Water + Natural Resources

Sites Project Authority Strategic Plan

Sites Project Joint Powers Authority
Water Storage

Facilitation and strategic planning for a partnership of 31 water agencies, counties, and state and federal agencies to finance, build, and govern a $4-billion reservoir in the Sacramento Valley to meet the needs of people and the environment across California.

The Authority recently completed a value  engineering exercise to “right-size” the project to meet environmental and water supply reliability needs for partners from the Sacramento Valley to Southern California, including the California Water Commission, Departments of Water Resources and Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Catalyst team updated the organizational assessment and facilitated the executive team and joint Board and Reservoir Committee meetings to realign the vision, mission, goals, and strategies to earn project approvals and funding commitments in the next two to three years. The entire strategic plan was developed during the current pandemic, so all work and meetings were conducted virtually. The key to the success of the joint strategic planning workshop was implementation of an engaging, visual approach to provide balanced involvement among all participants and constructive dialogue focused on the issues where further alignment was needed.

Following unanimous approval of the high-level direction, the Catalyst team worked with Authority work groups to develop action plans and collaboration strategies for the three highest priority objectives: environmental review and permitting; financing plan and local commitments; and decision delegation. Through 2021, Catalyst supported the works groups, senior staff, consultants, and partners in the internal and external collaboration necessary to develop agreements, commitments, and permits for the project, specifically related to governance and the plan of finance.

Project Type: Strategic plan to align 23 joint powers authority partners on the goals, strategies and actions to advance, approve, and finance $3 billion of infrastructure for water management, ecosystem restoration, and community benefits.

Lead Professionals: Charles Gardiner, Peter Bluhon, Linadria Porter, Deb Kollars

Read more +

Delta Public Lands Strategy

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy

Community engagement and partnership development for a long-term ecosystem
restoration strategy on public lands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that can support flood protection, economic development, and community preservation.

Within the Delta, Catalyst is helping to develop a long-term public lands restoration strategy for islands located in the Central Delta Corridor from the Western Delta to the Cosumnes Preserve. The lands, comprising about 50,000 acres, are owned by both public agencies and nonprofit organizations.

The owners of these lands seek to develop a restoration strategy that provides significant ecological benefits while also integrating with local and regional economic development and cultural, historical and aesthetic preservation. Catalyst and its team have designed and implemented outreach and engagement activities to further the strategy, which has included public workshops and a collaborative design charrette. Based on input from partners, the community, and other state and federal agencies, the Catalyst Team is preparing a long-term strategy to prioritize near-term actions, align with funding sources, and guide implementation.

This work has involved bringing the diverse landowners and stakeholders of this area together in an integrated way to foster conservation in the Delta that works for all interests. The engagement and outreach featured constructive and civil conversations, sometimes among as many as 70 people gathering at once, and culminated in development of a draft strategy that met with substantial support. Effective implementation is the next step.

Catalyst’s transparent and inclusive process design, which created an environment of mutual understanding and appreciation for the bottom-line conservation goals, was critical in helping the various interests reach consensus within this unique and resource-rich region.

Read more +

CV-SALTS – Stakeholder Communications and Engagement

Central Valley Salinity Coalition
Water Quality

Communications support and stakeholder education for a collaborative regulatory
development and implementation program to address water quality, safe drinking
water, and economic viability in California’s Central Valley.

Catalyst supports the CV-SALTS Executive Committee and the Public Outreach and Education Committee to identify priority outreach activities that will build understanding and support for the program at all levels from residents and farmers to legislators and funding organizations. Catalyst prepared a coalition communications strategy to identify and prioritize target audiences, prepare and train coalition spokespeople for industry sectors, and align messaging and timing with Basin Plan amendment milestones. Catalyst developed information materials to support outreach activities, including a general information brochure, industry-specific fact sheets, and policy summaries to explain the goals, objectives, process, and actions for a complex, long-term regulatory reform and project implementation program.

Read more +

Los Vaqueros Reservoir

Contra Costa Water District
Water Storage

Stakeholder and public outreach, agency coordination, and partnership development for
a multi-benefit off-stream reservoir expansion.

