Vitalizing our Healthy Rivers, Landscapes and Communities

Wednesday, Mar 13th, 2024

The following is an excerpt from Bryce Lundberg’s chairman’s remarks at the NCWA Annual Meeting on March 8, 2024 at Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico. 

By Bryce Lundberg

Let me open my remarks as Chairman today by saying what a pleasure it is to see all of you at Sierra Nevada Brewery. It is also a privilege to serve as your Chair of the Board of Directors. We have an amazing community—the NCWA Board, the elected officials, landowners, water resources managers, counsel, engineers, biologists, hydrologists, geologists, conservation partners, and the NCWA team. I enjoy working with all of you in our common mission to ensure water for our communities, farms, families, and the environment making Northern California the amazing place we call home.

As we think about 2024, let us discuss how each of us—as the water leaders in the region—continue to adapt to our climate reality by vitalizing our healthy rivers, landscapes, and communities in the Sacramento River Basin—from ridgetop to river mouth. We all live, work, and play in this dynamic region with a community of engaged, active, energetic, committed people—a place that continues to evolve and integrate fresh new ideas for water management into our priorities.

We have a riverscape vision for the Sacramento River Basin that looks at the entire region and blends the wisdom of leading scientists, our fore-farmers, and local knowledge from today to better understand our water resources. Not just to understand, but to initiate ACTIONS to integrate our wonderful rivers and creeks into our landscapes and communities in a way that brings the entire region to life through our precious water resources.

Let us start with the word VITALIZING. The word vitalize means to give life, to give vitality, to give strength and energy, and to animate. Isn’t this a great word! Sometimes the word makes me think of Dick Vitale. “It’s awesome baby!” “Life is simple.” Make good decisions and good things will happen. Make bad decisions and bad things will happen. Booyah!!! However, the word VITALIZING is an action word. Creating a place that is full of life—plants, animals, people, communities—resilient and regenerative. Isn’t this what each and every one of us does in this region—in our own special way through our precious water resources? We do this as individuals, collectively through our water districts and companies, and through our various partnerships.

For the past several years there has been a focus by everyone in NCWA to vitalize this region—to advance healthy rivers and landscapes in the Sacramento River Basin—from ridgetop to river mouth. As we work with our many amazing partners in these efforts, it is clear, we need to continue and scale-up these efforts for healthy rivers, landscapes, and communities. Our vision for success relies upon an increased pace and scale that will require working even more closely with state and federal agencies to align and modernize the three elements on the screen.

First, the ongoing efforts to activate and vitalize our rivers, landscapes, and communities. This includes all the elements shown on the screen—headwaters and forest health, healthy soils and farms, floodplains, safe drinking water, and sustainable aquifers. This is the work we are doing and will continue to do.

Second, improved infrastructure. This includes nature-based solutions in the headwaters and our floodplains; maximizing the use from our backbone infrastructure such as Shasta, Oroville, Folsom and our many other reservoirs; new backbone infrastructure—Sites Reservoir; and the infrastructure necessary to recharge our aquifer systems.

Third, we need the regulatory processes surrounding these actions to support our goals and not get in the way of progress. This is why we are working so hard on the Agreements to Support Healthy Rivers and Landscapes (the Voluntary Agreements) because the current regulatory program being proposed by the State Water Board would be devastating to California. The new regulatory pathway needs to align with our values to vitalize healthy rivers, landscapes and communities and it will require leadership and creativity by state and federal agencies! There are many other regulatory programs that need to be realigned in the Sacramento River Basin and are described in our priorities document.

As you can see, if we are going to have healthy rivers, landscapes and communities, these elements all need to align, which requires concerted action by all of us and many partnerships you will hear about today.

We appreciate our many collaborators, including our MOU partnership with the California Rice Commission, Ducks Unlimited and CalTrout. We hope you and many others will be inspired by this approach for a functional Sacramento Valley and will join our effort to work hard, scale-up and harmonize our priorities with state, federal, and other regions’ priorities to advance our collective goal to ensure greater water and climate resilience throughout California for our people, communities, the economy, and the environment.

In conclusion, I am so proud of this region and what we do to make California a better place! NCWA was formed to safeguard our precious water supplies and to help advance and evolve water management with the changing landscape in California. We have a special role through water to connect our farms, families, fish, and fowl over generations. We are a resilient place where we embrace new, imaginative, and modern ideas. And the cool thing is, we will continue to evolve. We look forward to working hard in 2024 with our many collaborators to advance multi-benefit water management to cultivate a shared vision in the region for a vibrant way of life.

As you know, I deeply admire my good friend Danny Rojas from Ted Lasso, who may say Futbol is Life. I say–Water is Life! It is the lifeblood to our families, farms, environment, communities, businesses, and our vibrant way of life. Thank you for allowing me to share our 2024 priorities.

Please see the full NCWA 2024 Priorities.

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