Spring-run Chinook used to be the dominant run of salmon in California’s Central Valley, with more than a million spawners spread across nearly every river and foothill creek.
Endangered Species Protection
The permit, called the Incidental Take Permit (ITP), represents a novel but prudent way for the SWP to ensure species protection -- through science, collaboration and transparency -- while protecting water delivery to millions of Californians.
- Protects native fish: The ITP analyzes proposed operations of the SWP and includes measures to minimize, avoid, and fully mitigate the impacts of those operations on fish at risk of extinction.
- Provides regulatory stability: The ITP enables the continued operation of the SWP to provide water to two-thirds of California’s population over the next decade, regardless of what happens within federal agencies and federal water policies.
- Better utilizes water to meet needs: The ITP allows the SWP to capture and save water when it is available in wet years and use this water for water supply and to help fish during dry periods. It allows for more flexible pumping in wet years if certain biological safeguards are met.
- Ensures collaboration: The ITP facilitates collaboration between the State’s fish protection agency (DFW) and water supply agency (DWR) to adaptatively manage the SWP and learn from new science to improve protections of endangered fish.
- Ensures water flows to aid fish survival and provides flexibility to use this water when fish need it most. Includes the ability to carry over water from wetter years to use as outflow during drier years.
- Sets clear limits on Delta pumping that can take place during storm events.
- Requires DWR and DFW to collaboratively assess operations according to scientific monitoring, updated modeling, and quantitative analyses.
- Gives DFW final decision-making authority to restrict operations that harm endangered species
- Creates new tidal marsh habitat to improve ecosystem conditions.
- Requires targeted actions to protect species, including improved habitat conditions in the Suisun Marsh during the summer to support delta smelt, installation of a new barrier in the South Delta to improve the survival of migrating juvenile salmon, and several specific actions to protect longfin smelt which are not protected under the federal ESA.
- Provides over $10 million per year in new funding to implement a comprehensive adaptive management program, which includes mitigation projects and scientific research.
DWR intends to ensure that operation of the State Water Project meets state environmental protections and standards which, in some respects, are stricter than federal standards. The ITP represents a nimble and sophisticated way to protect species. Some of the improvements for species protection include the following:
- Specific rules for real-time operations including a cap on exports during storm events.
- Vesting authority in CDFW over some operational changes, shifting risk away from species.
- New, quantitative analyses and newer science, including updated modeling, to more fully describe the creation of habitat in summer and fall to support delta smelt.
- Adaptive management to provide for greater transparency around decision making, real-time operations, financial commitments and monitoring protocols.
- Specific commitments for the four species protected under CESA Delta Smelt, Longfin Smelt, Winter-run Chinook Salmon, and Spring-run Chinook Salmon.
A team of DWR scientists are working with federal and state partners to embrace the challenge of overseeing the implementation of one of the most complex endangered species permits in California history.