While the Delta Reform Act provides some direction for implementing the plan, there are still a lot of details that need to be worked out. “The law basically says you will have an implementation committee that will involve discussions among relevant agencies, but it doesn’t say how to do that or how that’s going to function,” said Executive Officer Chris Knopp. There’s a lot of blank space that has to be filled in, said Mr. Knopp, “so we thought one good way to do this would be to listen to some of the other agencies as to what they perceive our role to be.”
A panel of agency representatives and a panel of water policy experts have been invited to the meeting to share their thoughts and ideas about implementing the Delta Plan.
PANEL 1: DELTA PLANNING AGENCIES
The first panel is composed of representatives from agencies that have responsibilities related to the Delta Plan. During their testimony, Leighann Moffitt from the Sacramento County Planning Department discussed the County’s views of the Delta Plan and how that affects their planning efforts, Les Grober from the State Water Board gave an update on how the State Water Resources Control Board is progressing with the update to the Bay-Delta Plan, as well as how the water board is utilizing the resources of the Delta Science Program, and Mike Machado from the Delta Protection Commission shared his concerns with the Council’s role in the Delta.
LEIGHANN MOFFITT, SACRAMENTO COUNTY PLANNING DIRECTOR
Leighann Moffitt, Sacramento County Planning Director, began by noting that of the unincorporated Sacramento County’s 1000 square miles, 162 square miles are in the Delta’s primary zone with a little bit of area in the secondary zone. At a panel during an April 2011 meeting, “Sacramento County’s message at that point in time as it is today is that we have been very good stewards of the unique and valuable land use and environmental resources in the Delta, and we have every intention of continuing that mission,” said Ms. Moffitt.
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“ The latest version of the plan … certainly does seem to provide us with a predictability and certainty that we need as the local land use authority when we meet to advise and work with local project applicants.” –Leighann Moffitt[/pullquote]
Given the combination of strong general plan policies, zoning requirements, the Williamson Act contracts and FEMA’s decertification of the levee, Sacramento County does not foresee experiencing significant growth or intensive land use development in their portion of the Delta, now or in the near future; however, the County is actively engaged in ensuring the economic viability of existing Delta towns, she said.
“We do feel that it is critical that we have a clear understanding of the Council and Delta Plan’s role and interplay with our local land use, open space and conservation policies and regulations,” she said, noting that covered actions and project consistency certifications have been key concerns. “The latest version of the plan, specifically the decision tree and covered action process described in Chapter 2, certainly does seem to provide us with a predictability and certainty that we need as the local land use authority when we meet to advise and work with local project applicants.”
Sacramento County staff recently met with Council staff to review the County’s last concerns. Ms. Moffitt acknowledged that they haven’t really had any ‘oversight’ before, so the interplay is a little new to them; however, they are looking forward to working with the Council to make minor adjustments to the implementation framework as the plan evolves.
Sacramento does not really have concerns regarding overlap with the Delta Plan, but they do have concerns regarding overlap with the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, which is an ongoing point of discussion. “Of extreme importance to us with regard to whether there’s competition for mitigation resources and how that overlap plays out, and whether Sacramento County will be afforded by the regulatory agencies the same level of parity as granted to the BDCP in terms of mitigation,” said Ms. Moffitt.
“My closing message today is that Sacramento County will remain a strong steward of the Delta and will apply and implement all applicable and reasonable local and state land use and water management policies and regulations to ensure the Delta remains a special place in perpetuity,” said Ms. Moffitt.
LES GROBER, STATE WATER BOARD
The State Water Board has been making forward progress on phase 1 and phase 2 of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan update, said Les Grober, Assistant Deputy Director for the State Water Board’s division of water rights. “A theme I’d like to stress today in terms of what we’re doing in moving forward is that it’s about more than flow, and that’s the thing that we’re wrestling with … how do we come up with that comprehensive package that achieves the goals of ecosystem protection and a sustainable water supply.”
A Supplemental Environmental Document (SED, equivalent to an EIR) was released at the end of last year for phase 1, the San Joaquin River flow and southern Delta salinity objectives. The flow proposal that the Board put forward was for 35% of the unimpaired flow, said Mr. Grober, explaining that unimpaired flow is roughly approximates the flow that would occur if it were not impounded by dams or consumptively used in the watershed. The goal is to provide flow of a more variable pattern and to look at the frequency, timing, duration of flows that would be useful to protect fisheries, specifically outmigrating salmon in the San Joaquin River.
