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Long-term Operations Biological Opinions Annual Science Review

 

Previous Reviews:

 

 

 

Background: 

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have each issued a Biological Opinion (BiOp) on the long-term operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP, hereinafter CVP/SWP; Long-term Operations BiOps) that include Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) actions designed to alleviate jeopardy to listed species and adverse modification of critical habitat.

 

NMFS’ BiOp requires the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and NMFS to host a science review meeting each year to evaluate the prior years’ water operations and regulatory actions prescribed by their respective Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) actions and to determine whether any measures prescribed in the RPA actions should be altered in light of information learned from the prior year’s operations or research (NMFS’ Long-term Operations BiOp, section 11.2.1.2 of the 2009 BiOp with 2011 amendments, starting on page 9). 

 

Under direction from the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior, this review was expanded to include a review of the implementation of the USFWS’ Long-term Operations BiOp. The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) also participates in the review because it operates the SWP. The intent of the review is to inform NMFS and USFWS as to the efficacy of the prior years’ water operations and regulatory actions prescribed by their respective RPAs, with the goal of developing lessons learned, incorporating new science, and making appropriate, scientifically justified adjustments to the implementation of the RPA actions to inform water operations in future years. The Independent Review Panel’s (IRP) findings and recommendations provide objective feedback to agency staff to inform rapid decision-making.

 

 

Purpose:

The purpose of the Long-term Operations BiOps is to present the responsible agency’s biological opinion on whether Reclamation’s and DWR’s long-term operations of the CVP/SWP are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of or adversely modify the designated critical habitat for the ESA-listed species under each agency’s jurisdiction. The Long-term Operations BiOps concluded that the long-term operations of the CVP/SWP are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of ESA-listed species or adversely modify their designated critical habitats. Accordingly, USFWS and NMFS proposed RPA actions to minimize CVP/SWP operations-related effects to the level where the projects no longer jeopardize the continued existence of ESA-listed species or adversely modify their critical habitat.

 

The RPA actions in NMFS’ Long-term Operations BiOp (2009 RPA with 2011 amendments) include both broad and geographically focused actions. The RPA actions reviewed in this process from the USFWS’ Long-term Operations BiOp (pp. 279-282 & 329-356) are organized by Delta smelt life stages. The RPA actions in both Long-term Operations BiOps provide specific objectives, scientific rationales, and implementing procedures.

 

 

Review Frequency:

In April 2016, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and NMFS agreed to temporarily modify the RPA science review frequency from annual to biennial between 2016 through 2020. The biennial review is expected to address a system-wide operational overview, resulting in comprehensive assessments that are relevant and valuable to all of the agencies involved.

 

After this period, Reclamation and NMFS will evaluate whether to make this change permanent or consider additional changes. The next science review will be held in November/December 2019. Reclamation held an informal stakeholder meeting in 2016 to allow public input regarding RPA action implementation. Regardless of the frequency of the LOBO review, annual reports required by the Long-term Operations BiOps will continue to be reported annually with assistance from the Delta Science Program.

 

Coequal goals

The Delta Stewardship Council was created in legislation to achieve the state mandated coequal goals for the Delta. "'Coequal goals' means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place." (CA Water Code §85054)