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National Drought Policy Commission (NDPC)

Minutes - December 2, 1999 Meeting

The following summarizes the proceedings of the National Drought Policy Commission (Commission) meeting held on December 2, 1999, in Los Angeles, California. The summary is based on staff notes. Attachment 1 provides a copy of the meeting agenda, and Attachment 2 provides a list of the meeting attendees.

1. Opening Remarks – Ronald Morriss, National Association of Counties

Ronald Morriss, Vice-Chair of the Commission, called the meeting to order, welcomed the Commissioners, staff and guests to Los Angeles(LA), and thanked them for their participation. He asked everyone present to introduce themselves. The Commissioners were asked for their comments regarding the testimony given at the public hearing in Los Angeles on December 1, 1999.

Comments by Commissioners about Public Input:

Mayor Sam Kathyrn Campana indicated she was pleased with the variety and quality of the presentations.

Jim Laver stated that he was impressed that the presenters offered solutions not just problems.

Robert Miller and Bernard Kulik indicated that the California agricultural community was not represented. It was learned from Ane Deister that the Ag community was participating in another activity in San Diego.

Eluid Martinez stressed the need to sort out the preparedness and mitigation programs from response and that many programs can be improved administratively.

(At this point, a spontaneous discussion of the draft report ensued.)

Leon Smothers indicated that the report needs to be specific and spell out who needs to do what.

Brian Burke stated that there is an opportunity for the Commission to do good work and that expectations are high. The report must address the requirements of the law.

Bob Brown related that the improvement of and increased use of technology merits emphasis in the document.

Maurice Mausbach stated that the report indicates a need to collaborate, coordinate and reach a consensus. Providing greater and more accurate advance notice of drought is a desirable goal.

Harold Reheis felt the Commission should make note of programs that have not been used over an extensive period of time and question the effectiveness of these same programs.

2. Current Drought Status

Jim Laver and Doug LeComte of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), presented information emphasizing the cooperative effort and continuing refinement of the models that are utilized for weather and climate monitoring and prediction. The severe drought that heavily impacted the east coast this past summer, has apparently moved west into the central and southeastern United States, as well as Texas. The Department of Commerce (DoC), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) along with a group of more than 60 scientists and practitioners are cooperating in an effort to produce the monthly U. S. Drought Monitor. It may be viewed at:

The following paragraph is part of the explanation of how the U. S. Drought Monitor categories are formed:

Drought intensity categories used to make predictions are based on six key indicators and numerous supplementary indicators. Because the ranges of the various indicators often don't coincide, the final drought category tends to be based on what the majority of the indicators show. The analysts producing the map also weight the indices according to how well they perform in various parts of the country and at different times of the year. Also, additional indicators are often needed in the West, where snowfall has a strong bearing on water supplies.

A related map and text discussion of drought impacts (bolded to differentiate from the status, monitoring and prediction of the U. S. Drought Monitor) was referenced by Don Wilhite, NDMC, at:

Bernard Kulik related that the Commission must realize that drought effects are often irreversible for farmers, etc. The maps show the drought is over in some places, yet the effects still remain.

The issue and added value of regional/local monitoring, assessment and prediction was discussed and supported in principle by several commissioners.

Ane Deister commented that small successes in changing programs or providing new useful products often create a synergy.

3. East Side Reservoir Project

Bob Campbell of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California made a presentation on their latest water project. It began in 1989, fostered by the 1980's drought in California. A multipurpose facility, it will provide six months of emergency water supply using gravity feed for the MWD when completed and filled. The people living there had moved from populated areas and wanted to preserve the open space quality. As a result, significant environmental preservation work was completed, including designation of natural reserves and ecological preservation areas, prior to any project construction.

4. Interagency Contact Group (ICG) Presentation

Warren Lee, USDA and Chris Kadas, National Governors Association (NGA), co-chairs of the Interagency Contact Group (ICG), presented the highlights and processes used by the group in drafting the report. A chart showing USDA drought costs caught the attention of many commissioners and was the genesis for subsequent discussion about the specifics of the report. The ICG will meet in LA on December 3 to prepare changes for the draft and scope out other items.