A public hearing on the proposed objectives was held on March 20-21st, “A common theme of what we heard was that based on the science that we had, 35% was not enough. … Of course, the more that you would provide, it means there would be a larger effect on some of those public interest needs, and we also heard at the same time from some that even a 35% would have dramatic effects on water supply, agriculture supply, and hydropower, so this is something the board will have to wrestle with and reconcile – what is the correct proposal?” said Mr. Grober.
It really gets at the Board’s central role of balancing the competing uses of water, said Mr. Grober. Currently, in these tributaries, 75% and sometimes more of the flow is used for public interest uses, such as agriculture, hydropower, and consumptive uses; on the other hand, scientific information suggest that 60% is needed to protect public trust uses, such as outmigrating salmon. “If you add up 60% and 75%, it’s more than 100%, so how do you resolve this with regard to the coequal goals … how do you balance the uses of this precious resource to achieve our collective goals.”
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Science will inform only so much. At some point it becomes a policy decision in terms of how do you do this balancing. — Les Grober, State Water Board[/pullquote]
“I heard earlier that there’s the need for science to inform these decisions. Science will inform only so much. At some point it becomes a policy decision in terms of how do you do this balancing,” he said.
The State Water Board received over 4000 comments on the proposed San Joaquin flow objectives, which shows that there is a lot of interest down there, as there should be, Mr. Grober said, and the State Water Board will continue to reach out to the local areas that will be affected. “We are still on track to get something for Board consideration by the end of the year. We are determining how many changes we need to make and how much additional analysis do we need to do.”
The State Water Board believes that there’s a role for the Delta Science Program and the Lead Scientist, said Mr. Grober, noting that they are working with the science program on developing the adaptive management program and adding rigor to the other elements of the plan that require actions by other agencies or entities. “The question is how do we address those things if it’s not something that we have direct authority or regulation over. In the past we have put things in our program of implementation … that should be done to achieve the goals, but the concern is how do we ensure those things have happened?”
The State Water Board is not as far along with Phase 2, said Mr. Grober. “Phase 2 covers some of the same subject matter as the BDCP. It’s our comprehensive update to the plan, and BDCP is preparing some of the information as it relates to the state and federal projects in the Delta, so as part of our activities we have increased our activity level working with the department in reviewing the draft EIR of the Plan to see if it provides the information that we’re going to need to support a changed point of diversion and any other permits that they would need for the BDCP, as well as reviewing it to see if it has information that would be useful to inform the Phase 2 update.”
The State Water Board heard from Dr. Peter Goodwin at the April 9 board meeting about possible next steps for the phase 2 update, who discussed what the main uncertainties were in the science. “I have to say that in general, the response was that we have a lot of information already with which to move forward, but four areas were identified that we could work together where we’d use the Delta Science Program to have workshops to get additional information,“ said Grober. Those areas were Delta outflow, in Delta flow, nutrients, and invasive species, said Mr. Grober, adding that “we know it’s about more than flow … it’s not just Delta outflow, but it’s Delta outflow and issues related to Delta outflow, such as habitat, species, anything else that’s related to it. We’re not looking at trying to fix this with just Delta outflow.”
Mr. Grober noted that he worked for a Board, and although they hadn’t made a final determination yet, “it was generally well received by our Board that working with you would assist our processes, and those appeared to be some of the right topics to look at in conjunction with the predation workshop you already have going on, so we hope to move forward with those over the next year,” he said, adding “it might be overly ambitious to get those completed by August; I think more by the end of the year would still be helpful to inform our process.”
So, in closing, Mr. Grober said that the water board staff is continuing to work with the Delta Science Program on workshops and adaptive management. The Board is also setting up an interagency agreement with the Delta Science Program to provide information on what methodology to use to develop in-stream flows for priority tributaries to the Delta, a process the Board is trying to complete by 2018. “We are going to be working with your staff to determine what are the best methods to be using to do that because there are a lot of tributaries to be evaluating, so we’re looking for ways to do that are both scientifically based and sound, and also a little bit more rapid,” said Mr. Grober.
