Delta Stewardship Council hears updates on the Delta Levee Prioritization Strategy and Delta Plan performance measures

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At the July 25 meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, staff updated the council members on the progress made on both the Delta Levee Prioritization Strategy and the development of Delta Plan performance measures.

This is the second of three part coverage from the July meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council. Part 1 is here:  Independent science panels present findings to the Delta Stewardship Council from Delta flows workshops.  Part 3 will cover the presentation on managing salinity in the Delta during times of drought and will be posted tomorrow.

Delta Levee Prioritization Strategy update

The Delta Reform Act directs the Delta Stewardship Council to recommend priorities for State investments in levee operation, maintenance, and improvements in the Delta, including both project and non-project levees (or those that are part of the flood control system, as well as those that are not). In the Delta Plan, the Delta Stewardship Council directed itself to complete the project by January 1 of 2015. However, due to the complexity of the task, this project is now currently projected to be completed by 2016.

Messer Levee 1Cindy Messer, Deputy Executive Officer of Planning, began by saying that since the last meeting, the contracts with the consultants and sub-consultants have been finalized, so they are moving forward with the project on all fronts. The Council staff has been working on initial stakeholder engagement and outreach efforts, developing a risk reduction white paper, and forming the independent peer review panel for the levee investment strategy.

In preparation to begin the outreach process, staff has drafted an initial list of key stakeholders, agencies, and entities who have extensive experience and knowledge of Delta levees that need to be engaged in the process, Ms. Messer said, noting that it’s not an all-inclusive list as of yet.

With a short timeline and a lot of work to do, Ms. Messer said they’ve given it a lot of thought about how to be most effective and efficient, so in addition to general public input, staff has developed draft charters for three workgroups:

  • A technical workgroup made up of different experts, from environmental to geotechnical to economic. who would assist with technical review and assessment, as well as answer questions and vet concerns
  • An interagency project management group to monitor the progress of the project, and to coordinate with the Department of Water Resources efforts, as well as the Delta Protection Commission’s Delta Risk Management Assessment District feasibility study
  • An interagency policy group that can review and discuss policy-level questions and issues
Item_12_Attach_1_14-0716 Levee one-pager Final_Page_1
Click here to download a 2-page fact sheet.

We’ll be vetting this through next with the Arcadis team (the Council’s contractor for the project) and as we run through stakeholder meetings and engagement, we will be talking through these ideas with various folks as well so it will evolve,” said Ms. Messer. “But we wanted to at least have something to start with.”

Council staff has also produced a two-page information sheet for the project and is putting the final touches on a webpage that will be a portal by which people can get information about the project, she said.

She then turned it over to Dustin Jones, the Supervising Engineer and Project Lead for the project to talk about the risk reduction white paper and peer review panel.

The risk reduction paper that we’re working on right now is building on two previous white papers that were developed prior to the Delta Plan coming out – the flood risk reduction white paper and the emergency preparedness and response white paper,” began Dustin Jones. “We’re taking those and we’re building on to them with the goal being to really address the Council’s overall Delta risk vision and identify how the Delta levee investment strategy is going to fit into that vision.”

Dustin JonesThe white paper will provide a background of the current Delta levee situation, a summary of legislative action and direction, information regarding state assets and current levee beneficiaries, and a clear definition of the problem that California’s intending to solve, he said. They are currently in the information gathering stage, looking at other studies with similar information and receiving input from staff and other partners on the project on the outline, content, and resources that will be used. Those sources include the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, the regional flood management plans for the lower Sacramento River, Lower San Joaquin River, and Delta; information from the Public Policy Institute that’s been published and available; the California Water Plan, the Flood Future report, and information from the Delta Protection Commission on the Economic Sustainability Plan for the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. The goal is to have a draft document for review at the next Council meeting, he said.

Mr. Jones said they would be engaging stakeholders on the risk reduction white paper through outreach efforts with the levee investment strategy currently in process, and they’ll be receiving information from other stakeholders and interested parties as well as general public, which they will process and include with the paper as they build it.