The project was developed to improve water management for fisheries and habitat in the complex Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta while increasing flexibility to meet water supply reliability needs. Mr. Gardiner developed and implemented the interagency coordination and public outreach activities for CCWD, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Department of Water Resources. He also developed and facilitated an extensive stakeholder and community involvement program. The initial phase of the project focused on engaging the community and potential partners in developing the project concept and identifying local, regional, and statewide benefits and potential environmental and economic impacts through a citizens advisory committee and stakeholder meetings with statewide water and environmental interests and agencies. This phase led to the subsequent public approval of the project by 62% of the voters. Following voter approval, Mr. Gardiner facilitated the public review process during the environmental review and inter-agency development of the impact analysis and resulting mitigation measures. The reservoir was expanded in 2012. Mr. Gardiner is now assisting CCWD with interagency planning and coordination with potential project partners in the next phase of reservoir and facilities expansion.

Read more +

San Joaquin River Restoration

Bureau of Reclamation

Public involvement planning and facilitation for the largest river restoration program on
the west coast.

restoring the river and reestablishing a sustainable salmon population while at the same time implementing a water management plan to reduce the impact to agricultural and urban water users on the river. Mr. Gardiner has supported the multi-agency implementation team in developing the Program Management Plan and the Public Involvement Plan. The Public Involvement Plan established a structure to engage more than 4,000 interested parties, including settling parties, affected water users, fisheries interests, local landowners, local opinion leaders, and local, state, and federal elected officials. The multi-level engagement strategy provides information and involvement for policy leaders through executive briefings, technical specialists and cooperating agencies through technical work groups, landowners through a coordinated landowner relations program, and the general public through workshops and public review at key milestones. Mr. Gardiner conducts stakeholder assessments and established technical feedback groups to inform and involve river stakeholders. He coordinated and facilitated the technical feedback group to address groundwater and landowner impacts of increased river flows. He is the facilitator for the Restoration Goal technical feedback group and has served as lead facilitator for settling party consultation during implementation of the Settlement Agreement. He also directed public outreach activities supporting the restoration planning and environmental review.

Read more +

Groundwater Sustainability Plans

Merced and Cuyama GSAs
Groundwater Management

Community engagement and decision support for development of groundwater
sustainability plans to address historic overuse.

This is done through development of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). Catalyst is among those at the forefront in implementing this historic legislation.

Catalyst is managing outreach and facilitation for development of GSPs in the Merced Subbasin and Cuyama Basin in Central California. At the core, GSP development is a process to manage water resources planning for a frequently scarce resource where agricultural, business, community, economic, environmental and social needs are all in play and often in competition. This process must pass muster under demanding statutory and regulatory requirements that also bestow much local discretion. For both projects, Catalyst developed the planning roadmap for GSP development, identified Board and advisory committee milestones, and community engagement opportunities.

While SGMA requires a great deal of technical planning, successful implementation also requires developing understanding and collaboration among the many interests in a basin. Catalyst’s work in both basins has involved partnering with local and regional organizations and engaging and building trust among farmers, disadvantaged communities, and non-English speaking populations in both basins.

The work has involved the nimble exercise of recognizing and accommodating diverse needs and concerns about groundwater management within a new and untested legal framework.

Read more +

Russian River – Department of Water Resources

CA Department of Water Resources
Watershed Management

Facilitation and planning for state investigation of a collaborative watershed approach to define and measure environmental, social, and economic outcomes.

a new element of the California Water Plan, which is the state’s strategic plan for sustainably managing and developing water resources for current and future generations.

Through this pilot project, Catalyst worked with the Department of Water Resources’ California Water Plan team and stakeholders within the Russian River watershed to identify and document how the state’s “Sustainability Outlook” can be integrated with regional efforts to improve sustainability of water and natural resources within the Russian River watershed.

Catalyst conducted research and analysis, convened regional stakeholders, and documented watershed conditions, historical and current trends, regulatory alignment issues, and funding and financing approaches. Catalyst synthesized approaches to watershed assessment and applied to the analysis the State’s societal values, outcomes and indicators for sustainable water management, and identified policy options for regulatory alignment and funding and finance considerations.

Through this work, Catalyst helped to identify the assets within the watershed and the diverse interests who rely on those assets, and laid the groundwork for developing a watershed-scale management approach that potentially could be replicated elsewhere.

Read more +

California Economic Summit

California Forward and the California Economic Summit
Funding and Governance

Facilitation and policy support to improve state policies for regional water management, governance, and funding through the state’s largest coalition of civic, business, and environmental leaders focused on triple-bottom-line growth for California.

