Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | June 22, 2021

Uncertainty in future demand as Urban Water Management Plans finalized

Population growth in California has changed dramatically due to COVID and a reduction in immigration. The state’s population declined by 182,083 people in 2020, the first time since 1900.  This has resulted in large uncertainty in population projections by the Department of Finance (DOF), which are used by urban water agencies for demand projections for water supply planning.

In March 2021, DOF released updated forecasts which projected lower population growth. However, the forecasts were significantly off for 2020, projecting a population increase of 170,850.

DOF recognized the uncertainty of the 2020 forecast, stating:

To reflect the changes in migration flows resulting from federal immigration policies and in response to COVID-19, the migration series’ return to average was extended by five years to 2030. No other explicit changes were made to address COVID-19. …

Some of the most recent data are reflected, such as lower births, higher deaths, and negative net-migration in 2020. This update does not address future potential changes that may result from the pandemic. The positive growth within the series is highly dependent on migration, and political and regulatory changes enacted by the Biden Administration will take time to affect migration flows. A new projection series, with an updated baseline and assumptions, will be released in 2022 when the 2020 Census data has been released and evaluated. (p. 2.)

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California based population projections for their Urban Water Management Plan on two pre-pandemic regional reports:

  • Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Connect SoCal: The 2020-2045 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Community Strategy (May 2020)
  • San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) San Diego Forward: The 2019 Federal Regional Transportation Plan (October 2019) (p. ES-3.)

MWD states:

Both SCAG and SANDAG’s forecasts were developed prior to the advent of the COVID-19 global pandemic. For this reason, assumptions about the pandemic’s effects on future growth are not reflected in the demographic forecast data used in this UWMP. Although long-term impacts are extremely uncertain, the region is currently experiencing acute and potentially lasting disruptions across a wide range of economic and lifestyle activities that in turn may unsettle pre-pandemic expectations for future household formation, migration, fertility, and life expectancy. (p. A.1-4.)

Although recognizing the uncertainty, MWD states:

…Metropolitan continues to use the May 2020 release for its planning activities. For the San Diego region, Metropolitan uses a version of SANDAG Series 14 provided by the San Diego County Water Authority. (p. A.1-4.)

It is clear that the demand projections used for MWD’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan will change after the new DOF forecasts are available, and could be significantly lower.

References

Department of Finance Updates to Baseline 2019 Series, Department of Finance, March 5, 2021.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, 2020 Urban Water Management Plan, June 2021.

On May 26, 2021, California Water Research sent a letter to the chairs of the California Senate and Assembly budget committees and subcommittees regarding the FY 2020-21 appropriations for support of the Delta Independent Science Board.  We wrote:

Re: FY 2020-21 appropriation to the Delta Stewardship Council has not been used as intended by the Legislature

This letter is regarding appropriations made by the legislature for the Delta Independent Science Board, an independent board of the state of California. As detailed below, appropriations for FY 2020-21 have not been expended in support of the science board. We request that your committees ensure that the FY 2021-22 budget explicitly provides full support for the work of the Delta Independent Science Board through a line item or other means …

For the last decade, the legislature has appropriated funding for the Delta Science Program and the Delta ISB (Wat. Code § 85280) through the appropriation to the Delta Stewardship Council for all purposes of the Delta Reform Act (Wat. Code §§ 85000-85350.) The Council has developed a large science division, which had a budget of $7.8 million in FY 2019-20 including $3.1 million for salaries. Science division staff include one Deputy Executive Officer, one executive assistant, five managers, 12 scientists and one water rights engineer.

Unlike any other state board, the Delta ISB was never provided with management or science staff who report directly to the board. Only a single environmental scientist has a majority of time assigned to support the Delta ISB. In FY 2019-20, only 10% of the Delta Stewardship Council’s budget, approximately $800,000, was allocated for compensation for the Delta ISB members and the one staff scientist. As a result, the legislatively mandated oversight role of the Delta ISB has been limited.

The situation got disastrously worse after the Delta Stewardship Council had a reduction of $647,000 in general fund support for Fiscal Year 2020-21.1 Contracts which had funded individual Delta ISB members at professional scientific rates were abruptly discontinued and replaced by $100 per diem exempt salary positions, reducing their compensation by over 90%. The change was done without authorization by the legislature. It crippled the work of the Delta ISB; members of the board are now paid less than minimum wage for a full day’s work.

Reports by the Delta ISB Chair at meetings show requests to hire senior staff [this year] were refused, as were requests to hire independent scientists through short-term contracts to assist with active reviews. As a result, the Delta ISB’s two active reviews have been significantly delayed ….

The legislature decided not to provide a separate appropriation for the Delta Independent Science Board for FY 2021-22, but is in negotiation with the Delta Stewardship Council to restore contract compensation to the Delta Independent Science Board members through SB 821. We will be continuing to advocate for full restoration of funding to the Delta Independent Science Board.

