What is the California WaterFix?
The California Water Fix (CWF) is a proposal to improve the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) State Water Project (SWP) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) Central Valley Project (CVP) joint freshwater storage and delivery system by creating an additional point of diversion along the Sacramento River. This change in the point of diversion is intended to protect our state’s water supplies in the face of climate change, improve flows for threatened fish species, and allow for ecosystem restoration and conservation.
CDFW’s Role in the California WaterFix Process
CDFW’s primary role in the CWF process is to ensure compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The Water Branch is the lead for CDFW’s review of CWF documents. As the lead, the Water Branch coordinates with other CDFW branches including the Habitat Conservation Planning Branch, Fisheries Branch, and appropriate Regions to provide technical input in the preparation of the CWF documents.
CDFW’s roles in the CEQA and CESA processes are as follows:
- CEQA: CDFW is a trustee agency under CEQA and is responsible for protecting the natural resources in the public trust (Fish and Game Code § 1802). Since DWR is seeking an Incidental Take Permit for CWF, CDFW will also be a responsible agency under CEQA. As a responsible agency, CDFW must actively participate in DWR’s CEQA process, review DWR’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and use that document to prepare and issue findings regarding CWF (CEQA Guidelines, Sections 15096 and 15381).
- CESA: DWR intends to apply for an incidental take1 permit (ITP) under section 2081b of the (Fish and Game Code § 2080-2085). In order for CDFW to issue an ITP for CWF, CDFW must be able to determine if the proposed project will meet the criteria listed in Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (§ 783.4 subdivisions (a) and (b)). CDFW will assist in the ITP application development through consultations with DWR, supply technical information and expertise, and participate in meetings with DWR and stakeholders to develop and review draft documents.
¹ State and federal regulations have different definitions of "take." The State defines take as "hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill" (Fish and Game Code § 86). Whereas, the federal ESA § 3(18) definition includes "to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct."
CDFW’s Involvement in the Federal Permit Process
CDFW works closely with federal fish and wildlife agencies on development of CWF documents as there is often overlap between state and federal policies regarding California’s natural resources. For example, many of the threatened and endangered species that are likely to be affected by CWF are listed under both the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and CESA.
In an effort to streamline the process and provide consistency, CDFW and the federal fish and wildlife agencies strive to present a unified perspective where possible. This requires a significant on-going effort to coordinate among state and federal fish and wildlife agencies on all issues relating to CWF where overlap between state and federal regulations occurs.
For more information, contact Brooke Jacobs at Brooke.Jacobs@wildlife.ca.gov or (916) 445-5313.