Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee, pt 1: Delta Challenges: Complex, Chaotic or Simply Cantankerous

Delta Challenges Slide_Page_1The Committee discusses the challenges facing the Delta, and what their respective agencies are doing to address them

As implementation of the first Delta Plan enters its third year, the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee held the second of two semi-annual meetings on November 16 in Sacramento.

The Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee (DPIIC) is comprised of eighteen heads of the state, federal, and local agencies that are responsible for implementation of the Delta Plan, and serves as a forum for these agencies to increase their coordination and integration in support of shared national, statewide, and local goals for the Delta.

Among those in attendance is Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird, Chair of the State Water Board Felicia Marcus, Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross, Director of Department of Water Resources Mark Cowin, Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Chuck Bonham, and Department of the Interior’s Lettie Belin.  The committee chair is Randy Fiorini, who is also chair of the Delta Stewardship Council.  Click here for a list of committee members.

On the agenda for this meeting, a briefing on the Delta Challenges report, an update on the California Eco Restore program and the ongoing efforts in the Yolo Bypass, a report on the implementation of “One Delta, One Science”, and a briefing on the Delta Independent Science Board’s Fish and Flows report.

Fiorini openOver the past two years, this committee has coalesced around the understanding that each of the agencies we represent and lead have critical roles for improving statewide water supply reliability and ecosystem conditions in the Delta,” Committee Chair Randy Fiorini said during his opening remarks.  “We have observed through actions resulting from this group that collectively the agencies have, through cooperation, coordination and collaboration, the capacity and the authority to achieve much more together than we can working alone.

Lead Scientist Dr. Cliff Dahm began the presentations to the committee with a briefing on the Delta Challenges report, which was written by himself and three former Delta lead scientists.  The four scientists were tasked with preparing a concise report to describe the complexities of the Delta that would be understandable to policymakers and the general public.

2 LairdThe Delta Challenges report was requested to be written by the California Natural Resources Agency and the U. S. Department of the Interior. “We thought it was very important, given the animated discussions that are going on around the Delta right now, that people not lose sight that it’s a very complex situation that is in crisis, and that doing nothing is not an option,” said Secretary John Laird.  “I think it’s important to emphasize that we have to take some action and we have to take some collective action, regardless of what anybody thinks of certain proposals, and this was a good way to move that situation front and center.”

Letty Belin from the Department of the Interior said they asked for the report for much the same reason as the Natural Resources Agency. “I think the Delta is so complicated and so important, it’s hard to think of anything that is so both of those as intensely as the Delta is,” she said. “We asked for something that we thought was an impossible thing to get, which was a plain English short distillation of the key challenges and it’s from the four former and now current lead scientist whose credibility is absolutely unimpeachable and who are respected by everybody who knows about the Delta.”

2 BelinI do think that the message is notwithstanding the complexity, that status quo is not viable, actions need to be taken, and we need to adaptively manage but not be so afraid to take action as to not take any action,” Ms. Belin added.

Dr. Cliff Dahm then presented the key points of the report to the committee members, noting that he would do so by answering a series of questions.

But before he began, he first spoke of the process of creating the report. “The request basically came to us with the desire for a scientifically rigorous but readable and accessible document that could engage decision makers, stakeholders, legislators, politicians, federally and in the state of California,” Dr. Dahm said. “Dr. Peter Goodwin is a very charming individual and he hooked all four of us. If we knew how much it was going to take work-wise, I’m not sure he would got all four of us, but it was quite the effort and now that it is finished, I think we’re glad we did it.

2 DahmDr. Dahm noted the coauthors of the report: besides himself, the report was written by the former lead scientists Dr. Johnnie Moore, Dr. Mike Healey, and lead author Dr. Sam Luoma. “The four of us come with different areas of expertise, and also from different parts of the country,” he said. “Dr. Sam Luoma comes both from the USGS at Menlo Park where he had a very distinguished career and also from a period of time where he’s worked at UC Davis. His areas of expertise are contaminants and ecotoxicology. Dr. Johnnie Moore comes from the University of Montana and his expertise is geochemistry and also he’s done quite a bit of work on risk analysis. Dr. Mike Healey comes from the University of British Columbia and his expertise is in fisheries biology and fish ecology. I come from the University of Mexico and my expertise is in ecosystem studies and biogeochemistry.”

Report writing was definitely challenging,” he said.  “We had different perspectives and we were not always wanting to emphasize the same thing.  We have reasonably strong personalities so we had some disagreements, but ultimately we came to the consensus that is the document that you see today, so this is certainly written with consensus.”

