Drought related actions to preserve and protect the state’s fish and wildlife resources

The state of California is facing another episode of drought. CDFW will take imperative actions to preserve and protect the state's fish and wildlife resources. See also: Actions taken during 2012-2017 drought.

Fish Rescue and Stressor Monitoring

With climate change threatening the survival of at-risk native fish and aquatic species, the ecology of lake and river ecosystems, and the potential to eliminate many of the state’s salmon and freshwater fisheries, CDFW is putting additional resources to focus on monitoring and potential rescue efforts on watersheds and species identified in the previous drought, as well as expand into additional watersheds, especially those that provide habitat to special status species (e.g. state and/or federal Endangered Species Acts or listed as Species of Special Concern), or those that are expected to face the greatest risks from drought.

Hatchery Improvements

CDFW is updating incubation and rearing enclosures, and water treatment and monitoring systems to many of the state’s over 80-year-old hatcheries to be resilient to climate-change, warming temperatures, and drier conditions for recreational and conservation hatchery production programs. In addition, specialized rearing enclosures are also needed to provide temporary safe havens for a growing number of native fish species in danger of losing their habitat to drought.

Water Operations, Permitting, and Legal

Drought conditions require CDFW’s increased collaboration with federal and state water and fish agencies to coordinate overall water operations to reduce impacts to aquatic resources and listed species. This includes frequent coordination meetings, monitoring in-river conditions, evaluating risk of water operation decisions, collaborative drought contingency planning for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, participating in State Water Board hearings, and evaluating water operations modeling exercises to address impacts to fish and wildlife.

In addition, CDFW staff is increasing its workload in the review of requests for permit modifications, development of drought voluntary flow agreements with local landowners to reduce water demand, enforcement actions related to illegal diversions and permit violations, and participating in State Water Board hearings related to Temporary Urgency Change Petitions, variance requests to reduce existing instream flow requirements, curtailments, and emergency regulations.

Lessen Wildlife Impacts

California’s natural lands support an incredible diversity of wildlife, but many state-owned wetlands and other vegetation communities are in poor condition. CDFW is taking action to manage and improve conveyance, wetland capacity and efficiency, surface water and groundwater use efficiencies, and provide water to lessen the impact of drought to wildlife on CDFW and partnership lands. This effort will amplify the “30 by 30” goal to conserve natural working lands for biodiversity in addition to acting as buffers for climate resilience.

Terrestrial Species Monitoring

California is home to a remarkably diverse array of wildlife and contains the highest number of native species in the United States, many of which can be found nowhere else on Earth. While many of these species are adapted to tolerate occasional droughts, extreme and prolonged drought conditions are likely to impact even the toughest organisms. CDFW is conducting terrestrial species and ecosystems monitoring to inform management actions that instill resilience to drought and climate change and preserve California’s incredible biodiversity. Using the methodologies, results, and lessons learned during its response to California’s last historic drought, CDFW carrying out statewide terrestrial species and ecosystem monitoring and vulnerability assessments that guide timely conservation and management actions. These essential data will inform habitat conservation, restoration, and management; human wildlife conflict response; emergency wildlife rescues; and captive rearing and propagation efforts for sensitive drought affected wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.

Law Enforcement

CDFW law enforcement is working overtime to address drought effects impacting increased poaching, streambed alteration violations, natural disaster response, increased homeless encampment, human / wildlife conflict, forensic analysis, and data collection. 

Drought Projects or Approvals CEQA Suspension List

On May 10, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a drought-related Proclamation of State of Emergency for the Klamath River, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and Tulare Lake Watershed Counties. The Proclamation stated that for purposes of carrying out or approving actions contemplated by specified directives within the Proclamation, the environmental review by state agencies required by the California Environmental Quality Act and its regulations are suspended to the extent necessary to address the impacts of the drought in the Klamath River, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and Tulare Lake Watershed Counties. Below is a list of CDFW activities or approvals issued under this suspension:

  • Department of Water Resources Emergency Drought Salinity Barriers Project: Incidental Take Permit No. 2081-2021-041-03, and Streambed Alteration Agreement No. EPIMS-CCA-19852-R3
  • Department of Water Resources Temporary Urgency Change Petition: Minor Amendment to Incidental Take Permit No. 2081-2019-066-00