Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation

Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation
July 2, 2020
The Central Val ey Project (CVP), a federal water project owned and operated by the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), is one of the world’s largest water supply
Charles V. Stern
projects. The CVP covers approximately 400 miles in California, from Redding to
Specialist in Natural
Bakersfield, and draws from two large river basins: the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. Resources Policy
It is composed of 20 dams and reservoirs and numerous pieces of water storage and

conveyance infrastructure. In an average year, the CVP delivers more than 7 mil ion
Pervaze A. Sheikh
acre-feet of water to support irrigated agriculture, municipalities, and fish and wildlife
Specialist in Natural
needs, among other purposes. About 75% of CVP water is used for agricultural
Resources Policy
irrigation, including 7 of California’s top 10 agricultural counties. The CVP is operated

jointly with the State Water Project (SWP), which provides much of its water to

municipal users in Southern California.
CVP water is delivered to users that have contracts with Reclamation, which is part of the Department of the
Interior. These contractors receive varying levels of priority for water deliveries based on several factors,
including hydrology, water rights, prior agreements with Reclamation, and regulatory requirements. The
Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers’ confluence with the San Francisco Bay (Bay-Delta or Delta) is a hub for
CVP water deliveries; many CVP contractors south of the Delta receive water that is “exported” from north of the
Delta.
Development of the CVP resulted in significant changes to the area’s natural hydrology. However, construction of
most CVP facilities predated major federal natural resources and environmental protection laws. Much of the
current debate related to the CVP revolves around how to deal with changes to the hydrologic system that were
not significantly mitigated for when the project was constructed. Thus, multiple ongoing efforts to protect species
and restore habitat have been authorized and are incorporated into project operations.
Congress has engaged in CVP issues through oversight and at times legislation, most recently through provisions
in the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN Act; P.L. 114-322) that, among other things,
authorized changes to operations in an attempt to provide for delivery of more water under certain circumstances.
Although some stakeholders are interested in further operational changes to enhance CVP water deliveries, others
are focused on the environmental impacts of operations.
Various state and federal proposals are currently under consideration and have generated controversy for their
potential to affect CVP operations and al ocations. In late 2018, the State of California finalized revisions to its
Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan that would require that more flows from the San Joaquin and Sacramento
Rivers reach the Bay-Delta for water quality and fish and wildlife enhancement (i.e., reduced water supplies for
other users). “Voluntary agreements” that might replace some or al of these requirements are currently being
negotiated but have yet to be finalized. Concurrently, the Trump Administration is aiming to increase CVP water
supplies for users by making changes to long-term operations of the CVP, pursuant to a 2019 biological opinion
created under the Endangered Species Act (ESA; 87 Stat. 884. 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1544). California and
environmental nongovernmental organizations have opposed these efforts and filed lawsuits to prevent
implementation of the changes. On May 11, 2020, the court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting
Reclamation from implementing the operational changes through May 31, 2020. Efforts to add or supplement
CVP storage and conveyance also are being considered and are under study by federal and state entities.
In the 116th Congress, legislators may consider bil s and conduct oversight on efforts to increase CVP water
exports compared to current baselines. Some in Congress have also weighed in on disagreements between state
and federal project operators and the status of coordinated operations of the CVP and SWP. Congress is also
considering whether to approve funding for new water storage projects and may consider legislation to extend or
amend CVP authorities.
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Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1
Recent Developments ...................................................................................................... 1
Background.................................................................................................................... 2
Overview of the CVP and California Water Infrastructure ................................................ 3
Central Valley Project Water Contractors and Allocations ................................................ 6
CVP Al ocations................................................................................................... 9
State Water Project Allocations .................................................................................. 11
Combined CVP/SWP Operations ............................................................................... 11

CVP/SWP Exports ............................................................................................. 12
Constraints on CVP Deliveries ........................................................................................ 13
Water Quality Requirements: Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan ............................... 14
Bay-Delta Plan Update........................................................................................ 15
Endangered Species Act ........................................................................................... 16
Central Valley Project Improvement Act...................................................................... 20
Ecosystem Restoration Efforts ........................................................................................ 21
Trinity River Restoration Program.............................................................................. 22
San Joaquin River Restoration Program ...................................................................... 22
CALFED Bay-Delta Restoration Program ................................................................... 24
New Storage and Conveyance ......................................................................................... 25
New and Augmented Water Storage Projects................................................................ 25
California WaterFix ................................................................................................. 27
Congressional Interest.................................................................................................... 27
CVP Operations Under the WIIN Act and Other Authorities ........................................... 28
New Water Storage Projects ...................................................................................... 29
Concluding Observations ............................................................................................... 30

