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Member Spotlight - Marcus Brings Long, Varied Career to Delta Debate

July 2011

The resume of Delta Stewardship Council Member Felicia Marcus reads like a novel, with mentions of Hong Kong, Washington, New York and Los Angeles; stints as a community organizer and a law clerk, an environmentalist and a bureaucrat; and a list of roles, awards and publications that spans more than a page.

It may be an understatement when Marcus, who was appointed to the Delta Stewardship Council in 2010 by then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, says, “I have worn a lot of hats.”

“I know what it feels like to be in these various different roles,” she said. “I think that shapes my perspective as a reasonable person.”

In fact, Marcus said, the Delta Stewardship Council is entirely made up of members who take a reasoned, thoughtful, open-minded and honest approach to crafting the policy surrounding this vital estuary. Created by state law in 2009, the Council is charged with developing a Delta Plan, a comprehensive set of policies and regulations to guide future activities in the 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 2009 law) was – although modest by some measure in terms of the magnitude of the water crisis in California – acknowledged by many to be the biggest step forward in the water dialogue by elected officials and the various officials who focus on water issues in 20 years,” Marcus said.

And she should know.

Marcus was active in the development of the legislation, and she has an extensive background as a private sector and public interest lawyer as well as a community organizer. She may be best known in her native Southern California for her work on behalf of the Santa Monica Bay, most notably as a founder and general counsel to Heal the Bay.

She also served as president of the Board of Public Works for the City of Los Angeles, appointed by then-Mayor Tom Bradley to manage the city’s Department of Public Works. She went on to a presidential appointment as Region 9 administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, an office that addresses environment-related issues in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, former trust territories in the Pacific and more than 140 federally recognized Indian tribes. Quote

From there, she became vice president and chief operating officer for the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit dedicated to conserving land, with projects from inner city parks and playgrounds to farms and wilderness areas. She has been the Western director of the Natural Resources Defense Council since 2008.

“I hadn’t thought about being on the Stewardship Council, but I was happy to be drafted to serve because I’ve spent my whole career trying to bring common sense solutions that are necessary to solve problems while respecting all the various views of the various stakeholders involved,” Marcus said. “I’m a bridge builder and a results-oriented solution seeker. It was an opportunity to put myself where my mouth was.

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)