The peer review process is part of the levee investment strategy, and Dr. Goodwin is helping with that, said Mr. Jones. Two planning meetings have been coordinated in preparation for selecting an independent peer review process; those focused on gathering nominations for panel members and on drafting a charge for the panel. He noted that a draft charge is currently being reviewed and commented on by staff. The Council’s lead scientists for the Delta Science Program will select the panel members and program staff to conduct the peer review process, he said.

Currently, they have six categories to select members from: economics, environmental and land use change, flood management and hydrology, geotechnical and seismic, risk management, and social justice, Mr. Jones said.

Levee PanelMs. Messer said they had a kick-off meeting with Council staff and the Arcadis team to discuss project goals and expectations, brief all Council staff will a role in this project on the details of the tasks and deliverables, and discuss each task in the scope of work to confirm milestones, timelines, deliverables, and task administration. Next week, core Council staff and core Arcadis team members will meet to work on a full-scale communications strategy which will include stakeholders, different forums, agendas, and schedules, she said. “We’ll be putting that information together and so we can get that out, begin to engage fully with stakeholders, and get our public meetings set up.”

The Arcadis team has been focused on getting the data we need for the methodology development and the initial steps around environmental review, she said. “The immediate next steps with the Arcadis team and the Council staff are around the communications strategy and around data compilation,” she said. “Other next steps are to get some meetings scheduled with Delta stakeholders, launch this project webpage, keep compiling data, drafting the risk reduction white paper, and moving forward with formation of the independent peer review panel.”

So that’s where things are at …

You’ve done a good job of explaining this,” said Chair Randy Fiorini. “The presentation fails to communicate just how difficult of a task this is going to be. You’ve presented it in a very organized manner. It makes sense, there’s a plan of action, but this is something others have attempted to do and haven’t fully completed, and I know from meeting with our staff and the consulting team that you are committed to seeing this through to a successful conclusion, and so we look forward to regular updates on the progress, and hope within the next 18 to 24 months, we will have a successful conclusion.”

Delta Plan Performance Measures

Cindy Messer, Deputy Executive Officer of Planning, then gave an update on where they are at with the development of Delta Plan Performance Measures.

While the Delta Reform Act required the Delta Plan to include performance measures to enable the Council to track its progress towards meeting its objectives, the idea is certainly not new. There is a long history of effort to develop meaningful performance measures that date back to the CalFed days, as well as other efforts such as the Ecosystem Restoration Program, the Delta Vision Task Force, and others. However, despite these previous efforts, implementation of performance measurement reporting for the Delta still remains a work in progress.

Last month, our Executive Director talked about our 2014 priorities for the Council, and among those in the core functions was performance measures and performance management for the Delta,” said Cindy Messer. “Because of this priority status, a lot of staff resources and time internally have been dedicated to this performance measures work.”

Council staff has been working on two tasks: the Delta activities tracking system and the Delta Plan performance measures.

Delta activities tracking system

Perf Meas Council 1The Delta activities tracking system is a database with a web interface by which implementing agencies can access information, said Ms. Messer. The system, developed in the CalFed days, was in need of updating to make it compatible with the Delta Plan and its policies, recommendations, and performance measures. Once those updates are completed, the system will be able to provide detailed reporting on annual expenditures related to Delta Plan implementation, individual project status, and progress towards achieving the coequal goals, she said.

With the new system, Council staff will have a more of a role checking the information that comes into the system to make sure it’s complete, as well as the option to say that the project is outside the realm of the Delta Plan activities being tracked and doesn’t need to be reported on through this system, Ms. Messer said.

The system is currently being updated as we speak,” said Ms. Messer. “Through the fall, we’ll be out training agency staff on the new system, and the next budget cycle will be the first time we’ll be able to pull information out and report expenditures, report status of projects, and really create this new reporting system, so stay tuned.”

