After serving on the Delta Protection Commission and the Bay-Delta Authority, along with two decades in the California Legislature – where he was the principal author of the Delta Protection Act of 1992 – Patrick Johnston’s leadership in this vital estuary now extends to his seat on the Delta Stewardship Council.
Created by the Legislature in November 2009, the Council is a state agency that has been charged with developing a Delta Plan – a comprehensive set of policies and regulations to guide future activities in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, or anywhere in the state that either affects or benefits from the Delta. The Council’s work is guided by the coequal goals set by statute: a restored Delta ecosystem and a reliable source of water for California, along with the recognition of the Delta as an evolving place.
“The Council and the new law offer an opportunity to improve the Delta ecosystem and improve the state’s water supply,” said Johnston, who is currently president and chief executive officer of the California Association of Health Plans. “Water policy requires the political system to resolve problems of allocation based on science and rational debate.”
The 738,000-acre estuary supplies drinking water to about 25 million Californians and is home to nearly 1,000 species of plants and fish and other animals, some of which are endangered or threatened. It is also a vital source of water supply to California’s multibillion-dollar agricultural industry.
Johnston said his time on the Council (he was appointed last year by the Senate Rules Committee at the recommendation of Senate President Darrell Steinberg) has been marked by work with members who have “asked far more questions than they have offered opinions.”
“That is a good thing,” he said. “Council staff makes the substantial input from the public, stakeholders and consultants readily available to everyone.”
If there’s one thing the public should know about the Council’s efforts, Johnston says it’s this: “Everything counts – including exports, diversions, pollution, climate change, seismic activity and other stressors on the Delta and water systems.”
Johnston, who lives in Stockton, served 20 years in the California Legislature, including 10 in the Assembly and 10 in the Senate. He chaired the Senate Committee on Appropriations for six years and chaired the Assembly Committee on Finance and Insurance for four years. For 10 years, he taught public policy for the University of California, California State University and University of the Pacific.
Johnston is an advisory board member of the Nicholas C. Petris Center on Health Care Markets and Consumer Welfare at UC Berkeley. He holds undergraduate and masters degrees from St. Patrick’s College and CSU Sacramento.