The Delta Challenges Workshop

Four former Delta lead scientists take on a challenge: Describe the Delta’s challenges, complexities, and controversies in just 20 pages

By Maven, Maven’s Notebook

The mission, should you choose to accept it, is this, they said: “Prepare a report in which they will describe concisely why the Delta is such a complex system, what is known with confidence about the major stressors and stressor interactions, why so much uncertainty exists despite the considerable knowledge that has been generated over the past four decades, what the disagreements are, and the compelling reasons for why all of this matters to policy-makers and the public.” And as if that isn’t enough: do it in only 15 to 20 pages. And get it done in 30 days.

Mission impossible?  Oh, yeah.  But astonishingly, the four former Delta lead scientists accepted the challenge, descending upon their former stomping grounds, laptops in hand, for a one-day workshop in Sacramento on March 16: Dr. Samuel Luoma, the first Lead Scientist for the Bay-Delta Science Program from 2000 to 2003; Dr. Johnnie Moore, the Lead Scientist from 2004 to 2006; Dr. Michael Healey, the Lead Scientist from 2007 to 2008; and Dr. Clifford N. Dahm, Lead Scientist from 2008 to 2012. The workshop was led by Dr. Peter Goodwin, the current Delta Lead Scientist.

Lead Scientists 1Dr. Goodwin began by noting that the workshop was been convened at the direct request of both the Department of Interior and the California Department of Natural Resources here. He then introduced Letty Belin, senior counsel for the Secretary of the Interior, who shed some insight into why the lead scientists had been called back to the Delta and been handed this seemingly impossible mission.

The Delta Challenges Workshop is covered in four parts:

Part 1: Letty Belin from the Department of the Interior and Karla Nemeth with the California Department of Water Resources give opening remarks; Panel presentations and discussion with Erik Vink of the Delta Protection Commission who gave an overview of Delta land use and demographics; David Mraz with the Department of Water Resources who discussed levees, and Dr. Richard Howitt with UC Davis who gave presentation on Delta agricultural economics.  Read part 1 here:  Delta Challenges Workshop, part 1: Delta land use, levees, and agricultural economics

Part 2: The second panel explored water operations in the Delta, climate change, water supply economics, and water conservation.  Seated on the second panel was John Leahigh, State Water Project Operations, Department of Water Resources; Dr. Dan Cayan, Scripps Institute of Oceanography; Fran Spivy-Weber, Vice-Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board; Dr. Richard Howitt, UC Davis; and Joe Grindstaff, Inland Empire Utilities Agency.  Read part 2 here: Delta challenges workshop, part 2: Water supply reliability and its challenges

Part 3: In the third installment of coverage from the workshop, Jon Burau from the USGS discussed the Delta’s complex hydrodynamics; Retired CCWD and now independent consultant Greg Gartrell discussed salinity and diversions, Dr. Jim Cloern gave his thoughts as to why he finds the Delta so complex; Dr. Wim Kimmerer from SFSU discussed the food web, and Dr. Val Connor discussed contaminants.  Dr. Anke Mueller-Solger participated in the discussion period.  Read part 3 here: Delta challenges workshop, part 3: The Delta ecosystem: Hydrodynamics, water quality, salinity, nutrients, and the food web

Part 4: In this final installment of coverage from the Delta Challenges workshop, Robin Grossinger & Letitia Grenier with San Francisco Estuary Institute discuss some of the differences between the historical Delta and the modern Delta, Dr. Peter Moyle with UC Davis Center for Watershed Science and Maria Rea with NOAA Fisheries discuss the complexities of managing for species in the Delta, and Matt Reiter with Point Blue Conservation Science discussed terrestrial species and habitat.  Read part 4 here: Delta challenges workshop, part 4: Fish, birds, and habitat

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