This powerful network of public, private and civic sector leaders captures top-line ideas and energy from all regions of the state and champions initiatives aimed at the “triple bottom line” principles of economic growth, environmental sustainability, and equity for all Californians.

Among other things, the Summit focuses on the “Million Challenges,” including the need to invest in sustainable water systems. Since 2015, Catalyst has been a critical player in the Summit’s One Million Acre-feet of Water Challenge. Charles Gardiner convened water leaders across California to develop sustainable funding and governance recommendations for the Summit to advance this initiative. He worked with thought leaders to develop funding concepts and proposed pilot efforts to present to business leaders and infrastructure investment advocates.

Key to this ongoing effort is the advancement of initiatives to connect the headwaters located high in the forests with downstream water users located throughout the state. Other priorities include identifying needed legal and practical changes for better coordination and alignment of water resources and addressing the needs of disadvantaged communities to improve water quality, affordability and reliability.

Read more +

Groundwater Zone of Benefit Study

Santa Clara Valley Water District
Groundwater Management

Community outreach and stakeholder engagement for technical analyses and policy
revisions to update fee zones for groundwater management programs.

Catalyst is managing the public outreach program to review the evaluation methods and zone definitions with water retailers, urban and agricultural groundwater pumpers, environmental organizations, and standing advisory committees to the Board of Directors. Catalyst conducted a situation assessment at the beginning of the project to identify key stakeholders, assess issues and concerns, and prepare the communications plan. Catalyst has assisted District staff in translating complex groundwater assessment methodologies into a simple, logical framework for define zones of benefit. Outreach activities include workshops with water retailers, briefings for other groundwater pumpers, and presentations to Board advisory committees.

Read more +

Cal-Am Coastal Water Project

California Public Utilities Commission

Public outreach and engagement for the environmental review of a proposed private seawater desalination plant to meet current and future water needs on the Monterey Peninsula.

The Coastal Water Project (CWP) would replace current diversions from the Carmel River with desalinated water supplies and aquifer storage and recovery. During CPUC’s review of the application, Mr. Gardiner designed and implemented the public outreach and involvement strategies for the environmental review of the proposed project and alternative projects developed through a community-driven planning process. The public engagement and Mr. Gardiner’s facilitation during environmental scoping and public review was closely coordinated with the environmental review team and the community planning process to ensure that all interests were informed, involved, and equally heard.

Read more +

MMWD Long-Term Water Supply Strategy

Marin Municipal Water District
Water Supply

Design and implementation of a board decision process and community engagement
program to consider options and tradeoffs among imported supplies, esalination, and water conservation to meet future water supply needs.

proposed desalination project in 2007, the MMWD board of directors was considering the challenging tradeoffs among conservation, desalination, and increasing imported supplies from the Russian River. Mr. Gardiner provided strategic counsel and communications guidance for the District’s decision-making, water conservation programs, and rate setting processes. He helped the District staff synthesize and present more than 18 years of analysis and debate into a cohesive problem statement and package of potential solutions for consideration by the public and the District’s board of directors. He and his team developed a comprehensive communications program to inform and involve ratepayers and opinion leaders in the decision process and the Board’s rate setting activities. Activities included community forums on the economic value of water to the region and the long-term conservation program, community briefings on the desalination project, and a public opinion poll on the supply options. The District clarified its “conservation first” strategy, initiated reservoir operational improvements, approved the desalination project EIR, and implemented three consecutive years of rate increases with minimal opposition.

Read more +

Merced IRWM

Merced Irrigation District
Regional Water Management

Facilitation of a stakeholder advisory committee and community engagement for an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan in Merced County.

water, groundwater, wastewater, stormwater, and flood management to meet urban, agricultural, and natural resource needs in the region. Key issues for the region include groundwater overdraft, salinity management, nitrate contamination, flooding, recycled water, rural drinking water quality, surface water demands, and water and wastewater management for disadvantaged communities. Mr. Gardiner planned and coordinated the outreach and engagement process. He completed a community assessment to identify key issues and opinion leaders and recommended participation in the Regional Advisory Committee established by the governing entities. Mr. Gardiner facilitated the 39-member advisory committee through a one-year planning process to develop the draft and final plan, consistent with state guidelines, and to identify and propose priority projects for state funding.

Read more +