The Delta Stewardship Council hears an update on the Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program (CSAMP)

At the March meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, the co-chairs of the Collaborative Adaptive Management Team (CAMT),  Dr. Valerie Connor with the State and Federal Contractors Water Agency and Leo Winternitz with GEI Consultants gave an update on the Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Process (CSAMP).

DSC ReinerReiner Hoenicke, Deputy Executive Director for the Science Program, began by noting that the CSAMP process is one the Delta Science Program has been closely participating in.  “We recognized early on that the Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Process (CSAMP) that came out of the biological opinion remand represented an opportunity to put theory into practice and use this process as a first test case for bridging the science-policy gap and where we could help scientific uncertainties from honest disagreements, and that we could actually help resolve uncertainties by conducting or by helping set up large scale management experiments that we could use to learn from,” he said.

He then introduced Dr. Valerie Connor, the Science Program Manager of the State and Federal Contractors Water Agency, and Leo Winternitz, formerly with the Nature Conservancy and now with GEI Consulting, noting that they both are co-chairing the Collaborative Adaptive Management Team with Mr. Winternitz representing the environmental interest group side and Dr. Connor, the public water agencies.  “Both of them have skillfully worked with the two facilitators of the CSAMP process to align the stakeholders involved in CAMT along a common mission and to develop a level of trust among the scientists and managers that participated in this process that would have been unthinkable before this process started,” Mr. Hoenicke said.

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Mr. Hoenicke then gave some background on the process.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) were under a court ordered remand schedule for completing revisions to salmon and Delta smelt biological opinions that place certain conditions on the operation of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.  In April of 2013, the US District Court for the Eastern District Court of California decided to extend the deadlines in both the smelt and salmonid cases for one year, granting the extension to give the collaborative science and adaptive management process an opportunity to develop a durable science process and program that will be useful for implementation of the existing Reasonable and Prudent Actions to protect listed species, as well as improvement of the next biological opinions and the BDCP, he said.

This is a keystone that sits in the middle of all of the controversy that exists right now, and Delta Science Program staff as well as the IEP Lead Scientist were invited to participate since the beginning of the process in April 2013,” he said.  “The public water agencies and the environmental interest groups as well as the fish and wildlife agencies have been broadly involved together with the Bay Delta science community as a whole in development of the Delta Science Plan, and everybody saw that as an opportunity to create some pathways to manage scientific conflict, sort out scientific agreements from uncertainties, and ensure the relevance, credibility, and legitimacy of adaptively managing decisions in support of protecting listed species.”

He then turned over the floor to Dr. Connor.

Dr. Valerie Connor, co-chair of the Collaborative Adaptive Management Team

Val Connor began by noting that the Delta Science Program and the IEP Lead Scientist have been integral to the process.  “When we go in different directions and we’re trying to figure out which way to go, we can use the Delta Science Plan as our north star, because we are trying to build a credible legitimate and relevant science program, consistent with the plan,” she said.

DSC Val 2First we’ll start with the acronym lesson, Ms. Connor said.  “CSAMP is the Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program and CAMT is the Collaborative Adaptive Management Team,” she said.  “Very simply, our governance structure is set up similar to what’s outlined in the science plan in that we have a policy group made up of agency directors or regional directors as well as general managers of a number of the water agencies and a number of executive directors of the NGOs.  They are the ones that are responsible for telling us what are these pressing management areas where decisions need to be made.  Then the CAMT itself is high level managers and senior scientists.”

We have a mission statement,” she said.  “It took several months to get it developed and agreed to but we did do that finally.  Essentially it’s that we are working with a sense of urgency because of the situation with listed species and we’re trying to develop a robust science and adaptive management program; we’re focused on implementing the biological opinions but we’re also focused on interim actions, so in between now and when the biological opinions are due.  We clearly see this as a pilot for other collaborative efforts in the future.”

DSC CAMT_Connor_4_2_14_Page_05She then presented a slide depicting how the structure and process is organized, and how the Delta Science Program fits in.  “We have our policy group, we have our CAMT deciding what our priority issues are, then we quickly need to get to the scientists, and so we have a team working on Delta smelt and a team working on salmon,” she said.  “We call them ‘scopers’ right now because they are really focusing to make sure the questions are the relevant ones that we need to make these management decisions, and then technical experts will be doing a lot of the work.  The Delta Science Program, as a member of CAMT, has been involved in everything.  They are also participating as a member of each scoping team, and then they will be responsible for external review.”

