DPC Minutes 2022-03-17


Delta Protection Commission Meeting

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Meeting conducted via Zoom and telephone as authorized by Government Code section 11133


1. Call to order

Chair Nottoli called the meeting to order at 4:02 p.m. and asked Commissioner Fuller to lead the meeting participants in a flag salute. Chair Nottoli reminded meeting participants that the meeting is being held on Zoom as authorized by Government Code section 11133 during the COVID-19 emergency.

2. Welcome and roll call

Commission Clerk Morgan Matz called the roll. Present at roll call: Chair Nottoli, Vice Chair Winn, Commissioners Villegas, Fuller, Vasquez, Paroli, Slater, Nakanishi, Agar (for Omishakin), Eddy (for Ross), and Bugsch. Commissioner Vogel (for Crowfoot) joined the meeting during agenda item 9 (drought report), and ex officio designee Udang (for Sen. Talamantes Eggman) joined the meeting during agenda item 5 (Commissioner comments/announcements).

Commissioners Burgis, Mussi, and Steele were absent with no alternate present.

3. Public comment – Opportunity for the public to address the Commission regarding items not on the agenda

Chair Nottoli asked for public comment and there was none.

4. Report on Delta Stewardship Council activities

Chair Nottoli noted that the Council held meetings on January 27 and February 24, with another meeting scheduled for March 24; that upcoming changes to DSC procedures would be announced in the near future; that Council Chair Susan Tatayon had retired; and that the Governor appointed Julie Lee as a Council member and reappointed Judge Frank Damrell, Jr. to the Council.

Chair Nottoli asked for public comment and there was none.

5. Commissioner comments/announcements

Commissioner Agar mentioned that he had recently distributed the latest version of the Caltrans construction map showing planned construction projects in the Delta; that former Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin had been permanently appointed Transportation Secretary; and that Steven Keck had been appointed as interim Caltrans Director. Chair Nottoli congratulated Secretary Omishakin on his appointment.

Chair Nottoli asked for public comment and there was none.


6. Consider approval of January 20, 2022 meeting minutes

Motion: It was moved by Commissioner Villegas and seconded by Commissioner Fuller to approve the January 20, 2022 meeting minutes; in a roll call vote, the motion passed 10-0-0 with all Commissioners present at roll call (except for Commissioner Slater, who temporarily stepped away) voting aye.


7. Receive Executive Director report

Executive Director Vink reported that the Delta Conveyance Project environmental impact report is due out in mid-2022; that Commission staff had recently met with county representatives regarding Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as it relates to the Project; that a grant application intended to expand broadband internet access in the Delta had not been funded but that the Commission’s broadband efforts continue; and that Debbie Spencer had joined Commission staff as a retired annuitant working primarily on matters related
to the Clean CA grant.

Chair Nottoli asked for public comment and there was none.

8. Receive Delta Protection Advisory Committee (DPAC) report

Executive Director Vink reported that Dawit Zeleke had resigned from the Committee; and that the Committee received reports on the Delta Drought Response Pilot program as well as staff activities at its March 1 meeting.

Executive Director Vink also presented proposed changes to the DPAC charter: first, replacing a seat on the Committee designated for a habitat or conservation non-governmental organization representative with a seat designated for a Delta cultural preservation representative, reflecting the greater involvement of these entities with the Delta National Heritage Area; second, adjusting language regarding appointments to the Committee to more clearly state that appointments are to take place on a staggered timeline with specific seats up for appointment or reappointment each year; and finally, removing the requirement that after being elected, the Chair of the Committee must be confirmed in writing by the Chair of the Commission. Based on these proposed changes, Executive Director Vink recommended that the Commission appoint Locke Foundation Secretary Douglas Hsia to the Committee (he has been serving as an ex-officio member), as well as appointing California Department of Fish And Wildlife Regional Manager
Erin Chappell to a vacant seat on the Committee representing a state agency.

Chair Nottoli asked for public comment and there was none.

Motion: It was moved by Commissioner Bugsch and seconded by Commissioner Fuller to adopt the revised DPAC charter and appoint Erin Chappell and Douglas Hsia to the committee; in a roll call vote, the motion passed 11-0-0 with all Commissioners present at roll call voting aye.

9. Receive report on 2022 drought in the Delta and related activities

Executive Director Vink introduced Michael George (Delta Watermaster), Campbell Ingram (Executive Officer for the Delta Conservancy), and Dante Nomellini Sr. (General Counsel for the Central Delta Water Agency) to provide perspectives on 2022 drought in the Delta.

Mr. George provided background information about ongoing drought conditions in the Delta region, emphasizing that recent rain and snowfall have not been adequate to bring statewide water reservoirs back up to normal levels, and that dry conditions forecasted to continue into 2022 are likely to make the situation more dire. He predicted that emergency regulation measures already in place are likely to be extended and/or enhanced in reaction to these conditions. He then explained that the State Water Resources Control Board (Division of Water Rights) has been able to refine its research and decision-making methodology to better address
the needs of the Delta region by curtailing water usage and enacting emergency regulations when necessary; however, these emergency measures will have significant effects on agriculture in the area as farmers shift to different crops that will fare better as water usage is more heavily restricted.