Read our entire letter here:

Click to access CWR-Ltr-re-Delta-ISB-not-funded-for-FY-2020-21.pdf

 

For fiscal years 2017-2020, the Delta Independent Science Board had $2.0 million in funding to pay the Delta Independent Science Board members through contracts, about $670,000 a year. Almost all of this funding was lost In FY 2020-21, when the compensation for the Board members was changed to a $100 per diem salary.

Due to the state’s COVID budget cuts, the Delta Stewardship Council lost $646,000 in general fund funding for FY 2020-21. The cuts seem likely to have been allocated to the Delta Independent Science Board at some point. We could not find further information, because the Delta Stewardship Council staff stopped making any budget reports at the Delta Stewardship Council meetings in FY 2020-21.

Below is the detail for the Delta Stewardship Council from the Governor’s proposed budget for FY 2021-22.  The Delta Independent Science Board and Delta Science Program (Water Code section 85280) are funded through general fund funding.  One big pot of money is appropriated by the legislature for all purposes of the Delta Reform Act.

Budget detail, general fund

Below is the detail from the July 2020 budget report to the Delta Stewardship Council.  This was the last budget report in the Delta Stewardship Council meeting packets.

Due to the state’s budget surplus, the Delta Stewardship Council does have an increase of $875,000 in their general fund funding for FY 2021-22, but it’s unclear how much will be used to restore funding for the Delta Independent Science Board,

If you would like to see the Delta Stewardship Council restore funding for the Delta Independent Science Board, and start reporting their budget again, you can email the Council at engage@deltacouncil.ca.gov.

Related Posts

Delta Independent Science Board defunded

“No legal basis” for 90% pay reduction for Delta Independent Science Board members

California Water Research calls for formal consideration of Delta Independent Science Board compensation

In October 2020, the Delta Stewardship Council changed the compensation structure for the Delta Independent Science Board. From 2010-202, the prominent scientists on the board were compensated through contracts which paid professional scientific rates.  The Council changed the compensation to a salary of $100 per diem.  This change crippled the Delta Independent Science Board.  Since October 2020, the Board’s meeting notices have had some version of this notice of curtailment:
 
Curtailment of Delta ISB Activities

As discussed at recent Delta ISB meetings, the current appointment structure of Delta ISB members necessitates greatly curtailing the agenda and activities of the Delta ISB to a much lower level. Substantial delays in many of the Delta ISB’s anticipated and legislatively mandated reviews, products, and activities are expected. The Delta ISB is committed to supporting science for the Delta’s problems and problem-solving, and looks forward to returning to its high level of productivity as soon as the State fully resolves this issue.
 
It  wasn’t until April 15, 2021, that the Delta Stewardship Council Chair, Susan Tatayon, sent a letter to Delta Independent Science Board members, providing information on the reasons for the change:
 
I am writing to provide information regarding the recent reclassification of Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) members to being employees of the State of California compensated at $100 per diem, rather than independent contractors as had been the method of compensation prior to 2020… This change was initiated in 2020, when a routine review of Council contracts and further analysis identified that pursuant to California law, members of a state board should be classified as state employees, as described in more detail below.
When California Water Research’s attorney, Gwynne Pratt, reviewed the legal arguments in the letter, she found no legal basis for the reclassification. She also found that when it took this action, the Delta Stewardship Council acted beyond the scope of its authority and contrary to applicable law and procedure.  
 
At our request, Gwynne Pratt sent a letter on May 10, 2021 to Eraina Ortega, the Director of California Department of Human Resources (CalHR.) On behalf of California Water Research, she formally requested that CalHR revisit and rescind the $100 per diem salary classification created for the Delta Independent Science Board members.
 
Request re: Unapproved Exempt Position Classification Created by the Delta Stewardship Council

In 2020, the Delta Stewardship Council decided that members of the Delta Independent Science Board (“Delta ISB”) were to be exempt employees, with a salary of $100.00 per diem. Our review establishes that when it took this action, the Delta Stewardship Council
acted beyond the scope of its authority and contrary to applicable law and procedure. For a decade, the Delta Stewardship Council has contracted with the Delta ISB members to obtain and reimburse their services. Nothing has changed. There is no legal basis for
precipitously classifying them as exempt employees of the Delta Stewardship Council, entitled only to $100 per diem.