We are sort of building this car as we drive it, which is always dangerous, and so one of the things we are relying on is the Science Program to help us by suggesting mechanisms that are contained in the science plan, and then we can help the science plan by saying this worked or this didn’t work, so it really is a very strong collaboration and synthesis,” she said.

She then presented a slide listing the members of the policy group and the CAMT, noting that Lauren Hastings is the official member representing the Delta Science Program, although in the first phase, both Lauren and Reiner were active participants, as well as Anke Mueller Solger as the Lead Scientist for IEP who has been involved from the beginning.

DSC CAMT_Connor_4_2_14_Page_09CAMT is envisioned to have three phases,” she said.  “The first phase was working together and coming up with a work plan that would improve the science going into the biological opinions.  We have completed that phase and we’re now in the second phase which is the period between the first phase and when the biological opinions are put in place. The third phase is really when we get into the adaptive management of the biological opinions and the Reasonable and Prudent Actions.”

The schedule for the first phase was overly ambitious because it assumed the group would be ready to push their sleeves up and get to work, she said.  “We had to do a lot of the people part in terms of getting to know and trust each other and understand the different expectations that we were bringing to this process,” said Ms. Connor.  “But we were able to achieve the goals that were outlined in terms of coming up with a set of issues to work on, sitting down as scientists and comparing conceptual models, and from looking at those conceptual models, what the key questions are and what the hypotheses were and then pulling that together into a work plan which was then submitted to the court in February.”

DSC CAMT_Connor_4_2_14_Page_14The good news is that we did get an extension from the judge, so that’s an extra year for the smelt biological opinion and the salmon biological opinion, because the court believes that substantial progress has been made thus far,” said Ms. Connor.

She then shared some of her observations about phase two, which is just getting underway.  “It is even a more ambitious schedule than the first phase, and what we’re trying to do now is develop scopes of work and then the staff and the resources that are necessary,” she said.  “In addition to the three areas that we’re focused on now, with each of those three areas, there’s anywhere from three to five specific tasks, so we’re looking at managing almost a dozen projects over the next year.

They are also working on strengthening communication and outreach, as well as working towards reinforcing and building further collaboration, she said.  Keeping to the court’s schedule is important as status reports are due in June and October, and the annual report in February, she said.

She noted that all of the CAMT agendas, meeting minutes, documents and power points are posted at the SFCWA website here: SFCWA CAMT webpage

Leo Winternitz, co-chair of the Collaborative Adaptive Management Team

I’d like to offer my reflections on this last year, what I’ve learned, and what I learned that I knew before this process,” began Leo Winternitz.

DSC Leo 1First the good news,” he said.  “Scientists know how to address scientific disagreements – that’s one thing I learned, and it should not be surprising because this is what they were taught and trained to do for years and years.  Define what the issue is, identify what we know and don’t know, and then find out ways to learn that.  Once we were able to gather dedicated scientists together in a room and not attorneys, not political scientists, not policy people, but once we were able to gather the scientists in a room and ask them to define where they agreed or disagreed on a specific conceptual model, in most cases they reached consensus on what they agreed on and disagreed on, and on how to address their differences.  So defining disagreements offered the basis for progress because it provided CAMT with something very explicit to work on, and something specific to study and to test.  And so that was very important.”

The other thing that I learned was that managers and policy makers work under different rules,” he said.  “In the case of CAMT, while directors and managers expected the CAMT members to work collaboratively – which means a lot of things like being nice to each other, listening well and all that stuff – when it came time to send the final CAMT report to Judge O’Niell, positioning among the managers and policy makers became evident in the briefs that they filed to the court and appeared to overtake the collaborative process.  So this positioning as I call it created unnecessary angst and concern among CAMT members, and I do believe threatened the success of the process.  Fortunately, it all worked out well, but the lesson here is that if we want our people to act collaboratively, then we must we act collaboratively ourselves.  Collaboration cannot be delegated.  It is not a task; it is a behavior.

