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Delta Independent Science Board Member Spotlight - Chair Richard Norgaard

September 2011

To get a feel for how much experience Delta Independent Science Board (ISB) Chair Richard Norgaard has, consider this: his curriculum vitae is 35 pages long.

Over four decades of an academic career as an agricultural, environmental and now ecological economist, the Berkeley professor has studied a broad range of issues including pesticide use, the environment in developing countries, petroleum scarcity, biodiversity loss and climate change. He has completed research on all these topics while serving as professor, editorial board member and advisor, consultant and chair to countless scientific organizations. If that’s not enough, he’s also the father of twin teenagers.

“The consistent thing about my career, the perspective that makes it look less erratic, is that I have consistently tackled big, complex, and controversial issues,” Norgaard said. “From testifying in Federal Court on the use of benefit-cost analysis and helping the Department of Water Resources update the California Water Plan in the 1970s, to working in Brazil on Amazon deforestation in the 80s, water policy consistently pops up in my work. You cannot address the economy or the environment without including water; certainly not in the arid West.”

Norgaard now serves as the chair of the 10-member Delta ISB, which was created by the 2009 Delta Reform Act to “provide oversight of the scientific research, monitoring and assessment programs that support adaptive management of the Delta through periodic reviews of each of those programs.”

He says the Board is “seriously engaged” in its task of providing an independent scientific review of the Delta Plan. As the chair, he sees his greatest asset as a facilitator and problem solver.

“We have a very experienced combination of scientists, some who know the Delta well and some who bring important insights from other estuaries. I am pretty good at working with natural and social scientists who provide diverse – sometimes contradictory – perspectives and information to a problem,” he said.

Norgaard’s measured, thoughtful demeanor belies his expedient pursuit of solutions to problems in the Delta. But he knows that writing a plan based on the best available science, as the Council is charged to do, will not be an easy task and requires commitment to adaptive management.

“There are not right answers ‘out there,’ or pieces of right answers, for individual scientists to discover,” he said. “Rather, if we can come to understand problems together, we can act together. But, because we are in a very dynamic situation, we also need to keep learning, together.”

To view the Delta ISB’s homepage for meetings and member profiles, 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)