Furthermore, these actions crippled the Delta ISB’s legislatively mandated work in FY 2020-21 as they resulted in funding cuts of over 90% to the Delta ISB…

We respectfully request CalHR revisit and rescind the action of setting a $100 per diem salary for Delta ISB members under Government Code section 19818.6. The duties and responsibilities of Delta ISB are not similar other state boards. Delta ISB members are required to be “nationally or internationally prominent scientists with appropriate expertise to evaluate the broad range of scientific programs that support adaptive management of the Delta.” (Wat. Code § 85280(a)(2).) The legislature also intended that Delta ISB members themselves provide oversight the “scientific research, monitoring, and assessment programs that support adaptive management of the Delta through
periodic reviews of each of those programs…” (Wat. Code § 85280(a)(3).)

Paying Delta ISB members $100 per diem is also not comparable to the previous compensation for the Delta ISB. From 2017-2020, the Delta Stewardship Council requested authorization to pay members for up to two meetings a month, 7 days of work per meeting, eight hours per day, at the Delta Stewardship Council’s contract rate for independent scientific experts.
 
CalHR has not yet responded to Gwynne Pratt’s letter, but Senate Bill 821 was amended on June 8, 2021 to include a new Civil Service pay classification for Delta ISB members Research Specialist V.
 
More about attorney Gwynne Pratt
 
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Gwynne Pratt has practiced law for 42 years, and was a staff attorney for the California Department of Rehabilitation for 28 years, as well as being a staff attorney for the Appeals Board of the Department of Rehabilitation, before the Appeals Board was abolished. Gwynne brings a depth of experience with state agency administration to our campaign to restore funding to the Delta Independent Science Board.
 
Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | June 6, 2021

Diversions by Sacramento Settlement Contractors and CVP Permits

California Water Research submitted comments on the State Water Resources Control Board’s Water Unavailability Methodology which raised the issue that Reclamation has never fully complied with CVP permit terms that require reporting of the total amount diverted under Reclamation’s CVP water rights at the Sacramento Settlement Contractors’ points of diversion.

While Reclamation is reporting daily diversions at many Sacramento River mile locations under permit 12721, the relationship with the Settlement Contractor diversions is unclear.  The Water Board’s Decision 990 granted permits to the Central Valley Project in 1960.

Permit term 14 of Decision 990 states:

14. No direct diversion or rediversion of stored water for beneficial use under permits issued pursuant to Applications 5626, 9363, 9364, 9366, 9367 and 9368, other than through the conduits or canals hereinafter named in this paragraph, shall be made until a description of the location of each point of diversion and statement of the quantity of water to be diverted is filed with the State Water Rights Board.

(a) Bella Vista Conduit
(b) Corning Canal
(c) Tehama-Colusa Canal
(d) Chico Canal
(e) Yolo-Zamora Conduit
(f) Contra Costa Canal
(g) Delta Mendota Canal
(p. 84.)

The diversions of the Sacramento Settlement Contractors are points of rediversion of stored CVP water under the Settlement Contracts. Reclamation did file a description of the location of each of point of diversion after the Settlement Contracts were signed. However, the amount to be diverted at each location was reported as 25% of the total Settlement Contract amount. Clearly 25% is not correct in extreme dry years such as 2021.

The amount can be as high as 100% if the Settlement Contractors’ diversion under their own water rights are curtailed. An analysis by California Water Research of Sacramento River gauge data from 2014 showed that settlement contractors who had post-1914 rights appeared to be diverting under Reclamation’s CVP permits.

Reclamation’s Regional Resources Manager, Richard Woodley, stated in a 2011 letter to the Water Board that “Reclamation hopes to arrive at an internally acceptable method for determining separate historic and projected maximum storage, diversion, and beneficial use of water under each of these individual water right permits that are collectively exercised for the consolidated and coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP.)”

California Water Research recommended the following:

The Water Unavailability Methodology needs to consider diversions by the Sacramento Settlement Contractors under Reclamation’s CVP Permits… The Water Unavailability analysis should fully document assumptions about the percentage of stored water vs unstored flows that are diverted under the Settlement Contracts.

Read our full comments here:

California Water Research comments re Water Unavailability Analysis

California Water Research filed a protest of the May 17 Temporary Urgency Change Petition by the California Department of Water Resources and the US Bureau of Reclamation. We requested that the State Water Resources Control Board require a written report by DWR and USBR on the methodology used for the runoff forecast used in this year’s Drought Contingency Plans, together with an evaluation of the reasons for the errors in this year’s runoff forecast by September 30, 2021. We also requested that the Board hold a workshop to receive input on the subseasonal runoff forecast methodology by November 30, 2021. California Water Research argued that these actions are necessary to protect the public interest and the public trust in future drought years.

The May 17, 2021 Temporary Urgency Change Petition requests waivers of Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan requirements. The Petition states:

Although well below average rainfall, the snowpack in March 2021 indicated that sufficient reservoir inflow was likely available to meet requirements. Conditions significantly changed at the end of April 2021 when it became clear that expected reservoir inflow from snowmelt failed to materialize. The May 90% exceedence forecast for the water year Sacramento Valley Four River Index identified a reduction of expected runoff of 685 TAF from those generated only a month earlier in April.