Mr. Winternitz said there are four necessary ingredients to make collaborative science work:

  1.  People, time, and resources:  “This should not be surprising to any of us.  People, time, and resources are needed to make it happen.  We should not be expecting miracles just because we’ve created a science process.  While some people may think that nature itself is a miracle, understanding it is not a miracle.  Understanding ecology requires good science and good science requires smart people.  It’s a laborious process; it’s time consuming and it’s is fraught with uncertainties as we constantly hear over and over.  To be successful, you need the adequate resources.  They have to be dedicated and they have to be committed to the task.  Without this, there really is no chance for success.”
  2. Schedules:  “Be careful with setting schedules.  It makes me very nervous to hear people say that we must understand or know x and y by February 15, 2015.   It’s not going to happen, given what we know today; with our procedures and our technologies, you will not get a definitive answer like that.  You cannot force scientific discovery into a GANT schedule.  Scientific discovery is a learning process; it’s not building a bridge for which a GANT schedule is perfectly adequate.  But having said this, CAMT is about schedules.  In fact, now we’ve sent a list of schedules to the judge and we’re going to adhere to them the best that we can.  I recognize the importance of having schedules, but our schedule must incorporate what we know we can do, and it should allow for flexibility, and if we don’t do this, than we should be prepared to be disappointed.”
  3. Managing human behavior:  “The third thing is an important part of collaborative science is managing human behavior.  We were and are fortunate to have good mediators and facilitators which are extremely important ingredients for success with the collaborative process.  If you cannot manage human behavior, you will not have a successful science process much less a successful collaborative science process.”
  4. “Honest broker”:  “An honest broker is needed to arrange for peer review selected products, to provide advice, and provide feedback.  The Delta Science Program fits that role very role.  The Delta Science Program developed an excellent science plan which lays a well thought out adaptive management process.  CAMT has endorsed this process, and several of our meetings were dedicated to that.  We are counting on the Delta Science Program to be on objective independent and honest broker in the CAMT proceedings.”


Chair Randy Fiorini asks about the competing objectives of getting more water and protecting species.  “If you have part of the group that wants to find a way to receive more water and at the same time have at least an equal level or greater level of protection for the species, are these two co-equal goals compatible in this process?” he asked.

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“Collaboration cannot be delegated.  It is not a task; it is a behavior.” –Leo Winternitz[/pullquote]

I’d first like to say that I don’t speak for the public water agencies,” said Dr. Valerie Connor.  “But I can say that they are obviously looking for reliable water supply, but they understand the importance of ecosystem and fish species recovery, and so we are implementing the coequal goals.  I think we will be able to do that, but it’s not going to be easy and it’s going to take time and resources.”

“I think the tension is that the purpose of the biological opinions and the RPAs is to avoid jeopardy of the species, and everybody recognizes that,” said Leo Winternitz. “Right now, many of the actions for avoiding jeopardy cost water, so what the contractors are interested in is using the science process to find ways to continue to provide protection against jeopardy while being more efficient in water use, and being able to free up supplies, and get more reliability out of the system.  That’s fine, that’s perfectly legitimate; that’s what science should be doing.  The environmental organizations, their fear is that the RPAs, the actions, are going to be weakened in the process, so they are looking for the best science.  I don’t think they have any disagreement about increasing water supply reliability as long as the objectives of the RPAs are met.  Avoid the jeopardy.  And if you can improve avoiding jeopardy, being more protective of the species while giving more water supply through this process, then fine, let’s do that, and so I think that’s where we are really working.”

What is placing a lot of tension on this is the current conditions we have today with the drought,” continued Mr. Winternitz.  “There’s always tension; the drought just adds some more of that.  And then the time frame.  From what I’ve heard, the contractors are more insistent that we’ve got to find this stuff out quickly; we can’t spend 3,5,10,15 years working on process to get these answers which help us out, and so again, that’s another source of tension.  It’s the time frame.  How quickly can we learn, and science is a learning process, so the environmental organizations are going to want to make sure that these RPAs are not weakened just for water supply reliability, and that they in fact continue to provide protection for the species, the avoidance of jeopardy.  Unfortunately, the scientists sit in the middle, so we have to provide room, space, effort, time, and resources to allow them to work and not expect miracles.”

