On Thursday, October 7, 2021, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 821, which mandates that members of the Delta Independent Science Board shall not be employees of the Delta Stewardship Council, and that the Council shall issue contracts to pay the Delta Independent Science Board members at professional scientific rates.
The Governor’s signing of SB 821 ends an embarrassing chapter in the state’s administration of the Delta Independent Science Board.
The Delta Independent Science Board members are required to be nationally and internationally prominent scientists with “appropriate expertise to evaluate the broad range of scientific programs that support adaptive management of the Delta.”
In the 2000 CALFED Record of Decision, which is effective through 2030, the Secretary of Natural Resources and the Secretary for Cal EPA joined federal agencies in committing to a “world class science program” with an “independent science board” providing “oversight and peer review for the overall program.” The 2009 Delta Reform Act mandated that the Delta Independent Science Board be the successor to, and replacement for, the CALFED Independent Science Board.
From 2010-2020, Delta ISB members were paid by contract. On June 29, 2020, contracts to pay continuing members were abruptly withdrawn from approval by the Department of General Services. The continuing Delta ISB members worked without compensation from July 1, 2020 to November of 2020, when they were offered retroactive exempt employee positions at $100 per diem. Six new Board members took their seats in September of 2020, and continued in spite of not being paid the compensation they were promised when they were recruited in a national search.
In December 2020, the Delta ISB Chair, Dr. Stephen Brandt, and Past Chair, Dr. Jay Lund, sent a plea for help to the Governor and Legislative leaders. SB 821 was introduced by the Senate Natural Resources Committee on March 9, 2020. The bill took seven months to pass the Legislature and be signed by the Governor. In the meantime, the Delta ISB members completed one review on Invasive Species, and developed drafts of two more major reviews, one on Water Supply Reliability, and another on the Monitoring Enterprise, with work that was essentially volunteer.
California owes a huge debt to scientists on the Delta ISB for their exceptional professional dedication and service during the past 15 months.