Water is a precious and limited resource requiring conscious management. Water quality, supply, allocation and resource management are also perennial sources of conflict. Kearns & West supports local, state and federal government agencies, utilities, developers, non-profit organizations and the general public in making tough water resource policy and management decisions.

Kearns & West specializes in:

Sample Projects

      California Department of Water Resources - Central Valley Flood Protection Plan

      In 2008, California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) was charged by the legislature with developing a valley-wide, integrated plan for protecting property and people in the Central Valley. DWR embarked on a two-year, stakeholder-based effort to get input into the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP), which was adopted in summer 2012. Kearns & West was part of the team that developed and executed the Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Plan for the CVFPP development process. Kearns & West facilitated regional work groups working collaboratively with DWR and partner agencies to solicit information and ideas from flood and irrigation districts, farmers, county planning offices, environmental interests, recreational interests, community groups, business associations, land-owners, and interested citizens. Kearns & West also provided diverse stakeholder engagement services, including development of a communications and engagement plan, to support development of a Conservation Strategy. Kearns & West conducted interviews with a series of experts and stakeholders representing the agricultural and conservation communities in California; and supported the development of a strategy to incorporate the views of agricultural communities in regional conservation planning. Kearns & West staff implemented the Communications and Engagement Strategy that supports DWR’s development of the 2017 Update to the CVFPP.

      California Department of Water Resources - Fish Restoration Program Agreement

      The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) created a Fish Restoration Program Agreement (FRPA) in 2010 to address specific habitat restoration requirements of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and National Marine Fisheries Service biological opinions for State Water Project and Central Valley Project operations. A major goal of the FRPA is to identify and implement actions that will address the habitat restoration requirements of the biological opinions; a key objective to achieve this goal is to restore 8,000 acres of intertidal and associated subtidal habitat in the Delta and Suisun Marsh, with implementation to be completed by 2020. Kearns & West was brought on to support DWR and CDFW’s successful implementation of FRPA and associated aquatic habitat restoration projects in the Delta. Kearns & West designed and implemented communication, outreach and engagement with interested stakeholders and the general public. Tasks include conducting an in-depth stakeholder assessment of Delta stakeholders; preparing communication and engagement plans for both the program and individual restoration projects; developing informational materials such as fact sheets, frequently asked questions, and web content; planning and facilitating project-specific public meetings, forums, and briefings; and conducting ongoing internal planning and coordination. As a restoration project with a large acreage goal, Kearns & West facilitated outreach around contentious topics including environmental permitting and property acquisition.

      EPA’s Next Generation of Technical Guidance for Developing Water Quality Numeric Nutrient Criteria

      In support of the Clean Water Act, States and Tribes are responsible for establishing water quality standards that protect human health and the environment from pollutants such as nutrients. EPA has historically provided technical guidance to support these efforts. Kearns & West has convened an Agile Team to support EPA’s Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology’s Health and Ecological Criteria Division, in designing and managing an innovative User Centered Design process to develop the next generation of technical support for water quality numeric nutrient criteria development. Our team has carefully engaged with state leaders advancing their criteria development efforts, and their support networks through focus groups and exploratory discussions to understand their key challenges and needs, identified key assumptions in the criteria development process, and develop and test a web-based tool combining text and technical tools – serving as a “living document” that can be modified as science advances and technical needs evolve.

      Federal Emergency Management Agency - Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

      In 2015, President Obama signed Executive Order 13690 calling on federal agencies to update a national flood risk management standard (FFRMS). 13690 requires direct public participation in the development of the FFRMS Implementing Guidelines. At the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Kearns & West planned and facilitated eight in-person, large-format public meetings and one webinar to solicit public input on the Implementing Guidelines, and provide stakeholders with an opportunity to interact directly with FEMA executives on the FFRMS. Each in-person session consisted of an educational presentation, four simultaneous breakout sessions for stakeholders to discuss concerns with agency staff, and a public comment period. The webinar included over 400 individual participants and allowed stakeholders to ask questions directly to FEMA executives on all aspects of the Implementing Guidelines.

      Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

      In 2014, the California Legislature passed and Governor Brown signed three bills into law collectively known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). SGMA relies on local governance of groundwater resources through the creation of “groundwater sustainability agencies” or GSAs. GSAs in turn are responsible for the development of groundwater sustainability plans designed to avoid negative impacts to groundwater supplies in medium and high priority basins by 2040. Kearns & West worked in Butte and Merced Counties conducting assessments intended to develop recommendations for local decision makers about options for forming GSAs. Upon completion of stakeholder assessments, Kearns & West developed and implement eligible local agency dialogues in four basins in Butte County and three basins in Merced County to develop GSAs. Through a series of stakeholder negotiations, Kearns & West helped Merced Subbasin stakeholders reach consensus on a new joint powers agreement to fulfill the obligations of a GSA. In Butte County, Kearns & West helped stakeholders sign a memorandum of understanding designed to eliminate overlap between neighboring GSAs and reach agreement on a governance structure for the area. Now that SGMA implementation has shifted to development of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP), K&W is working with the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee to support GSP development.

      Water Research Foundation Cyanotoxin Risk Communication Guidance

      In supporting the Water Research Foundation’s dedicating to advancing the science of water by sponsoring cutting-edge research and promoting collaboration, Kearns & West supported the development of next-gen cyanotoxin risk communication guidance to help utilities, regulatory agencies and water professionals better communicate about the risks associated with cyanotoxins in drinking water and other public water resources. Four Steps to Effective Cyanotoxin Communications: A Risk Communications Toolkit, provides water utility professionals with a 4-step process they can engage in to develop a proactive approach for using communication as a strategy for protecting public health from potential water health concerns from cyanotoxins. To develop the toolkit, Kearns & West conducted interviews with key water utility leaders and conducted a literature search of existing communications resources. The team launched a digital engagement platform to seek input from a broad set of water consumers about their interests and needs related to frequency and format of communications from their water utilities around cyanotoxin incidents and test specific communication products. The toolkit identifies communication barriers and suggests strategies and best practices to inform risk communications, including a library of sample communication products water utility professionals can easily modify and deliver as part of their communication strategies. This project was supported by over 15 participating agencies, organizations, and utilities.