The Delta Stewardship Council decides the membership of the implementation committee, discusses prioritizing levees, looks back at 2013 and sets priorities for 2014

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Click here for more from the Delta Stewardship Council.

At the December 19 Delta Stewardship Council meeting, the Council approved the membership of the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee, heard an update on the levee prioritization study, reviewed the accomplishments of the previous year, and discussed their priorities for the coming year in the second installment of coverage from the December meeting.  (Part 1 is here: Delta Stewardship Council briefing: The BDCP’s impacts in the Delta)

Agenda Item 9: The Delta Plan Implementation Committee

Taryn Ravazzini, Coordinator of the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee, is here today to with three items for the Council to take action on regarding the formation and launch of the committee:

  1. An endorsement of the charge to committee which has been revised, incorporating input received from council members at the November meeting;
  2. Affirm the membership of 16 agencies as the core members of the implementation committee;
  3. Grant the committee chair, Counclmember Randy Fiorini, the discretion to add to the core membership as necessary to achieve success

The first meeting of the committee will be in the spring, possibly March, said Ms. Ravazzini.  Since the committee will only be meeting every six months, Mr. Fiorini suggests the logical times to schedule those meetings would be in April after the last snow survey, and then again in September, which is the end of the irrigation season and carryover storage conditions are known. Ms Ravazzini said that they will be reporting on a monthly basis to the Council on the committee’s actions.  Staff is also working on developing a charter for the committee, which they plan to have for the January meeting.

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Taryn Ravazzini
Delta Interagency Implementation Committee Coordinator

The Council reviewed and briefly discussed the charge, adopting it with the incorporation of some minor additional language by Councilman Nordhoff, 6-0.

The discussion then turned to composition of the committee.  The challenge is to formulate a committee that is of a manageable size, said Ms. Ravazzini.  Staff took into consideration the Council’s interest in starting with a small and focused group with the intent to reach out as needed and appropriate.  There are administrative challenges, coordination challenges, political challenges and those could be exacerbated through a much larger and undefined group, so we needed to draw a line somewhere, said Ms. Ravazzini.  “There is no one right way to do this, so we’re hoping to leave some flexibility here for the simple fact that issues will end up driving a lot of what the committee will do, and that could require more involvement or less involvement, depending on the issues at hand,” she said.

Looking through the Delta Plan’s 14 policies and 73 recommendations, 16 agencies were identified for the core membership because they were considered essential for active engagement on the committee and working with the Council.  These particular agencies were chosen because they were listed in the Delta Plan as lead agencies, they were mentioned multiple times in the Plan, or they are agencies identified as being responsible for actions that are closely related to Delta Stewardship Council priorities.   They are requesting representatives on the committee be Director, Executive Director, Secretary or Under-Secretary level – decision makers that are able to commit their agencies, she said.

Councilman Fiorini said they decided to add the Central Valley Flood Protection Board to the core membership that is listed in the staff report, and with that addition, he thinks that the committee membership as proposed represent a good mix of state, federal and Delta interests to have at the table.

Before taking action on the committee membership, as is customary, the Council heard from those in the audience who wished to speak on the issue.  Melinda Terry with the Central Valley Flood Control Association said that she is glad to see the addition of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board to the core membership of the committee, not only because they have expertise in levee issues and flood protection, but it is the CVFPB that gave the assurances to maintain the State Plan of Flood Control (SPFC) facilities.  We hear about the FRPA, and the Delta Restoration Network, the biops, and BDCP projects, Ms. Terry said: “Almost all of those actually modify the SPFC of which the board is now responsible.”  She pointed out that the local reclamation districts have in-depth knowledge about conditions within their areas, so she hoped at some point the local reclamation districts could be involved as well.

