October 3, 2014

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan Benefits the Ecosystem

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan offers a holistic approach to improve the ecological health of the imperiled Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, one that is rooted in biological goals and objectives. It is a significant departure from previous state and federal efforts to address one species at a time, a strategy that has not yet made significant strides towards reversing the decline of many at-risk species that depend on the estuary for their survival. The BDCP intends to create improved, connected environments for sensitive species across the Delta. The Plan proposes habitat reserves and restored riparian forest, scrub, vernal pools, wetlands and marshes.

The BDCP covers 56 species, including the Delta smelt, Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, San Joaquin kit fox, Greater sandhill crane, Delta tule pea herb, and dozens more threatened species that have suffered over the last two centuries. In many cases, the restoration of a floodplain or proposed channel improvements would benefit multiple species. For example, the BDCP seeks to modify the operation of the Yolo Bypass to provide salmon, steelhead and sturgeon a migration corridor, improve spawning grounds and ensure access to areas for young fish to grow larger, healthier and stronger before they return to the Delta and swim to the ocean. The restoration of freshwater wetlands in the Yolo Bypass also would provide roosting habitat for Greater sandhill crane.

Other proposed actions include the setting aside of nearly 70,000 acres for a habitat reserve system to protect plant species and connect lands to existing conservation areas. The Plan calls for the restoration of 65,000 acres of freshwater and brackish tidal habitat and 10,000 acres of seasonally inundated floodplain. Other actions include channel margin enhancements to improve habitat conditions for migrating juvenile salmon, the restoration of native riparian forest, scrub, grasslands, vernal pools, wetlands and marshes.

Such a sweeping approach to restoration and conservation is critical if we are to turn back the steep ecological decline of the Delta, especially in the face of rising sea levels and other climate change impacts expected to alter our environment. If we fail to act now, we risk the loss of many fish, wildlife and plant species that depend on a healthy Delta to survive.

Click here for more information on how the BDCP will benefit the ecosystem and its 56 covered species. 

How Does the BDCP contribute to the federal Salmon Recovery Plan?

A federal plan to recover the Central Valley’s iconic fish makes clear a healthy Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is vital.  Sixty percent of juvenile Sacramento River salmon and 95 percent of juvenile San Joaquin River salmon entering the Delta do not make it out alive.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries recovery plan calls for landscape-scale restoration throughout the Delta, restoring flows in the Delta and reducing the impacts of the state and federal water pumps to help boost both salmon and steelhead populations.

Those goals can be achieved with the implementation of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which calls for significant habitat restoration of the low-lying estuary, including additional floodplain habitats that NOAA describes as critical to help with the growth and survival of juvenile salmon.

The BDCP also recommends three new intakes north of the Delta that NOAA Fisheries describes as “essential for new fish screens to operate correctly and keep salmon on their natural downstream migration.”
Copyright © 2014 Bay Delta Conservation Plan, All rights reserved.

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