The report has been peer-reviewed and was also published in the San Francisco Estuary & Watershed Science journal.  The audience for this report is anyone interested in a broader overview of the multiple challenges to the California Delta, he said.  “The goal was to produce an accurate, accessible report that would reach a wider audience then typical scientists working in the Delta, and so the report is for those at the national level interested in knowing more about the complex problems encountered in the Delta, and it’s for Californians that don’t know a lot about the Delta and are interested in learning more about the issues that we focus on in the Delta.”

Dr. Dahm said that they used the concept of a ‘wicked problem’ which is derived from the social sciences and is defined as a ‘problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.’ He emphasized that the use of the term ‘wicked’ denotes resistance to resolution; it certainly does not mean evil.  Other problems that have been described as wicked are problems such as Pandemic outbreaks of flu, proliferation of nuclear weapons, global terrorism, health care, and climate change. “Those are examples of wicked problems, and we felt that the Delta, too, is a wicked problem,” he said.

Dr. Dahm then read a quote from the report to sum up the concept of the Delta as a wicked problem: ‘If the problem were just about allocating freshwater flows, it might be solvable. Add in the complexity of moving water through a hydrologically and hydrodynamically complex Delta, and it becomes complicated. Add the uncertainty of ecological responses and institutional complexity with many actors with many visions, and the problem becomes wicked. Then add the ever-changing water supply and ecological and economic context in which decisions must be made, and the problem becomes devilishly wicked.’

Table 2 Delta Challenges

What are the stressors and drivers of change in the Delta? Dr. Dahm said that he personally likes to subdivide the stressors and drivers of change into three categories: structural, climatological, and chemical or biological:

Structural:Examples include the many dams, the water diversions, the levees, and land use,” he said.

Climatological:Examples include coastal upwelling and its effect on the anadromous fish populations, the El Nino Southern Oscillation phenomena that brings us both El Nino, and atmospheric rivers that deliver very large quantities of water and are a major source of water supply for the state of California but also produce major flooding and major damage to property. There is also the changing climate seen in warming temperatures with the last two years are the two warmest we’ve seen in California, and rising sea levels, lower spring snowpacks, and catastrophic forest fires.”

Chemical and biological:Some of the chemical and biological aspects of stresses and drivers of change in the Delta include things like salinity intrusions, nutrient enrichment, the many toxic substances that the Delta is exposed to, and invasive non-native species, of which there are many.”

Why is the Delta a study in complexity?  Dr. Dahm said that Delta complexity comes in many interacting forms: physical system complexity, water supply complexity, water quality complexity, ecological complexity, and institutional complexity.

Delta Challenges Slide_Page_3Physical system complexity: He presented a slide comparing the Delta of the 1800s to the Delta today, noting that this comes from work done by San Francisco Estuary Institute on historical ecology of the Delta. “The Delta is an area nearly the size of Rhode Island. Its landscape has changed from a landscape that used to be dominated by seasonal, tidal, and freshwater wetlands and with extensive river riparian areas, grasslands, and oak woodlands to a landscape today that is predominantly agriculture, with quite a bit of open water, 1100 miles of levees, and significant urban areas on the edges. This is the reality of the Delta, current and past. And it’s a much changed landscape in which native species evolved and in which non-native species today thrive.”

Water supply complexity:One of the reasons for the water supply complexity is the highly variable precipitation regime in California. In fact, California is the bullseye for the most variant precipitation patterns anywhere in the United States. Precipitation variability leads to highly variable river flows. Only parts of Australia and South Africa have been shown to have more variable river flows then the river flows here in California. This also leads to high dependence on groundwater during times of drought. Sustainable groundwater management act of 2014 puts us on a pathway to sustainable groundwater management by 2040, and I expect that implementation of this Act will undoubtedly affect the agencies at this table and will affect the hydrology of the Delta itself.”

Water quality complexity: Examples include mercury, selenium, biomagnifying organic compounds that get into the food web, emerging toxic compounds like pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pesticides, nutrient loading from agriculture, and wastewater treatment plant inputs.

Ecological complexity:We call out specifically in the report how the Delta is changing to changing clarity and changing nutrient availability and toxic algal blooms have now become a significant problem. Non-native invasive plant species have become a significant problem within the Delta. We also talk about the challenges of setting flow criteria throughout California, including the Delta, and we also talk about the challenges of declining native fish species.”

