A new Department of Interior Secretarial Order calls for actions by the Interior and its bureaus to secure water supplies, while providing environmental protection, and continuing to protect the SF Bay Delta ecosystem and its species.
Date Released: January 4, 2017, WASHINGTON | U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today issued a Secretarial Order directing the Department of the Interior and its bureaus to take timely actions to help address the effects of drought and climate change on California’s water supply and imperiled wildlife.
“This Secretarial Order is a practical and broad-based strategy to help protect California’s water lifeline for present and future generations,” said Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor.
“This order will ensure the integration of the Department’s actions with those of the State of California to provide a reliable drinking water supply for the public, sustain California’s agriculture, and continue to protect the Bay Delta ecosystem — and enhance the conservation of species.”
For Serpico Landscaping, this action bolsters our credo to our clients as we continue our diligence in water conservation to help maximize the sustainability of your property’s water use planning as long-term money savings. As a leading commercial landscaping firm in the SF Bay Area, the health of our waterways and estuaries — and the availability of clean irrigation water for landscapes and agriculture — is important to us.
“Today’s action tracks closely with the state’s multi-pronged Water Action Plan and commits the federal government to a timely review of the California WaterFix project,” said California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. “This state-federal partnership is what’s needed to improve water reliability for residents and farmers and protect vulnerable ecosystems.”
Developed in consultation with the state agencies and other federal agencies, the order specifies steps by Interior and its agencies to achieve “the State’s co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the environmental quality of the Bay-Delta.”
April 2015: The photo above is of Garrett Giannetta and Bill Powell, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Anadronous Fish Restoration Program in the Lodi Fish and Wildlife Office. They’re holding a 7-foot adult white sturgeon captured in the San Joaquin River. (Photo Credit: Laura Heironimus/USFWS)
The Secretarial Order issued January 4, 2017 provides direction for the Department, and particularly Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services…with scientific support and technical advice from the U.S. Geological Survey, to complete the technical, scientific, and analytical work necessary to make permitting, regulatory, and other decisions associated with various water initiatives.
The new secretarial order calls for six actions:
1. California WaterFix Environmental Review
The order directs Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to allocate available resources, as necessary, to complete in a timely manner the Biological Opinions. Found under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and a Record of Decision on the environmental documents for California WaterFix.
California released a final environmental impact statement and a final environmental impact review on December 30, clearing the way for a final decision on WaterFix, which is the State’s plan to upgrade infrastructure in the estuary where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers meet before flowing to San Francisco Bay.
This will secure water supplies for 25 million people. Interior’s Reclamation was the lead federal agency on the environmental impact statement issued under the National Environmental Policy Act.
A final Biological Opinion is to be issued by April 2017. It specifies that the Department, working with the State and others, will promptly review and consider any information received after publication of the Final EIR/EIS and issuance of the Biological Opinions, and will then be prepared to sign a Record of Decision.
This decision will be made by the next Secretary.
California’s green and white sturgeon can be easily over exploited because they mature late, spawn infrequently and are dependent on unusual environmental conditions. Protective sturgeon regulations implemented 2007, include:
- A Sturgeon Fishing Report Card
- Three-fish annual white sturgeon bag limit, and,
- A zero-fish green sturgeon bag limit
- AB 1187 signed into law gives courts authority to issue $5,000 to $10,000 fines and/or up to a year in county jail for sturgeon poaching offenses
- Green sturgeon is a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and can’t be taken for sportfishing
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
2. Collaborative Delta Science Engagement Process
The order directs Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey to work collaboratively with the state and other federal agencies to use the Adaptive Management Framework.
This framework was developed as part of California WaterFix to help
- Guide scientific studies and monitoring
- Assist with Central Valley and State Water project operations, and,
- Achieve co-equal Bay Delta goals Refinement of monitoring and restoration activities that measure species’ populations will be part of annual review results will be made available to the public.
3. Delta Smelt Resiliency Strategy
This strategy addresses both the risk to the critically endangered Delta smelt—formerly one of the most abundant fish in the Delta— and the risk to water supplies.
- The order directs Reclamation and FWS to closely coordinate with state and federal agencies and others in implementing all facets of the Strategy.
During the next several years, Reclamation will acquire or otherwise make available up to 250,000 acre-feet/year of outflow above current state water quality permit requirements.
This additional outflow may include using
- Water transfers
- Changes in exports from the Bay-Delta
- Releases from upstream storage, or other measures
Each year FWS must provide to Reclamation and the state a detailed description of specific physical and biological objectives and species needs for Delta Smelt during the spring and summer based on the best available science.
“Long-term drought has adversely affected the state’s water supplies and has exacerbated effects of water operations on imperiled species and impacted water quality.”
“Loss of water added to the stressors affecting the health of California’s unique ecosystems particularly in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta),” the order states.
4. Consultation Re-Initiation Under Endangered Species Act:
Long-Term Operations of Central Valley And State Water Projects The Secretarial order directs Reclamation and FWS to work with other state and federal agencies. They are to carry out the work necessary to complete the recently re-initiated consultation on long term operations of the Central Valley and State Water projects.
5. Active Engagement: Development Of Voluntary Agreements For Flow Requirements & Coordination On Flows With ESA Requirements
Reclamation and FWS will work with other agencies to provide information to the State Water Resources Control Board as part of its Bay-Delta Plan initiative. This will include coordination with the California Natural Resources Agency in at least the following areas:
- Engaging with key stakeholders to develop voluntary agreements to increase flows and integrate flow and non-flow measures;
- Providing information necessary to establish water quality standards to meet fish, wildlife, and ecosystem goals; and,
- Ensuring requirements developed through the Bay-Delta Plan process are considered in assessing requirements and compliance under the Biological Opinions related to the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.
The habitat in which striped bass thrived for decades has changed dramatically, according to scientists. “The decline is directly related to flipping on the switches to the state and federal water pumps,” said David Ostrach, a former UC Davis researcher who has closely studied striped bass reproduction and physiology.
Ostrach is referring to the two major water pumps in the southern Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta — one built by the federal government shortly after World War II, the other by the state in the 1960s, which today remove about half of the Sacramento River’s freshwater before it ever reaches San Francisco Bay. The water is sent south to San Joaquin Valley agricultural interests and Southern California residents, and the health of the Delta ecosystem and its residents, Ostrach said, has suffered as a direct result.
6. Winter-Run Chinook “Species in the Spotlight” Action Plan
The order underscores that implementation of the “Species in the Spotlight” Action Plan is an essential element of reducing both near-term and long-term risks to Winter-run Chinook salmon. PHOTO BELOW: Winter-Run Chinook, SF Bay Delta (Photo courtesy Bay Institute).
This Species in the Spotlight” Action Plan to help Winter-Run Chinook was developed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 2016 as a high priority action plan that would guide allocation of NMFS resources, as well as attract funding from partner agencies and stakeholders.
Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services will work with National Marine Fisheries to incorporate spotlight actions into priorities developed under the Adaptive Management Framework.
Clean Water…Green Serpico!
The recent Department of Interior new Secretarial Order aims to keep our local SF Bay delta waterways healthy and that’s good news for us — since our landscaping water use management and irrigation initiatives impact how we operate at Serpico Landscaping as a locally-owned, certified green business.