Figures
Figure 1. Central Valley Project (CVP) and Related Facilities ................................................ 5
Figure 2. Shasta Dam and Reservoir................................................................................... 6
Figure 3. Central Valley Project: Maximum Contract Amounts............................................... 8
Figure 4. Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) Exports ...................... 13
Figure 5. San Joaquin River Restoration Program: Costs, Benefits, and Project Status ............. 23
Figure 6. CALFED Surface Water Storage Studies ............................................................. 26

Tables
Table 1. CVP Water Allocations by Water Year, 2011-2020 .................................................. 10
Table 2. California State Water Project (SWP) Al ocations by Water Year, 2012-2020 .............. 11
Table 3. COA Regulatory Requirements for CVP/SWP In-basin Storage Withdrawals ............. 12

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Appendixes
Appendix. CVP Water Contractors................................................................................... 31

Contacts
Author Information ....................................................................................................... 33

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Introduction
The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), part of the Department of the Interior (DOI), operates
the multipurpose federal Central Val ey Project (CVP) in California, one of the world’s largest
water storage and conveyance systems. The CVP runs approximately 400 miles in California,
from Redding to Bakersfield (Figure 1). It supplies water to hundreds of thousands of acres of
irrigated agriculture throughout the state, including some of the most valuable cropland in the
country. It also provides water to selected state and federal wildlife refuges, as wel as to some
municipal and industrial (M&I) water users. The CVP’s operations are coordinated with the
state’s other largest water supply project, the state-operated State Water Project (SWP).
This report provides information on hydrologic conditions in California and their impact on state
and federal water management, with a focus on deliveries related to the federal CVP. It also
summarizes selected issues for Congress related to the CVP.
Recent Developments
The drought of 2012-2016, widely considered to be among California’s most severe droughts in
recent history, resulted in major reductions to CVP contractor al ocations and economic and
environmental impacts throughout the state.1 These impacts were of interest to Congress, which
oversees federal operation of the CVP. Although the drought ended with the wet winter of 2017,
many of the water supply controversies associated with the CVP predated those water shortages
and remain unresolved. Absent major changes to existing hydrologic, legislative, and regulatory
baselines, most agree that at least some water users are likely to face ongoing constraints to their
water supplies. Due to the limited water supplies available, proposed changes to the current
operations and al ocation system are controversial.
As a result of the scarcity of water in the West and the importance of federal water infrastructure
to the region, western water issues are regularly of interest to many law makers. Legislation
enacted in the 114th Congress (Title II of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation
[WIIN] Act; P.L. 114-322) included several CVP-related sections.2 These provisions directed
pumping to “maximize” water supplies for the CVP (including pumping or “exports” to CVP
water users south of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers’ confluence with the San Francisco
Bay, known as the Bay-Delta or Delta) in accordance with applicable biological opinions (BiOps)
for project operations.3 They also al owed for increased pumping during certain storm events
generating high flows, authorized actions to facilitate water transfers, and established a new
standard for measuring the effects of water operations on species. In addition to operational
provisions, the WIIN Act authorized funding for construction of new federal and nonfederal water
storage projects. CVP projects are among the most likely recipients of this funding.

1 For more information on drought in general, see CRS Report R43407, Drought in the United States: Causes and
Current Understanding
, by Peter Folger.
2 For more information, see CRS Report R44986, Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act:
Bureau of Reclam ation and California Water Provisions
, by Charles V. Stern, Pervaze A. Sheikh, and Nicole T . Carter .
3 T he Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires that a federal agency proposing an action that may have an e ffect on a
listed species consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service (i.e., regulatory
agencies). T he action agency will commonly complete a biological assessment on potential effects to the fish or its
habitat and submit it to the regulatory agency. T he regulatory agency then renders a biological opinion, or BiOp, to the
action agency making the proposal. T he intent of a BiOp is to ensure that the proposed action will not reduce the
likelihood of survival and recovery of an ESA-listed species. BiOps typically include conservation recommendations
intended to further recovery of the ESA-listed species.
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Due to increased precipitation and disagreements with the state, among other factors, the WIIN
Act’s operational authorities general y did not yield significant new water exports south of the
Delta in 2017-2019. However, Reclamation received funding for WIIN Act-authorized water
storage project design and construction in FY2017-FY2020, and the majority of this funding has
gone to CVP-related projects.
CVP and SWP water al ocations for 2020 were once again reduced due to extremely limited
precipitation in the winter months. Separate state and federal plans under the Clean Water Act and
Endangered Species Act, respectively, would alter water al ocation and operational criteria in
markedly different ways and have generated controversy. In mid-2018, the State of California
proposed revisions to its Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan (developed pursuant to the Clean
Water Act [CWA; 33 U.S.C. §§1251-138]). These changes would require that more flows from
the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers reach the California Bay-Delta for water quality and fish
and wildlife enhancement (and would thus further reduce water supplies for CVP and SWP
users). Separately, in February 2020, the Trump Administration finalized an operational plan to
increase water supplies for users and issued a new biological opinion under the Endangered
Species Act (ESA; 87 Stat. 884, 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1544) that reflects these changes. Both plans
are the subject of ongoing litigation.
Background
California’s Central Val ey encompasses almost 20,000 square miles in the center of the state
(Figure 1). It is bound by the Cascade Range to the north, the Sierra Nevada to the east, the
Tehachapi Mountains to the south, and the Coast Ranges and San Francisco Bay to the west. The
northern third of the val ey is drained by the Sacramento River, and the southern two-thirds of the
val ey are drained by the San Joaquin River. Historical y, this area was home to significant fish
and wildlife populations.
The CVP was original y conceived as a state project; the state studied the project as early as 1921,
and the California state legislature formal y authorized it for construction in 1933. After it became
clear that the state was unable to finance the project, the federal government (through the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE) assumed control of the CVP as a public works
construction project under authority provided under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1935.4 The
Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration subsequently transferred the project to Reclamation.5
Construction on the first unit of the CVP (Contra Costa Canal) began in October 1937, with water
first delivered in 1940. Additional CVP units were completed and came online over time, and
some USACE-constructed units have also been incorporated into the project.6 The New Melones

