For immediate release:
August 11, 2022
Sacramento – Five other local water agencies have signed an agreement to provide water flows and new habitat to help improve conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta watershed, adding momentum at the state level to adapt to a new climate reality.
In March, leaders of state, federal and local agencies announced a memorandum of understanding [insert link] (EP) outlining the terms of an eight-year transformational program to provide substantial new environmental flows to help restore salmon and other native fish, create new and restored fish habitat and wildlife and to provide significant funding for environmental improvements and water purchases.
The five new signatories – East Bay Municipal Utility District, Solano County Water Agency, Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, Friant Water Authority and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority – join dozens of local agencies that have volunteered to implement implement actions and help fund integrate additional water flows into the physical landscape to help improve native fish habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta watershed.
“We are thrilled to see more local water providers joining this urgent effort to help adapt to a hotter, drier future,” California Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot said. “This approach promises to improve environmental conditions more quickly and comprehensively than the traditional regulatory process, while improving water reliability for communities, farms and businesses. We are making progress, there is still a lot of work to do.
The state has been working actively since 2016 with local water agencies who have voluntarily come together to develop enforceable agreements that provide additional river flows and new habitat to help change the trajectory of declining native fish species. Following the release of a framework document in February 2020, known as the “Voluntary Agreements”, state and local agencies continued to refine elements of the agreements that would enable adaptive and holistic management and bring about environmental improvements. faster than a regulatory proceeding. .
As part of this work, state, federal, and local agencies are already coordinating across watersheds to secure funding sources and permits for priority habitat projects and create new pathways to enable project implementation. . For example, work expanded in 2022 on an approximately 18,000-acre program in the Sacramento Valley to determine the optimal conditions for using flooded farmland to create fish food and transport them to migrating juvenile salmon in the river.
Three other projects are currently underway on the American and Yuba rivers to expand salmon spawning habitats, increase floodplain and riparian habitats, and improve the natural morphology of the rivers. Many other projects of this type should be inaugurated in 2023 and 2024.
In addition to this collaborative work, state agencies recently initiated three major tidal wetland projects in the northern Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Suisun Swamp. When completed, the projects – Lookout Slough, Bradmoor Island and Arnold Slough – will restore more than 3,600 acres of wetlands and support the recovery of native fish species.
“The evidence is clear that climate change is wreaking havoc on California’s natural systems and water supply,” said California Environmental Protection Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. “Critical species like salmon can’t wait for lengthy regulatory processes to unfold. These collaborative agreements aim to accelerate the delivery of the water and habitat needed to help California adapt and thrive. .
The State Water Resources Control Board is in the process of updating its Bay-Delta Water Quality Monitoring Plan required by law to protect native fish, wildlife and other “use benefits” of water, including municipal, domestic and agricultural water supplies.
The MOU aims to achieve these goals through an integrated program that restores habitat, secures new flows for the environment beyond existing regulatory requirements, increases funding for environmental improvements and water purchases, and establishes a new collaborative science program to monitor environmental conditions and adapt management. overtime.
Water agencies in the Bay-Delta watershed that do not subscribe to the approach outlined in the MOU will be required to comply with regulatory requirements established by the State Water Board.
Implementation of the agreements outlined in the MOU is estimated at $2.6 billion, to be shared between water users and state and federal governments. The water agencies will assess the charges themselves to support the implementation of the voluntary agreements. Water users and the state will make flows available through a combination of reduced diversions, year-to-year water purchases, long-term or permanent water purchases, and set-aside voluntary farmland or pasture.