Delta Plan Performance Measures

The Delta Plan specifies 162 performance measures:

  • 119 administrative measures, which measure dates, targets achieved, and resources expended, such as dollars spent on habitat restoration projects;
  • 21 output measures, which track results of actions, such as acres restored by habitat type; and
  • 22 outcome measures, which track the impacts of those actions, such as trends in native species using the restored habitat.

Council staff has been assessing all the Delta Plan’s performance measures, and have started collecting and analyzing information for an initial subset of ten output & outcome measures. “At the end of this year, we will provide a written report with staff recommendations around refinements, as well as the results of our evaluation,” said Ms. Messer. “We anticipate being able to report on the status of the administrative performance measures and we have a subset of output outcome performance measures that we will also be including some detailed information on in this year-end report.”

Messer Slide 8Staff is working on developing all 119 administrative measures, but since the output and outcome measures are less straightforward, staff has selected ten initial pilot measures, of which two were selected from each of the policy chapters. Those measures are:

Ch 3. Reliable water chapter:

  1. Meeting of current water conservation goals: 10% reduction by 2015, and 20% reduction by 2020.
  2. Meeting future water supply conservation goals.

Ch 4. Ecosystem

  1. Habitat restoration acreage: the number of acres restored out of the 8000 and the 17,000-20,000 as specified in the biological opinions
  2. Trends in the native species utilizing those areas

Ch 5. Delta as a place

  1. Protecting legacy communities – the measure lists several possible; They are looking at number of businesses in legacy communities, or other metrics that can be used around business trends
  2. Subsidence reversal acreage – conversion of 5000 acres by January of 2017 to subsidence reversal/carbon sequestration type purposes.

Ch. 6: Water quality

  1. Pesticides: Meeting the TMDLs for certain key pesticides by 2020.
  2. Salinity management – Although it is not a performance measurement in the Delta Plan, Ms. Messer said it’s a key component of the narrative and is touched on in chapters 6, 4, and 3; it is key indicator of many things.

Ch 7: Risk Reduction

  1. Levees below standard: The number of acres protected by levees and number of RDs with levees below HMP, and so the goal with this performance measure is progress towards reducing the number of acres and number of RDs with levees below the HMP standard; this performance measure also aligns well with the levee prioritization project, Ms. Messer noted.
  2. Risk of water delivery facilities failure: This measure has to do with reducing the risk of interruptions of water deliveries due to natural disasters and events to facilities such as EBMUD or CCWD and the state and federal water projects.

Ms. Messer presented some conceptual designs of how a type of ‘dashboard’ would display the performance measures:  (Note: click here for pdf version of the slides below if you have difficulty viewing)

“In summary, performance measures measure progress toward meeting quantified targets, and in our case and others, it is progress towards achieving the coequal goals,” she said. “Our vision is partly that given our role as the Council, our performance measures and the breadth of the area that we cover, that we would be building a performance-focused organization through these types of efforts in keeping this moving forward. It also supports government transparency.”

However, Ms. Messer acknowledged it’s a very challenging task. “What the staff is really doing now in evaluating Delta Plan performance measures is that they are breaking them down to their fundamental basics – what are the baselines, what are the targets, what are the metrics that we measure this by, where is the data, what form is it in, and who has it,” she said. “It’s a very complicated, very challenging process. A big part of being able to do this is accessing the data, sharing it, having data available, as well as consistency in the way we look at things, and attempting to overcome the resistance factor that has been one of the ongoing challenges with this type of work.”

As for next steps, the Council has secured two new positions that they are working on filling which will be dedicated to this effort. They will complete an end of year report on the assessment and implementation of performance measures, as well as contribute to the development of the Council’s 2014 Annual Report. They hope to deploy the redesigned Delta projects tracking system in early 2015, and they continue to coordinate and collaborate with other agencies undertaking similar performance measure efforts.

For more information …

Coming tomorrow …

  • A panel presentation on managing salinity in the Delta during a time of drought.

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