National Research Council Issues Report on the Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan

On May 5, 2011, an ad hoc panel appointed by the National Research Council (NRC) issued a report titled The Review of the Use of Science and Adaptive Management in California’s Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (pdf). The NRC is a division of the National Academies, and the panel it appointed developed the report in response to requests from the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Interior. The report provides an independent scientific assessment of the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) issued November 18, 2010 .

In general, while recognizing the BDCP’s potential as a tool for helping to solve California’s chronic water problems, the panel found the draft BDCP to be incomplete and unclear in a variety of ways. As an initial matter, the panel identified the lack of an effects analysis as a crucial missing element from the draft plan. The panel further determined that a lack of clarity existed with respect to whether the BDCP is an application for the incidental take of listed species, or a comprehensive conservation strategy intended to restore ecological functions and improve water supply reliability. The panel also noted that, even if the BDCP is limited to an application for an incidental take permit, it still lacks an analysis of water conveyance alternatives and the reasons why such alternatives are not being utilized.

In addition, the panel opined that many scientists have recognized that significant environmental factors, other than water exports, have potentially large effects on fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Delta. The panel also noted that there remains considerable uncertainties regarding the degree to which different aspects of flow management in the Delta, especially salinity management, affect survival of the ESA-listed fishes. Accordingly, the panel supports the concept of a quantitative evaluation of the significance of these stressors, ideally using life-cycle models, as part of the BDCP.

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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