Posts tagged Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

On September 14, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California granted the state and federal defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability (CESAR) v. Cowin, No. 1:15-cv-00884 (pdf). Plaintiff CESAR claimed that the construction and operation of an emergency drought salinity barrier (Project) in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta—which is designated as critical habitat for the threatened delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus)—violates the section 9 ...

On March 14, 2013, the State of California announced (pdf) that it has released the first 4 of 12 chapters of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).  California plans to release the next three chapters on March 27, and the remaining five chapters on April 22.  The BDCP website notes that the materials being released are preliminary and subject to change, and do not take the place of the public review draft, which will be released at a later date.  Preliminary draft versions of the BDCP have been released on several occasions; for example, a complete draft was released in February ...

Today Governor Brown and Secretary of the Interior Salazar announced plans to construct two tunnels to transport water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in an effort to guarantee a stable water supply for Californians and contribute to the protection and recovery of the Delta ecosystem and at-risk species.  In a press release that accompanied the announcement, the federal and state officials stated "the parties expect to issue a draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan and corresponding Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for public review this fall."

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is a daunting conservation planning exercise.  The affected ecosystems have been irreversibly altered; a number of the covered species are at risk of extinction over the next century; despite the investment of billions of dollars, the monitoring scheme in place is inadequate to provide scientists with data necessary to generate robust analyses needed to make informed resource management decisions; and the entire exercise is a political hot potato.

The State committed to release a public draft of the BDCP in June 2012, but in a letter to the ...

Large-scale habitat conservation plans often are under development for many years then mired in the regulatory process for many more.  The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is not exceptional because it has hit a number of bumps in the road.  But it is exceptional because the plan development and regulatory processes are transparent and being scrutinized by a multitude of interests at every step, including some that will challenge the BDCP in court irrespective of the merits of the Plan for both society and the at-risk species it is designed to protect.  For the past several months, the ...

In a recently issued draft biological opinion (PDF) , the National Marine Fisheries Service (Service) has concluded that EPA's registration of products containing the herbicides oryzalin, pendimethalin, and tricluralin is likely to jeopardize the survival of approximately half of the Pacific salmonid populations listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The draft biological opinion is the latest milestone in a series of controversial ESA section 7 consultations between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Service regarding EPA's ...

The National Research Council's Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta issued its final report (pdf) entitled Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta.  The report is 220 pages and includes five chapters as well as a number of appendix.  The National Research Council established the Committee at the request of Congress and the Departments of the Interior and Commerce.  The task statement for this final report was as follows:

  • Identify the factors that may be contributing to the decline of ...

On March 8, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California entered judgment in Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and Kern County Water Agency v. Federal Emergency Management Agency, et al., No 1:09-cv-02024 (E.D. Cal.) based on a settlement agreement in which FEMA agreed to request consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act regarding the impacts of its implementation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) on threatened and endangered ...

On February 29, 2012, the California Natural Resources Agency released approximately 10,000 pages of "preliminary" draft planning documents relating to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) for public review and comment.  The documents fall into two categories: Draft BDCP documents, and Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) documents (see the list below for details).

The BDCP is being developed in compliance with the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the California Natural Communities Conservation Planning Act (NCCPA ...

At its February 2012 meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission unanimously rejected a recommendation by the California Department of Fish and Game, National Marine Fisheries Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to initiate environmental review of a staff report and proposal (pdf) jointly developed by those agencies to alter the striped bass sport-fishing regulations in order to reduce predation by non-native striped bass on native species that are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).  In addition to the three state and federal wildlife ...

Federal and state officials have issued proposed changes to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s (BDCP) Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to address public comments concerning the language of the MOA and the need for meaningful public involvement in the BDCP process.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) issued the draft MOA on September 6, 2011 and requested public comments (pdf) by November 16, 2011. The MOA is intended to replace in its entirety an earlier memorandum of agreement that was executed in March 2009.

In ...

On August 31, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California enjoined implementation (pdf) of a water management action (referred to as the Fall X2 Action), which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) proposed to take pursuant to a 2008 biological opinion (BiOp) for operation of the California State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project in the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta (Delta).  Under the BiOp’s reasonable and prudent alternative, the Fall X2 Action requires a combination of reservoir ...

The journal Conservation Biology recently posted a forthcoming article on their website that I co-authored with Drs. Dennis Murphy and Kenneth Cummins entitled, A Critical Assessment of the Use of Surrogate Species in Conservation Planning in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California (U.S.A.). The principle purpose of the article is to assess the use of surrogate species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Specifically, we examined the use of surrogate species, in the form of cross-taxon response-indicator species, that is, one species from which data are used to guide ...

As reported on June 15, 2011 by John Ellis and Mark Grossi of the Fresno Bee, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California denied a motion for temporary restraining order that sought to order the Department of the Interior to lift pumping restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  Judge Wanger ruled that the pumping restrictions were necessary to protect migrating fall-run Chinook salmon, explaining that under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) must protect all fish, not just endangered species.  ...

On May 11, Representatives Nunes, Denham, and McCarthy introduced H.R. 1837 (pdf) "to address water-related concerns on the San Joaquin River, and for other purposes."  A section by section analysis is available here (pdf).