Doug Brown

Doug Brown
Delta Counties Coalition

Doug Brown from the Delta Counties Coalition felt that at least one Delta County should be represented on the Implementation Committee, and he doesn’t see a local agency on the list.  “This is an implementation committee that’s intended to implement the Delta Plan in the Delta which will directly affect Delta residents, Delta businesses, the counties in the Delta … It doesn’t make sense to me … you are creating something where’s there is so much distrust in the Delta now, and now you’re creating this federal-state bureaucracy to oversee the Delta and take care of the Delta, and it really sends the wrong message … “

Councilman Fiorini responded that by having the chair or vice-chair of the Delta Protection Commission on the committee, that would then include a county supervisor, and that local officials could be added to the committee as needed.  Mr. Brown countered that he does not think a member of the Delta Protection Committee is adequate local representation because they are representing interests of the state and not their locality.

Councilman Patrick Johnston said that’s exactly the right point.  “It’s important to have the implementation committee implement priorities that are complicated, intentioned, and have to consider a wider range of priorities than the interests of an only-local agency or point of view,” said Mr. Johnston.  “I don’t think this is a stakeholder committee; I think it’s a responsible body to help implement a law, and a plan, and so local representation comes about both because it’s in several of these bodies as it was noted, and because local representation from whatever source.  Certainly the Delta will be included specifically when the topic fits the knowledge and interests of the people who are involved.”

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Thomas Zuckerman
Central Delta Water Agency

Thomas Zuckerman disagrees with Fiorini, and supports Ruhstaller’s earlier suggestion to include a member of the North, Central, or South Delta Water Agency. “Over the last couple of years, there appears to be an unwillingness to include a local viewpoint in all these matters that affect the Delta.”  He says the Delta water agencies are the only ones specifically interested in protecting the water supply of the Delta.  He asserted that the committee needs to be balanced with more local representation.  “It’s a recipe for continued conflict and bad decisions.”

At issue here is that at least two – if not all three – of the Delta water agencies are suing to stop implementation of the Delta Plan.  Chair Isenberg asks Zuckerman how he could be on an implementation committee while simultaneously suing to stop implementation of the plan?  Isenberg reads from the water code that specifies that the agencies on the committee must implement the plan.

Councilman Frank Damrell, a retired judge, sees a conflict with having a member on the implementation committee who is also suing to stop the implementation of the plan, but suggests instead that maybe they form an advisory group to reflect local views.  Chris Stevens, legal counsel, agrees there is definitely a legal issue here.

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Randy Fiorini
Councilmember and Chair of the Implementation Committee

Apart from all this legal stuff, I’m all about getting things done, said Mr. Fiorini, and he assured his colleagues that workgroups will be formed as necessary that will include plenty of local representatives and landowners and other local interests as relevant.  “It would be an advisory group, but it would be more than that, because it would be project or activity specific, and we would welcome the expertise of the locals on particular project.  We just had to draw the line somewhere on the membership and by taking the agencies that had the bulk of the responsibilities to implement the Delta Plan, we came up with these 15; we’ve added one more, because of the importance of levees, we will have workgroups that cover every concern that have been identified, and if we see that there’s a need to have additional representatives at the implementation committee level, as your chairman, I will bring that recommendation back to the Council for your consideration, but for now, it’s a good place to start.”

The motion is made and accepted for the core membership as listed in the staff report, with the addition of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board.  Motion is accepted, 6-0.

As agenda and issues may drive the committee activity, staff recommends offering the chairman a little discretion to make some at-the-moment decisions in terms of adding or supplementing the core membership, but it is with the understanding that the chairman would be returning to the Council to further seek approval of that.

Motion is made to give the committee chair discretion to appoint workgroups and advisory groups and subcommittees as needed, with the proviso that at the earliest Council meeting, that that would be reported back to the Council.  Motion passed 6-0.

For more information:
  • Click here for the staff report for this agenda item.
  • Click here for the charge to the implementation committee.

