Phil Isenberg, who has headed up the Council for the past four years, has reached the statutory limit of four years as mandated by the Delta Reform Act, and so the Council will be selecting a new Chair and Vice-Chair when the Council meets next on January 23rd. The position of Chair is full-time, with others council members considered one-third time employees.
It hasn’t been an easy four years, getting the fledgling Delta Stewardship Council up and running, but Chair Phil Isenberg can count many accomplishments, including adopting the first Delta Plan, adding top-drawer scientists to the Delta Independent Science Board, and overseeing and accepting the Delta Science Plan. In a letter to his colleagues, he thanks them for their support, citing the unanimous adoption of the Council’s first Delta Plan as evidence of how well the Council has worked together over the past four years to get things done.
Mr. Isenberg writes:
“Implementation of the Delta Plan is what really matters. In creating the Council, the Legislature recognized the need for an independent agency who can keep the focus on the long-view, and who can promote a comprehensive approach. Our water supply is finite, and increasingly erratic. Water conservation and water system efficiencies are the only currently available source of significant ‘new’ water for California. Making significant improvements in the Delta ecosystem is both legally required, and morally necessary. Groundwater overuse continues and unless halted will destroy the valuable underground water supply, which is a public resource, not private property. If we want our society to prosper and our environment to be protected, everyone in California needs to be far more prudent in the ways we use water.”
California's battles over water are historic and ongoing, Isenberg says, and the lawsuits challenging the plan were predictable. He finds it ironic that the various lawsuits either argue that the Council ‘went too far' or ‘didn't go far enough', or that the Delta Plan is either ‘a tool of the BDCP' or ‘hostile to the BDCP'. He sees this as an illustration that the Council exercised balanced judgement, consistent with their statutory direction.
In a governmental system that divides authority between hundreds of federal, state, and local agencies, the Council has a focus and a statutory mandate to promote and achieve the coequal goals, he writes:
“The Council serves as a constant voice reminding government agencies that the coequal goals are the law of California, not just a goal. The Council serves to remind everyone that state law requires reduced reliance on water from the Delta. And the Council must make it clear that we can move forward as a society only through serious, sustained and constant water conservation by everyone, and increased water efficiency by everyone, and improvement in the Delta ecosystem. In this regard, the Council is unique.”
Although Phil Isenberg will be stepping down as Chair, he will continue to serve on the Council as a council member for another two years. After the expiration of his six-year term, he will not be eligible for reappointment to the Council until after two years have passed.
Read Phil Isenberg’s letter to his colleagues here: 1-13-2014 PLI ltr to Council Members