Staff Recognition

Superior Accomplishment Awards


photograph of Janis Cooke receiving her award


  • Janis Cooke, Senior Environmental Scientist (Specialist)

Janis Cooke is a Senior Environmental Scientist Specialist in the Planning unit. She has provided exemplary leadership in the Regional Board’s Delta Water Quality Program. As part of this program, she has been instrumental in the development of the Delta Nutrient Research Plan, which was adopted by the Regional Board in August. Janis has lead stakeholder discussions, technical committees and provided coordination with other programs, both internal Regional Board programs and external programs and projects. She has recently led several proposals that successfully secured multiple funding sources to support implementation of the Delta Nutrients Research Plan. Janis is also the Delta Regional Monitoring Program (RMP) Technical Advisory Committee member, and she leads the Nutrients Subcommittee of the RMP, and coordinates with the San Francisco Bay Nutrient Program. Janis' technical knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm on various water quality issues provides a significant resource utilized by many Waterboard staff. Janis is a highly motivated, dedicated staff member deserving of this award.

photograph of Jennifer LaBay receiving her award


  • Jennifer LaBay, Senior Environmental Scientist (Supervisory)

In the last 7 months, Jennifer has done an amazing job of stepping into the Senior Environmental Scientist (Supervisory) position and has excelled as the Nonpoint Source Program Manager, supervising 5 staff while managing staff in two other offices. Jennifer also took.on the added responsibility of overseeing the triannial review of the Central Valley Water Board's Basin Plans to fill a void left by the retirement of both our Basin Planner and planning Section Program Manager. Last summer, Jennifer oversaw a successful Board workshop regarding activities to address the nutrient problems in Clear Lake. The Clear Lake nutrient problems and inadequate efforts to address them have been a significant concern to the local tribes and other stakeholders. Jennifer has been diligent and effective in reaching out to all of the stakeholders and getting better collaboration in addressing the nutrient problems. She is working with the tribes and others to develop nutrient outreach materials and is the Central Valley Water Board representative to the recently formed Clear Lake Blue Ribbon Committee. Jennifer has done a good job of representing the interests of the Water Board and bringing issues back to the Board for their consideration and input.

Jennifer also did a stellar job of helping bring the Basin Plan triennial review to the Board for approval. Her organizational skills and hard work made the Board approval process very smooth, especially given that a new process was developed for this triannial review.

In the relatively short time she has been in her current position, Jennifer has contributed tremendously to success of both the Nonpoint Source and Planning Programs. Her positive attitude and "can do" spirit makes her a joy to work with, and her wonderful work ethic helps ensure that tasks are completed on time. For these reasons and so much more, Jennifer is worthy of a sustained superior accomplishment award.


photograph of Walt Plachta receiving his award


  • Walt Plachta, Engineering Geologist

Walt Plachta Walt Plachta is receiving this aw~rd because he has spent a considerable amount of time on two major projects, almost nonstop, since he started in the Fresno Office just over orie year ago. These projects are the CV-SAL TS program and the Triennial Review of the Tulare Lake and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Basin Plans.. Both efforts are complex, long term, and have involved a~dressing input from stakeholders and the general public. Walt has quickly come up to speed on these projects and has continued to do an excellent job despite the recent departures of key Basin Planning personnel from the Rancho Cordova Office.

Walt's CV-SAL TS efforts include attending the CV-SAL Ts executive committee meetings and being the lead for the Fresno office. He also attends the public education and outreach committee meetings with the intent to educate stakeholders and get them ready for the impiementation of the CV-SALTS program following approval from State Board. Walt is also the grant manager for the Nitrate Management Zone Early Implemenation Grant. Work under this grant will consist of a pilot study that may be utilized as a blue print for the CV-SAL Ts program. Walt's tasks include techincal document review and managing the invoices for the project.

Most recently, Walt prepared and presented a triennial review wor~shop item to the Board at their meeting in Redding in October. He also prepared and presented a follow-up presentation to the Board in December. As a result, the Board adopted the triennial review workplan, which provides a road map for planning activites for the entire region for the next three years.

Walt is a reliable and professional staff member in our Fresno office and is very deserving of this award.


photograph of Daniel Whitley receiving his award


  • Daniel Whitley, Environmental Scientist

Daniel Whitley is an Environmental Scientist in the Redding Forest Activities Unit and is being recognized for his outstanding work performance. Daniel joined the Central Valley Water Board in 2013, bringing with him more than 20 years of experience working as an "ologist" in California, from being a biologist for CalTrans and DFW, to a botanist then an ecologist with the Forest Service.

In the five years Daniel has been with the Central Valley Water Board, he has made considerable contributions to both the Forest Activities Unit and to the Central Valley Board's Forestry Program as a whole. When initially hired, Daniel quickly learned the permitting and compliance aspects of the Forest Activities Program, ultimately taking a lead role in advancing our understanding of herbicide use and effects on water quality from timber harvesting activities. In addition to performing permitting and compliance actions in the Redding office for all of Plumas County, Daniel concurrently lead the development and execution of two contracts with the USGS to further our access to cutting edge passive sampling systems for researching herbicide impacts, putting the board on the cutting edge of this research.

The Central Valley Water Board's Forest Activities Program has grown substantially since Daniel was first hired, and without hesitation Daniel has assisted new staff and encouraged them to invest in projects and topics that interest them and benefit the board. Daniel has become our "go-to" person in the Redding office for passive sampling technology and information on forestry herbicide impacts, and has continually been willing to assist other staff in whatever capacity he can. Daniel aided in the planning and implementation of the board's 2017 General Order for Timberland Management Activities, and specifically for those sections relating to post-fire salvage logging activities, including the importance of ground cover and herbicide application timing.

Daniel is required to balance numerous priorities in his position. He regularly looks for ways to turn ideas into actions and develops strategies for implementation. He is an innovative and creative thinker, and he encourages others to be creative in developing solutions. The Central Valley Water Board is very fortunate to have Daniel and greatly appreciates his contributions.