The same forecasts were in DWR’s and USBR’s March 22, 2021 Updated Drought Contingency Plan. The forecasts indicated that sufficient reservoir inflow was likely available to meet the Water Quality Control Plan requirements. The Sacramento River Index forecasts used for the 2021 Drought Contingency Plan are below. The Sacramento River Index is an estimate of the unimpaired flow from four rivers, the Sacramento, Yuba, Bear, and American Rivers, in million acre-feet.

 

There was supposed to be a 90% probability of seeing at least as much runoff as the “90% Exceedance” forecasts. In retrospect, the increase of 1.1 MAF in the runoff forecast in February was overly optimistic, and was not reduced enough in the March and April forecast.

It has become clear that the forecasting used in the Drought Contingency Plans is inadequate for drought contingency planning with climate change conditions in the watershed.  One issue could be using runoff forecasts being based on runoff in analogous water years in the historical record. The issue with using historic hydrologic information has long been noted by the Department of Water Resources engineers. In the 2009 report, Using Future Climate Projections to Support Water Resources Decision Making in California, DWR’s water resources engineers stated:

In water resources planning, it is often assumed that future hydrologic variability will be similar to historical variability, which is an assumption of a statistically stationary hydrology. This assumption no longer holds true under climate change where the hydrological variability is non‐stationary. Recent scientific research indicates that future hydrologic patterns are likely to be significantly different from historical patterns, which is also described as an assumption of a statistically non‐stationary hydrology. In an article in Science, Milly et al. (2008) stated that “Stationarity is dead” and that “finding a suitable successor is crucial for human adaptation to changing climate.”

DWR’s and USBR’s March 22, 2021 Updated Drought Contingency Plan states only:

The Water Supply Index (WSI) forecasts that are utilized for this March Drought Plan are unique to this water year and informed by precipitation, runoff, and other antecedent hydrologic conditions as they existed on March 1, 2021.

No other information given on the methodology for the Water Supply Index Forecasts. Our protest concluded:

[T]here appear to have been significant errors in the Petitioners’ runoff forecasting, which are likely due to climate change. A written report by the Petitioners on the methodology used for the runoff forecast used in this year’s Drought Contingency Plans will allow stakeholders to evaluate the methodology. A workshop would allow stakeholders to provide input on better subseasonal forecasting, which is of critical importance in protecting the public interest and the public trust. Given the enormous impacts of the Petitioners’ TUCPs, the Water Board should include these requirements in the TUCP Order.

This post was revised on 6/5/2021 to add a graph..

At the May 21, 2021 Delta Stewardship Council meeting, Deirdre Des Jardins, Director of California Water Research, called for the Delta Stewardship Council to formally consider compensation for the Delta Independent Science Board at the next meeting. The request was supported by comments of Councilmember Don Nottoli.

OK, this is Deirdre Des Jardins with California Water Research.  And I did want to say we were very troubled to learn from the Department of General Services that the Delta Stewardship Council leadership had requested that the contracts be returned around June 30th, 2020, which was the day before they were supposed to start. And even the Delta Stewardship Council’s own contract administrator was saying “What?” And we haven’t been able to get a straight answer about why they were returned and what was the legal basis.

I did have a conversation with the Executive Director in which she referred to constitutional considerations, and she said that we would have a call … I could have a call with the Delta Stewardship Council’s counsel. I don’t think this is sufficient. I think there needs to be a written legal opinion and the Council needs to review it. And also you cannot delegate to your Executive Director the authority to reduce the funding of the Delta Independent Science Board’s work below what’s needed to do their duty. So we’re very concerned that this decision would seem to have been made in secrecy. It was never brought for consideration before the full Council.

And if there was a major change in compensation, we believe it should have been noticed to the Council, to the public, to the Independent Science Board members. And it should have been done in an orderly way. They shouldn’t have had months where there were no contracts and they had no idea what their compensation should be. We request that you put reconsideration of this item on the agenda for the next meeting and you request that the Delta Stewardship Council Executive Director provide the legal basis that she made the decision to rescind the contracts and what that legal basis was. Because, frankly, I have heard from a huge number of people that the legal basis for rescinding those contracts was that the Department of General Services didn’t approve it because of AB 5, and that turned out to not be borne out by the record. Nobody is talking about AB 5 now.

We did receive a letter that CalHR had guidelines that suggest that they should be employees. But when we looked closely and my attorney looked very closely at it, there is no statutory basis for the hundred dollar per diem. That’s based on the legislature authorizing a per diem salary for the employees. And the Delta Reform Act is completely silent. There is no per diem salary authorized for the DISB employees. There is very specific language that dates back to 2010, authorizing them to be paid by contract. And the reporting structure is also contrary to statute. And we’ve asked CALHR to consider this and to abolish the positions that were created because it was based on what appears to be a legal misunderstanding.

