Obama Administration Announces Support for Essential Elements of the California Bay-Delta Conservation Plan

Coordinated State-Federal Water Strategy Will Deliver on Co-equal Goals of Ecosystem Restoration and Water Supply Reliability

Last edited 09/29/2021

Washington, DC – A coordinated report issued today by six federal agencies calls for the restoration of tens of thousands of acres of marshes, wetlands, and habitat, and the construction of a new water conveyance system to move water from north of the California Bay-Delta to water users in the Central Valley and the southern part of the state.

The federal report, which complements a related report issued today by the State of California, urges continued progress toward completion of the California Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and supports major elements of the plan as a promising means of addressing the critical needs of both the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the state's water delivery structure. An estimated 25 million Californians rely on the California Bay-Delta for clean drinking water.

"After years of drought, growing stress on water supplies, and with the Bay-Delta in full environmental collapse, it has become clear to everyone that the status quo for California's water infrastructure is no longer an option," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "Governor Schwarzenegger and the State of California have worked tirelessly and in partnership with us to develop responsible, forward-thinking solutions that can help us break the cycle of shortages and water conflicts. This is the moment to push forward with solutions, apply the best science available, and build a water future for California that is good for our economy, guards against the impacts of catastrophic earthquakes and other natural disasters, and helps restore California's Bay-Delta to health.”

“Through the Interim Federal Action Plan for the Bay Delta, the Obama Administration has made significant progress working with California to address the State's complex and long-standing water issues. However, there is still much more work to do,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “Finalizing a Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a key part of establishing a long-term sustainable future for California's water system. Any solution must address the dual goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem health, be science-based, and be developed with the full engagement of stakeholders. We look forward to working with Governor-Elect Brown to continue and accelerate our progress.”

“Over the long-term, rebuilding the ecology of the Delta and securing the reliability of California's water delivery systems carries huge promise for growing jobs across California, from the salmon-dependent fishing communities of coastal California to the farming communities of the Central Valley to Los Angeles basin,” said Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. “We will continue to focus on critical next steps, including applying the best scientific research available to inform sound decisions and long-term planning.

“The progress we've made together is historic,” California Secretary for Natural Resources Lester A. Snow said, welcoming the federal support. “No group of federal, state and local interests, diverse stakeholders and committed individuals has ever come this far with a strategy to restore the Delta ecosystem and develop a more modern way to deliver our water. This is another important step we take together, but there is more to be done.”

Today's federal update advances the BDCP, which will help strengthen the long-term security of water supplies for cities, farms, and other users, while restoring habitat and wildlife in the California Bay-Delta. The most up to date scientific information will be incorporated in the development of the plan and its implementation over the next decades.

Preliminary modeling results summarized in the state's BDCP Highlights suggest that a new north-south water conveyance facility could be operated in a manner that would generate average annual water exports over the long term that are more reliable, and greater, than the average annual exports that would be achievable under current constraints. For context, this modeling also suggests that these quantities may be comparable to the average annual Delta exports that have occurred since the Bay-Delta Accord, 15 years ago.

As outlined in the federal update issued today, federal agencies will conduct environmental reviews of a proposed conservation plan for the Bay Delta that would include a new diversion system to move water from north of the Delta to water users in the Central Valley and southern California. Currently, water deliveries from northern California to central and southern California are pumped through the Delta and into canals from the southern end of the Delta, which has contributed to the disappearance of wildlife, ecosystem collapse, and risks of severe water supply disruption if an earthquake strikes.

As outlined in the update, the next steps for Federal agencies also include: continuing near-term science work in 2011 and beyond that could inform water operations decision-making and the BDCP process; continuing work toward an integrated Biological Opinion by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service that would inform the BDCP and continued operation of the Central Valley Project; and continuing development of the Environmental Impact Statement/Report (EIS/EIR) for the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan.

The BDCP is one part of a comprehensive commitment by the Obama Administration to address California water issues. As part of its Interim Federal Action Plan released last December, the Administration has promoted water conservation and efficiency improvements throughout California, expedited and expanded voluntary water transfers in the Central Valley, dedicated more than $40 million in 2009 toward immediate drought relief projects, and made historic investments in modernizing California's water infrastructure. Over the past two years, the Department of the Interior, for example, has invested over $500 million dollars in major water projects, including the construction of the Delta-Mendota Canal / California Aqueduct Intertie, the Red Bluff Diversion Facility, Contra Costa fish screen, a large number of water reuse and water conservation projects, and the safety of improvements at Folsom Dam.

The Administration also plans to continue, as needed, certain water augmentation activities it developed in the 2010 water year as an additional assurance that adequate supplies will be available from the Central Valley Project (CVP) in the 2011 water year. These activities include continued improvements to and coordination of integrated operations with the State Water Project (SWP), source shifting with SWP contractors, diversification of refuge water supplies, and additional opportunities to employ water transfers within the CVP and SWP service areas.

To read today's federal agency update, click here.

To read the federal agency action plan, click here.

To learn more about the BDCP, click here.


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