Mr. George went on to note that although drought conditions do not necessarily cause water shortages in the Delta region, they impact other important aspects of water management such as salinity and temperature; that those considerations must be balanced with water demands from local infrastructure and contractual obligations; and that even though there are plans in place to address threats from drought conditions, there is still room for improvement.

Mr. Ingram described a Delta pilot drought response program to reduce water consumption by offering direct payments to Delta farmers who agree to change crop types or cultural practices to save water. He indicated that the program has received a healthy response and that the funding allocated for it is expected to be fully utilized. Commissioner Eddy asked about budget figures for the program and Mr. Ingram provided a breakdown of how the program’s total budget of $10 million is to be spent, with more than $8 million for direct payments and the remainder for a substantial monitoring program and staffing. Chair Nottoli asked for an estimate
of how much water will be conserved by the program in 2022 and Mr. Ingram estimated that figure at about 22,000 acre feet, with more accurate measurements to be taken at the end of the year. At this time, Mr. George noted that one of the provisions of the program is that any water conserved will be used to promote the health of the Delta and not to augment water exports.

Mr. Nomellini who expressed his appreciation for the work that has been done on drought response in the Delta. He noted that impacts of drought on groundwater supplies in the Delta are difficult to measure; that past efforts have not adequately ensured that water conserved in the Delta would not be exported and have used flawed forecasting methods when predicting rain and snowfall; and that recent programs and court orders aimed at more effective water conservation efforts are positive developments.

Commissioner Villegas expressed appreciation for all three presenters and agreed that although the drought situation in the Delta is challenging, it is helpful to receive updates related to leadership and innovation in programs designed to mitigate drought effects.

Chair Nottoli asked for public comment and there was none. He then acknowledged that Commissioner Bugsch had left the meeting at 5:02 p.m. and Commissioner Vogel had joined the meeting at 5:08 p.m.

10. Consider appointment of Commission subcommittee to screen Executive Director applications

Executive Director Vink thanked Chair Nottoli and Commissioner Bugsch for their work preparing the Duty Statement for the Executive Director position and stated that the official job posting was expected to be posted the week of March 21, and that the application deadline would likely be no later than May 6. He suggested that a screening subcommittee meet the week of May 9 in order to decide which applicants to invite to take part in interviews to be held in a closed-door session at the Commission’s next meeting on May 19. He then suggested that after conducting those interviews, the Commission would need to immediately offer the position to one of the candidates to avoid a subsequent Commission meeting.

Commissioner Villegas and Commissioner Slater expressed their support for forming a screening subcommittee. Commissioner Vasquez requested that the entire Commission receive a full list of applicants to the position and Chair Nottoli agreed that that would be appropriate. Executive Director Vink pointed out that there is considerable flexibility in the hiring process, so the exact role of the subcommittee can be set by the Commission. Finally, Chair Nottoli suggested that the subcommittee should include Commission members representing all factions of the Commission (county, city, reclamation district, and state agency).

Chair Nottoli asked for public comment and there was none.

Chair Nottoli as well as Commissioners Slater, Vogel, and Villegas volunteered to serve on the subcommittee. Deputy Attorney General Mejia then advised the Commission that in accordance with the Bagley-Keene Act, the Commission should be as specific as possible in its motion regarding who will serve on the subcommittee and how they will be appointed. Commissioner Slater asked what would be an appropriate level of discretion when discussing applications with other commissioners, and both Executive Director Vink and Deputy Attorney General Mejia recommended keeping communications about the application process restricted to official meetings of the subcommittee as much as possible. Commissioner Eddy asked whether Commissioners not appointed to the subcommittee would have the right to sit in on the subcommittee’s deliberations, and Deputy Attorney General Mejia confirmed that they would.

Motion: It was moved by Commissioner Vasquez and seconded by Commissioner Slater to grant authority to the Chair to appoint a subcommittee to screen Executive Director applications; in a roll call vote, the motion passed 10-0-0 with all Commissioners present at roll call (except for Commissioner Bugsch, who left the meeting during agenda item 9, and Commissioner Nakanishi,
who temporarily left the meeting) and Commissioner Vogel voting aye.

11. Receive update on Caltrans Clean CA grant and consider delegation of authority to Executive Director to execute Cooperative Agreement

Senior Environmental Planner Kirsten Pringle provided background on the Delta Sign Plan, introduced in 2018, which provides general guidance related to the location and design of wayfinding and interpretive signs needed in the Delta region. She explained that the Caltrans Clean CA grant provides $430,000 to install up to 30 wayfinding signs and up to 10 interpretive signs and described restrictions on the locations of these signs described by the grant; she then provided visual examples showing sign designs and content that conform to Caltrans standards.
She outlined the terms of a cooperative agreement between the Commission and Caltrans making the Commission responsible for overseeing sign designs, selecting sign locations, printing signs, obtaining permits needed for installation, and maintaining signs into the future, and making Caltrans responsible for ensuring compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). She emphasized the important role of community outreach in this project, and estimated the project would be finished no later than early 2023.

