The Friends of the River have sent a letter to NOAA fisheries, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, US EPA, and the California Natural Resources Agency thanking them for the recent meeting, which confirmed their previous assertions:
” … As a result of the discussion at our meeting, it is now confirmed that the factual matters set forth in our September 25, 2013 comment letter are correct. First, it is correct that the Sacramento River Winter-Run Chinook Salmon is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq. Likewise, it is correct that the Central Valley Spring-Run Chinook Salmon, Central Valley Steelhead, Southern Distinct Population Segment of North American Green Sturgeon, and Delta Smelt, are listed as threatened species under the ESA. Second, it is confirmed that the reaches of the Sacramento River, sloughs, and the Delta that would lose significant quantities of freshwater and freshwater flows through operation of the proposed BDCP Water Tunnels are designated critical habitats for each of these five listed endangered and threatened fish species. Third, it is confirmed that no Biological Assessment (BA) has been prepared and issued by the federal Bureau of Reclamation with respect to the BDCP Water Tunnels project. Fourth, it is confirmed that no final or even draft Biological Opinion (BO) has been prepared by NMFS or USFWS with respect to the impacts of the operation of the BDCP Water Tunnels on the five listed species of fish or their critical habitats.
In a nutshell, commencing the public review period on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) in the absence of the Biological Assessments and Biological Opinions will violate the ESA requirement that each federal agency review its actions at the earliest possible time to determine whether any action may affect listed species or critical habitat, and enter into formal consultation if that is the case. … “
The letter cites several factors that the Friends of the River consider serious deficiencies in the upcoming release of the draft EIR/EIS, including an impact analysis of the preferred project that is cursory and inadequate, the lack of a true analysis of an alternative that does not include new conveyance, and the absence of essential information required by ESA and NEPA as well as the absence of essential water quantity and quality information. The BDCP is at best ready for scoping, they say.
The letter concludes:
“In the absence of answers to basic questions including ESA questions about jeopardy of listed fish species and adverse modifications of designated critical habitats, as well as the other missing analyses set forth above, the planned draft BDCP EIS/EIR will not be sufficient for informed review by the public and the decision-makers. It will be necessary at minimum under the ESA, NEPA and CEQA for the federal and state agencies to issue and circulate for public review a new draft EIS/EIR based on Biological Assessments and Biological Opinions.”
Read the full text of the letter from Friends of the River here: 11_18_13_final_BDCP_fed_comment_ltr