Institutional complexity:There’s a stylized version of on the cover on the report that came from a diagram of water governance in San Francisco Bay which is reflective of challenges of management in the Delta. This committee has been constituted to try and better address the institutional complexity in the Delta. I think that diagram on the front page of this report gives you an idea of some of the complex nature of the institutional arrangements in the Delta.”

What are the roles for science in the Delta?  “Science has and will continue to play multiple roles in the Delta,” he said. “Key examples where science is making important contributions include modeling of past and current conditions within the Delta, future hydrodrynamical, chemical, and biological conditions within the Delta, monitoring of status and trends in the Delta with the goal of coming up with a robust regional monitoring program; enhanced data management; the analysis, synthesis, and integration to support adaptive management within the Delta; and the required science to support decision making. We lay out the caveat clearly in the report that difficult political choices will be necessary in the face of uncertainty. We will never eliminate all uncertainty from your decision making process.”

What are key conclusions for coping with complexity within the context of a wicked problem?

Delta Challenges Report Cover
Click on the graphic to download a copy of the Delta Challenges report.

The key point we try to make is that the current arrangement is unsustainable, and we suggest a few pathways forward,” said Dr. Dahm. “One of the ones that we suggest is enhance groundwater recharge and implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  Another one is to continue and to promote and invest in water reuse, water recycling, and desalination where appropriate and take some of the pressure off of the Delta. Set priorities for levee maintenance and upgrades. Lock in the water conservation gains that have occurred during the drought. … Pursue risk reduction for catastrophic Delta infrastructure failure. Carry out targeted ecosystem restoration. Make the concept of One Delta, One Science in the Delta Science Plan a reality.

Dr. Dahm then concluded with a final quote from the report: ““As we enter an era of increasing uncertainty about climate, water supply, the fate of the Delta’s native ecosystem, and institutional complexity, multi‐institutional collaborative approaches will become increasingly important. California has the tools and the intellectual resources to manage these problems and, as difficult as they are, achieve the twin goals of reliable water supply and an ecologically diverse Delta ecosystem.”

This meeting of the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee offers an opening and an opportunity for this multi-institutional collaborative processes called out in this quote,” concluded Dr. Dahm.

Discussion highlights

Committee Chair Randy Fiorini then opened up the floor for discussion, asking the committee members to share their agency’s activities and any opportunities.

2 MarcusState Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus said that the drought has been the crash course in cooperation that they all needed. “I think the drought response where the state and federal agencies have come together because of the emergency to try to figure out how to talk with each other more often, understand our different authorities, objectives, etc. and figure out how as people to work together has actually has been very important work for making possible what we really do need to do long-term in the Delta,” she said. “We’ve all been spending a lot of time on trying to deal with the drought moment to moment while also planning for the future has been a very important foundation effort, and certainly at the core of what a lot of the State Board does. We have a role where we are supposed to be maximizing all beneficial uses of water, which puts us in the situation of having a lot of what we do be trying to figure out how to navigate complexity. So I’m particularly appreciative of all the individual and institutional efforts to really try and come together over a very complex and challenging period of time.

Ms. Marcus said that the update of the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan is very important and also complex, and has been delayed because the staff that would be working on it have been pulled off to work on drought efforts. They are currently working on hiring additional staff so they can get the update completed. The SED for phase 1, San Joaquin River and southern Delta salinity objectives, should be finished soon. They are currently doing the scientific review document for the phase 2 work; she expressed appreciation for the assistance of the Delta Science Program. “The update is really our top priority other than drought response in the work we do, and we’re committed to doing it,” Ms. Marcus said.

Ms. Marcus said the State Water Board is also working on a number of contaminant issues, including the Sacramento regional wastewater treatment upgrade, the irrigated lands program, and the conundrum of legacy mercury contamination.

The Delta tunnels issue is one that is a piece of the Delta puzzle; I can’t talk about it as there’s a water rights petition in front of us,” she said. “At such time that any of that comes up, I’m going to have to leave the room and have somebody sit in my seat, but obviously that will be a major undertaking of that as well that we’ll going through the next few months.”

2 CowinJust about everything we do at the Department of Water Resources has some nexus back to the Delta; it’s hard to imagine anything we do that either isn’t a direct affect or affected by Delta issues,” said Mark Cowin, Director of the Department of Water Resources. “I for one really appreciate this report and drilling down on the complexities that we all live with in our professional lives pretty much on a daily basis. It’s a little bit overwhelming and maybe a little bit depressing, but nonetheless, this is what we’ve got to deal with.”