5. Discussion of the DRAFT of Nov. 23, 1999 Report - Commission Members

Following much vigorous discussion Ronald Morriss indicated that the Commission would walk through the draft based on the eight charges in the law. An issue was to tie the eight charges of the law to the five draft goal statements and recommendations. It was determined that goals number four (Preparedness, Planning & Impact Reduction Coordinating Body) and number five (Response Safety Net) addressed the matter of whether all Federal programs should be consolidated under one agency. It was agreed that the Commission was not ready to make a decision on that specific issue.

The Commission did modify and basically approve goals one, two and three as indicated here:

Goal/Recommendation One:

Use Federal financial and technical assistance programs to encourage interested parties (individuals, farmers/ranchers, business owners, State, local, and tribal govt., etc) in the formulation of their own individual drought preparedness, mitigation, and response planning.

  • Avoid unfunded mandates
  • Avoid too stringent criteria
  • Accomplish this goal through coordination, cooperation, & consensus

Goal/Recommendation Two:

  • More Detail from NOAA
  • Identify who does what
  • Address deterioration of USGS data - do we preserve it?
  • Make communication more obvious in recommendation
  • Build on existing expertise
  • Use active voice, but not radically

Goal/Recommendation Three

  • Grant Program - specify cost ramifications
  • Demonstration/pilot projects
  • Why is research important?
  • Use active voice

Ernesto Rodriguez commented that many states do have existing plans for drought response but not necessarily for mitigation.

Robert Miller indicated that response to disasters (drought) is most important; more so than preparedness.

Roseann Gonzales (representing Eluid Martinez) indicated that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed that recommendations not require any new funds.

Note: The Commission in general does not appear to be restricted in either direction by OMB and several members reported that the sponsors of the law seem to hold no such financial opinions themselves.

Bob Brown stated that all draft documents should be clearly marked as draft on every page and that no completion date should be on the cover of the draft report at this time.

Eluid Martinez indicated that the wording of the draft was too fancy and should be more to the point. He felt the document should expand its discussion of Federal programs that are not drought specific but do play a role in addressing the hazard. The drought program and law tables should be compiled as an annex to the report so that readers can look at them if they wish to do so.

Brian Burke felt the report must address the eight requirements of the law.

Mayor Sam Kathryn Campana indicated that the Commission should recognize the volume and quality of the work involved in getting the draft to this point.

Leon Smothers stated that positive incentives can be a motivating factor in starting the planning process at other levels of government that work with the Federal government.

Larry Zensinger described a potential Federal method for coordinating drought response based on a Domestic Terrorism model. Basically, the Federal Bureau Of Investigation is responsible for crisis management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for consequence management. The commission is interested in this and other concepts and instructed the ICG to develop option documents.

Ane Deister commented that the Commission needs to be bold without being abrasive, or else change will not occur or occur very slowly.

6. Status of NDPC Administrative Issues

Leona Dittus, Executive Director, distributed the new NDPC letterhead for comment. It was determined that most commissioners work in or have Microsoft Word, therefore, documents should be prepared in this format. Ms. Dittus discussed the status of the report deadline extension request. She also reported that she had made a presentation at an International Drought Workshop in Morocco about the Commission and was traveling to Denver, Colorado on December 3 for a similar activity at the Governor's Flood and Drought Preparedness Conference.

The Commission’s budget was discussed. It is estimated that an additional $74,000 will be needed to fund Commission activities in fiscal year 2000.

7. Future Public Hearings and Meetings

Commission members discussed scheduling additional public hearings. The next public hearings will be held in Austin, Texas, on January 25, 2000 and in Billings, Montana on or about January 27, 2000. Hearings were tentatively planned for February of 2000 in Atlanta, Georgia; Columbus, Ohio; Boston, Massachusetts; and possibly in the Pacific Northwest. Specific dates will be determined later. Only one commissioner must be physically present to make the hearing compliant with the Federal Advisory Committee Act rules, therefore, it is not expected that all Commissioners or ICG representatives will attend every one.

The Commission will conduct three meetings by teleconference on:

January 5, 1-3:00 P.M., EST

January 19, 2-4:00 P.M., EST

February 2, 1-3:00 P.M., EST

The Commission plans to meet in Washington, D.C. on March 9, 2000.

Acting Chair Ron Morriss thanked Ane Deister and the Metropolitan Water District for their generosity and outstanding facilities.

Meeting adjourned.