The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has long been the subject of intensive study.

Yet, not all of these studies have incorporated or proposed good science. Further, resource managers have only sporadically incorporated findings from the best science into the design and implementation of management actions intended to protect and restore the ailing estuary.

The more difficult challenges in the Delta need sound science to inform decision making. Many of the most pressing Delta stressors remain largely unaddressed after a decade and a half of targeted efforts by multiple federal and state agencies. It is essential that sound science is available to regulators, because state and federal agencies are required to utilize the “best available science” in their decision making process.  These decisions often have far reaching impacts on all corners of California, including the Delta.

One prime example is the implementation of the federal Endangered Species Act. If State and Federal agencies are to make effective regulatory decisions, develop responsive species recovery plans, and design effective restoration efforts – sound science is essential.

To achieve this, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta supports regulatory actions which follow the following recommendations:

  • Are spatially explicit, presenting information in the form of maps that reflect geographic variation and site-specific environmental conditions
  • Test discrete hypotheses, that is, attempt some form of falsification exercise, that confront(s) proposed management actions with available data
  • Are clear on assumptions and uncertainties that affect the management decisions under consideration, clearly stating limitations of findings that can be drawn from the science that is available
  • Are set in an appropriate spatial context in order to address the ecological challenge subject to decision and management
  • Build on available ecological theory
  • Take advantage of all available pertinent information, including previous work, that both supports and does not support the best judgment of resource managers, and attempts to explain discrepancies
  • Consider all available information, and ranks or grades of that information, based on the reliability of its sources – published, unpublished, agency publications, etc.
  • Emerge from an explicit conceptual model of targeted species, their relationships with the environmental attributes of their habitats and targeted ecosystems, and the full range of stressors that affect them
  • Use analytical tools appropriate to the conservation challenge being confronted
  • Use a structured approach to an effects analysis (or risk assessment), particularly population viability analysis where appropriate, to exercise available data
  • Employ a rigorous specification of response and environmental variables in any analyses used to guide management or policy decisions

The Coalition strongly recommends these best available science policies be applied in guiding the Delta’s ambitious conservation programs and in resolving the many Delta stressors.

In addition, Guidance on the Use of Best Available Science under the U.S.
Endangered Species Act by Dennis D. Murphy and Paul S. Weiland, provides analysis of the challenges met in providing the best available science to Endangered Species Act decision making.