4 49 Stat. 1028.
5 T ransfer of the project to Reclamation was pursuant to a presidential directive in 1935 and subsequent congressional
enactment of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1937 (50 Stat. 844, 850).
6 Although Reclamation constructed much of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and maintains control over its
operations, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has also been involved in the project over the course of its
history. Some dams, such as Folsom Dam and New Melones Dam, initially were built by USACE but have been turned
over to Reclamation for operations and maintenance and incorporated into the CVP. Addit ionally, USACE constructed
and continues to operate several major dams in and around the Central Valley for flood control and other purposes,
including T erminus Dam, Isabella Dam, Pine Flat Dam, and Success Dam in the San Joaquin Valley. Since USACE
operat es these dams for flood control, Reclamation administers contracts to use surplus water from these reservoirs for
irrigation.
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Unit was the last unit of the CVP to come online; it was completed in 1978 and began operations
in 1979.
The CVP made significant changes to California’s natural hydrology to develop water supplies
for irrigated agriculture, municipalities, and hydropower, among other things. Most of the CVP’s
major units, however, predated major federal natural resources and environmental protection laws
such as ESA and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. §§4321 et seq.),
among others. Thus, much of the current debate surrounding the project revolves around how to
address the project’s changes to California’s hydrologic system that were not major
considerations when it was constructed.
Today, CVP water serves a variety of different purposes for both human uses and fish and wildlife
needs. The CVP provides a major source of support for California agriculture, which is first in the
nation in terms of farm receipts.7 CVP water supplies irrigate more than 3 mil ion acres of land in
central California and support 7 of California’s top 10 agricultural counties. In addition, CVP
M&I water provides supplies for approximately 2.5 mil ion people per year. CVP operations are
also critical for hydropower, recreation, and fish and wildlife protection. In addition to fisheries
habitat, CVP flows support wetlands, which provide habitat for migrating birds.
Overview of the CVP and California Water Infrastructure
The CVP (Figure 1) is made up of 20 dams and reservoirs, 11 power plants, and 500 miles of
canals, as wel as numerous other conduits, tunnels, and storage and distribution facilities.8 In an
average year, it delivers approximately 5 mil ion acre-feet (AF) of water to farms (including some
of the nation’s most valuable farmland); 600,000 AF to M&I users; 410,000 AF to wildlife
refuges; and 800,000 AF for other fish and wildlife needs, among other purposes. A separate
major project owned and operated by the State of California, the State Water Project (SWP),
draws water from many of the same sources as the CVP and coordinates its operations with the
CVP under several agreements. In contrast to the CVP, the SWP delivers about 70% of its water
to urban users (including water for approximately 25 mil ion users in the San Francisco Bay,
Central Val ey, and Southern California); the remaining 30% is used for irrigation.
At their confluence, the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers flow into the San Francisco Bay (the
Bay-Delta, or Delta). Operation of the CVP and SWP occurs through the storage, pumping, and
conveyance of significant volumes of water from both river basins (as wel as trans-basin
diversions from the Trinity River Basin in Northern California) for delivery to users. Federal and
state pumping facilities in the Delta near Tracy, CA, export water from Northern California to
Central and Southern California and are a hub for CVP operations and related debates. In the
context of these controversies, north of Delta (NOD) and south of Delta (SOD) are important
categorical distinctions for water users.
CVP storage is spread throughout Northern and Central California. The largest CVP storage
facility is Shasta Dam and Reservoir in Northern California (Figure 2), which has a capacity of
4.5 mil ion AF. Other major storage facilities, from north to south, include Trinity Dam and
Reservoir (2.4 mil ion AF), Folsom Dam and Reservoir (977,000 AF), New Melones Dam and
Reservoir (2.4 mil ion AF), Friant Dam and Reservoir (520,000 AF), and San Luis Dam and
Reservoir (1.8 mil ion AF of storage, of which half is federal and half is nonfederal).

