New Report Offers Delta Restoration Recommendations

A recent report from a Delta (formerly CALFED) Science Program-sponsored workshop on near-term large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts in the North Delta and Suisun Marsh issued a call to action to begin restoring the Delta and Suisun Marsh. The report, from an independent panel of experts, stated that there are “serious threats” to implementing Delta ecosystem restoration, “which are common to ecosystem restoration programs of this size and complexity.”

Those threats include: changed and changing hydropatterns, deterioration of water quality, invasion of non-native and invasive species of all types, land use changes, complex ownership of the potential restoration areas, regional politics, and effects of climate change and sea-level rise.

“Restoration that is focused on any single one of these threats is unlikely to improve the functioning of the ecosystem in a way that is sustainable for the long term,” the report said, “all must be considered in comprehensive restoration efforts.”

The panel of experts, made up of national and local scientists, outlined several recommendations for how to succeed at planning, implementing, evaluating, and managing large-scale river floodplain and estuarine restoration projects. The panel members were:

  • John Teal - Delaware Bay Salt Marsh Restoration - Panel Chair

  • Jim Cloern - U.S. Geological Survey San Francisco Bay Long-term Research

  • Nick Aumen - Everglades National Park

  • John Wiens - Chief Scientist PRBO Conservation Science

  • Karen Rodriguez - U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

“The panel report is a succinct and insightful call to action not to delay restoring the Delta and Suisun Marsh,” said Delta Lead Scientist Cliff Dahm.

Water contractors and environmental groups applauded the report.

“[The report] is refreshing in providing some very specific recommendations for how to proceed on tidal marsh restoration, addressing both scientific and management considerations,” said Laura King Moon, assistant general manager of the State Water Contractors and a Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) program manager.

Delta Project Director for The Nature Conservancy Leo Winternitz said, “The report iterates what we know and what we have been thinking and talking about. This is important because it provides us with the confidence that we are on the right track; that this restoration business is a difficult process and that we are not missing some big element in the restoration picture. This report is also very important in the respect that it brings restoration practitioners and managers to the same page in our thinking and deliberative process.”

Now the question is how should these recommendations be applied in our system?

“As the report suggests, restoration should be applied by starting to do the work,” Winternitz said. “We have pondered, we have thought, we have surmised and we have built models, now let’s get some practical application going based on all we know. And – we should be prepared to learn much more from our application.”

 


“...Restoration should be applied by starting to do the work. We have pondered, we have thought, we have surmised and we have built models, now let’s get some practical application going based on all we know. And – we should be prepared to learn much more from our application.”

--Leo Winternitz, Delta Project Director, The Nature Conservancy


 

“We will use the recommendations as we move forward in designing and implementing the habitat restoration components of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” King Moon said.

The next steps will be to communicate the products of the workshop and the panel report to those actively planning and implementing restoration to try and build momentum to initiate large-scale restoration in the North Delta and Suisun Marsh, Dahm said. Moon added that there needs to be further discussion about what kind of monitoring and adaptive management program is needed for the BDCP.

“Finding a leader to start the process moving is the next step,” Winternitz said. “In so doing we will start the real learning process.”