The McCormack Williamson Tract project is an example of a successful multiagency effort to restore critical freshwater marsh and floodplain habitat while also protecting people and property from flooding. This project is just one example of what can be achieved by collaboration among the members of the Delta Plan Interagency Committee and their partners. Photo: Florence Low/Department of Water Resources
The future of the Delta depends on continued interagency collaboration
By Susan Tatayon
April 22, 2019
Many of the agencies that helped create the Delta Plan, the State’s legally enforceable, long-term management plan for the Delta, are part of the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee or DPIIC. Established by the Delta Reform Act of 2009, DPIIC comprises the highest-ranking members of 18 state, federal, and regional agencies. These leaders meet at least twice a year to coordinate programs and projects that affect land, wildlife, and water resources in the Delta.
When DPIIC first met in April 2014, California was in the midst of one of its worst droughts in recorded history; more than 95 percent of the state was experiencing “severe drought” with the entirety of the Bay-Delta region facing “extreme drought” conditions. The Delta Plan was less than a year old, the concept of One Delta, One Science was nascent, and only a handful of ecosystem restoration projects had received permits for implementation.
In contrast, this month’s DPIIC meeting took place at a time when we are enjoying the fourth-largest snowpack on record, the majority of the state is drought-free, and Congress recently designated the Delta as California’s first National Heritage Area.
Moreover, thanks to the collaborative actions of DPIIC, we have an updated Delta Science Plan slated for release in the coming weeks and an accompanying Science Action Agenda that prioritizes key scientific endeavors that will help inform decisions about managing natural resources in the Delta. Coordination among DPIIC agencies has also helped simplify permitting of nearly 30 ecosystem restoration projects in the last year alone.
Looking to the future, DPIIC agencies recognize that we must keep the momentum of interagency collaboration going. We also realize we have much more work to do as we tackle the complex challenges ahead.
Climate change was a central topic during much of this month’s DPIIC meeting. The message is clear: climate change is no longer a distant, end-of-century threat. One above-average snowpack cannot make up for the 48-65 percent snowpack loss the Sierra Nevada is projected to experience by the end of the century. More extreme heat and heavy rainfall events, sea level rise, and the warming of Delta waters are all signs that climate change is happening now, and it demands our time, attention, and resources. Failing to adaptively manage and prepare for climate change endangers the already fragile Delta ecosystem, communities in this National Heritage Area, and California’s water supply and economy.
Recognizing the need for consistent, reliable funding for science to inform decision-making in the face of rapidly changing management challenges, DPIIC endorsed a Delta science funding initiative workgroup during this month’s meeting. This workgroup will deliver to DPIIC (by its November 2019 meeting) options for implementing recommendations in a recent whitepaper, Funding Science to Meet Tomorrow’s Challenges.
The Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee’s successes over the last five years show the gains that can come from collaboration. Let’s keep up the momentum – achievement of the State’s coequal goals and the long-term sustainability of the Delta depend on it.
Susan Tatayon is Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council and Chair of the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee. She was first appointed to the Council in May 2014 and brings with her more than 30 years of experience in water resources policy, planning, and management. Published monthly, her blog, “From the Chair” shares news and updates about the direction of the Council, its progress towards implementing the Delta Plan, and achieving the coequal goals of improving water supply reliability and restoring the Delta’s ecosystem.