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: