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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Environmental Decision Analysis: Meeting the Challenges of Making Good Decisions at CALFED


We present a methodology to support decision making at CALFED based on the principles of decision analysis, an analytical approach to decision making designed to handle complex decisions involving both uncertainty and multiple dimensions of value. The impetus for such an approach is a recognized need to enhance communication between scientists and management and between program elements within CALFED. In addition, the environmental decision analysis framework supports both the explicit representation of uncertainty in the decision problem and communication about risk, important elements of most environmental management decisions. The decision analysis cycle consists of four phases: 1) formulate, 2) evaluate, 3) appraise, and 4) decide. In phase one, we identify the objectives and also the alternatives, or possible actions. To facilitate inter-comparison between proposed actions, we recommend formulation of a set of common metrics for CALFED. In our pilot study, we introduced common metrics for salinity, winter-run Chinook salmon survival, and habitat health. The second phase focuses on quantifying possible impacts on the set of metrics, drawing on existing data, model runs, and expert opinions. For the evaluation phase, we employ tools such as decision trees to assess the system-wide impacts of a given action. In the final phase, tools such as expected cost-benefit analysis, value contribution diagrams, and 3-D tradeoff plots aid communication between various stakeholders, scientists, and managers. While decision analysis provides a spectrum of decision support tools, we emphasize that it does not dictate a solution but rather enhances communication about tradeoffs associated with different actions.

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