Water Operations in the Central Valley, California
The West Coast Region’s California Central Valley Office conducts Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 consultations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The West Coast Region’s California Central Valley Office conducts Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 consultations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and oversees the operations of the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP), which includes 5 reservoirs and 2 major water pumping plants in California’s Central Valley.
Long-Term Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project
In 2009, NOAA Fisheries issued a biological opinion to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation which concluded that the long-term operations of the CVP and SWP (including reservoir management and pumping operations) in California’s Central Valley were likely to jeopardize the continued existence of Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, California Central Valley steelhead, the southern distinct population segment of North American green sturgeon, and Southern Resident killer whales (which depend on Chinook salmon for food).
On August 2, 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), the federal action agency, and the California Department of Water Resources, the applicant, jointly requested the reinitiation of Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation on the coordinated long-term operation of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP). NOAA’s National Marine Service (NMFS) accepted the reinitiation request on August 17, 2016.
On January 31, 2019, Reclamation transmitted their Biological Assessment to NMFS. As stated in the BA, the purpose of this action is “…to continue the coordinated long-term operation of the CVP and SWP to maximize water supply delivery and optimize power generation consistent with applicable laws, contractual obligations, and agreements; and to increase operational flexibility by focusing on nonoperational measures to avoid significant adverse effects.”
NOAA Fisheries finalized and issued its biological opinion on the coordinated operations of the CVP/SWP on October 21, 2019. NOAA Fisheries carefully evaluated the impact of CVP/SWP water operations on ESA-listed species, including Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, California Central Valley steelhead, Southern distinct population segment of North American green sturgeon, and Southern Resident killer whales. The proposal includes habitat management measures in the Delta and entrainment management related to water exports in the South Delta.
NOAA Fisheries documented impacts from the proposed operations and worked with Reclamation to modify their proposed action to minimize and offset those impacts. NOAA Fisheries undertook two independent scientific peer reviews and utilized the best science available in the development of its biological opinion. Ultimately, NOAA Fisheries has concluded that Reclamation’s proposed operations will not jeopardize threatened or endangered species or adversely modify their designated critical habitats.
2019 Biological Opinion
NMFS completed a Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Consultation for the Long Term Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project on January 24, 2020. The EFH Consultation includes discretionary Conservation Recommendations to conserve the EFH of these species. The EFH Conservation Recommendations address effects to Pacific Coast Salmon, Pacific coast groundfish and coastal pelagic species.
Along the West Coast, the Pacific Fishery Management Council identifies habitats that fall within “Habitat Areas of Particular Concern” (HAPC) and recommends these to NMFS consistent with the MSA. HAPCs are considered high priority areas for conservation, management, or research because they are important to ecosystem function, sensitive to human activities, stressed by development, or are rare. These areas provide important ecological functions and/or are especially vulnerable to degradation and can be designated based on either specific habitat types or discrete areas. HAPCs are a discrete subset of EFH. This EFH consultation focuses on addressing any adverse effects the proposed action may incur in the following designated HAPCs:
- HAPCs for Chinook salmon are: complex channel and floodplain habitat, spawning habitat, thermal refugia, estuaries, and submerged aquatic vegetation as described in Appendix A to the Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan.
- HAPCs for Pacific coast groundfish are: estuaries, rocky reefs, canopy-forming kelp, seagrasses, and “areas of interest” as described in Amendment 19 to the Pacific coast groundfish Fishery Management Plan. Species likely to occur in the action area include starry flounder and Englis sole.
- EFH for coastal pelagic species is described in Amendment 8 to the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan and explains the habitat requirements of five pelagic species. Species most likely to occur in the action area include Northern anchovy and Pacific sardine.
- Reinitiation of consultation (2019):
- Reclamation’s Biological Assessment and Cover letter (January 31, 2019)
- Reclamation's request to reinitiate (August 2, 2016) and NMFS response (August 17, 2016)
- Proposed 2017 RPA Amendment:
- Reclamation's detailed comments (March 22, 2017)
- Reclamation's response (January 25, 2017)
- NMFS's Draft Proposed 2017 RPA Amendment (January 19, 2017)
- NMFS response to Reclamation's request for Shasta RPA adjustments (August 17, 2016)
- Bureau of Reclamation's request for Shasta RPA adjustments (August 2, 2016)
- Amendments to Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) (2011)
- Biological Opinion Actions
Technical Working Groups
- Delta Operations for Salmonids and Sturgeon (DOSS)
- Stanislaus Operations Group (SOG)
- Sacramento River Temperature Task Group (SRTTG)
- Stanislaus Nonnative Predator Research Program
We conduct ESA section 7 consultations with Federal action agencies that propose projects in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, including construction (e.g., boat docks, agricultural barriers), dredging, habitat restoration, research, and aquatic weed management.
- Effects of Water Project Operations on Juvenile Salmonid Migration and Survival in the South Delta Report (January 2017)