MIKE MACHADO, DELTA PROTECTION COMMSSION
“First of all, I’d like to congratulate the Council and the staff for completing the Delta Plan. There’s something for everyone to dislike and threaten litigation over,” joked Mike Machado, Executive Director of the Delta Protection Commission.
Taking a more serious tone, “the Delta Protection Commission is indeed a partner with the Council,” said Mr. Machado. However, he foresee challenges with respect to the Delta Plan. “One of those challenges is that now, the Council not become by default another CalFed or California Bay Delta Authority, an authority that was without authority that oversaw a group that was fractionalized without a unity of action,” he said.
“I would like to go through a list of some of the issues that relate to the credibility of the Delta Reform Act as going through the Council to the people of the Delta,” said Mr. Machado, adding “remember that the Delta Reform Act recognized the Commission as the being a voice of the Delta.”
“First, there’s been discussion of whether or not the BDCP becomes part of the Delta Plan, or as part of the Delta Plan, does the Council have oversight over the implementation of the BDCP, particularly with respect to the Delta Reform Act,” said Mr. Machado. “Recent statements by Jerry Meral representing the Administration stated that the BDCP is not designed to save the Delta, and that nothing can save the Delta. This raises a credibility question that if this is so, are the coequal goals of water supply reliability and restoring the Delta going to be ignored? If not, who or what state agency will oversee the BDCP to ensure compliance with the 2009 Delta Reform Act?”
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]The Commission would like to remind people that the people in the Delta have not changed. What has changed is the population around the Delta and the pressures on the Delta by that population. Too often it seems that those who have been good stewards of the land and who have contributed to flood protection of the urban periphery are the very ones who are being asked to sacrifice for the benefit of others.” –Mike Machado, Delta Protection Commission[/pullquote]
Second, the various proposals for habitat restoration range from 8000 acres to over 100,000 acres, he said. “A question I think for the Delta residents is what role, if any, does the Council have in reconciling the difference between these acreages suggested for habitat restoration? Particularly because the difference in the acreages affects the legislative objective of achieving the coequal goals while protecting and enhancing Delta agriculture.”
Third, there have been meetings within DWR to develop a policy for mitigating the loss of farmland with the implementation of the BDCP, said Mr. Machado. “Interesting, in those meetings, they do not include Delta stakeholders, nor has the question been presented to Delta farmers about how habitat restoration could be incorporated with ongoing farming operations. There is a sense that the discussion is more concerned with taking without compensating, rather than trying to mitigate and incorporate restoration of habitat along with protecting and enhancing the agriculture of the Delta.”
Fourth, responsibility for paying for the improvements for water reliability and mitigation of environmental damages is an obligation of the beneficiaries of the water exported from the Delta; however, recent discussions have suggested that beneficiary pays will not stand and the public will be called to pick up some of the costs, said Mr. Machado. “The principle of beneficiary pays has been foundational to reducing the need for general obligation bonds and general fund money for water projects, both in and outside the Delta. … Again, the question comes back in terms of credibility, does the Council have a role in defining and affecting beneficiary pays?”
Fifth, it’s been suggested that in interpreting, preserving and enhancing agriculture in the Delta, that preservation of agriculture should be limited to that which is unique to the Delta and not common elsewhere, he said, and “it’s been suggested that not growing crops in the Delta would allow more water to be exported. The converse is equally true, and that is retiring farmland that relies on exported water adds flow to the Delta. Retiring farmland in the Delta is estimated to actually also increase water consumption relative to cultivating Delta farmlands. The Delta people believe that farming in the Delta on reclaimed islands is as unique to California as irrigating deserts.”
Sixth, there is a lot of talk about near-term projects, and there is money still available from several past bonds, but there has been no movement on many of these projects, said Mr. Machado, noting that part of the problem is the local match requirement. “Beneficiaries have been approached to partner with local agencies to pursue projects that carry out the coequal goals, but the common response is that no one wants to participate in promoting a project that might suggest that the BDCP is not needed. Does the Council have the authority to move state agencies, contractors, and locals to propose and fund projects that both further water reliability and restoration of the Delta?”
The Delta Protection Commission is very much concerned about the proposed changes to the Delta, said Mr. Machado. “The Commission would like to remind people that the people in the Delta have not changed. What has changed is the population around the Delta and the pressures on the Delta by that population. Too often it seems that those who have been good stewards of the land and who have contributed to flood protection of the urban periphery are the very ones who are being asked to sacrifice for the benefit of others.”
“These are challenges that affect the credibility, and without credibility, we end up with fractionalization and a lack of interest in wanting to participate, and that could further delay and hamper what has been a topic for this state for going on over four decades of trying to restore and protect the Delta and address the water needs of California,” said Mr. Machado. “I would hope that we could have greater definition of authorities, greater effort of implementation to be able to bring the diverse groups together to work in trying to address this and also address it on the principle of not working on the demise of one area for the benefit of another.”
Mr. Machado added that he would be leaving the commission on June 1, and appreciated the opportunity to work with the Council and the staff over the past 2 ½ years. “It is my hope that the reform act is implemented to truly achieve the coequal goals and the objectives identified by the legislature as inherent in the success of achieving the coequal goals.”
Council Discussion: During the discussion period, the Council and the panelists discussed the BDCP and the role of the Delta Stewardship Council, land use issues and consistency between various plans, and the authority of the Council. Click here to view this discussion from the meeting. (Agenda item 7; discussion is segment #21)
The second panel discussed the potential roles the Council could play and the authorities it could use in implementing the Delta Plan. Alf Brandt spoke about the history and development of the Delta Reform Act, Ellen Hanak from the Public Policy institute of California gave her perspective on the Council’s role in implementing the plan, and Cindy Tuck from ACWA drew on her experiences from CalEPA to give specific suggestions to the Council for the implementation committee.
ALF BRANDT, HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Currently, Alf Brandt is Legislative Director for Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, who chairs the Assembly’s Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee, but he began by stating that he was not here acting in his role as legislative director for Mr. Rendon, but more as a historian. Mr. Brandt was very involved with the writing of the Delta Reform Act in 2009, and is here to offer a perspective on the history, “because understanding what happened in 2009 is an important part of looking forward and moving forward. When you know your history, you know where you can go and where you need to go and perhaps how you do it. I think I can help on that,” he said.
The entire statute included more than the just the Delta Stewardship Council; it included some changes to the Delta Protection Commission and also created the Delta Conservancy. There were other bills that were part of the package and were all passed within about 24 hours on November 3rd and 4th, and Mr. Brandt was one of a few lawyers who worked in the staff group that developed a lot of the language of the legislation. “I had very consciously on my mind the some of the cannons of legislative interpretation. One of them is the plain meaning, and if you are not going to use a plain meaning – and there’s a lot of jargon in water – then you are going to need to define it, so we spent a lot of time on our definitions.”
“Most important is administrative deference, which is the deference that when there is an ambiguity, if you are not using a plain meaning, you rely on the administrative agency to interpret that and define that and there is a lot of judicial deference,” he said.
Mr. Brandt said his experiences with Calfed and with litigation over the Central Valley Project Improvement Act were constantly on his mind when they writing the legislation, as well as the Little Hoover Commission’s assessment and report on governance in the Delta. “I was perhaps the most frustrated with the interagency conflict. I was just tired of it,” said Mr. Brandt.
A key experience that drove Mr. Brandt’s thinking on regarding interagency conflicts was when in August of 2005, they received a report of the Delta ecosystem collapsing. “In the next year’s budget for 2006-2007, we put a requirement in that the Secretary of Resources had to come up with a plan to just stabilize the Delta while we figured out what we were going to do. We gave it to the Secretary of the Resources Agency because we wanted him to craft it, and we put that they couldn’t spend any state money on the south Delta improvement program until that report was done.”
The report didn’t get finished until March of the next year. “I was talking to the directors of the Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Water Resources who were at war with each other, and I was hearing from each about how horrible the other side was. Their staff were at war, they were at war personally, and it was frustrating,” said Mr. Brandt. “And the frustration of that experience was part of what I was keeping in mind, clearly, as we were trying to figure out how to create a council that has some authority.”
Turning to the Delta Plan, Mr. Brandt said, “It is consistent with the kinds of things we gave you. We gave you a lot of discretion. The legislature was not going to make the decisions on exactly how to go forward. We gave it to you, we set out things that you needed to consider, we set standards, we did a number of things, but ultimately it was up to you, and so you made choices. We gave you options, not mandates that you have to decide this way.”