The other thing that’s a very serious issue is it’s our understanding that two of the outgoing members whose contracts were up for extension never got paid for July or August. And it was because their contracts were rescinded, and I don’t think the Delta Stewardship Council should let that happen. And I also request that you put that on the meeting agenda for the next meeting.

Finally, I will say this isn’t just a State of California issue, it’s a huge state and federal issue because the CALFED Record of Decision, which was signed by the Secretary of Interior, the US EPA administrator, the Department of [Interior], Department of Agriculture, US Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Cal EPA and Cal Natural Resources Secretary.  It commits to an independent Science Board that provides oversight and peer review of the overall program. So if this isn’t resolved, the federal agencies are going to have to do something. Because their authorizing statute, the federal law authorizing CALFED is still on the books and it requires an independent science board, and independent peer review. So this isn’t a minor board, it’s not just a California state issue, it’s part of a 30 year legal commitment and you absolutely cannot delegate this to the Executive Director. Thank you.

 

Related posts:

Delta ISB: We can’t get a straight answer on the legal basis for stopping the contracts

 

 

 

 

At the Delta Stewardship Council’s May 21, 2021 meeting, the Delta Independent Science Board Chair, Stephen Brandt gave a presentation on the Independent Science Board’s Invasive Species report.  The presentation concluded with a plea for restoration of compensation for the Independent Science Board so they could continue their work.

Councilmember Frank Damrell asked about Senate Bill 821, which was proposed to restore compensation for the Delta Independent Science Board. 

During public comment, the San Joaquin Audubon Society called for fair pay for the scientists on the Independent Science Board, and a legislative investigation of the reduction in funding. California Water Research stated that the Council could not delegate the authority to reduce the funding for the Delta Independent Science Board below what was needed to fulfill their statutory duties, and called for the compensation issue to be brought before the full Council for consideration. Local Agencies of the North Delta (LAND) asked that the Council direct staff  to come back with a solution  LAND also called for the compensation issue to be an item on the next Council agenda.

Councilmember Don Nottoli then said that he would like the Council to be part of the solution in their leadership role, stating that  “I don’t think it all falls to the Executive Director, very frankly.”

The Executive Director, Jessica Pearson, stated that a salary established by the legislature for the Independent Science Board would be one way to address the problem going forward, and that “if legislation were in place that set a statutory salary for the independent Science Board that was in line with what they’ve historically been paid, we would have that funding available.”

Excerpts from the discussion are below.

Delta ISB Chair Stephen Brandt  I think it’s important to bring up that we are currently what some would say is facing a crisis. Last July, there was, as I think many of you know, that was significant change in the structure of our appointments and our compensation levels. Individual contracts were eliminated and our compensation was seriously reduced. This really has a significant reduction in our ability to meet our statutory requirements . . . We’re looking right now over the next three months of how we might restructure, how we do our business, possibly narrower topics. It’s very challenging to do narrower topics, given the fact that everything we talk about in the Delta is highly interconnected and complex.

Delta ISB Past Chair Jay Lund Our ability to be a functioning Independent Science Board has been fundamentally crippled by the changes of appointment. I think it’s really evident that that’s the case from our tremendous reduction in amount of effort. Essentially, most of us have put in time on this or putting in that time in mostly as as volunteers. And to get the kind of serious professional look at the science in this very complex system requires much more than what is able to be done with the current system of appointments. There is currently a bill in the Assembly has already passed the Senate to look at some of this issue, it needs some serious work, I think, and engagement and clarification of. But it is a serious matter. I think that the Council really should be very much aware of and give some serious consideration to it.

Councilmember Frank Damrell What’s this bill comprised of, by the way, that passed the Assembly is now in the Senate? [Referring to SB 821]

Delta ISB Past Chair Jay Lund The current version of the bill basically is one line essentially that says that the members of the Delta Independent Science Board cannot be employees of the state, employed by any of the agencies. The intent, as I understand it. is to eliminate that option and therefore force us to go back to having contracts as we had before. Both to guarantee our independence and to allow a significant compensation for the efforts of the board members. The interpretation, as I understand it, of the Legislative Counsel is that the current per diem, one hundred dollars per per diem, compensation for the board members is not necessary and the contracts are an allowed form of compensation. But I think there are some uncertainty about that certainly in many parts or some parts at least, and so hopefully there will be some discussions between different levels of the administration and the legislature to work this out so that this problem can we can hopefully we come to look at this as a bureaucratic snafu in the rearview mirror. So well, we can obviously, without an ISB, we’re paddling upstream without a paddle. I mean, it’s very difficult. Our task is impossible. So I think we need the times infinite size forward. And I hope that this legislation will resolve.

