Delta Independent Science Board Provides Review of Fifth Staff Draft of Delta Plan

The Delta Independent Science Board (ISB) released its comments on the fifth staff draft of the Delta Plan on September 16, saying that overall it has improved “significantly” over the previous staff drafts.

The fifth staff draft of the Delta Plan was released on August 2, 2011. This draft includes the policies and recommendations that will be the basis for the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The Draft EIR is slated to be released in late September 2011.

“The preface and introduction have come a long way toward an integrated description of the problem and possible solutions,” wrote Delta ISB Chair Richard Norgaard in a September 16 memo to Phil Isenberg and the Delta Stewardship Council. “Chapter 2 on adaptive management provides the key elements necessary to understand the shift toward more scientific management required in the initiating legislation.” Norgaard, writing on behalf of the Delta ISB, added that there have also been important improvements in the water reliability and ecosystem restoration chapters.

“It is clear that the use of best available science and adaptive management, as stipulated in the founding legislation, will play a central role in the success of the Delta Plan,” Norgaard wrote. “Thus stipulating and demonstrating what constitutes best available science and adaptive management in the Plan is critical.”

The Delta ISB made recommendations in four broad areas followed by specific comments on each chapter in its 35-page memo to the Council. The four areas are:

  • Integration

  • Adaptive Management

  • Monitoring Needs and Performance Measures

  • Science Needs


The Delta ISB acknowledged that Chapter 1 provides a comprehensive overview of the interrelationships among the major issues. Subsequent chapters on specific issues, however, make little reference to how they interrelate with other issues. “This makes it appear as if problems can be managed separately and as if there are not tradeoffs among solutions to different problems,” Norgaard wrote. “As Chairman Isenberg has frequently stated, the Delta cannot be managed well on an issue by issue basis with separate stakeholders expecting their needs to always be met. The Delta Plan needs to reflect and make the legal and environmental realities more explicit.”

Adaptive Management

Although the Legislature mandates adaptive management, none of chapters 4-8 begins to address how adaptive management will be used, according to the memo. The Delta ISB recommends that each of chapters 4-8 incorporate descriptions of how adaptive management may be used in the future.

The board also recognizes that professionals with experience leading successful adaptive management programs will be needed to successfully implement adaptive management. Therefore the Delta ISB recommends that the Delta Plan explicitly recognize the need for sufficient, properly trained personnel, for the training of existing scientists and managers, and for the ongoing support of adaptive management.

Monitoring Needs and Performance Measures

The memo said that monitoring and performance measures have been developed for complex environmental systems from San Francisco Bay to Chesapeake Bay. Therefore, the Board recommends that examples of relatively successful systems for monitoring and performance measures be included in the Delta Plan to illustrate how they can work.

They also recommend that the Plan include a description of how improved monitoring will be coordinated and carried out, “probably in the governance chapter.”

Science Needs

The Board recommends that Chapters 4-8 provide a brief summary of the state of the science with respect to the issues addressed in the chapter, in broad terms, and describe the critical science needs. “In the judgment of the Delta ISB, the development of conceptual models that incorporate tradeoffs and predict outcomes will be required in order to design adaptive management programs and establish monitoring needs and performance measures,” Norgaard wrote.

The Delta ISB also offered detailed, chapter-by-chapter recommendations and comments.

Chair Norgaard will be presenting the Delta ISB’s recommendations to the Delta Stewardship Council at its September 22 meeting.

To read the entire Delta ISB memo on their review of the fifth staff draft, please click here.