Agenda Item 10: Funding priorities for levee investments

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Cindy Messer
Delta Plan Manager

Delta Plan Manager Cindy Messer and Deputy Executive Officer Dan Ray updated the Council on the progress of the levee prioritization study.  Cindy Messer assured the Council members that the project is a priority, but there are other activities currently underway to reduce flood risk in the Delta, and the levee prioritization study is but one element of a strategic approach.  For example, the Delta Protection Commission is beginning work on the feasibility study for a Delta flood risk management assessment district, the Department of Water Resources released their integrated flood management framework at the end of September, and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board has a series of regional working groups that have been meeting and working on various elements working towards the 2017 update of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, she said.  “Myself and my staff are engaging in those meetings and processes to make sure as we move through this levee prioritization study, we are staying coordinated and in communication and aligned with these other various efforts, as well as the BDCP,” said Ms. Messer.

Because the funding capacity of this agreement is two million dollars, the Council needs to authorize Executive Officer Chris Knopp to enter into an interagency agreement.  This agreement is required in order to secure the funding needed to conduct the work.  Currently, the Council does not have adequate resources in the budget to complete this statutory requirement, so they are entering into the partnership with the Department of Water Resources to secure the funding; the Council is contributing staff time, explained Ms. Messer. Expertise is needed on levee engineering, flood risk management, benefit/cost assessments, flood damage reduction and assessment, and life risk analyses.   “What the cash will pay for is to bring a team of consultants on board to help us with the study,”  she said.

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Councilmember Hank Nordhoff

Councilman Nordhoff questioned why they were spending so much money before getting to actually prioritizing the levees.  “We know the size of the island, we know the economic output of the island, we know its strategic importance and all the rest.  We already know that.  What we don’t know is the shape of the levees, relatively speaking, compared to the other ones.  I can’t believe we’re going to spend all the money and take all the time before doing anything,” he said.

Ms. Messer explained that there were some tasks that needed to be done, such as cost allocation analyses and environmental impact assessments, for which there isn’t anybody on staff who can do that, so they need to bring in outside expertise.

Mr. Ray further explained the need for outside expertise.  “Our challenge is evaluating the assets on each island, and what’s the most cost effective way to provide the kind of protection that folks warrant, and to reduce the risk as much as we can,” he said.  “Part of that is about the kinds of levees that would be appropriate – there are not just levees to protect structures but we also have to think about those places where levees that can work compatibly with environmental restoration projects.  We have recommendations about places where levees should be setback that we need to build into this sort of evaluation.  That’s a more complex business than Cindy’s staff can do in house.  It’s not a back-of-the-envelope sort of activity.  People in the Delta are going to be quite interested in how this is done.”

Mr. Nordhoff offered some advice.  “If I were doing this in a corporate way, I would get those experts in,” he said.  “I wouldn’t contract with one firm to do everything, because you’re not going to get the best when you do that.  So I would cherry pick.”

After further discussion, the motion was approved by the Council authorizing Chris Knopp to sign the contract, with the motion amended specifically to say, per Mr. Nordhoff’s request, “Staff will make every effort to ensure that the different areas of the investigation/evaluation are undertaken by the experts, the leading experts in the field.”

For more information:
  • Click here for the staff report for this agenda item.
  • Click here for attachment, 1, a table of Delta Plan policies and recommendations
  • Click here for attachment 2, the motion for levee investment prioritization from the May 17, 2013 meeting.

Agenda Item 11: 2013 in review

The past year has been a transitional one for the Delta Stewardship Council and staff as the Council adopted the first Delta Plan in May and the regulatory policies were approved by the Office of Administrative Law in August, becoming effective in September.  The Council is now transforming from being primarily a planning agency to one that will coordinate and oversee the implementation of Plan.

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Chris Knopp
Executive Officer

Executive Officer Chris Knopp noted that not only has the mandate to adopt a comprehensive management plan for the Delta been fulfilled, but so have several other mandates given to other agencies, such as the State Water Resources Control Board determining flow criteria for the Delta fisheries; the Delta Protection Commission completing the Economic Sustainability Plan which analyzed the impacts of several proposals on the Delta and proposed strategies to enhance economic development; the Delta Conservancy developing a strategic plan to establish priorities and criteria for projects and programs; and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board completed a comprehensive new framework for system-wide flood management and risk reduction.  “All of these actions, as well as the BDCP that is out for public review right now are interwoven actions that happen through a lot of internal coordination among those agencies to come up with an integrated series of products,” said Mr. Knopp.  “That’s going to continue into the future.”

