2013 California Spring Retreat & Study Tour: Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta

Friday, March 22, 2013 (All day) - Sunday, March 24, 2013 (All day)



The Ryde Hotel, Walnut Grove, CA

Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta:  The History, Ecology and Politics of Place
An examination of water supply, ecosystem functions and community history


Read Lissa Widoff's blog post summarizing this event, with supplementary information and photos.

The Sacramento River and San Joaquin River Delta region is often considered to be the center of water policy debates in California.  Water supply demands and protecting ecosystem function are often at odds, yet this place holds a rich, complex history.  As state management efforts continue to balance needs for ecological restoration, water supply, flood control and endangered species, the complexities and human dimensions of this place cannot be overlooked. The annual spring retreat is an opportunity for Switzer Fellows and colleagues to examine these critical environmental issues from an interdisciplinary perspective and to share expertise and creative exchange. We are fortunate to have the leadership of several Switzer Fellows and colleagues who are extremely knowledgeable about the region to host an insider’s tour of this special and surprisingly remote place, with a focus on the North Delta region.

The “Delta” is unique. It covers 738,000 acres in a maze of islands, rivers and sloughs at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, and several tributaries, including the Mokelumne, Cosumnes, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers. The 58 islands are framed by 1000 miles of rivers and sloughs and the Delta receives its water from over 40% of the state’s land area. It is an area rich in history, ecological function, biodiversity and beauty.

Through site visits, interactive presentations and discussion we will examine:
- the rich history of the Delta region and how that informs current challenges and opportunities in statewide water policy
- the competing interests in water use and how this affects ecological and human communities in the region and beyond
- current restoration and conservation efforts, floodplain management, and future policy challenges.

The study tour will highlight:
-          An overview of the historical context of Delta water management issues and current policy debates
-          A visit to Historic Locke
-          A visit to Cosumnes Preserve with staff from The Nature Conservancy involved in Delta conservation efforts
-          Visits to water infrastructure sites– Delta Cross Channel, Yolo Bypass, Barker Slough Pumping Station, others TBD
-          Visits to important restoration sites – Cache Slough, Liberty Island, Twitchell Island, Prospect Island
-          Community and farmers’ perspectives on restoration efforts in the Delta

VENUE:  Ryde HotelWalnut Grove, CA.  Overnight accommodations will be available.

COST:  All participants will be charged a $25 registration fee, plus lodging.  The amount charged for lodging will depend on choice of single- or double-occupancy room (cost details are listed on the registration form).  There may be very limited travel assistance for Switzer Fellows if cost is prohibitive.  Carpooling is strongly encouraged.  Please contact Erin with any questions.  


Phil Isenberg, Chair, Delta Stewardship Council

Robin Grossinger, Environmental Scientist, Historical Ecology Program, San Francisco Estuary Institute

Tim Ramirez (Switzer Fellow 1995), Central Valley Flood Control Board, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Jesse Roseman, Cosumnes Preserve Manager, The Nature Conservancy 

Stuart Siegel, (Switzer Fellow 1992), President and Chief Scientist, Wetlands and Water Resources, Inc. 

Michelle Stevens, Asst. Professor, California State University-Sacramento

Peter Vorster, 1990 Fellow, Hydrogeographer, The Bay Institute



Friday, March 22, 2013

5:00 pm Arrive at Ryde Hotel. Welcome Reception!

6:00 pm Dinner, introductions and speaker - Tim Ramirez, Central Valley Flood Management Board and San Francisco PUC

Following brief introductions, dinner and networking, we'll hear from Tim Ramirez (Switzer Fellow 1995), Central Valley Flood Control Board, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Tim has been dedicated to water policy issues since his work with the Tuolumne River Preservation Trust leading their Central Valley Program, and later as the Assistant Secretary for Water Policy and Science at the California Resources Agency and as the Senior Policy Advisor and Deputy Director for Ecosystem Restoration at the California Bay-Delta Authority. Tim will share some of his insights and leadership lessons bridging science and policy in California water issues. 

8:00 pm Social time

Saturday, March 23, 2013

7 - 8:00 am Breakfast

8 - 9:00 am Welcome, and Orientation to the Historical Ecology of the Delta with Robin Grossinger, San Francisco Estuary Institute

Robin Grossinger, Environmental Scientist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) is a co-author of a new report on the historical ecology of the Delta. This introduction will provide the framing for our day -long field visits in which we will be joined by Robin and several colleagues, and Switzer Fellows with deep expertise on Delta issues, geography, policy and infrastructure. 

9:00 am Depart on tour bus for morning site visits to:

  • Historic Locke (agricultural and immigrant history of the region)
  • Delta Cross Channel (water supply issues)
  • Delta Meadows (historical ecology of the Delta)
  • Twitchell Island  (subsidence and restoration) (if time allows)

12 - 5 pm Afternoon site visits:

  • Cache Slough area
  • Liberty Island - Bridge to Nowhere (restoration site)
  • Lower Yolo Bypass (planned restoration, flood control)
  • Barker Slough Pump Plant, Hastings Tract (possible restoration lands)
  • Prospect Island
  • Clarksburg Ag District stops
  • BOGLE Winery (green certified winery)

7 pm Dinner at Ryde Hotel

8 pm Speaker:  David Carle, Author of "Travelling the 38th Parallel: A Water Line Around the World"

This is the story of authors David and Janet Carle's around-the-world journey in search of water-related environmental and cultural intersections along that latitude line, starting from their home at Mono Lake, east of the Sierra Nevada in California.  Their encounters produced riveting stories of the passionate scientists, educators, and activists they encountered, struggling to preserve some of the world's most amazing yet threatened landscapes.

David Carle is a retired California park ranger who shared that job at Mono Lake with his wife, Janet, for 19 years before they retired.  He is the author of 12 non-fiction books, including Water and the California Dream (Sierra Club Books, 2003, just re-published) and Introduction to Water in California (University of California Press, 2009), and also of two novels.  He received a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from U.C. Davis and an M.S. in Recreation and Parks Administration from CSU Sacramento.  His son, Ryan Carle, is a 2012 Switzer Fellow.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

8 - 9:00 am Breakfast at Ryde Hotel

9 - 10:00 am  Keynote Speaker: Phil Isenberg, Chair, Delta Stewardship Council

10:30 a.m. - 2pm Site visit to Cosumnes River area

Site visits to McCormack-Williamson Tract and to Cosumnes Preserve with Jesse Roseman of The Nature Conservancy and Professor Michelle Stevens of CSU-Sacramento. We will learn about important restoration efforts, the preservation of significant riparian areas and historic native uses of plants in this part of the Delta.


Please contact Erin Lloyd, Program Officer, if you are interested in attending.

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