On November 14th, the San Francisco Estuary Institute released A DELTA RENEWED – A Guide to Science-Based Ecological Restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The report is based on a well-defined landscape ecology framework, supported by best available science, that is more holistic than the regulatory status quo that so often emphasizes species-by-species protection.
It is intended to be a guide for resource managers, planners, local governments, and other decision makers working in the California Bay-Delta. The report also provides science guidelines to shape the protection, restoration, and enhancement of Delta ecosystems as a part of a working agricultural landscape with cities and critical water supply functions. An PDF copy of the report is available here.
Key facts from this report are summarized below.
The Delta Renewed report provides science guidance for greater Delta restoration success throughout the region.
Despite the many technical, policy and political challenges to achieving large-scale Delta restoration, there is good cause for hope. Where process-based restoration and actions that integrate wildlife support with agriculture have been undertaken, outcomes have been extremely positive. Restoration and management actions in the Cosumnes River and Yolo Bypass areas cover a relatively small portion of the overall Delta landscape, and they represent a small fraction of the historical extent of flooding. Both areas successfully support critical ecological functions desired in the Delta. Both create habitat and productive food webs for native wildlife. These examples show that the Delta can be renewed into a place that supports both people, agriculture and native wildlife sustainably, if we choose to make the investment.
1) THE PROBLEM: A scientific consensus on why the Delta’s ecosystem has declined
Restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s aquatic ecosystem is a major California water policy challenge. Native fish populations have declined for decades. This has limited water exports from the Delta. There’s strong scientific consensus that a range of stressors are depleting fish populations. Yet, there is great tension between options available to policymakers on the needed actions to improve the Delta’s ecosystem health.
Almost all environmental scientists and stakeholders agree that five factors contribute to the Delta’s ecosystem decline. These are habitat alteration, altering water flows, pollution discharges, invasive species and fisheries management.
For most of these scientists, habitat and flow alteration are the most important factors. A strong majority of scientists prioritize habitat and flow management actions to restore more natural processes within and upstream of the Delta.
2) THE SOLUTION: Ideas from A Delta Renewed
The upcoming report, A DELTA RENEWED – A Guide to Science-Based Ecological Restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, offers a new, holistic approach to address the Delta’s ecological crisis. It will be the first report of its kind to visually display the potential to restore a broad range of Delta ecosystems. Link the report
- Is based on extensive science research into how the Delta used to function, how it has changed, and how it is likely to evolve,
- Offers guidance to create an ecologically healthy working landscape that supports native wildlife, while retaining its agricultural character and delivering critical water-supply functions.
- Is intended as a resource for Delta land and water managers, planners, local governments, and other decision makers.