The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have released new biological opinions that will have a significant impact on the administration of California water supplies. The new documents relate to salmon, Delta smelt and other native fish species that are affected by the management of the State Water Project (SWP), as well as the Central Valley Project (CVP).
“The new Biological Opinions mean that for farms, fish, and people, this is the dawn of a new science-based approach to water and ecosystem management,” California Farm Water Coalition Executive Director Mike Wade said in a news release. “The biological opinions being replaced were based on an arbitrary, calendar-based approach, and have not delivered the successful recovery of salmon and Delta smelt populations.”
The latest proposal includes habitat management measures in the Delta as well as entrainment management related to water exports in the South Delta. Regional Director of the Mid-Pacific Region of the Bureau of Reclamation Ernest Conant noted his optimism that the proposed operation will have a far greater impact on the environment than previous plans and will improve conditions for farms and communities.
Representatives John Garamendi, Josh Harder, Jim Costa, and TJ Cox, as well as U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein also released a statement supporting the update to the biological opinions. “The Endangered Species Act requires periodic reviews to determine the best available science. The federal government’s science for Chinook salmon and Delta smelt was more than a decade old and needed to be updated, especially given climate change.”
The SWP, administered by California’s Department of Water Resources, and the CVP, operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, have been managed using biological opinions that were issued in 2008 and 2009. Conant also noted that water allocations for 2020 will be based on the information established in the latest biological opinions.