Title I of the bill includes a number of proposed amendments to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA), 106 Stat. 4706.  Among other things, it eliminates non-native fish including striped bass from the list of "anadromous fish" that are protected by the CVPIA and it facilitates water transfers.  This title also:

  • specifies that all Endangered ...

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 ...

On April 20, 2011, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) issued its final management measures for the 2011 salmon fisheries season. The report, titled Preseason Report III: Analysis of Council-Adopted Regulatory Measures for 2011 Ocean Salmon Fisheries (pdf), covers the period of May 1, 2011 through April 30, 2012, and is the last in a series of three preseason reports prepared by the Council’s Salmon Technical Team to guide salmon fishery management off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. The report will be submitted to the National Marine Fisheries ...

On March 30, Representatives Cardoza and Costa introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1251, entitled the More Water for our Valley Act.  The purpose of the bill is to "provide congressional direction for implementation of the Endangered Species Act as it relates to operation of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project and for water relief in the State of California."  To accomplish this purpose, the bill would modify certain existing restrictions on Central Valley Project and State Water Project operations until March 1, 2015, which were ...

On March 29, 2011, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California entered a final judgment in the litigation challenging the 2008 biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) regarding the effects of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project on the delta smelt. Previously, the Court issued a memorandum decision (pdf) holding that the biological opinion is unlawful and remanding it to the Service for further consideration. Under the judgment (pdf), the Service is required to complete a new delta smelt biological ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it will accept comments through April 9, 2011 regarding a status review of the longfin smelt (Spirinchus thaleichthys).  In a press release (pdf) announcing that the Service is now accepting comments, the Service states that, based on the status review, it will issue a final 12-month finding by September 30, 2011, that will address whether the listing may be warranted under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service has twice previously made determinations not to list the species under the ESA, most recently in a determination

On February 10, 2011, EPA Region 9 issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Water Quality Challenges in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary ("Advanced Notice") (pdf).  EPA is not proposing any specific Clean Water Act ("CWA") rulemaking at this time.  Instead, EPA proposes to assess "the effectiveness of current programs designed to protect water quality and aquatic species habitat in the San Francisco Bay / Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California . . . ."  Fact Sheet (pdf).  According to EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared ...

Sacramento River and Adjacent FarmlandIn a letter to the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), 18 members of Congress urged the Obama Administration to "ensure that NMFS, EPA, the Department of the Interior, USDA, and DOJ work together" to strengthen the modeling and to use the best scientific and commercially available information to re-evaluate existing biological opinions (BiOps) and to inform forthcoming BiOps for EPA pesticide registrations.

The members of Congress claim that the existing BiOps, which prohibit the application of certain pesticides to cropland within certain buffer zones adjacent to streams, rivers, wetlands, and floodplain habitat to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, "will force family farmers out of business and devastate rural communities and trade throughout the districts we represent, while crippling our food production capacity for the foreseeable future."  According to the authors, the BiOps issued to date expand existing buffer zones to such a great extent that "it would affect millions of acres in the Northwest and California, including a staggering 61 percent of farmland in Washington state and 55 percent in Oregon."

The 18 members of Congress argue that the consultation process between the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and EPA for the first of the pesticide BiOps (issued in November 2008) was flawed because it lacked transparency, consultation with the agricultural community, and the opportunity for public comment.  More fundamentally, they argue that NMFS's consultation for all three of the existing BiOps ignored the best available scientific and commercial data on the prevalence of the pesticides in salmon spawning waterways.

The letter's authors cite a September 2008 letter from EPA's Director of Pesticide Programs to NMFS, which criticized the July 31, 2008 draft BiOp for failing to disclose NMFS's rationale for its determination that use of chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion will jeopardize the continued existence of dozens of listed salmonids in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.  In the September 2008 letter, EPA also complained that it could not meaningfully discuss the proposed Reasonable and Prudent Alternative because the BiOp "fails to identify a level of exposure to these pesticides that would not result, in NMFS['s] opinion, in jeopardy to the species."

As explained in more detail below, the letter's authors are especially concerned that the administration orchestrate future interagency consultations as well as consultations with the agriculture industry and other stakeholders because EPA faces a host of other court-mandated deadlines to determine whether other pesticide registrations may affect listed species, and if so, to consult.

Following the release of an incomplete draft of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), numerous stakeholders issued statements outlining their perspective on the status of the planning effort.  Statements were issued by a number of public water agencies that have provided most of the funding for the planning effort to date including Westlands Water District (pdf)Kern County Water Agency (pdf), Metropolitan Water District (pdf), and the State Water Contractors (pdf).  They were also released by other interested stakeholders, such as the Bay Institute and Environmental ...

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is a long-term conservation strategy designed to improve the status of species and natural communities covered by the plan and provide the basis for the issuance of endangered species permits for the operation of the state and federal water projects in California.  For a number of years, federal and state agencies, numerous public water agencies, and non-governmental organizations have worked to develop the BDCP.  On November 18, an incomplete draft of the BDCP was released to the public amid controversy as reported by numerous news outlets ...

