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Delta Science Program Receives Praise from Independent Overview

January 2012

Now finished with its review of Delta Plan drafts, the Delta Independent Science Board (ISB) set out to meet its legislative charge to review science programs in the Delta that support adaptive management.

In October, the Delta Science Program contacted more than 60 programs on behalf of the Delta ISB and asked each to respond to a questionnaire consisting of seven broad questions aimed at gathering a better understanding of the current state of Science in the Delta (to view the questionnaire, click here). In December, the Delta ISB met with agency leaders, stakeholders and legislators on consecutive days to hear from each group in person.

During an update to the Delta Stewardship Council at its December meeting, Delta ISB member Jeff Mount called the Delta Science Program the “shining star” of the Board’s review.

“In a system that is suffused with a lack of trust, transparency and neutrality, the Delta Science Program kept coming up as a trusted source,” Mount said.

Other key takeaways from the Board’s review were the tremendous amount of overlap between the more than 100 agencies studying the Delta and the need for more coordination between groups. Mount said it would be important to audit all studies currently under way and eliminate redundancies in order to save money. The Board also recognized through its review that the Delta is perhaps the most studied estuary in world.

“We got a scary handle on the magnitude of science that we need to review in the coming years,” Mount said.

In his presentation, Mount said that there is a need to improve nearly all aspects of science in the Delta, including: organization, funding, staffing, communication, synthesis and connective decision-making and neutrality in disputes. He also touched on the need to establish some kind of neutral territory.

"The Delta Science Program is repeatedly viewed as the most neutral body in this highly polarized system, with a highly valuable suite of functions, including things like peer review,” he said. “The best peer-review organization is the Delta Science Program.”

The Delta ISB will now submit two memos. One will be addressed to the Council and will report key findings from the overview. The other will be delivered to the Legislature and will laud the work of the Delta Science Program and ask legislators to review the current funding structure which the Delta ISB feels is inadequate.

Council member Felicia Marcus was appreciative of the Delta ISB’s review.

“From a governmental standpoint, I’m delighted that you’ve done the preliminary work and started the ball rolling,” she said. “That will make our jobs easier in the short-run.”

To view the questionnaire, please click here.

To view the Delta ISB’s homepage, click here.

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)