New biological opinions for fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday have farmers hopeful that more water will be coming their way, but environmental groups are likely to push back.
The Fish and Wildlife Service evaluated the impact of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project operations on imperiled species including Delta smelt and 15 other fish that could be impacted. The proposal includes habitat management measures in the Delta and related water exports in the South Delta.
Highlights of the proposed operational plan include:
· - An estimated $1.5 billion investment to support endangered fish over the next 10 years;
· - A bigger cold-water pool and better cold-water management at the Central Valley Project’s largest reservoir, Lake Shasta;
· - Real-time adaptive management and great management oversight of Delta pumping operations;
· - Significant investments in hatcheries;
· - A $14 million investment by Reclamation that will accelerate the program to reintroduce winter-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River and its tributaries;
· - A commitment to use the newest science and the latest scientific thinking to ensure updated operations are benefitting fish.
The California Farm Bureau Federation said the opinion will open the way toward additional flexibility in the state’s water system.
“Everyone wants to see endangered fish recover,” said CFBF President Jamie Johansson. “But the methods of the past haven’t worked. Doubling down on those failed methods would make no sense. It’s time to try something new, and we’re satisfied that the career scientists at the federal agencies have taken the time they need to create well thought-out plans that reflect advances in knowledge acquired during the past 10 years.”
Environmental groups are not as thrilled with the new plan.
"I think this biological opinion is the end result of the Trump administration's junk science and political interference," Doug Obegi, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Associated Press.
Lisa Lien-Mager, spokeswoman for the California Natural Resources Agency, told the AP that the agency will evaluate the water plan "but will continue to push back if it does not reflect our values."
"California is, and will continue to be, a leader in the fight for clean air, clean water and endangered species," she said.
Representatives Josh Harder (CA-10), John Garamendi (CA-03), Jim Costa (CA-16), and TJ Cox (CA-21) and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released a joint statement on the updated biological opinions:
“The Endangered Species Act requires periodic reviews to determine the best available science. The federal government’s science for Chinook salmon and Delta smelt was more than a decade old and needed to be updated, especially given climate change.
“We are examining the new biological opinions to ensure they incorporate the adaptive management and real-time monitoring needed to properly manage the Central Valley Project for the benefit of all Californians. The new biological opinions must also provide the scientific basis needed to finalize the voluntary settlement agreements between the State Water Resources Control Board and water users.
“We look forward to the State of California’s thoughtful analysis of the biological opinions. In Congress, we continue working to secure federal investment in the Central Valley Project to meet California’s future water needs and support habitat restoration efforts called for in the updated biological opinions.”