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Emergency Drought Barrier

Emergency Drought Barrier Removed from Delta

The emergency drought barrier that spanned West False River between Jersey and Bradford islands for six months in 2015 was completely removed on schedule by mid-November. The barrier was erected in May and June to prevent saltwater from pushing with the tides into the central Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from San Francisco Bay.

The barrier was an essential part of DWR’s strategy to maintain good water quality in the Delta, which provides water to 25 million Californians, including residents of the Delta and Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties. DWR’s State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project convey Delta water through their aqueducts to distant parts of the state.

A fourth year of drought made installation of the barrier necessary to preserve Delta water quality and conserve water in upstream reservoirs that otherwise would have been released to help block incoming tides of saltwater from San Francisco Bay.

Dismantling of the approximately 750-foot rock barrier began on September 8 and was completed on November 15. About 150,000 tons of large rocks (riprap) were used to build the barrier. The removed riprap is being stored near Rio Vista for possible use if drought conditions continue and installation of an emergency drought barrier is once again deemed necessary to preserve water quality. The material also is available to reinforce and protect Delta levees in case of flooding this winter.

Paul Marshall, Chief of DWR’s Bay-Delta Office, said the barrier achieved DWR’s goals during this persistent drought. “The barrier worked by preventing salinity to reach the central Delta,” he said. “We were able to save about 90,000 acre-feet in upstream reservoirs for the last quarter of 2015 and for fish releases.”

For more information about the West False River emergency salinity barrier, including a map showing alternative boating routes, read the Press Release.

Long-Term Drought Planning

DWR has prepared environmental documents to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and also applied for certain State and federal permits.  These long-term programmatic permits would enable DWR to install, under the direction of State and federal agencies, the emergency drought barriers up to three times over 10 years, if needed due to extreme drought conditions.  DWR also will seek access permits that may be necessary from local reclamation districts and landowners for this long-term plan.  All these activities are intended to ensure the planning and permitting requirements are done well in advance of a decision to install emergency drought barriers, so work can begin quickly if necessary.

Based on an environmental analysis and more than nine months of discussion with Delta residents and water district managers, DWR concluded that through environmental commitments and mitigation, the emergency drought barriers would not have significant environmental impacts. On January 23, DWR filed an Initial Study/Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration, available HERE.  The document includes details on how to comment on DWR's analysis and proposed declaration. 

Water Quality Monitoring Interactive Map

Weekly Updates

In order to monitor the effectiveness of the barrier, DWR has installed 10 new monitoring stations to augment the existing network of 11 monitoring stations that are part of the California Data Exchange Center (CDEC.) Here is a link to an interactive web map that shows the location of the barrier as well as the 21 nearby water quality monitoring stations. A click on any of the station points will open a window showing the name of the station and a link to the corresponding data page on the CDEC website and allow the user to search for electrical conductivity (salinity) and other data for a specified time period. Click HERE to open the map.
Contact: Bill McLaughlin, Senior Engineer at, (916)653-0628



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