Delta Protection Commission, Water Board express support for restoring funding to the Delta ISB

Both the Delta Protection Commission and the Water Board expressed strong support for restoring funding for the Delta Independent Science Board at their meetings this month.

  1. The Delta Protection Commission voted unanimously to send a letter of support for SB 821 to the legislature.

At the August 5, 2021 Delta Protection Commission meeting, the Commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter of support for Senate Bill 821, which restores compensation for the Delta Independent Science Board. Delta Protection Commission members spoke about the importance of the Delta Independent Science Board to the Delta, including review of the Delta tunnel project.

The Delta Protection Commission letter is here.

Meeting discussion:

CWR Director Deirdre Des Jardins

I just wanted to extend my deepest gratitude to the Commission for taking this up and for considering expressing your support. I feel that the Independent Science Board is critically important. In my primary research career I had the privilege of working with some world-class scientists and the breadth of their knowledge and the depth of their insights is just irreplaceable. I mean there are many excellent young scientists in the Delta Science Program but they can’t replace the kinds of insights that you get from these just incredible scientists who have so much experience with management of estuaries and it’s going to be so critical.  We’re seeing the effects of rapid climate change. We’re seeing the fires. We’re seeing this megadrought. So restoring funding is just critically important and you will be the first administrative agency to take a position on this bill and it has not yet been voted on.

California Water Research has been following the bill very closely. It will be voted on sometime after the legislature reconvenes on August 16th. The legislature’s in summer recess right now and they couldn’t quite get it out before then and then it will go to the governor.  So your endorsement to the governor’s office will also be very important and so I thank you so much.

It is very much in the interest of the Delta to have real true independent science by these amazing scientists. I’ve just been heartbroken for the last year to see their work not being funded. And many of them have done just a heroic job of essentially volunteer work finishing reports.  So there’s a water supply reliability report right now that’s being finished with essentially volunteer work. There’s an invasive species report that was finished with volunteer work. And I can’t imagine any other state employees that would have stayed on and done the work. It’s just … they’ve had such professionalism and such exceptional dedication and we owe it to them.  Thank you.

Commissioner Oscar Villegas (Yolo County)

So I wanted to thank the chair and my fellow commissioners for indulging me on this item. I was the one that kind of raised the flag on this one here and I was hoping we would move a little quicker but I think the process works and so I trust the process and I think it’s appropriate now that seeing everything that staff has done a good job of sort of providing some background and a recommended path for us and I fully support it. I think in our public testimony we just heard there’s probably nothing more important for us to support this very effort in light of the fact that through no fault of their own the Independent Science Board got caught up in a series of actions that occurred that had nothing to do with Independent Science Board or the work that we do. It was a series of things that occurred that kind of  — as i said they got caught up in it and we just need to kind of lean forward and echo or certainly provide a voice and underscore the critical importance of independent science in whatever happens and whatever goes forward relative to the conveyance, the documents that are going to be coming before the Delta Protection Commission, the Delta Stewardship council and other bodies.  You need to have independent science to lay out the groundwork and tell the story because so much of what we’re dealing with as it relates to this issue will get politicized as so many items do. God help us if it does, but at least having independent science provide its analysis of the impacts of what is before us will provide some guidance for the policy.

Commissioner Diane Burgis (Contra Costa County)

I just want to thank Commissioner Villegas for making sure that this got pushed. I want to not just repeat everything that he said but I agree with what he said and what our public comment was. If we are going to have independent scientists that are able to commit their time they need to also have the certainty that they’re going to get paid properly and all of those things and so i just appreciate you bringing this together.

Commissioner Paul Steele (Isleton)

Thank you for your comments and for serving to prompt this. I think it’s very important that we have an independent council of scientists to look at this in a non-political view. So it takes out all the guesswork of why and how come this guy says this in this and this guy says that. So I applaud Commissioner Vegas for his chasing after this and I fully support it. Thank you.

2. The Water Board Chair stated that the Board is “very supportive” of restoring funding for Delta Independent Science Board.

At the August 4, 2021 State Water Resources Control Board meeting, the Delta Lead Scientist, Laurel Larsen, gave a quarterly report on the Delta Science Program.  In public comment, California Water Research’s director, Deirdre Des Jardins, asked the Water Board to support the legislature’s efforts to restore funding for the Delta Independent Science Board.  Chair Joaquin Esquivel stated that the Board is “very supportive” of restoring funding for the Delta Independent Science Board.

Meeting discussion:

CWR Director Deirdre Des Jardins

California Water Research has been working the last few months on the loss of scientific integrity in federal science. There was egregious political interference in the science for the biological opinions governing the Long Term Operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, and the scientists who produced a jeopardy opinion were pushed aside. People were fired. There is a big court case. But the Biden administration has also administratively come in to address the issue and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy convened a task force and I did give comments about that. They are looking at the scientific integrity policies which govern Reclamation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA fisheries, and other federal agencies that you are all used to working with.

We’ve also had a really unfortunate situation where the Delta Independent Science Board basically lost almost all their funding for compensation for the members this past year.  And the Delta Independent Science Board is sort of the integrity of the Delta Science Program in that they provide oversight and truly independent peer review of the program.  And there are ten nationally and internationally prominent scientists with unparalleled expertise in this era of climate change.  The legislature is working on passing a bill that will restore compensation so that the members can get back to work.  But it’s critically important for the Water Board’s work because the Water Board relies so much on the Delta Science Program.  And I hope that you will support the efforts of the legislature to restore this critically important standing board of independent scientists.

They have continued to meet – they met for four months with no compensation whatsoever, and they are currently getting $100 per diem.  And they have still produced some major thematic reviews with essentially volunteer work.  But it can’t continue and unfortunately the Independent Science Board did lose Jim Cloern.  He resigned in June and it was a great loss.  So thank you very much.

Water Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel

Thank you Ms. Des Jardins.  I really appreciate your comments and oversight here.  The Independent Science Board is important to the Water Boards here and certainly the Delta Stewardship Council writ large and their work [is] really critical to what we do here.  So we are very supportive of ensuring that we restore pay for the Independent Science Board, knowing that we’ve used the Board for peer review in some of our previous processes.  So just – thank you. I appreciate you flagging and providing comment today.

This post was updated on 8/17 to add a partial transcript of the discussion at the DPC meeting.


One thought on “Delta Protection Commission, Water Board express support for restoring funding to the Delta ISB

  1. I hereby support restoring funding for Delta Independent Science Board. For endangered salmon and smelt to survive in the Delta, it is critical that the Delta ISB be able to return as soon as possible to giving its opinion on proposed flow management.

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