One of the important parts of the Council’s role is in planning, said Mr. Brandt. “Planning can make a difference, and being able to set a plan for all the different pieces of the Delta, not just water, not just fish, but all the different pieces, and you see a lot of land use in that. … We did change the Delta Protection Commission to make it more focused on the counties so that it would be the counties voice. The Delta Conservancy was the implementer for a lot of both ecosystem restoration as well as economic development of the Delta,” said Mr. Brandt. “Those were the implementers; we did not see you as an implementer. You are one of three, but the planning is the piece where you can really step up and you have stepped up.”
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”] The Delta changes and the Delta is going to continue to change in ways you don’t predict and in ways you can’t expect. We set you the biggest challenge of preparing for that change. –Alf Brandt[/pullquote]
The Council is directing efforts across state agencies and developing a legally enforceable plan, said Mr. Brandt. “That was to contrast with the Bay Delta Authority, which really didn’t have any effect to be able to enforce it, and we wanted to say that you have the authority, the responsibility and the accountability, because that was one of the frustrations in 2005 and 2006 – there was no accountability … so we wanted one place where we could go to and say, how’s your plan working and somewhere to put some accountability.”
There is a full-time chair and councilmembers are paid 1/3rd time, said Mr. Brandt, noting that they took it out of the CARB model. “You are a hard working leadership council. It’s more than just voluntary, when you have time.”
Delta policies such as the coequal goals, conservation, quality, land use policies and reduced reliance on the Delta – those are all part of the package, all part of one Act, said Mr. Brandt. “And finally, we put reasonable use and public trust as the foundation of how we manage water in California, all of those are part of the Act … We weren’t telling you exactly how that meant or how you implement it, but we were telling you these are the things you need to pay attention to.”
“On the Delta Plan, it is the plan of plans. It is ecosystem and water supply reliability. Your plan is your key tool,” said Mr. Brandt. The next step is how to implement the plan and other planning efforts going forward once the Delta Plan is adopted. The Council has the authority to request reports from state and federal agencies, comment on state agency’s EIRs that are outside of the Delta if it’s connected to the Delta, receive reports from the Delta Watermaster, and the Council is required to review and provide timely advice to local planners, as well the Delta Science Program. “That review and comment and coordination can be a critical tool for you going forward once you adopt the Delta Plan.”
With regards to the BDCP, we set out the procedures for an open process, laid out some of the substantive considerations, defined things that particular agencies had to do, and then gave it to you to appeal on those things. “Have they done those things, have they considered those issues, have they done the process that is an open process? That is up to you,” said Mr. Brandt, admitting that the appeal was something added into the final weeks, and there wasn’t much detail. “We talked about this among staff and decided we’re just going to leave it to the Council to figure it out. It’s an example where we’re relying on your discretion and you’ll need to figure out how that works.”
“Is there life after adoption of the Delta Plan? I would say yes, we put some limits on what your role is after that. You are not an implementer and you cannot direct an agency require them to do something – that was a conscious choice,” said Mr. Brandt. “It’s the planning; it’s getting out front before it gets to you as a consistency appeal that can be some of your most powerful roles, so I would encourage you to go ahead and plan, and plan is where you can make the biggest difference. It’s where you can bring all of our agencies, state and federal.”
Mr. Brandt added that one key addition he added was the requirement to comply with federal laws, such as the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Clean Water Act and the section 8 of the Reclamation Act, “because as the formal federal lawyer, I knew those were the hooks that we could get on the feds. If you could comply with those, if you could do things that exercised those authorities, that’s the place where the federal government and Congress has given us as a state, to be able to influence what the federal agencies do. So that was an important part – your ability to make those part of the plan is going to make those work.”
“Planning doesn’t stop once you adopt it. … It keeps going. Remember, what does Delta stand for? It stands for change, and if anything that’s the one lesson I learned after Calfed … the Delta changes and the Delta is going to continue to change in ways you don’t predict and in ways you can’t expect,” said Mr. Brandt. “We set you the biggest challenge of preparing for that change and responding and making the Delta resilient. How do you respond and how do you react to those changes? Because it was the failure in 2005 and 2006 for us to respond to the information that was coming in and the agencies weren’t responding. … Planning is the key piece on how you can make a difference in the Delta.”
