Pursuant to a request by Congress and the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Research Council recently held a number of hearings in Davis, California on the current crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These hearings took place over a four-day stretch, running from January 24 to January 28, frequently addressing a handful of different Delta related issues each day.
The National Research Council is an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, a private non-profit institution that was created in 1863 by President Lincoln. The primary role of the National Research Council is to synthesize, analyze, and disseminate information in order to aid government decision making.
The proposed end result of what the National Research Council has currently scheduled to be a 24 month process, is two reports. These reports are being drafted by 15 National Research Council committee members. The first report, which is scheduled to come out in mid-March, will focus on two biological opinions regarding the continued operations of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project – the December 2008 biological opinion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the delta smelt and the June 2009 biological opinion by the National Marine Fisheries Service on three salmonid species, the North American green sturgeon and the Southern Resident killer whale. Each of these biological opinions is currently the subject of federal litigation.
The second report, which is currently scheduled to come out in November 2011, will attempt to synthesize all of the scientific information related to the Delta and the federally protected species at issue (including native species such as the Delta smelt), identify gaps in the available science and factors contributing to the decline of the federally protected species, and future water-supply and delivery options that properly account for all of the various interests in the Delta.