Judge Damrell asks if the process would continue in the absence of a court order.

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“What we’re trying to do is build the relationships because you can’t court mandate collaboration.  It’s something internal; it’s a passion and it’s a commitment.  I think we have now achieved that at the level of the CAMT. –Dr. Val Connor[/pullquote]

I have a particularly hazy crystal ball, but when we did submit to the court, there was then an additional ruling by the 9th Circuit, so right now folks are thinking a lot about that,” said Dr. Connor.  “I’m really happy to say that every member of CAMT has reaffirmed their commitment to collaborative science and building this framework of working together and doing joint fact finding.  Perhaps the schedule would change, but I think the process would continue because everyone sees value in it.”

I think the court order really forces the issue, so the court order provides a deadline and it provides a court order,” said Mr. Winternitz.  “A collaborative science process, regardless of whether you have a court order or not, is necessary for all of us to succeed in terms of achieving our interests, but when you have other important venues taking place like figuring out how to work out the drought, figuring out how to stop fish from going into a certain slough or channel, working on BDCP, or working on the California water plan, it all takes away resources from a good process, the collaborative science process.  If you take away those resources, unless you can dedicate them and keep them there, it’s just not going to work.  You keep putting it off, and you do need schedules.”

At least the notion of adaptive management is something that is already part of the BDCP, and everybody says they want it, but nobody can point to a specific example an adaptive management system up and running,” said Councilmember Phil Isenberg.  “The most important thing is to start somewhere and say something, this is the way science should be involved, and then start the thing.  Now I’m in favor of that, because I don’t how else we can get over this mutual distrust that permeates the water world …  

What we’re trying to do is build the relationships because you can’t court mandate collaboration,” said Dr. Connor.  “It’s something internal; it’s a passion and it’s a commitment.  I think we have now achieved that at the level of the CAMT.  Now what we’re really focused on is that we have the adaptive management cycle that’s included in the Delta Science Plan, and so we are at that point where we are defining problems and laying out our conceptual models and so we’re marching around that circle.  Part of our problem is different folks think we’re at different places on that circle, but that’s what we are trying to do.  Regardless of what happens with court decisions, the RPA on fall outflow, fall habitat, is an adaptive management plan, and so we can continue to work on that together and we will.”

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“My biggest fear is that if CAMT fails, for whatever reason, then I fear we will have taken a huge step backwards because if CAMT fails, given everybody’s expectations and the need and the want for it to succeed and the resources dedicated to it, if it fails, I don’t what the alternative is.” –Leo Winternitz[/pullquote]

Things don’t get created because we want them to happen,” said Mr. Winternitz. “Scientists are people, and they need to learn to work with each other. … It takes time.  And CAMT is a step towards that process that you want, the One Delta, One Science, a collaborative process where we can all work together.  My biggest fear is that if CAMT fails, for whatever reason, then I fear we will have taken a huge step backwards because if CAMT fails, given everybody’s expectations and the need and the want for it to succeed and the resources dedicated to it, if it fails, I don’t what the alternative is.”

Dan Ray asked Dr. Connor and Mr. Winternitz where the science program made the difference in the process.

They’ve been integral since the beginning, and it’s because of the skills, knowledge, and expertise that the three individuals have actually brought to the process,” said Dr. Connor.  “ They’ve participated in the CAMT but also on these science teams, but they really have provided guidance on process.  How should we do this?  If our goals are legitimacy, credibility, and relevance, what should our guidelines be.  They took a real leadership role in laying that out for the CAMT to consider and ultimately adopt and submit to the court.

DSC Val and Leo laughFrom the NGO community perspective, it was essential that the Delta Science Program staff participate,” said Mr. Winternitz.  “It provided the sense of … I wasn’t going to do this but I’ll use a religious reference.  It’s like you go to mass on Sunday and instead of the priest, the Bishop comes into say mass – that kind of a feeling.  It was essential for the NGO community that the science program being involved in particular because of the objective – the one science, it’s that they were an honest broker, not that anybody among the scientist are dishonest, but it’s an entity not representing a special interest that was in the room, and the entity that was fully versed and were experts on the science process, and that’s truly where the value came in.”

I think the public water agencies share everything you just said,” said Dr. Connor.

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