Brandon Chapin So really quickly, there is a letter that’s been asked to be read into the record. So this is from David Fries with the San Joaquin Audubon Society. It has come to the attention of the San Joaquin Audubon Society that the compensation status of the Delta ISB has been changed from contract workers to state employees. Under the new classification, ISB members are to receive a pay of only one hundred dollars per day. The Council is required to apply the Best Available Science and making decisions on any project that is proposed in the Delta. The application of Best Available Science requires review by a board of highly qualified and knowledgeable scientists whose members are independent of the Council. The ISB has filled this role since its creation by the Delta Reform Act of 2009 and is mandated by law to continue that role. The problem is, no highly qualified scientist will or should be expected to work for a per diem of one hundred dollars per day. I can state this as a fact as a retired scientist myself, the Council should be aware that each hour that a scientist spends in formal meetings or in writing an expert review takes many hours of independent reading and preparation. . . .  It troubles us that the Council does not appear to be doing anything to rectify this problem. The members have been compensated fairly for more than a decade and surely there is a way to continue a fair compensation.. . . Does the Council really want to use the Best Available Science in making its decisions? Is the Council more interested in pleasing the Department of Water Resources and the Metropolitan Water District? Or making fair and independent decisions on projects in the Delta? We request that there be a legislative investigation. What’s going on here? And the results remain made available to the public.

Deirdre Des Jardins You cannot delegate to your Executive Director the authority to reduce the funding of the Delta Independent Science Board’s work below what’s needed to do their duty. So we’re very concerned that this decision would seem to have been made in secrecy. It was never brought for consideration before the full Council. And if there was a major change in compensation, we believe it should have been noticed to the Council, to the public, to the Independent Science Board members. And it should have been done in an orderly way. They shouldn’t have had months where there were no contracts and they had no idea what their compensation should be. We request that you put reconsideration of this item on the agenda for the next meeting and you request that the Delta Stewardship Council Executive Director provide the legal basis that she made the decision to rescind the contracts and what that legal basis was. … We did receive a letter that CalHR had guidelines that suggest that they should be employees. But when we looked closely and my attorney looked very closely at it, there is no statutory basis for the hundred dollar per diem. …. There is very specific language that dates back to 2010, authorizing them to be paid by contract….The other thing that’s a very serious issue is it’s our understanding that two of the outgoing members whose contracts were up for extension never got paid for July or August. And it was because their contracts were rescinded, and I don’t think the Delta Stewardship Council should let that happen. And I also request that you put that on the meeting agenda for the next meeting.

Osha Meserve I just want to add in my support on behalf of Local Agencies of the North Delta and other Delta interests I represent just how important it is to resolve this issue with the Delta Independent Science Board promptly. . . . It it cannot be true that there is not a way to pay these scientists what they need in order to do the job that they are legally required to do, going back to CALFED and then on through the Delta Reform Act of 2009. So I would I think having it as an agenda item is a good idea. I think this board should, the Council should direct staff today to come back with a solution and maybe it involves the bill in the legislature or maybe it doesn’t. But the big picture item is this needs to go into I think the Delta Stewardship Council’s budget and something that that the Stewardship Council is the host of independent science, the way that the statutes are set up right now. And I would just ask that the Council make sure that happen. We’re all relying on you. Thanks.

Councilmember Don Nottoli Yes, I’m recognizing there are some moving parts to all this. Is there a clear pathway to resolution? Is it that it has to be resolved legislatively or are there other pathways here? … Is there, maybe there’s been a previous report to get even prior to my being seated on the Council that laid out the pathways, because I don’t think it all falls to the Executive Director, very frankly. That’s my assessment of it. And I may have less knowledge about that than others on the Council, but I would like to see us be part of the solution in our leadership role, recognizing where we fit into the process and appropriately so. So I kind of pose as a question, not just you Chair Tatayon, but maybe to our legal counsel, obviously legal interpretations here as such. But I guess I’d like to know what the pathways are slowly legislatively that I guess that’s work that’s done outside of obviously our deliberations here at the dias virtually. But at any rate, I can propose that in the spirit of trying to, you know, help be a part of the solution. It seems there are some solutions sets here.

Councilmember Frank Damrell Have we taken a position on this legislation?

Chair Susan Tatayon We have not, Judge.

Councilmember Frank Damrell We will have a chance to discuss to with the legislative agenda comes up?

Chair Susan Tatayon I believe so, and we do have our process and protocols for when the Council does take positions on legislation. At this point, Jessica Pearson, do you want to offer anything or shall we just take all of this under advisement?