Chair Nottoli and Vice Chair Winn expressed their appreciation for the effort put into planning the project. Commissioner Agar highlighted the importance of executing the cooperative agreement in a timely manner, expressed his excitement to begin working on the project, and suggested that successful execution of this project could lead to funding for other projects in the future. Commissioner Villegas volunteered to facilitate communication and input from the Clarksburg General Plan Advisory Committee.

Chair Nottoli asked for public comment and Carol Jensen, Chairperson for the Contra Costa County Historic Landmarks Commission and member of the Delta National Heritage Area Management Plan Advisory Committee, urged the Commission to consider installing signage along Highway 4, given its relative importance to the Delta region. Delta Protection Advisory Committee member Russ Ryan urged the Commission to consider installing signage along Highway 12 as it crosses Bouldin Island.

Executive Director Vink explained that this grant does not apply to Caltrans District 4 (which includes Contra Costa County), but expressed his hope that this project would allow for future efforts to expand similar efforts into other parts of the region. Commissioner Agar confirmed that more funding may become available in the future for related projects.

Motion: It was moved by Commissioner Villegas and seconded by Commissioner Eddy to approve one-time authorization for the Executive Director to execute an agreement with Caltrans to receive funding in an amount not to exceed $430,000; in a roll call vote, the motion passed 10-0-0 with all Commissioners present at roll call (except for Commissioner Bugsch, who left the meeting during agenda item 9, and Commissioner Nakanishi, who temporarily left the meeting) and Commissioner Vogel voting aye.

12. Consider Commission position on SB 1065 (authorizing commercial abandoned and derelict vessel removal and forming a statewide Coordinating Council)

Executive Director Vink presented information on Senate Bill 1065 by Commission ex-officio member Sen. Eggman, which would form a commercial abandoned and derelict vessel coordinating council and create a fund for removing such vessels. He pointed out that the legislation had received support from Sacramento County and the Delta Counties Coalition. He asked for the Commission’s endorsement of the legislation and presented a draft support letter.

Commissioner Villegas also expressed his support for the legislation.

Chair Nottoli asked for public comment and there was none.

Motion: It was moved by Commissioner Villegas and seconded by Commissioner Fuller to support SB 1065; in a roll call vote, the motion passed 8-0-2 with Commissioners Nottoli, Winn, Vasquez, Villegas, Fuller, Slater, Paroli, and Agar voting “aye”, and Commissioners Eddy and Vogel abstaining.

Following the vote on this item, Commission Chair Nottoli reminded the Commission that he was under ex parte restrictions from any discussion of the Lookout Slough matter and indicated that he was leaving the meeting; he did so at 6:14 p.m. Vice Chair Winn took over the meeting and announced agenda item 13.

13. Receive update on Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) certification of consistency appeal process for Lookout Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration and Flood Improvement Project

Executive Director Vink provided background on the Lookout Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration and Flood Improvement Project certification of consistency process before the Delta Stewardship Council, including the Council’s July 2021 remand of the project to DWR and the subsequent submittal of a new certification of consistency by DWR in January 2022. He further stated that the resubmitted certification of consistency was appealed by Liberty Island Access on
matters related to recreation use, and Commission staff have drafted a proposed letter to the Council that endorse these appeal arguments.

Vice Chair Winn asked for Commission comment. Commissioner Vogel asked for clarification on the proposed letter and the Commission’s process, and engaged in a discussion with Executive Director Vink. Commissioner Vasquez expressed his support for the Lookout Slough project and the process underway with DWR and CDFW on the memorandum of understanding, as well as the levee improvements that will occur. He further asked the Commission to not send the letter.

Commissioner Villegas suggested that the Commission might provide a different letter that describes Delta Plan Policy DP P2 but align its concerns with Solano County’s concerns. Vice Chair Winn endorsed Commissioner Villegas’ comments.
Vice Chair Winn asked for public comment. Solano County Supervisor Mitch Mashburn asked the Commission to not weigh in on this matter, citing the MOU between Solano County, DWR and CDFW, concern over references in the letter to statements made by Solano County staff, and landowner support for the habitat restoration project and their concerns over the recreational use at the site.

Department of Water Resources Deputy Director Kris Tjernell provided DWR’s
perspective on this project and the effort underway with Solano County on the MOU.
Commissioner Villegas offered a motion to have the Commission work with Solano County, which was seconded by Commissioner Vasquez. During discussion of this matter, Commissioner Fuller called for the question, which led Commissioners Villegas and Vasquez to withdraw their motion. Commissioner Fuller moved to approve the staff draft letter, and the motion died for lack of a second.

This being Commission Fuller’s last meeting, he thanked his fellow Commissioners for the opportunity to work together.

14. Adjourn

Vice Chair Winn adjourned the meeting at 7:09 p.m.