Keywords:public trust doctrine, Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta
The Environmental Data Summit, convened under the auspices of the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Science Program in June 2014, witnessed remarkable participation from...
The Environmental Data Summit, convened under the auspices of the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Science Program in June 2014, witnessed remarkable participation from experts across California, the nation, and even the world. Summit attendees from the public, private, federal, and non-profit sectors shared their views regarding the urgent needs and proposed solutions for California’s data-sharing and data-integration challenges, especially pertaining to the subject of environmental resource management in the era of “big data.”
After all, this is a time when our data sources are growing in number, size, and complexity. Yet our ability to manage and analyze such data in service of effective decision-making lags far behind our demonstrated needs.
In its review of the sustainability of water and environmental management in the California Bay-Delta, the National Research Council (NRC) found that “only a synthetic, integrated, analytical approach to understanding the effects of suites of environmental factors (stressors) on the ecosystem and its components is likely to provide important insights that can lead to enhancement of the Delta and its species” (National Research Council 2012).
The present “silos of data” have resulted in separate and compartmentalized science, impeding our ability to make informed decisions. While resolving data integration challenges will not, by itself, produce better science or better natural resource outcomes, progress in this area will provide a strong foundation for decision-making. Various mandates ranging from the California Water Action Plan to the President’s executive order demanding federal open data policies demonstrate the consensus on the merits of modern data sharing at the scale and function needed to meet today’s challenges.
This white paper emerges from the Summit as an instrument to help identify such opportunities to enhance California’s cross-jurisdictional data management. As a resource to policymakers, agency leadership, data managers, and others, this paper articulates some key challenges as well as proven solutions that, with careful and thoughtful coordination, can be implemented to overcome those obstacles. Primarily featured are tools that complement the State’s current investments in technology, recognizing that success depends upon broad and motivated participation from all levels of the public agency domain.
This document describes examples, practices, and recommendations that focus on California’s Delta as an opportune example likely to yield meaningful initial results in the face of pressing challenges. Once proven in the Delta, however, this paper’s recommended innovations would conceivably be applied statewide in subsequent phases.
In 2014, the California Natural Resources Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior asked the authors of this paper, as four former...
In 2014, the California Natural Resources Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior asked the authors of this paper, as four former leaders of The Delta Science Program, to summarize the challenges faced by water supply and ecological resource managers in this critically important region of Northern California. They concluded that the challenges are so
complex as to meet the definition of a “wicked” problem. Such problems can’t be ignored, defy straightforward characterization, and have no simple solutions. Yet they must be actively managed to maximize
beneficial and minimize adverse outcomes.
In this context, the following paper calls for Delta management to become more nimble and better coordinated.
Adaptive management is the process of incorporating new scientific and programmatic information into the implementation of a project or plan to ensure that...
Adaptive management is the process of incorporating new scientific and programmatic information into the implementation of a project or plan to ensure that the goals of the activity are being reached efficiently. It promotes flexible decision-making to modify existing activities or create new activities if new circumstances arise (e.g., new scientific information) or if projects are not meeting their goals.
The complex and dynamic nature of ecosystems make their restoration and management amenable to an adaptive management approach, and the concept is being implemented at scales that include entire regions or river basins. Adaptive management has been used to guide several major ecosystem restoration efforts with involvement by the federal government, including those on the Colorado and Platte rivers. Some of these adaptive management efforts have been specifically authorized by Congress, whereas other efforts have been formulated by agencies.
Adaptive management has also been proposed as a guiding principle for several new and ongoing major restoration efforts, including those in the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Tahoe.
The concept of adaptive management is straightforward, but its implementation can be difficult. A preliminary review of federal adaptive management efforts related to ecosystem restoration projects suggests that governance structures, management protocol and other factors vary widely. Additionally, the scope and timing of efforts employing the term “adaptive management” seems to vary among these projects. Where adaptive management has been implemented, it has encountered challenges. While adaptive management theoretically uses the best available science and monitoring to guide a project or program towards its stated goals, in practice the process can be affected by a number of outside factors.
As the number of federal adaptive management efforts grows, Congress may revisit its role in shaping adaptive management programs in legislation. Some argue that Congress should do more to provide specific direction for major adaptive management initiatives in order to make adaptive management more consistent among these efforts. Others contend that Congress should allow federal agencies or restoration governing bodies to shape their own adaptive management programs, thus providing them with flexibility to match their program to their restoration needs.
In addressing adaptive management, Congress may face decisions regarding the implementation guidelines and authorizations it provides these efforts, funds to establish and carry out these programs, and oversight issues.
This report provides an introduction to the concept of adaptive management. It focuses on the application of this concept to large, freshwater aquatic ecosystem restoration projects with multiple stakeholders. A summary of the benefits and drawbacks of adaptive management for these projects is provided, along with analysis of potential issues associated with various governance models for these efforts. The potential role for Congress in addressing adaptive management is also discussed. As an appendix, the report summarizes the structure and implementation of federal adaptive management efforts to date five ecosystems: Glen Canyon/Colorado River, Platte River, Lower Colorado River, Missouri River, and Florida Everglades.
A vast watershed connects the mountain streams surrounding California’s Central Valley with San Francisco Bay and the ocean beyond. Over the course of...
A vast watershed connects the mountain streams surrounding California’s Central Valley with San Francisco Bay and the ocean beyond. Over the course of the last two centuries, much of the natural productivity, biodiversity and ecological integrity of the watershed has been destroyed by modifying the environment without fully understanding the long-term environmental consequences. Long the site of some of the nation’s most intensive conflicts over the use of land and water resources, this system is now emerging as the focus of one of the most ambitious ecological restoration efforts ever undertaken in the United States.
This report was designed to provide a coherent and defensible ecological framework and information base for restoration. The need for such an historical, broad-scale perspective on system ecology stems from two fundamental principles of ecological restoration - the need to manage toward a natural template and to manage at ecosystem and landscape levels.