Mr. Cowin said he wouldn’t list all the programs the Department operates that has some effect on the Delta; certainly there is their statewide responsibilities towards improving regional supplies through integrated regional management and water conservation, their flood management activities both upstream and in the Delta itself, the Delta levee subventions and special projects programs, efforts to contribute towards ecosystem restoration, ongoing water project operations, and their efforts to modernize the state and federal water projects through California Water Fix.

Then Mr. Cowin said he wanted to raise one issue with Dr. Dahm’s description of the report. “The statement you made towards the end of your presentation about improving groundwater management, improving recycling, implementing desalination in order to take pressure off of the Delta,” he said. “I think that’s a fantasy, to tell you the truth. I don’t think there is enough we will ever do to take enough pressure off of the need to extract water from the Delta or the upstream tributaries to fundamentally change the way that the Delta is managed.”

Not to say that we don’t need to do all those things, of course,” Mr. Cowin continued. “The Governor’s California Water Action Plan lists in very bold terms the types of things we need to do in order to achieve the water supply reliability goals that we’re looking for for the state and its people and it’s economy; those investments are absolutely essential. But at the end of the day, if our goal is to have sustainable ecosystems that contribute to reliable water supplies, it’s not enough just to hope we take enough pressure off the Delta such that it recovers.”

At the end of the day, it’s going to take regulation to control how much water is extracted from the natural system in order to achieve a kind of ecosystem goals that we’re looking for,” said Mr. Cowin. “Now that’s not an easy thing to suggest from one of the folks that gets regulated, but at the end of the day I believe that’s true. The trick is to get the right regulations that provide for sustainability of our ecosystems and yet do so in as efficient a manner as possible in order to continue to provide the water supplies we’re looking for for our people and our economy.

To me, that all leads back to the baby steps that we’re taking to improve science of the Delta and the upstream tributaries,” he said. “Relative to some of the other big ecosystems around the country, I think we’re an order of magnitude less at least than places like the Everglades or the Columbia River. How can we expect to address these wicked problems with that kind of effort? I’m really interested in how we advance that, both through our collaborative efforts and through more investment. We have to figure out where that financing comes from. To me, that’s one of the biggest things we ought to be talking about around this table.”

2 BonhamChuck Bonham, Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, was appreciative of the report, but noted that often when he reads a report about all of our problems, he’s often left asking what the government is doing. So he ran them down: “At least in the last two fiscal years, the State of California has redirected over $54 million through emergency fundmaking to my Department to engage in critical time-sensitive science restoration and other activities relative to fish and wildlife during drought. We took a percentage of this money and completed levee breaching and habitat restoration in the Delta, and more than doubled some of the available habitat for fish species.”

The Public Policy Institute of California, in its most recent assessment, said I think it was either 13 or 18 native fish species were at risk of immediate extinction,” Mr. Bonham continued. “When I crosswalk that with the activity that Miss Rea and Mr. Castleberry’s agencies have done with ours, we’ve rescued or brought into captivity or have done other Herculean efforts for I think 9 of those 13 species. The California Water Fix is advancing farther than at any other moment in time, and because of drought, we have engaged with our federal colleagues in new science.”

We are really doing much more on understanding real-time turbidity conditions in the Delta, and in fact turning it into real-time decision making with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Water Resources,” Mr. Bonham said. “It ought to be our new baseline for taking science like that into real-time management decisions. Our Department allocated our first tranche of funding from the California Air Board for greenhouse gas reduction funds which, when you spend on habitat restoration, can both sequester carbon and create habitat that’s usable for fish and wildlife. We’re each getting ready to allocate our first distribution of funds under Proposition 1 for habitat restoration. The California Water Commission by the end of this next year is going to be well set up to review and act on applications to build surface storage, improve groundwater storage, and advance conjunctive use around the state of California. “

In April, standing next to him, the Governor announced California EcoRestore, and 30,000 acres is a floor; we’re going to do more than that,” Mr. Bonham said. “Just two weeks ago, most of us stood with some very progressive irrigation and reclamation districts in the Sacramento Valley and fixed a problem at Knights Landing that’s been occurring for decades.”

Felicia has new capacity at the water board to make haste on its water quality plan and objective setting,” Mr. Bonham said. “There are many irrigation districts and my Department that have an eye on negotiated settlements on all the tributaries as a potential mechanism to help you achieve what you need to get done with objective setting. In some places, like on the Yuba, the NMFS and the DFW have launched the first ever effort to try and put salmon back in the Sierra where they haven’t been for 100 years. That’s in the last 18 months. So for those watching who have any doubt about the seriousness of this state administration in partnership with the federal administration, we’re getting stuff done.”

