic Plan must be consistent with the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan, the 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan and other regional planning efforts, and has been written with the intent of achieving such consistency.
The Delta Conservancy is governed by a board that consists of 11 voting members and 2 non-voting members, one state senate member and one state assembly member and 10 advisors representing local, state, and federal environmental and economic interests in the Delta.
To learn more about the Delta Conservancy and read the Strategic Plan, click here.
To learn more about California conservancies in general, click here.
To view a list of other conservancies in California, click here.