NEWS WORTH NOTING: Fremont Weir groundbreaking marks milestone for Yolo Bypass fish passage; Framework guides San Joaquin River Restoration Program into next decade

Fremont Weir Groundbreaking Marks Milestone for Yolo Bypass Fish Passage

Today, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and California Natural Resources Agency celebrated the groundbreaking of a critical habitat improvement project in the Yolo Bypass. The Fremont Weir Adult Fish Passage Modification Project restores an important migration corridor for native fish species and fulfills requirements set forth in the 2009 National Marine Fisheries Service’s Biological Opinion.

“This project highlights the complexity and competing needs of our system. But moreover, it showcases a solution,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “Our work as water managers in the 21st century is to steward California’s diversity and beauty, while also ensuring public safety and water supply reliability. We can no longer choose one over the other. It’s not a trade-off analysis. We can and must ensure that all of our complex projects achieve multiple benefits, guided by a vision of long-term sustainability and public safety amid a changing climate.”

The Yolo Bypass is a critical part of the state’s flood control system, receiving flood waters from major rivers including the American, Sacramento, and Feather. When flooded, the bypass becomes one of the largest seasonal floodplains in the Delta, and a migration corridor for dozens of native fish species including Chinook salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon.

The Fremont Weir, constructed almost 100 years ago to protect the region from flood waters, poses an obstacle for anadromous fish returning to their spawning grounds. The fish ladder currently in place provides inadequate fish passage, causing migratory delay and loss of life. The Fremont Weir modification project modernizes the structure and widens the channel through which the fish swim to ease their passage to upstream habitat.

This project complies with the 2009 National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) Biological Opinion on the Long-Term Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. The 2009 NMFS Biological Opinion recognized the importance of floodplain rearing habitat in, and fish passage throughout, the Yolo Bypass and requires DWR and Reclamation to complete several projects that accomplish these goals.

“We are pleased to provide the funding for the Fremont Weir construction effort as part of our work under the 2009 NMFS Biological Opinion,” said Reclamation Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo. “The Fremont Weir is a prime example of what we can do when state and federal partners work together for water supply reliability in California. The State Water Project and the Central Valley Project are inextricably linked, and we have to work together, as we have done with this project, if we are to meet the needs of Californians.”

This project is part of a larger vision to restore Delta habitat for native fish and wildlife. Launched three years ago by Governor Edmund G. Brown, the California EcoRestore Initiative is a multi-agency effort to accelerate the restoration of at least 30,000 acres of critical Delta habitat. Six EcoRestore projects are breaking ground this year. Three of the six projects are required mitigation for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, and the other three support landscape-level tidal and floodplain restoration in the Delta.

“Today we celebrate both the indomitable spirit of California’s native fish, and the indomitable spirit of those working to protect them,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. “Through large-scale conservation actions, we can begin reversing trends of species declines, and create the healthy environments we all want future generations to experience. This project turns what is primarily a flood control facility into one that serves multiple benefits. May today be but the first celebration in a year full of reasons to celebrate.”

The EcoRestore Initiative represents a deep commitment from a broad range of stakeholders to restore the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds in an effort to protect water supplies, ensure public safety, steward our natural resources, and improve salmon runs.

“These types of multiple benefit projects are the future of California water management and demonstrate that collaboration among diverse stakeholders can resolve even the thorniest water challenges,” said John Cain, American Rivers Director of Conservation for California Flood Management.

Framework guides San Joaquin River Restoration Program into next decade

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

The San Joaquin River Restoration Program, a multi-agency effort to restore Chinook salmon to 150 miles of river, this month completed a critical guiding document that prioritizes program actions and funding through at least 2024.

The document – called the Funding Constrained Framework – outlines an ambitious, multiyear, staged plan to reconnect the San Joaquin River and provide volitional fish passage between Friant Dam and the confluence of the Merced River. The framework is a collaborative effort involving the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Water Resources, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friant Water Authority, South Valley Water Association, the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, and other third parties.

“The framework is an important step for the success of the program and sets the stage for the upcoming construction actions expected to begin in 2019,” said David Murillo, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region. “This framework will allow the program to move forward in a fiscally viable manner while continuing to meet the terms of the Settlement and Settlement Act.”

The framework is a companion to the 2015 Revised Framework for Implementation and the forthcoming Fisheries Framework, all of which provide guidance for program actions and were derived from collaborative processes.

The framework prioritizes program actions and sets funding parameters for Stage 1 of the program, including developing volitional fish passage and habitat restoration. The linchpin of these actions is the Mendota Pool Bypass and Reach 2B Project – an effort to reshape a portion of the river near Firebaugh, California to allow fish passage around Mendota Pool while not impacting deliveries to water users.

“This is a critical step in supporting long-term reestablishment of Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam and development of infrastructure projects that help address the needs of farmers and communities in a balanced manner,” said Paul Souza, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Regional Director.

Other key restoration goals for Stage 1 include seepage protections and levee improvements to allow river flows of up to 2,500 cubic-feet-per-second from Friant Dam to the Merced River confluence; fish passage improvements at Sack Dam, Eastside Bypass and other key barriers; fish re-establishment; and fish screens at Arroyo Canal and Mendota Pool. Stage 1 also includes funding for water management actions to assist water users with the construction of capacity correction projects for Friant-Kern and Madera canals and Friant-Kern Canal reverse flow facilities.

“The framework will help us make the most of the limited resources available,” said Maria Rea, Assistant Regional Administrator in NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region. “We’re confident that we can support and accelerate the recovery of California’s native fish while also providing for the needs of agriculture and municipal water users.”

In the decade since its inception in 2007, program implementation costs have increased substantially. The framework produces a more streamlined and cost-effective program while still creating a fully connected river with re-introduced Chinook salmon.

“This framework epitomizes our collective dedication to successful projects delivered in a collaborative, timely, and cost-effective manner,” said Arthur Hinojosa, DWR Chief of Integrated Regional Water Management.

“Bringing back salmon to the San Joaquin River is a goal in the California Water Action Plan,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “The best way to do that is continuing to work through challenging implementation details with everyone involved.”

The San Joaquin River Restoration Program is the result of the Stipulation of Settlement in Natural Resources Defense Council, et al., v. Rodgers, et al., signed in 2006, and the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act (Title X of Public Law 111-11) signed in 2009. The program is a comprehensive, long-term effort to restore flows to the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to the confluence of the Merced River and restore self-sustaining Chinook salmon populations in the river while reducing or avoiding adverse water supply impacts from those flows.

The full Funding Constrained Framework may be viewed at http://www.restoresjr.net/program-releases-framework-to-guide-program-into-next-decade/.

For more information on the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, please visit www.restoresjr.net.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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