The Delta Plan has 14 regulatory policies and 73 recommendations, and those recommendations represent tasks for other agencies that we are coordinating, he said.  “The key role of the implementation committee is not to make rules and pass laws; it’s to integrate existing actions that are occurring under the authorities of those member agencies.  It’s the coordination that is really the key. It’s the main power that this organization really has.”

Besides completing the Delta Plan, the Council has established an online system for covered actions and has been engaging in early consultations, as well as working hard on the response to litigation.  “Having 26 or 27 separate appellants under seven lawsuits creates quite a workload, and we have been working on that for several months, building the administrative record as well as preparing for the defense of those lawsuits,” said Mr. Knopp.

Lead Scientist Peter Goodwin said it had been a transitional year for the Delta Science Program as well.  One of the science program’s main accomplishments was to develop the Delta Science Plan in under a year – an impressive accomplishment with so many people participating, Dr. Goodwin noted.  The science program also conducted workshops to understand and synthesize the state of knowledge around the various stressors in the Delta, and is collaborating with the Delta Conservancy on the development of a restoration framework.

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Dr. Peter Goodwin
Lead Scientist

The science program has started working on the update of the 2008 report, State of Bay Delta Science, to establish a baseline for the implementation of the science plan, and with funding help from. the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Department of Water Resources, and the USGS, the science program was able to make ten awards for science fellows.

The science program has also been working to facilitate and improve the independent scientific peer review process.  “We received tremendous input right across the board from NGOs, water contractors, and agencies, and that’s reflected in the science program,” said Dr. Goodwin.  “We’ll be testing these new procedures and modifications this year as part of the implementation of the science plan.

Communicating science is a priority for the science program.  “We had 15 seminars this year, a little more than one a month, and we heard on a huge range of topics, everything from new discoveries to things related to the Delta,” he said.  “We had international speakers talking about experiences in Asia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and we even learned about online citizens science …”  The science program also partnered with the UC Davis Center for Biology and Aquaculture to hold seminars, one on natural hydrographs in regulated rivers and another on tidal marsh restoration and native fish.

Dr. Goodwin also noted the impressive accomplishments of the Delta Independent Science Board, calling it one of the most productive years on record.  “They produced 5 very substantial letters, three memos, their first report on adaptive management and science, and they’ve also given a number of presentations at the science conference, expressing their opinions and giving ideas and encouragement, as well as gave substantial input on the development of the science plan,” said Dr. Goodwin.  “They’ve also prepped extensively for the BDCP and have actually moved their schedules around to have a lot of time, all of them, at  the start of the year, to accommodate the schedule.  So when you think these are 10 individuals, very busy people, with very different opinions, to actually get that kind of product out is quite something, and I think it shows how high functioning that board is.”

Executive Officer Dan Ray said that Councilman Fiorini’s white paper on small storage projects is a good example of how the Council can use its authorities to make suggestions and turn that into action.  “It’s really created a new way of thinking about storage,” he said.

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Dan Ray
Deputy Executive Officer

Mr. Ray said that one of the things they recognized through the briefings on the BDCP was the importance of several adaptive management experiments that are underway right now that ultimately will determine in part how much water the BDCP might be capable of delivering.  “There is 900,000 acre-feet, almost 1 million acre feet of water that could be determined by how effective the water management ecosystem restoration projects that are proposed in the BDCP might be,” he said.  “So both the science program and the planning staff are really focused on getting those adaptive management experiments with flow through the CAMT process managed properly, as well as making sure every effort that can be made is underway to complete the tidal marsh restoration projects that are required by the current biological opinions, and that those are properly monitored, so we really learn how effective that activity can be in terms of contributing to the restoration of fish.”