Executive Director Jessica Pearson Thank you, Chair. Yes, I I mean, I think we’re all concerned about the capacity limitations on the Independent Science Board and unfortunately, the Council does not have legal discretion to employ them as contractors going forward. So I am glad that there’s interest by the legislature to resolve the problem. I, I do believe that if there was a salary that was established by the legislature for the Independent Science Board, that that would be one way to address the problem going forward. And so we are available to answer questions from legislative staff on that issue. We’ve already been contacted to provide technical guidance, and so we’re very hopeful that there can be a resolution. I just want to clarify that the Council’s budget has not been reduced related to Independent Science Board compensation. And in fact, we’ve been working with the Independent Science Board to provide at least what may be interim relief and support in the form of staff and postdoctoral scholars. And we will be using funding that’s typically set aside for the Independent Science Board to support that. So I do want to clarify that our budget has not been reduced. And if legislation were in place that set a statutory salary for the independent Science Board that was in line with what they’ve historically been paid, we would have that funding available.

 

Our May 10, 2021 blog post, DWR Chief Engineer warned of climate change draining Northern California reservoirs explained how Francis Chung, the Department of Water Resources’ Bay-Delta modeling chief, sounded the alarm in 2010 that climate change could drain major Northern California reservoirs. Chung recommended that DWR develop a reoperation strategy for the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP) to mitigate the effects of climate change.  The Department of Water Resources ignored Chung’s recommendation.

The situation got worse in 2019 with the Bureau of Reclamation’s changes to the Long Term Operations of the Central Valley Project.  The changes basically eliminated requirements for carryover storage in Shasta Dam to ensure adequate cold water for salmon.

In December 2018, the State of California made an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to increase the State Water Project’s obligations for releases of water from Oroville reservoir to meet the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan standards in dry and critically dry years. It was clear to anyone who had studied climate change that a drought catastrophe such as we are facing in 2021 was inevitable unless there were major changes in SWP reservoir operations.

The 2021 catastrophe is all the more tragic because it could have been avoided. In 2019, California Water Research advocated successfully for development of a drought operations strategy to be a priority for Governor Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio. Action 26.3 in the draft Water Resilience Portfolio was:

Support the development of a drought operations strategy for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project to meet Water Board-required flow and water quality criteria and respond to fish and wildlife needs during extended drought conditions lasting up to six years.

This important policy change would have pushed the Department of Water Resources to follow the recommendations of their own Bay-Delta Modeling Chief.

But the State Water Contractors objected to the strategy, claiming in February 2020 comments to the Resources Agency that a drought operations strategy was infeasible.
Their comments stated:

In Action 26.3 there is an element on drought SWP/CPV operations that suggests modified operations to meet D-1641, which appears to mean avoid Temporary Urgency Change Petitions, in droughts lasting up to 6 years. Such a goal is infeasible due to the unique nature of droughts in California. It is infeasible to hold sufficient water in storage to meet all required flow and water quality criteria in a six-year drought.

Unfortunately, the Natural Resources Agency believed the State Water Contractors and deleted Action 26.3 from the Final Water Resilience Portfolio. There was no review of the State Water Contractor’s claims by an independent scientist or water resources engineer who understood SWP and CVP operations.

In our April 26, 2021 blog post, The State Water Project was originally designed for a six year drought, we explained how there was a change to State Water Project operations in the mid 1980s to take greater risks of draining the reservoirs in a multi-year drought.  There are many ways in which these risks could be reduced.

In January 2020, California Water Research joined the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance in comments on the Department of Water Resources’ draft environmental document for Long Term Operations for the State Water Project . We commented that:

Model output in the DEIR shows increased drawdown of Oroville Reservoir due to the 2018 Coordinated Operating Agreement Addendum, but fails to discuss potential mitigation for the impact, such as increased carryover storage targets.

Oroville storage in critical;y dry year

The Department of Water Resources refused to do modeling of increased carryover storage targets, because of concerns by the State Water Contractors that more conservative reservoir operations would reduce water deliveries to Southern California. It was clear that this was going to be disastrous in the next drought.

Unfortunately, 2021 is record dry year, and SWP and CVP reservoir operations have been just as disastrous as predicted. The Natural Resources Defense Council’s expert, Doug Obegi, testified to the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee on May 5, 2021, stating:

The failure to be prepared for dry conditions this year – only 7 years after the disaster that was 2014, and the promises that we’d do better this time – is a fundamental failure of State leadership.[1]

The tragedy is that the failure of State leadership was almost remedied by Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio. It seems clear that one of the root causes of the failure is a lack of independent scientific review of the basis for State decisions on water management.

Secretary Crowfoot and Governor Newsom must make independent scientific review a priority of the administration for all state decisions about climate adaptation.