The National Research Council (NRC) announced the formation of an ad hoc panel to review the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).  The NRC explains that "[t]he panel’s review will be related to but be conducted separately from the on-going, more broadly focused NRC study entitled 'Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta.'"  Provisional appointments to the panel, including Dr. Henry J. Vaux of the University of California, Berkeley as Chair, are provided here.  There is a 20 day public comment period on the appointees that commenced on ...

According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal this week, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will be subject to further delays that will preclude the planned released of a draft in November 2010.  The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is intended to service as a Habitat Conservation Plan under the federal Endangered Species Act and Natural Communities Conservation Plan under the California Fish and Game Code.  If approved, it would provide authorizations for operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, which provide water to approximately 25 million ...

As we previously reported, representatives of the Federal government asked the National Research Council’s Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta to consider amending its existing task by agreeing to conduct a review of the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).  In a letter (PDF) dated September 10, 2010 and addressed to representatives of the Departments of the Interior and Commerce, the National Research Council agreed to provide a "short report" assessing the adequacy of the use of science and adaptive management in ...

Following the resignations of Dr. Pat Glibert and Dr. Michael McGuire from the National Research Council’s Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta, three new members were named to the Committee.  The three new members are Dr. John Connolly, Dr. Hans Paerl, and Dr. Stephen Monismith.  A complete list of the committee members with brief accompanying biographies is available here.

The Committee met on July 13 in Sacramento to discuss its second task.  The agenda for that meeting is available here.  At the July 13 meeting ...

In a letter (PDF) dated May 25, 2010 and sent to Secretaries Salazar and Locke of the Departments of the Interior and Commerce, respectively, Stephen Parker of the National Research Council's Water Science and Technology Board explained the National Research Council's decision to force the resignation of Dr. Pat Glibert of the University of Maryland.

The forced resignation is extraordinary in light of the National Research Council's Policy on Composition and Balance and Conflicts of Interest for Committees Used in the Development of Reports (which explicitly ...

This week, the Endangered Species Committee of the American Bar Association's Section on Environment, Energy and Resources published its most recent edition of the Endangered Species Committee Newsletter.  The Newsletter is edited by Paul Weiland and includes an article by him regarding an interim report of the National Research Council’s Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. The report is entitled A Scientific Assessment of Alternatives for Reducing Water Management Effects on Threatened and Endangered Fishes in ...

Mike Taugher of the Contra Costa Times reports that Dr. Pat Glibert of the University of Maryland was forced to resign from the National Research Council’s Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta.  The National Research Council convened the committee at the request of members of the California congressional delegation, including Senator Feinstein and Representative Costa.

The decision to force Dr. Glibert off the committee, which released its first report in March 2010 and had plans to develop a second report in the coming year ...

The Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the delta smelt warrants uplisting (PDF) from "threatened" to endangered" under the Endangered Species Act.  However, uplisting at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species.  This "warranted but precluded" finding will not have any practical effect on existing protections for the delta smelt. 

According to the Service, the delta smelt is native to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and subject to several threats, including predation, competition with invasive species, contaminants, and entrainment by water ...

Senator Dianne Feinstein has responded (PDF) to the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council's report on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta noting that the report did not indicate a need to enforce more rigorous pumping restrictions.  Feinstein emphasized the finding that other stressors, including predators, may have a potentially large impact on endangered species in the Delta and the need to integrate the two biological opinions.  Finally, Feinstein urged the Departments of Interior and Commerce to implement the biological opinions with additional flexibility ...

Today the National Research Council’s Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta released the first of two reports regarding the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California. The report is entitled A Scientific Assessment of Alternatives for Reducing Water Management Effects on Threatened and Endangered Fishes in California's Bay Delta. It addresses two biological opinions issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the Endangered Species Act concerning the operation of the ...

At the March 3, 2010 California Fish and Game Commission meeting in Ontario, California, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ("NOAA") Fisheries, the federal agency charged with protecting marine and anadromous fish species such as the Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead, formally requested that the Commission revise sport-fishing regulations to increase the harvest of non-native predators that prey on species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.  (To access archived footage of the Commission ...

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a decision (PDF) granting plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by adopting and implementing NMFS' biological opinion and reasonable and prudent alternatives regarding the long-term operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in California.

The NMFS biological opinion (PDF), which covers five listed anadromous and ...

Co-authored by Ben Rubin

On February 27, 2010, the Sacramento Bee published a story by Matt Weiser entitled "Lawsuit: Striped bass to blame for California's salmon decline." The story discusses an ongoing lawsuit (PDF) challenging the California Department of Fish and Game's enforcement of striped bass sport-fishing regulations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The lawsuit alleges that the enforcement of the striped bass sport-fishing regulations maintain an elevated striped bass population, which increases striped bass predation on a number of species listed ...

Pursuant to a request by Congress and the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Research Council recently held a number of hearings in Davis, California on the current crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These hearings took place over a four-day stretch, running from January 24 to January 28, frequently addressing a handful of different Delta related issues each day.

The National Research Council is an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, a private non-profit institution that was created in 1863 by President Lincoln.  The primary role of the National Research ...

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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