Mr. Ray also noted that the Central Valley Drinking Water Policy was adopted by the regional board and the Delta Regional Monitoring Program was launched, both important accomplishments that are also recommendations of the Delta Plan.  He added that staff had reviewed progress on the 73 Delta Plan recommendations, and determined that important progress had been made on 45 of them.  “No one should think the activity in the Delta is sitting and waiting on anything; progress is being made,” said Mr. Ray, acknowledging, however, that there is still much to be done.

For more information:
  • Click here for the staff report for this agenda item.

Agenda Item 12: Setting priorities for 2014

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Chris Knopp
Executive Officer

Now having reviewed the accomplishments of the prior year, the discussion turned to the tasks to be done in the coming year.  The Council’s role has changed, said Executive Officer Chris Knopp.  There are now five primary tasks: Coordination, integration among agencies, ensuring consistency with the Delta Plan, having science provide information that we can use to inform policy, providing comments including commenting on the BDCP, and providing accountability, he said.

The Delta Plan specifies 14 policies and 73 recommendations, and we’ve decided to focus on about 25% percent of those this year, said Mr. Ray.  The key priorities among those items are the levee assessment program, the implementation committee, and the importance of science in flow studies and getting the science action agenda in place, but on a broader perspective, we have time and resources to get to all of the items in Attachment 1.

Our role is to coordinate and integrate, said Mr. Ray.  “It’s a role that is facilitative and the way I characterize it, it’s to coordinate and integrate all of the actions in the Delta to get something done.”

Is there no scope in there for the Council to drive, push, lead, encourage, enhance … ?” asks Councilman Nordhoff.

Yes, there is,” responded Mr. Knopp.   “In our development of issue papers, the storage paper that Mr. Fiorini has done is a great example of taking the lead and setting the tone for opening a dialog.  I think the levee prioritization is another great example of us taking the lead to make something happen.”

What about pushing ideas, pushing activities … setting priorities and then driving them,” asks Mr. Nordhoff.

That can come through a combination of the tracking and reporting function, are we really watching people doing what they are doing, the Council’s oversight role,” said Mr. Ray.  “Then the use of the Council as a bully pulpit and a communications tool.”

Chair Phil Isenberg points out that Randy’s paper has helped to push the water storage recommendation.  “People are looking at ways to things differently, to see some action.  That offers an opportunity,” he said.  “There are some of the recommendations that are really important, and give rise to our need to get actively involved in promoting stuff.”

I do think there are some clear areas where leadership really fits, and I think that’s in our science community where we are meeting the idea of what adaptive management is, what’s the delivery of the best available science, how are we going to synthesize all these reports, translate it into policy, from the science,” said Mr. Knopp.  “Right now, nobody else is doing that. We are the lead in that effort and I think we are making impressive strides in that area.”

For more information:
  • Click here for the staff report for this agenda item.
  • Click here for the list of priorities for 2014.

Agenda Item 13: Performance Measures

Currently, staff is working on updating and enhancing a database to be the tool that includes Delta Plan performance measures and eventually the Delta Science Plan performance measures as well.

What the tool is going to do is it’s going to allow the Council to meet its accountability and its transparency objectives, as required by the Delta Reform Act and in the Delta Plan,” said Ms. Messer.  “The database is and will continue to be publicly available through our website as well as to the implementing agencies who will be able to put data in, update the projects, and add new projects, so it will be this very flexible and adaptable tool.”

Once the project is completed, over 160 Delta Plan performance measures will be organized and categorized, and new measures will be added as they are developed over time, she said.  The project will also develop a standard methodology for data collection, effectively link the Delta Plan policies, recommendations and performance measures to agency plants, and it will track Delta investments and link those investments to outcomes, she explained.  “And lastly, it will provide a fact based information system to support the Council’s role of telling the story through annual performance reports, budget reports, public dashboards, report cards, score cards, so part of what we’re looking at a little down the road are these different reporting tools that will allow us to get the information out quickly and in a simple direct format,” she said.

For more information:
  • Click here for the staff report for this agenda item.

For more on the December Delta Stewardship Council meeting:

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