April 19, 2024

DWR Updates Delta Conveyance Project Schedule, Charts Permitting Pathway

DWR has updated the permitting schedule for the next several years for the Delta Conveyance Project planning process, creating a pathway for obtaining key permits by the end of 2026.

California Endangered Species Act (CESA)/Endangered Species Act (ESA)

CESA and ESA consider potential effects to state and federally listed threatened and endangered species. DWR has been informally consulting with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to prepare a solid foundation and establish shared expectations before starting the formal compliance processes for both federal and state laws.

  • CESA: The formal process for California environmental protection starts with an application for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP), which DWR submitted in April 2024 to CDFW. CDFW will assess the impacts of incidental take of state listed threatened and endangered species and will determine if they are fully mitigated, as required by law. This process will determine whether to issue an Incidental Take Permit in Fall 2024.
  • ESA: The Delta Conveyance Project has two coordinated federal processes for ESA compliance to address construction and operations. The formal process for ESA starts with submittal of Biological Assessments with a request for formal consultation with USFWS and NMFS. Both consultations for the Delta Conveyance Project will lead to Biological Opinions that determine whether the project could jeopardize the continued existence of federally listed species or adversely modify designated critical habitat. The Federal opinions are expected in Fall 2024.
    • For operations, the ESA assessment will be at a programmatic level, which is a more general level that reflects that operations will not begin until around 2040. DWR expects significant improvements in our scientific understanding of species that will be reflected in a future consultation before operations begin. The Bureau of Reclamation is including the programmatic consultation in the Biological Assessment on Long-Term Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.
    • For construction, the Army Corps of Engineers is submitting a Biological Assessment to start the formal consultation process under ESA.

Water Rights

DWR submitted a petition to the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) in February 2024 to request a change in point of diversion for the existing State Water Project water rights. This petition does not request a new water right or an increase in an existing water right, but only requests that the State Water Project be able to divert water under the existing water rights from two new locations in the north Delta for the Delta Conveyance Project.

  • The State Board issued a public notice for this petition on February 29, 2024 establishing a 60-day period for water users to consider if they want to protest this proposed action.
  • After the protest period closes, DWR will work to resolve protests, and remaining protests will be part of a hearing at the State Board. The State Board will then consider the hearing material and issue a board order regarding whether to approve the addition of the new points of diversion.
  • DWR anticipates that the water right hearing will begin after CESA/ESA compliance processes are complete in Fall 2024.
  • The State Board is responsible for the schedule for the water rights process, but the process is expected to continue for one year, with the board order to follow in 2026.

Delta Plan Consistency

Based on the requirements of the Delta Reform Act, DWR will certify that the Delta Conveyance Project is consistent with the Delta Plan through a Consistency Determination to the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC). A Consistency Determination is a self-certification that a “covered action” is consistent with all applicable Delta Plan policies and thus consistent with the Delta Plan.

  • The DSC will post the Consistency Determination for public review, and if reviewers identify concerns, they will appeal the Consistency Determination.
  • If appealed, the DSC will consider if the Consistency Determination is supported by substantial evidence, and either deny the appeals or remand relevant sections of the determination back to DWR.
  • DWR is planning to submit the Consistency Determination after the water rights hearing is complete because the water rights hearing may add information to the record to further support the Consistency Determination process. The Consistency Determination for the Delta Conveyance Project is expected to be complete in 2026.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Like CEQA, NEPA informs federal agency decision makers and the public about potential environmental effects of a proposed action and methods to avoid or reduce those effects. The United States Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency for NEPA compliance and is working to finalize the Environmental Impact Statement for the Delta Conveyance Project in late 2024.

For a full description of all permitting activities, see this Road Map  and visit the Permit Portal. For more information about the project, find background materials and videos here.