June 11th, 2014

Plotting the Dialogues’ Future

Category: March 2014 Meeting

At their March gathering, participants in the Delta Dialogues facilitated and mapped the conversation for the first time, as they plotted a course for the future of the process.Map Button

Participants, while lamenting low attendance during the gathering (just five stakeholder groups were represented), noted that it is an extraordinary busy spring for many involved in the Delta Dialogues, from efforts to combat drought and gathering public comments on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan consuming the time of participants. The consensus of the meeting was that by delaying the next meeting for a couple of months – and gathering in June, when things may be less busy for participants, would help the process.

The participants in March also made progress in editing a letter by Dialogues participants to Gov. Brown – a letter that was first proposed at the February Dialogues gathering and then drafted by Nancy Ullrey of the Conservancy. After a few edits, participants said they would continue to communicate by email in hopes of finalizing a draft among participants who couldn’t attend the March meeting.

“The letter is constructive and shows a high level of cooperation,” said North Delta farmer Russell van Loben Sels. “And it may lead to ways this constructive approach in the Dialogues can extend to other processes in the Delta.”

“I think it’s a really nice letter,” added Carl Wilcox of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

During the five-hour session, participants received a briefing on the Statewide Water Action Plan from Paul Marshall of the Department of Water Resources. Marshall emphasized how, throughout California, individual water managers are siloed. In 50 of California’s 58 counties, he said, flood managers don’t interact with water supply managers.

Marshall asked the group for ideas on how to better integrate the different people and parts of California’s water infrastructure.

After lunch, the participants discussed in detail how to move the conversation in the Dialogues forward. Much of this planning for the future was about framing the right kinds of questions. Should the participants talk about optimizing the water supply, as Delta landowner Tom Zuckerman has suggested? Should trust be the focus of future conversation, as van Loben Sels suggested? Can the group help make policy changes in the Delta, or in the BDCP?

“If this group could identify some things that could be incorporated into the project, they’d probably happen,” said Wilcox in reference to the BDCP. “There’s a reluctance to admit it, but the project has changed a lot based on the input that has been provided by the locals.”

Participants expressed interest in both of these paths – water supply and policy changes – and reaffirmed the value of the Dialogues, even in a meeting with light attendance. “I’ve been very happy this conversation has been as rich as it has,” said Campbell Ingram of the Delta Conservancy.