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Brown Bags Spotlight Science and Management Issues

February 2014

Once or twice a month, the Council’s Delta Science Program (DSP) hosts educational brown bag seminars on diverse topics important to the Delta ecosystem and its watershed. These seminars, sponsored in conjunction with the Ecosystem Restoration Program and the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program, are part of the DSP’s science synthesis efforts and provide a forum for the science and management community to gain insight about new and/or upcoming issues.

Here’s a look at what we talked about over the last two months:

December 2013

Historical Geomorphology of the Sacramento River and Delta
Senior geomorphologist Rene LeClerc provided the context for how hydraulic mining and major floods in 1907 and 1909 guided the development of the flood control system we use today by describing the historical landscape features of the Sacramento Valley and their relationship to regular flood events.

LeClerc’s insights about historic landforms and their hydrologic function across the landscape are important to consider as the planning and implementation of riparian and floodplain habitat restoration occurs.

To view slides from the seminar, click here.

Adaptive Management in Action – The Process of Stream Restoration at Mono Lake
Mono Lake Committee Executive Director Geoffrey McQuilkin discussed how science-driven adaptive management played a key role in restoring stream habitat and fisheries in the four tributaries to Mono Lake. This watershed had been impaired by water diversions to Los Angeles beginning in the early 1940s. After 12 years of detailed studies on behalf of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), four parties – the Mono Lake Committee, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California Trout – reached an historic agreement in fall 2013 to implement comprehensive science actions for restoration.

McQuilkin also said that an authoritative policy entity (the SWRCB) with clear goals and mandates was critical to launch adaptive management efforts. Additionally, independent scientists led the adaptive management program and were charged to make recommendations based on the science. According to Rainer Hoenicke, Deputy Executive Officer of the Delta Science Program, the Mono Basin Adaptive Management case is a great example to inform scope and scale expectations for adaptive management in the Delta.

Click here to view slides.

January 2014

Splittail Populations and Environmental Conditions – Mechanisms, Scale and Connectivity
A team of UC Davis scientists presented research focused on juvenile and adult life stages and genetics of two distinct Delta splittail populations to understand how these species of minnow common to the San Francisco Estuary tolerate variations in temperature and salinity. Melinda Baerwald, Nann Fangue and Ted Foin said this research approach offers essential support to understand landscape-scale restoration and conservation approaches that consider aquatic habitat linkages (relationships between different water bodies.)

Click here for more information.

Using Reservoir Operations to Address Ecosystem Impacts at Shasta Lake
Dr. Laurel Saito from the University of Nevada, Reno, described her preliminary (not yet published) modeling research to investigate how altered dam operations at Shasta Lake – i.e. changes in the timing and quantity of water releases – could reduce impacts to aquatic ecosystems (both within the lake and downstream).

Saito’s preliminary modeling results indicate that altering dam operations can help alleviate negative downstream water temperature effects that are driven by extreme climate events. She obtained operating guidelines and decision-making criteria from reservoir managers and used this information to characterize and analyze scenarios potentially useful to managers when making operational decisions at Shasta Lake.

Click here to view slides.

The DSP Brown Bag program will launch its first thematic series in mid-March investigating issues related to the measurement, flux, and management of carbon across the Delta landscape.

Coequal goals

The Delta Stewardship Council was created in legislation to achieve the state mandated coequal goals for the Delta. "'Coequal goals' means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place." (CA Water Code §85054)