The task set out for the Delta Stewardship Council by the Legislature is definitely daunting. To develop a long-term management plan that balances the coequal goals of reliable water for California and a restored and enhanced ecosystem, while recognizing the uniqueness of the Delta as an evolving place, is not an easy task, especially given the short timeframe set by statute.
Fortunately, we are well on our way down exactly that path – and we’re making sure the public can see every step we take.
One of the most interesting – and relatively unacknowledged – aspects of how the Delta Stewardship Council is going about its work is that we are doing it with a genuine emphasis on transparency. That word “transparency” is quickly becoming an overused buzz word in government circles, but a sincere effort to provide access and engage with the public is more than some mandatory step – it’s critical to success.
While there are legal requirements that force governmental bodies to put some minimal amount of their work online or otherwise make it accessible to the public, the Delta Stewardship Council, under Phil Isenberg’s leadership, is dedicated to creating a truly transparent process that gives unprecedented access to everyone.
What the Council has created is a large-scale community conversation about the future of the Delta, an issue of tremendous importance to far more people than the small group of water experts that normally deal with water issues. That is a critically important aspect of good government that is more often honored in the breach, or with resentment. Here, it is foundational.
Good government is really about engaging members of the public and allowing them to both see and help create the basis for sound decision making. It’s about giving them the opportunity and the access to weigh in and influence government in ways that are both technical and practical. Government is not just about “the experts,” who are frequently self-appointed. Of course, we need and respect experts, whether engineers, biologists, hydrologists, lawyers, water professionals or professional policy makers and the like, but you want the common sense that comes from people with real-world experience – which is what you get in a sincerely implemented public engagement program.
Every document – every briefing paper, draft report, memorandum, comment to the Council, comment about a comment, news release, archived video of meetings and workshops – is posted on the Delta Stewardship Council website. Hundreds, if not more, watch us live on our webcasts. The DSC is providing a vehicle for the average citizen or the non-expert to get access to this incredibly interesting and important area of public policy that you really can’t get anywhere else.
Although many people have attended our Council meetings, workshops and scoping hearings, my hope is that the audience will only grow, and that they will use some of the documents we have posted for a better dialogue about water wherever they can engage, but will also influence our plan for the better. They already have even at this preliminary staff drafting stage. I have high hopes that this engagement will result in a far better plan at the end of this process, complete with a discussion of alternatives through the EIR process this summer.
By then, I hope we will have not only completed the Delta Plan, and created a useful online library of information, but that we have also engaged a new and expanded group of concerned Californians in meeting California’s water challenges.