WASHINGTON, DC – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke today announced an aggressive interagency plan for developing a single long term integrated Biological Opinion for the California Bay-Delta and for developing near term scientific initiatives that could be incorporated into water operations as soon as the 2011 water year.
The new plan grew out of a March 19 National Academy of Sciences assessment of two separate biological opinions issued under the Endangered Species Act by the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The two opinions established alternatives for reducing the effects of water management decisions on threatened and endangered species in the Bay Delta.
In a letter describing the plan, the two Secretaries noted that the new approach will allow for better future coordination in protecting endangered species and providing water distributions from the federal Central Valley Project and California's State Water Project.
“The plan announced today includes both near-term and longer-term strategies to ensure that we are coordinating to use state of the art science and to find the best alternatives to protect both endangered fish and water supplies,” said Secretary Salazar.
“The National Academy of Sciences plan pointed to specific scientific needs to improve actions that affect water supply delivery and protect endangered species,” said Secretary Locke. “We are committed to working with our state and federal partners to address these complex issues.”
The goal of the near-term strategy is to incorporate new science into the process for implementing the biological opinions in water year 2011. By the end of this week, an interagency task force based in the region will be established that will target those issues in the two existing biological opinions that were identified by the NAS Report as appropriate for further near-term scientific research. The task force will prepare a list of near-term actions by May 30, 2010.
Longer term, the plan calls for development of a single, integrated biological opinion based on a joint science program that encompasses Interior's FWS, U.S. Geological Survey, and Bureau of Reclamation; Commerce's NMFS; as well as state scientists. The integrated biological opinion will address the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and water project operations.
"We welcome the federal effort to create a single integrated biological opinion,” said Lester Snow, California's Secretary of Natural Resources. “We are committed to working with the federal agencies to enhance our mutual goal of resolving the complex and long standing issues of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta."
The Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce will continue working diligently and in close partnership with other Federal and State agencies so that California can have a sustainable water future and protect the Delta ecosystem.