2 VendlinskiTim Vendlinski, Bay Delta Program Director for the EPA, said his agency has been concerned with the subsidence in the Delta, for the infrastructure there as well as the communities in the Delta, citing a multi-agency effort working on opportunities to sequester methylmercury with low intensive chemical dosing while also reversing subsidence. “On the peat islands, the idea is that to do wetlands restoration where the peat soils would start forming again with the growth of the vegetation and combining that with low impact chemical dosing to sequester out the methylmercury, but at the same time, those wetland plants would also be sequestering greenhouse gases,” he said.

We like to look at ways to do wetland restoration as a way to sequester greenhouse gases, sequester methyl mercury, reverse subsidence, stabilize the levees, and ultimately provide the wetlands refugia for some of the native fishes that are short of habitat, so that’s just an exciting opportunity,” Mr. Vendinksi continued. “The question now is if we we’re able to sequester that methylmercury, will it stay bound or will it come back out into solution, but I think with 3 billion cubic yards of accommodation space with a sunken Delta, so we could be taking that liability of a subisided Delta and turn it into an asset for both climate change mitigation and also methyl mercury management which would be useful for meeting the goals of the TMDLs for mercury in the Delta.”

2 IngramCampbell Ingram from the Delta Conservancy updated the committee on the Delta Restoration Hub. “It’s an effort to do the restoration planning, bringing better tools and process to really identifying where we have the greatest ecological value in restoration and invest most effectively, and how do we do that on the current landscape with the least amount of impact to the agriculture, infrastructure, and practices that are in the Delta, and within the confines of the flood protection system,” he said. “So where do we articulate the scientific basis for restoration, what we’re going to do, why we’re going to do it, what we’re going to measure, and then how does that fit in the current landscape, so how do we have our best opportunity to do that?

The Delta Conservancy governing board approved them to work with the Delta Science Program, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, local interests and other to work through scopes of work, costs, and timeline to do regional strategies in the Cache Slough and northeast Delta. “That’s defining where we do restoration with the least amount of impact for agriculture and within the flood protection system, so it’s an exciting time,” Mr. Ingram said. “We envisioned this to be the platform on which we can base adaptive management overtime as well, because it will be our strategies, how do we look at this system, what do we expect to change as things change on the landscape … what we’re learning from the restoration that we’re doing, this is the place where that information gets plowed back and can help us adjust strategies over time as we move forward.”

But as with most efforts, funding is a concern, Mr. Ingram pointed out. “One of the things that concerns my governing board is that most of the funding for these efforts is coming from Prop 1 Delta Conservancy funding, and certainly they are interested in not seeing the Conservancy shoulder all of that planning cost,” he said.

Committee Chair Randy Fiorini agreed that the new paradigm of adaptive management requires a consistent level of funding. “Funding for not just the project itself, but for the planning, the implementation, and then the ongoing monitoring and data collection and synthesis so that we can really adaptively manage from what we learned,” he said. “Somehow, some way, before the day is up, I hope that we can figure out a way to put together a group that can take a look at how we can further encourage funding into the Delta on par of what we see in other parts of the country.”

2 Belin 2From the Interior Department’s perspective, I think California water probably has the dubious distinction of winning the contest to take the most amount of time and effort of really any other issue, when you count both the current drought and the long-term actions of any other issue – although sage grouse is making a run at it, but they are a long second place,” said Lettie Belin, Department of Interior. “California water is just in a league of its own, which I think may be a message that we’ve heard today in terms of wicked and complex. So the commitment is there.”

Ms. Belin said that she cannot recall a time when there has ever been a time where the federal and state agencies have worked as collaboratively on both the drought and on trying to reach long-term solutions as there has been now. “I think it’s extraordinary, and I give you guys at the state a huge amount of credit,” she said. “One positive note I would point out is that of all the incredibly complex issues that we’re dealing with in the Delta, I would say there’s the strongest consensus on the need for more collaborative and strong science on all these issues. Strong science is how we can meet more needs without bringing anymore water or natural resource to the table, so that’s good.”

Ms. Belin said she can’t comment on the merits of anything that Congress might be considering, but it’s hard to get resources these days. “I and everybody who looks closely at this issue sees that science needs more funding and support and there’s bipartisan support for that, so I think we should cross our fingers and keep working on that.”

