Dr. Jerry Meral, who directed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) for Governor Jerry Brown, has joined the Natural Heritage Institute as Director of the California Water Program.
Dr. Meral served as Deputy Director of the California Department of Water Resources from 1975 to 1983, Executive Director of the Planning and Conservation League from 1983 to 2010, and as Deputy Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency from 2011 to 2013. In the latter capacity, he was in charge of the BDCP, a habitat conservation plan which includes the proposed twin water tunnels which would pass under the Delta from Sacramento to Tracy, as well as extensive habitat restoration.
Dr. Meral will represent NHI on BDCP issues. In order to comply with state law regarding “revolving door” issues, he will not be compensated for his time working on BDCP. He will also represent NHI on groundwater issues, transportation issues affecting water quality and habitat, and other California water matters. Dr. Meral previously served on the NHI Board of Directors, and represented NHI on the BDCP Steering Committee in 2010.
NHI is a non-profit environmental conservation organization founded in 1989 with 25 years of experience in California water issues. NHI was represented on the BDCP Steering Committee for many years. NHI also works on river management issues throughout the world, with special focus on preserving and restoring natural functions on major river systems in Asia, Africa, and North and South America. The NHI Board of Directors includes well known scientists such as Dr. Peter Moyle, an expert on California fish.
The Natural Heritage Institute has been an early and strenuous proponent of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. NHI finds the evidence overwhelming that the delta cannot serve the dual functions of maintaining endangered species and water supply reliability without a massive habitat restoration program and improvements to the water diversion and conveyance infrastructure that can reduce the conflicts between these uses. BDCP is the only apparent vehicle for marshalling the billions of dollars of financial support from the State and Federal Water Contractors for the needed infrastructure improvements and for the public funding needed to undertake the restoration program.
The infrastructure improvements may also provide substantial benefits beyond the delta itself. NHI has worked for decades to illuminate opportunities for conjunctive use of surface and groundwater resources, many of which would rely on a more flexible system of moving water across the delta. When it becomes easier to move water to new off-stream storage facilities and empty groundwater basins in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, it will be possible to undertake stream enhancement north of the Delta, benefitting both the environment and water users of all regions
The principal fear of people in Northern California is that those in the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California will take more water from the Delta than is good for the fish and the environment of the Delta can be alleviated through water management measures to implement the existing state policy to reduce reliance on the delta by the state and federal water supply agencies. Water exports from the Delta should not increase beyond the historic level of export.