In 2006, the Steering Committee for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), as well as multiple working groups and technical teams, were formed to begin preparing an approach for developing the BDCP. Under the guidance of the Steering Committee, the BDCP was developed as a habitat conservation plan (HCP) under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and a Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) under the California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCPA). It was intended to be a 50-year habitat conservation plan with the goals of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and securing California water supplies.
Late in 2010, the first administrative draft Plan was released to the public and in 2011 seven public meetings were held to gather public input and answer questions on the administrative draft Plan. Early in 2012, a second administrative draft Plan was released and additional public meetings were held to gather comments. In response to public comments, the proposed project was modified in mid-2012 to substantially reduce environmental impacts and to incorporate additional operational criteria to meet fisheries needs. Throughout 2012 and 2013 additional public meetings were held to answer questions and gather public comments. In August of 2013 an optimized proposal was released in response to community and statewide needs that balanced costs, engineering design, and ease of construction while significantly reducing local dislocation and disturbance in the Delta.
In 2013 the State released the Draft BDCP (along with the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIR/EIS) in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)) for formal public review and comment. The 2013 BDCP proposal included 22 specific actions, called Conservation Measures, that included new water delivery facilities in the north Delta as well as measures to restore or protect up to 150,000 acres of habitat and measures to address other stressors to fish and wildlife in the Delta.
In December of 2014 the State announced further refinements to the water delivery facilities to reduce impacts to Delta communities, minimize disturbances or dislocation to Greater Sandhill Cranes, and improve the long-term reliability and operation of the proposed infrastructure. At the same time, DWR announced additional information about what could be expected in the recirculated documents expected for release in 2015 (Recirculated Draft EIR/Supplemental Draft EIS (RDEIR/SDEIS). During the 2013-2014 public comment period, commenters expressed concerns about the impacts of a large-scale habitat restoration effort on the Delta economy and community character. Other comments articulated concerns about the expected effectiveness of certain habitat restoration measures and the nature of climate change and the related level of scientific uncertainty. Additionally, there were widespread concerns that the 50-year permit term sought under the BDCP was too long given the uncertainties about climate change and the effectiveness of habitat restoration and suggested that DWR should pursue permits of shorter duration. These comments prompted the State to reconsider the BDCP’s ability to justify the continued pursuit of 50-year permits associated with a comprehensive conservation plan and resulted in the consideration of a sub-alternative to the original proposed project as well as additional sub-alternatives that do not include a 50-year permit application or associated conservation plan.
In April 2015 State agencies announced a modified preferred alternative, Alternative 4A. Learn more at CaliforniaWaterFix.com.
Consistent with the revised proposed project, the RDEIR/SDEIS will also include analysis of two other sub alternatives that do not include habitat restoration measures beyond those needed to provide mitigation under CEQA, NEPA, ESA and CESA. The potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and other sub-alternatives will be evaluated in the RDEIR/SDEIS, expected to be released for public review and comment in 2015.
To learn more about the Environmental Review (EIR/EIS) process, click here.