There is a framework for doing so in the Delta. In 2009, the Delta Reform Act created the Delta Independent Science Board as a standing board “in state government.” By statute, the nationally and internationally prominent scientists on the board provide peer review and independent scientific advice on management of the Delta. Such advice is desperately needed during the current drought, and also in coming years as the Delta faces accelerating impacts of climate change.

The administration should prioritize restoring funding to the Delta Independent Science Board. The Delta Reform Act model should also be expanded to incorporate independent peer review and scientific advice into all state climate adaptation efforts.

References

[1] Doug Obegi, California Doesn’t Have a Plan for Drought, May 19, 2021. https://www.nrdc.org/experts/doug-obegi/california-doesnt-have-plan-drought

In 2000, California state and federal agencies made a commitment to using the best available science for management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 2000 CALFED Record of Decision made a 30 year commitment to “bring world-class science to all elements of the program; ecosystem restoration, water supply reliability, water use efficiency and conservation, water quality, and flood management (e.g., levee stability).”

In order to better integrate scientific review into the new program, the Governor of California and the Secretary of the Interior committed to “appointing an independent science board to provide oversight and peer review for the overall program.”

In 2009, the legislature enacted the Delta Reform Act, which created the Delta Stewardship Council as an independent agency in state government. The Delta Reform Act provided that the Delta Stewardship Council appoint a lead scientist to oversee the Delta Science Program, stating:

The mission of the Delta Science Program shall be to provide the best possible unbiased scientific information to inform water and environmental decisionmaking in the Delta. That mission shall be carried out through funding research, synthesizing and communicating scientific information to policymakers and decisionmakers, promoting independent scientific peer review, and coordinating with Delta agencies to promote science-based adaptive management.

The Delta Reform Act also established the Delta Independent Science Board (“Delta ISB”) as a board “in state government.” The members were required to be “nationally or internationally prominent scientists with appropriate expertise to evaluate the broad range of scientific programs that support adaptive management of the Delta.” The legislature mandated that the board “provide oversight of the scientific research, monitoring, and assessment programs that support adaptive management of the Delta” and provide “independent science advice” to the Council. (Water Code section 85280.)

The seven members of the Delta Stewardship Council were seated in 2010. The Council appointed ten prominent scientists to the Delta ISB. Over the next decade, the Delta ISB produced over 30 scientific reviews, averaging over 3,000 hours of work per year.

But in 2020, the work of the Delta ISB stalled. The Delta Stewardship Council reduced funding for the Delta ISB by over 90%. Contracts which had funded individual board members at professional scientific rates were abruptly replaced by $100 per diem payments. As a result, work on pending reviews was greatly delayed. Unlike any other state board, the Delta ISB had no staff that reported to the board. Requests by the Chair to fund senior staff positions were refused, as were requests to hire independent scientists through short-term contracts to assist with active reviews. Currently, the Delta ISB is completing multi-year reviews on Water Supply Reliability and the Delta Monitoring Enterprise, with work that is for all intents and purposes volunteer. Both reviews are essential to inform water management decisions and should have been fully funded by the $7.8 million / year Delta Science Program.

In previous years, when the Delta ISB needed support, staff were informally provided by the Delta Stewardship Council. For the 2021-22 fiscal year, the Department of Water Resources has stepped in to fund two Postdoctoral positions to assist the Delta ISB. However, rather than reporting to the scientists with whom they are working, the Postdocs will report to the Department of Water Resources. This new manner of staffing, combined with the 90% reduction in pay to the Delta Independent Science Board members, will largely end the independent oversight of the Delta ISB.

The Delta Stewardship Council also convenes what are referred to as “Independent Peer Review” panels. In reality, these panels are anything but independent. The planning committee, which recommends who will be on the peer review panel, may include employees of the agencies whose work is being reviewed. The peer review planning committee may consist of “members of the requesting party, authors of the document(s) subject to review, and interested agency/stakeholder representatives.” The planning committee exercises significant control over the peer review panel; not only does it decide “panel-member composition”, it also provides “input on the Charge to the Panel,” and “pertinent background documents.”[1]

The “Independent Peer Review” planning process contradicts the Delta Stewardship Council’s own guidelines on Best Available Science. The guidelines recommend that independent peer reviews “shall be coordinated by entities and/or individuals that … have had no direct involvement in the particular actions under review.”

While the Delta Stewardship Council leadership has repeatedly stated that they support independent science, their defunding of the Delta ISB speaks for itself. It is difficult to imagine anything more intimidating for a standing board of independent scientists than reducing their pay by 90% and refusing to fund requested staff.

References

[1] Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Science Plan, Appendix H, Policy and Procedures for Independent Scientific Review. https://deltacouncil.ca.gov/pdf/2019-delta-science-plan.pdf

 

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