ELLEN HANAK, PUBLIC POLICY INSTITUTE OF CALIFORNIA
Ellen Hanak, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, began by lamenting the fact that they would be releasing a report the following Tuesday about the Delta that would address some of these issues, so today she would only be able to give the Council the ‘movie trailer’ version.
“Hopefully I will whet your appetite for what I think will be useful set of documents for you,” she said, noting that the first portions of the study were released last year: Aquatic Ecosystem Stressors in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which organized the Delta’s multiple stressors in a way that is digestible for policy making and Where the Wild Things Aren’t: Making the Delta a Better Place for Native Species, which was a realistic vision for what one might think about in terms of management of the Delta ecosystem, given all of the changes that have happened to date and in recognition of the coequal goals, as well as the acknowledgement that people are going to need to continue using the land and water resources of the Delta and the watershed, she said.
“Now what we’re going to be releasing is a synthesis report, and then three more detailed pieces. One of them that will be especially useful for you is a look at institutional and legal options regarding more integrated management of ecosystem stressors where we go into some detail about the council’s role as well as the role of a lot of other agencies involved in both regulation and management,” said Ms. Hanak. “There’s another piece that estimates costs of a whole wide array of management actions that goes beyond just what the BDCP is looking at, and another that summarizes the results of a couple of surveys that we did last summer,” she said.
As part of the research for the report, they surveyed scientists working on the Delta ecosystem, and then posed the same kinds of questions to stakeholders and policymakers. “The goal of those surveys was to get a synthetic view on how scientists are viewing the causes of stress in the Delta ecosystem, where they anticipate those going to go in the future, what is the most impactful or most problematic in the future, and critically looking at and getting their sense of the potential impact of a wide range of management actions to address the wide range of stressors,” said Ms. Hanak. “What we asked the stakeholders and policymakers was to provide their sense both of the relative importance of various stressors on where we are now, and then also to provide their sense of what they thought were the top priority actions. So that’s the teaser on that part. Stay tuned for that on Tuesday for more.”
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“We’ve got good dialog on agencies wanting to work together – they have their own constraints as to why that is sometimes hard, but this is a way to help to have those conversations. It’s a great way to hold agencies accountable.” –Ellen Hanak[/pullquote]
In terms of the Council’s role in the Delta, Ms. Hanak said, “We think the Delta Plan does a nice job in a concise way of talking about the range of ecosystem stressors that are at play, both within the legal Delta and Suisun Marsh but also within the greater watershed. Clearly, some of the fish that are listed are just passing through the Delta so obviously the conditions upstream are critically important for them as well, and what happens in the upper watershed is critically important for those fish that are living in the Delta all the time. We are focusing on fish, recognizing there are other species that matter, too, but that seems to be the toughest nut to crack.”
“The Delta Plan is a good start on this. In terms of thinking about challenges of management and better management of ecosystem stressors to get to a more sustainable ecosystem and a healthier ecosystem, fragmentation among institutions is going to be a real potential road block,” said Ms. Hanak, recognizing there has been a lot of progress, but “we’re not there altogether. Clearly we have an alphabet soup of agencies that are involved in regulating various different stressors as well as doing management actions on the ground, so the challenge is going to be how to make that work better without creating some unified mega overarching boss that does everything because that in and of itself wouldn’t be a solution,” said Ms. Hanak.
The Delta Reform Act gives the Council some regulatory and enforcement capabilities, but it limits that to local actions and state and non-regulatory actions within the statutory Delta and Suisun Marsh, said Ms. Hanak. “We think the important piece that was missing is that there wasn’t the capability to do that for some critical land use decisions in particular,” she said, adding that “we’re certainly not recommending that needs to be extended beyond anywhere else. That’s a discussion that has been had many times and the law was written the way it was for a lot of good reasons.”
“We do think that the Council can play a really valuable role as the expert agency on the Delta in using its authority to provide nonbinding consistency reviews of all the other things that could really matter to the ecosystem,” she said, giving examples such as regulatory actions, upstream activities and local actions outside the Delta that are relevant. “The thought here is that a nonbinding consistency review can provide a signal that something is consistent or not with the Delta Plan.” It’s possible that some agencies might want to a consistency review because it would provide some heft to their efforts. “It’s something one can think of, not as a negative ‘thou shalt not do things’, but more as a something that can be proactive and positive in helping the various parties involved to set their own plans in ways that are consistent with the Delta plan.”
The Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee seems to be something that isn’t on people’s radars just yet, but we think it could be very useful as a visible tool for coordination in a variety of ways, she said. “One of our thoughts is to require all the agencies to present their near term and longer term plans for what they are going to do to help implement the Delta Plan. That would be presented in a public forum, giving a chance for discussion about how Agency X’s plan can be made to be consistent with Agency Y’s.”
“In theory now, we’ve got good dialog on agencies wanting to work together – they have their own constraints as to why that is sometimes hard, but this is a way to help to have those conversations,” she said. “It’s a great way to hold agencies accountable,” she said, noting that if they were unable to get something done due to regulatory inconsistencies or needed legislative fixes, it could be reported back to the legislature at the state level, and maybe even at the federal level as well.
“We think this entity could play a really valuable role in adaptive management, not just in a sort of an advisory way, but actually being an umbrella organization for that.”
Cindy Tuck, Deputy Executive Director at ACWA, began by saying that ACWA appreciates being able to provide comments. ACWA was very involved with the creation of the Delta Reform Act in 2009 which provides the foundation for the Council’s work. “As Councilmember Gray noted, it’s not just the creation of the law, it’s not just the creation of the plan, the implementation obviously is a critical phase of this work and that’s why we’re all here today.”
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Agencies can work together and solve problems … it takes a lot of work and good will, but it can be done and so we would suggest that the tone be that [the implementation committee] will focus on delivering solutions.” –Cindy Tuck, ACWA[/pullquote]
We think the implementation committee is exciting and critical, and we would suggest you get it up and running as soon as possible, she said. The top people from the agencies should be at the table. “When I was at Cal EPA, we had an across-the-agencies coordinating committee on water; when I went to those meetings, … you had the heads of the agencies there who could make commitments for those agencies, that could make decisions there. There was nothing there where somebody had to say, well I have to go back and check with my boss. They could speak for the agency right there. That’s what we’d suggest.”
“We would also suggest that you really set a tone for this committee that they should be working to deliver solutions. Agencies can work together and solve problems … it takes a lot of work and good will, but it can be done and so we would suggest that the tone be that they will focus on delivering solutions,” she said. “It may be helpful to have a good facilitator at these meetings to move things along and get to those kinds of solutions.”
Ms. Tuck suggested they pick a small number of specific issues or projects that the committee should focus on, rather than having such a big list that nothing is accomplished. “One example would be water transfers, and the reason we mention that is that water transfers can help the state achieve the coequal goals, but for us to get there, you have to have water where you need it at the right times, and being able to move water can help the state do that,” said Ms. Tuck. “Right now the process gets bogged down, the transaction costs are very hard, and to solve those issues it’s going to take multiple agencies working together. This is the perfect opportunity for this implementation committee so that’s an example of one project that could be worked on.”
“We think the science plan is critical and I know the Council agrees with that,” said Ms. Tuck. “I can say from working with Cal EPA and the air resources board that science played a critical role in the state of California getting to cleaner air. Part of it was technology development, but part of it was pure science,” she said. There were different views on the science, but the air resources board looked at the different views, came together and went forward. “They focused on the science, put their strategy in place based on that, and that has resulted in real improvement that has helped all of us in California, particularly those in the Los Angeles area, breathe a lot better.”
“The Council is looking at the concept or the expression One Delta, One Science, and I think that approach sounds really good on its face, but we would offer some cautions on that and some thoughts,” she said. The water community, public water agencies, and NGOs should all be at the table. “When there can be agreement on the science that’s fabulous, and that helps stakeholders and the agencies be vested in the solution. That’s the ideal scenario, but we don’t always get to the ideal scenario, obviously, but as a minimum, bringing the people in the science world together to share information, and having those robust discussions and seeing where folks can come together on the science, that would be helpful to you.”
“ACWA wants to play a constructive role in the implementation, and we look forward to working with you.”
Council Discussion: Councilmembers discussed with the panelists whether the implementation committee should focus on broad strategic efforts or on focused topics, the importance of setting the agenda, and the authorities of the Council. Click here to view the discussion (Agenda Item 7, segment 25).