2 PhillipsJason Phillips, Deputy Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation, referred back to the graphic Dr. Dahm had presented showing how much the Delta has changed since the 1800s until now. “The current infrastructure we’re using to manage the system now largely was what caused that, and we’re using that infrastructure now today, decades old infrastructure to try and fix some of the issues that it caused, and so that comes with a lot of challenges,” he said. “In the near term, probably one of the most important things we can do is to continue to collaborate with our partners in the federal and state agencies and our partners in the local communities to look at real-time conditions and to find where we have flexibility to manage the current system to make it healthier.”

Reclamation has made a lot of investments,” continued Mr. Phillips. “Since 1992, we have accounted for almost 1.4 billion of investments in the CVPIA. In fact, we are frequently criticized for how much has been invested in the CVPIA. A lot of good things have come from that; we’ve learned a lot, and we also invest now annually about $20 million a year in science, and I’ll tell you it is very helpful to us. We have a strong federal team – the USGS, NMFS, US FWS and others that we help to support to continue to build science. We will continue to support that in the collaboration with our state partners and with our local partners.”

Mr. Phillips said he hopes that the Delta doesn’t end up being something that we never fix, like Social Security is. “I honestly don’t know how much the government invests trying to fix social security, but I do know that we invest a lot in understanding the Delta and understanding how we can better manage for the economy and for the resources, and I also know that we have not invested very much in new infrastructure,” he said. “Today, the infrastructure that my agency and Mark’s and others are looking at is for how to better manage this system to sustain what we have the best we can and then improve the resources that depend on the Delta. Reuse, recycling, efficiency – those are all low hanging fruit that we need to jump on every time there’s an opportunity, and it’s good to see the increased efficiencies within the urban communities throughout California in response to the drought. … but to help the economy and to help better manage the system to meet those regulations, I think new infrastructure is needed as well.”

Reclamation is supporting in terms of both funding and resources the California Water Fix,” Mr. Phillips continued.  “We are providing a lot of resources in helping to complete the biological assessment, to do the ESA consultation, and to get the NEPA and CEQA moving on that. Certainly a very controversial project, but one that would start to improve in my view and starts to improve a desperately needed conveyance through the Delta that is less harmful than it is today.”

Mr. Phillips said the other controversial infrastructure project is storage, and there are several projects coming up in the new few years for decisions at both the federal and state level. “I think we should look at those as an opportunity to better manage for the outflows, for the river flows, and for the timing of exports and timing with respect to cold water. The analysis is showing that there are a lot of benefits there and there are opportunities to not increase but maintain water deliveries under contracts that we already have with the federal and state water agencies, so I’ll stop there …

State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus then invited Delta Watermaster Michael Geroge forward to discuss the work underway to get a better handle on in-Delta water use.

2 GeorgeMichael George began by saying that the consumptive use study is an attempt to bring together work that multiple stakeholders are doing that is aimed at figuring out how to get a handle on consumptive use in the Delta. “It’s critical to how we manage the farming enterprises in the Delta, it’s critical to how the projects operate in the Delta, and it’s critical to ecosystem restoration,” he said. “There are ongoing efforts to get a better handle on that critical element of what goes on in the Delta, and so what we’ve done really is simply to pull together a lot of those efforts and then to find funding from a variety of agencies so that we could do a centralized process that would bring the information together and hopefully get everybody to recognize and measure consumptive use on a consistent basis so we can make decisions on an agreed upon set of facts, rather than having what we often have in the Delta, which is a very long prelude and preamble where we argue about what the facts are.”

Mr. George said the study is being funded by multiple parties, including the State Water Board, DWR, and the Delta Stewardship Council, and they have asked for funding from the export interests and some in-Delta users as well. “I’m pleased to say that although we haven’t got all the funding corralled at the moment but we haven’t been turned down yet.

The study is in two phases,” Mr. George said. “2015 was all about developing a great deal of data and with the help of the DWR, we conducted a complete land use survey within the Delta. We also collected a great deal of information about water use, specific crops using computer analysis of satellite images. We’re going to be building on that through 2015, we expect to have a final report by around the first of 2017.”

There’s no question that there are a lot of challenges in the Delta,” said Mr. Fiorini. “It should be evident to anybody that’s listening that there is a lot going on in response to these challenges and we should be encouraged that solutions are in process and on the horizon.”

For more information …

Coming up tomorrow …

Coverage of the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee continues with an update on the California Eco Restore program and ongoing efforts in the Yolo Bypass.

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