Dear Friends,

This year, I would like to depart from our usual update, and share a very personal story with all of you about what drives my work at Restore the Delta and how my personal story has led to our developing a dynamic young staff working for a sustainable and just future for the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary.
– Barbara

Protecting Special Places, a Family Affair 

Until I was 12 years old, I lived on the south shore of Lake Michigan between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana, in a community that is now adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Park. That region became a protected national site in 1966 due to the advocacy and local leadership of that community, and in 2019 the Indiana Dunes National Park. 

When I was a young child in the mid 1960s, my parents were volunteers who stuffed envelopes for a local organizing committee to save the Indiana Dunes, the genesis for what is now a protected region for community, recreation, beauty, and environmental restoration, and that is surrounded by family farms on adjacent lands. The humble but persistent effort of my parents was a thread in the cloth woven by the region for the protection of one of this country’s most beautiful wild places adjacent to industrial centers and family farms all integrated. 

I fell in love with the Delta when my family moved to Stockton because while being a vastly different ecosystem, it reminded me of home – a tapestry of urban and agricultural landscapes tethered together by a dynamic, natural, and visually stunning environment. 

My parents were also signature gatherers for petitions for the creation of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. While the Indiana Dunes have always been one of the most beautiful sites in the United States, air pollution caused respiratory illness in our town’s children, and water pollution from the surrounding steel mills made fish consumption dangerous, limiting the amount we could consume from our coho and chinook fisheries, and rainbow smelt runs.

Fishing was a way of life for our family, and so was outdoor daily recreation along the lake, dunes, rivers, lagoons, and forests that surrounded my childhood home, accessible to all people in our community regardless of their background or socio-economic status. Pollution and declining fisheries continue to be a problem for the Great Lakes, as they are in the Bay-Delta estuary, and throughout the world worsening with climate change. But my parents’ efforts helped to slow down fishery decline, improved the health of the fisheries for a number of years, and reduced emissions from the local steel industry to increase public health outcomes in our community.

 The Next Generation is Here

My belief in environmental and community health and in the protection of open spaces, and building the best future possible for the next generation, was formed by my parents’ example. Their work echoes more loudly each day that I work with the next generation Delta leadership.

This is also why I have been fairly quiet in my direct communications with all of you this year. A significant portion of my time in 2023 has been spent training six program managers on what I know about the Delta: California water management, environmental justice, collaboration in working with community partners and tribal governments, social media, traditional media, project analysis and comment letter writing, community emergency response, campaign creation, flood mitigation, fishery science, advocacy, restoration project planning, agriculture economies, interfacing with government agencies, and science literature research.

I have been working side-by-side with our next gen leaders on deep analysis of emerging industries in the Delta like carbon storage and carbon sequestration farming. My daily work has also encompassed training staff on how to respond to the problematic Bay-Delta Plan and even worse Delta Conveyance Project, how to present their case to government agencies, and how to build out a science-based water quality testing program. 

They are learning by doing, while developing an understanding of our organization’s core values of equity and sustainability and how to advance these core values strategically and analytically. Their voices are now front and center. They are leading the effort to protect the Delta for future generations – from sustainable farming to flood protection, from urban water tech to water quality monitoring. They are learning when to be aspirational in their work, and they are learning when and how to speak truth to power to protect community.

Restore the Delta was built brick-by-brick with our Board of Directors, our staff, community, tribal and environmental partners, and you, our valued supporters, to become one of the most trusted entities on Delta matters. In fact, we were identified as the most trusted decision-making body in a regional survey conducted by UC Davis researchers, scoring higher than other non-government organizations, government agencies, and elected officials. We accomplished this recognition because of your generous support and faith in our work over the years.

Our next generation staff is expanding on the sturdy foundation that we have built together — to lead and respond to a future that we cannot fully imagine. Much in the same way my parents set the stage for me with their example of community engagement, we are doing the same with our staff, interns, and next generation leaders in partnering organizations, teaching by example. 

With your continued support, we can empower our next generation leaders to protect and improve the Delta for the future, to deal with environmental complexity, to resist bad plans for water and resource management, and to build healthy communities and genuine sustainable economic opportunity. They are learning when and how to resist the idea of water and resource extraction for special interests at the expense of the region. 

Your year-end gift to Restore the Delta will enable us to expand and solidify the work we started together in 2006 at a kitchen table, with sixty supporters, a laptop, and a cell phone. It will enable us to keep building a top-notch nonprofit organization to advocate for the environmental health and wealth of the region.

We thank you for your continued support. We wish you and your family the most joyous of holidays, and a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous 2024.

With much gratitude,

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla

Executive Director

Restore the Delta

Related Posts