In a major change from the draft Biological Opinion, most of the Final Biological Opinion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is programmatic only. No Incidental Take Permit for operations of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project under Dual Conveyance has been issued. The cover letter does state that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that the project is unlikely to modify critical habitat.
DFW application status unclear
The change also makes the status of the application by the Department of Water Resources to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for an Incidental Take Permit under the California Endangered Species Act is unclear, since that application relied on the proposed operations in the Draft Biological Assessment.
Much of the testimony for the WaterFix Change Petition assumed the proposed operations in the Draft Biological Assessment. The Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had indicated in the WaterFix Change Petition hearing that the “H3+” operations scenario analyzed in the Biological Assessment was going to be close to the approved operations.
Many WaterFix actions need further analysis
This is from the cover letter by the US. FWS:
The following activities requiring future Federal approvals and therefore addressed programmatically are:
(1) construction of the NDD and associated structures;
(2) construction of the HORG;
(3) construction of the CCWD settlement agreement facilities;
(4) operations of new and existing CVP and SWP water facilities under dual conveyance;
(5) future maintenance;
(5) future monitoring; [duplicate number in letter]
(6) compensatory mitigation associated with construction of the NDD, HORG, and CCWD settlement agreement facilities; and
(7) the CWF Adaptive Management Program.
In order to ensure that future actions developed for the CWF are consistent with this analysis, Reclamation and DWR have proposed a framework consisting of Guiding Principles that are analyzed as part of this BiOp. One or more subsequent consultations will be needed to address activities associated with future approvals. No Incidental Take Statement is included for activities addressed programmatically because those subsequent consultations will address incidental take associated with those activities.
Construction related permits issued
The cover letter lists activities that were fully analyzed for the Biological Opinion. They are entirely construction related.
The following activities analyzed as a standard consultation are:
(1) construction of the tunnels;
(2) expansions and other modifications of Clifton Court Forebay;
(3) associated infrastructure;
(4) geotechnical explorations,
(5) compensatory mitigation associated with construction except the North Delta Diversions (NDD), Head of Old River Gate (HORG), and Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) settlement agreement facilities; and
(6) specific construction-related conservation measures including preconstruction surveys for listed terrestrial species.
The reasons for the change to a programmatic opinion for the long term operations of the WaterFix project unclear, but the change allows the Bureau of Reclamation significant latitude to change the proposed operations that were analyzed in the Draft Biological Opinion, and that were worked out with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service under the Obama administration.