What do you see as the most important issues in California water today? Any other issues outside California that will impact the state?
The Delta, by far. Specifically, we need to fix the conveyance issue that was not resolved when the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project were first conceived. Approximately two-thirds of the state depends on the Delta for water, either as a drinking water supply or as a supply for agriculture, and the conveyance issue represents the greatest risk to this supply.
The co-equal goals of the Bay Delta Conservation Program, i.e., “providing for the conservation and management of aquatic and terrestrial species, including the restoration and enhancement of ecological functions in the Delta, and improving current water supplies and the reliability of delivery of water supplies conveyed through the SWP and the CVP,” provide a framework to address the conveyance issue.
The biggest issue outside California is the federal budget crisis. The impact is that the federal government will be less involved with funding major projects.
There are many stakeholders and agendas in California water resource management. How do you think we can take the biggest steps forward?
Leadership. We have a governor that has the historical perspective and experience with California water issues to help the state resolve the problems. He campaigned on these points and he needs to follow through by providing the leadership to begin to make decisions to move from debate to physical improvements.
We can make the biggest steps forward by fixing the Delta conveyance issue for the sake of the ecosystem and the water supply. We need to invest in habitat restoration and control other significant factors that are contributing to the decline of the Delta ecosystem, e.g., nutrient management and predation.
If you could change one thing about California water policy, what would it be?
Education about California water. By that I mean, many of the legislators and the regulators have only been involved with California water issues for a relatively short time, especially given the history of California water. Even if you focus just on the Delta, you are looking at over 100 years of history; a history that has directly influenced the current status and choices before us.
The Water Education Foundation, on which I am a board member, will be offering a Water 101. We hope to extend this class to legislators, regulators, water agency directors and consultants involved in water matters. In short, we want to reach anyone who is interested in learning more about the history and management structure of water in California and about the water issues facing the state.
How does your agency keep the focus on the long-term issues of providing a sufficient water supply now that the immediate crisis of an extended drought appears to be over?
SFCWA uses our strategic plan to focus on the long term. Even though the drought helped bring attention — some positive, some negative — to issues, SFCWA tries not to react to the news of the day. We are trying to address issues, like habitat restoration, that require consistent, long-term attention, regardless of the weather.
Your organization was formed just over two years ago. What do you see as its role in California water? How does your organization fit within the context of the other California water organizations?
We see our role as the doer/implementer of many of the solutions to address the Delta issues. As a joint powers agency, we have the ability to take the lead on implementing projects that will ultimately be identified in the BDCP. The Department of Water Resources and the USBR took the lead when the SWP and the CVP were originally constructed. Our member agencies, many of which did not exist in their current form when the SWP and CVP were built, have pledged the money to implement key Delta solutions, so we expect to have a strong influence in the implementation of the projects.
What do you see as the top priorities for your organization over the next decade?
Our priorities will be the three main program areas implementing our mission:
habitat restoration program,
coordinated science program
and Delta governance.
We are committed to supporting a credible science program that will inform management actions and will help advance the Delta policy decisions. We are developing monitoring plans that will support the habitat restoration projects by assessing the effectiveness of the habitat projects.
What do you think about the BDCP?
With the BDCP, we have started down a path to fix the Delta issues. We need to complete the process and begin to implement the changes, while we maintain the balance between helping the Delta environment and improving the state’s water supply.
What’s something people might be surprised to know about your organization?
We exist and we are already implementing projects on the ground. We are not just another noisy voice in the perennial water debate.
What do you want others to know about your organization?
SFCWA is implementing projects to support California’s co-equal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem recovery in the Delta. We do not divide solutions between agricultural and urban interests, which are artifacts of past California water debates. If anything, we see the water interests in California converging rather than diverging.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without at work?
Tara, our office manager. She has been a fabulous support to me and the agency and is a pleasure to work with because she always has a sunny disposition.
What are your outside interests?
You hit the operative word: outside. I enjoy all things outdoors: skiing, hiking, camping and especially enjoy spending time in our vacation home in Idaho.
What’s on your to-do list?
My wife and I will be taking our first trip to Italy. I am also enjoying watching our children find their interests and spread their