The Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues to advance the Delta Conveyance Project, which is being planned to maintain reliability of the state’s water system in decades to come. This message provides an update on the planning activities for this project and opportunities for public participation in the coming months.
CEQA—California Environmental Quality Act
Under the California Environmental Quality Act, DWR must complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the planned project. DWR held an extended 93-day public scoping period that concluded in April 2020. The scoping period provided agencies and the public an opportunity to comment on the scope and content of the Delta Conveyance Project environmental review, including potential environmental impacts and the range of alternatives to be analyzed in the EIR. DWR is reviewing the more than 800 comments submitted and is preparing a scoping report that will be published in the coming months. The scoping report will document comments submitted by the public in writing and at the public scoping meetings, including electronic and hardcopy letters and transcripts of verbal comments from the public meetings and project comment telephone hotline.
DWR is also continuing to develop a Draft EIR based, in part, on the review of public comments provided during the scoping period. This work includes selecting a range of project alternatives and conducting analyses to evaluate impacts of those alternatives on environmental resources in the project area. DWR expects the Draft EIR to be published in 2021 for public review and comment. Project alternatives selected for analysis in the EIR will be publicized before the Draft EIR is released.
NEPA—National Environmental Policy Act
Under the National Environmental Policy Act, DWR must complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the planned project. DWR will soon be submitting an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. Upon receipt of the 404 permit application, USACE is expected to coordinate with other federal agencies to identify the appropriate lead agency to conduct environmental review under NEPA. The identified lead agency will then issue a Notice of Intent (NOI) initiating preparation of an EIS. This will begin another scoping period, providing an additional opportunity for agencies and the public to comment on the contents of both the permit application and the scope and content of the EIS. More information about the scoping period will be available at that time.
DWR also recently requested and received a “Statement of No Objection” letter from the Central Valley Flood Protection Board as a part of the required USACE Section 408 permission process to identify and address potential impacts to federal flood control projects. This letter enables DWR to engage in early coordination with the USACE and Central Valley Flood Protection Board during development of environmental documents. DWR expects the Section 408 permission will be obtained concurrently with Section 404 and 10 permit authorizations after CEQA and NEPA processes are complete and the design process has progressed (with Section 408 permit submittal likely in 2022).
AB52—Tribal Consultations and Engagement
Earlier this year, project notification letters were sent to 121 Tribes within the statutory Delta, Central Valley Project and State Water Project (CVP/SWP) service areas and upstream of the Delta regarding the availability of the Notice of Preparation (NOP). These Tribes were invited to consult with DWR under either AB 52 or DWR’s Tribal Engagement Policy. To date, 12 Tribes have responded to these letters requesting consultation, and DWR has met with six of these Tribes. DWR will continue to provide Tribes with additional information on the project through consultation, informational meetings and project update emails. During the uncertain times related to COVID-19, many Tribes requested pausing consultation. DWR respected these requests and is currently re-engaging Tribes to continue consultation. Moving forward, DWR will continue to participate in informational meetings in addition to Tribal consultation under AB 52 and DWR’s Tribal Engagement Policy, as requested by Tribes. Information about Tribal Engagement can be found here.
Environmental Justice and Disadvantaged Communities
Approximately 27 million people, or 3 of 5 Californians, including 6 million people in disadvantaged communities, receive clean affordable water that flows through the SWP infrastructure in the Delta. One of the objectives of the proposed project is to protect the reliability of these supplies for decades to come. DWR intends to expand engagement with disadvantaged communities in all phases of the project—from planning and environmental review through the project’s design and construction, as well as post-construction period. DWR is committed to addressing the concerns of historically burdened, underrepresented, low income and otherwise vulnerable populations who may be affected by the project, as well as identifying opportunities where these communities can benefit from the project, including strengthening water reliability and creating career pathways. The first step is ensuring members of these communities can participate in DWR’s impact analysis, starting with how DWR defines the environmental setting to be used as the baseline for determining impacts in the EIR. DWR will conduct surveys, interviews and small group briefings in the coming months to gather input on the usage and value of environmental resources in the Delta by disadvantaged communities. Efforts will then be geared toward crafting a community- and research-informed document that outlines the scope of DWR’s environmental justice objectives, to be presented for public comment as an appendix to the Draft EIR.
Engineering and Design
The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) is continuing to develop engineering and design information to help inform the environmental review process. This includes the presentation of data to the authority’s Stakeholder Engagement Committee (SEC) to generate input and ideas that can help avoid or minimize potential local effects of the project. The SEC continues to meet on the last Wednesday of the month. Upcoming SEC meeting information can be found here.
The DCA will also be reaching out to various members of the Delta community to ensure DCA’s technical staff are utilizing current and relevant data and information in their work. For example, the DCA is currently reaching out to local school districts to inquire about primary school bus routes and general transportation and safety concerns in relation to potential construction truck traffic. They will also be reaching out to county health and safety service providers, such as fire districts, hospitals and county offices of emergency services, to coordinate on health, safety and emergency response in relation to construction activities.
To inform the environmental review process, DWR plans to restart soil survey work in certain areas of the Delta this summer, pending completion of all necessary permitting requirements. This collection of soil data typically includes the investigation of subsurface materials to determine suitability for possible construction work and to evaluate potential impacts from construction activities. Understanding the composition, location and geotechnical properties of subsurface materials is an important part of the environmental analyses as well as design and engineering activities.
For More Information
To stay updated on activities related to the Delta Conveyance Project, including the status of environmental review and background information, please:
- Add your email to the project’s electronic distribution list
- Visit our website
- Follow us on social media: Twitter, Facebook & YouTube
- Call us at 1-866-924-9955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Request an update or briefing by DWR at your organization’s online meeting or virtual conference. As a part of California counties’ COVID-19 phased re-opening efforts, we may also be available for small group discussions following public health department guidance.
- Information about the DCA and SEC may be found here. Follow the DCA on Facebook and YouTube.