Comments in support of the Delta ISB at the June 24, 2021 Delta Stewardship Council meeting

Delta ISB meeting

Lisa Thompson:

Good morning, Chair Tatayon and Council members. My name is Dr. Lisa Thompson and I’m the Chief Scientist for Regional San, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District. We serve about 1.6 million people in the Sacramento region, and we discharge the majority of our treated wastewater to the Sacramento River with the remainder used in recycled water projects. We take our role as environmental stewards very seriously, and we have a keen interest in the health of the Delta ecosystem and the availability of relevant, unbiased science to assist the Delta community in managing and improving the environment. I appreciate the opportunity to provide you with Regional San’s comments regarding the funding of the Delta Independent Science Board, or ISB. Before I begin, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Dr. Robert Naiman, who’s a new member of the ISB, was my Postdoctoral supervisor.

Regional San has been closely following the activities of the ISB for over seven years and we have a staff scientist who regularly attends ISB meetings. We have participated in ISB activities through surveys, interviews, workshops and providing comments and ISB documents that are made available for public review. We have greatly appreciated the role that the ISB has played in improving the quality of Delta Science Program. And there are three main reasons for this.

First, the ISB’s activity support putting the One Delta One Science concept into action. The ISB makes a real effort to consult with a wide range of stakeholders on the scientific needs of managers when designing and conducting its reviews. Most of the ISB members are not part of the Delta community, but they put a lot of effort into becoming knowledgeable about the current state of Delta research, studies and management. They also bring extraordinary levels of expertise and experience gained in a wide range of ecosystems and scientific disciplines. Secondly, the ISB improves future scientific efforts by providing an unbiased reality check on the current state of the science and encouraging new work to fill in the gaps it is identified in interviews. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the activities of the ISB improve the tone and quality of science in the Delta. Just knowing that the ISB will be reviewing the scientific topics of its choice encourages people to make management arguments and decisions based on the best available science, not just the most convenient or most popular science of the day.

The ISB should be funded in a manner commensurate with its important role in the Delta, and the members of the ISB deserve to be compensated for their time, effort and enthusiasm in keeping with their level of expertise. We encourage the Delta Stewardship Council to make every possible effort to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. Too much hangs in the balance in terms of issues like climate change, water and land management, and native and non-native species management for the quality of science to backslide now. Thank you very much for all the work that you do for the Delta, for your attention today and for any efforts you’re able to make to ensure the adequate funding of the ISB.

Deirdre Des Jardins:

Good morning, Chair Tatayon and Council members. I also wish to speak about the Delta Independent Science Board. I wanted to plead on their behalf for more interim support. It’s almost a year now since their compensation was cut. And the 100 dollar per diem is not a model where the board members do the work and they are struggling to complete two reviews. The Monitoring Enterprise Review is the largest review the board has ever done. And I know that the staff that are assigned to the board are working on it. But I think you really need to look at — they basically lost two and a half FTE of very senior scientists with an extraordinary range of expertise, and they really need additional staff.

In March, the Chair, Stephen Brandt, asked Susan and the DSC leadership if they could get assistance from some of the outgoing members and pay them by contract to help finish the review. And you said you didn’t think it was possible because of contracting law. But we’ve looked and the Delta Stewardship Council has extended the Mercury Control Program contracts for those independent scientists. And you’ve also executed a two year contract for Climate Change Work Team Leadership. So it should at least be possible to bring back scientists under contract. If there’s some reason you don’t feel it’s appropriate to bring back a former member just to assist with finishing a review, then at least consider finding some other scientist under contract. Because right now, although they’re getting two Postdocs, they won’t start till 2022. So those are not interim staff. They’re future staff, and they just won’t be provided in time. So thank you and please do consider this staffing issue. It’s critically important for the board to be able to carry out their mission and they’ve been working under just way too difficult circumstances. Thank you again.

Emailed comments to the Delta Stewardship Council in support of restoring funding to the Delta Independent Science Board.

Tryg Slettland

Francis E. Coats