7 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Cash Receipts by State, Commodity Ranking and Share
of U.S. Total, 2016,
at https://data.ers.usda.gov/reports.aspx?ID=
17843#Pcb53fbff4c3c47c9b0afcc74d03a7403_3_17iT0R0x5 .
8 Bureau of Reclamation, “About the Central Valley Project,” at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvp/about-cvp.html.
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The CVP also includes numerous water conveyance facilities, the longest of which are the Delta-
Mendota Canal (which runs for 117 miles from the federal y operated Bil Jones pumping plant in
the Bay-Delta to the San Joaquin River near Madera) and the Friant-Kern Canal (which runs 152
miles from Friant Dam to the Kern River near Bakersfield).
Non-CVP water storage and infrastructure is also spread throughout the Central Val ey and in
some cases is integrated with CVP operations. Major non-CVP storage infrastructure in the
Central Val ey includes multiple storage projects that are part of the SWP (the largest of which is
Orovil e Dam and Reservoir in Northern California), as wel as private storage facilities (e.g.,
Don Pedro and Exchequer Dams and Reservoirs) and local government-owned dams and
infrastructure (e.g., O’Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch-Hetchy Reservoir and Aqueduct, which are
owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission).
In addition to its importance for agricultural water supplies, California’s Central Val ey also
provides valuable wetland habitat for migratory birds and other species. As such, it is home to
multiple state, federal, and private wildlife refuges north and south of the Delta. Nineteen of these
refuges (including 12 refuges within the National Wildlife Refuge system, 6 State Wildlife
Areas/Units, and 1 privately managed complex) provide managed wetland habitat that receives
water from the CVP and other sources. Five of these units are located in the Sacramento River
Basin (i.e., North of the Delta), 12 are in the San Joaquin River Basin, and the remaining 2 are in
the Tulare Lake Basin.9

9 T ulare Lake, a freshwater dry lake in the San Joaquin River Valley, historically was on e of the largest freshwater
lakes west of the Great Lakes. Under most normal (nonflood) conditions, the lake was “terminal,” meaning it had no
outlet and did not drain downstream. Damming in the mid-20th century by the USACE of the Kaweah (T erminus Dam),
Kern (Isabella Dam), Kings (Pine Flat Dam), and T ule Rivers (Success Dam), coupled with development of the basin
for irrigated agriculture, dried up the lake bed under most conditions.
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Figure 1. Central Valley Project (CVP) and Related Facilities

Source: Congressional Research Service (CRS).
Notes: Colored areas are based on water and irrigation district boundaries and do not correspond to the
amount of water delivered from the Central Val ey Project or the State Water Project. For example, some large
areas have relatively smal contracts for water compared with other, smal er areas.
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Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation

Figure 2. Shasta Dam and Reservoir

Source: Bureau of Reclamation.
Central Valley Project Water Contractors and Allocations
In normal years, snowpack accounts for approximately 30% of California’s water supplies and is
an important factor in determining CVP and SWP al ocations. Water from snowpack typical y
melts in the spring and early summer, and it is stored and made available to meet water needs
throughout the state in the summer and fal . By late winter, the state’s water supply outlook is
typical y sufficient for Reclamation to issue the amount of water it expects to deliver to its
contractors.10 At that time, Reclamation announces estimated deliveries for its 250 CVP water
contractors in the upcoming water year.11
More than 9.5 mil ion AF of water per year is potentially available from the CVP for delivery
based on contracts between Reclamation and CVP contractors.12 However, most CVP water
contracts provide exceptions for Reclamation to reduce water deliveries due to hydrologic
conditions and other conditions outside Reclamation’s control.13 As a result of these stipulations,

10 A water contractor, as described in this report, has a contract for specified water deliveries from conveyance
structures managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation typically estimates these deliveries as a
percentage of the total contract allocation to be made available for contractors within certain divisions, geographic
areas, and/or contractor types (e.g., south-of-Delta agricultural contractors).
11 A water year is a hydrologic unit for measuring a 12-month total for which precipitation totals are measured. In
California, the water year typically is measured from October 1 of one year to September 30 of the following year.
12 Water service contracts charge users a per-acre foot rate based on the amount of water delivered. In contrast,
repayment contracts (the most common type of Reclamation contract outside of t he Central Valley Project [CVP])
charge users based on the amount of water storage allocated to a contractor, among other things.
13 See U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region, Final Form of Contract,4-19-2004, Articles 3b, 11, 12a, and
12b, at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvpia/3404c/lt_contracts/index.html.
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Reclamation regularly makes cutbacks to actual CVP water deliveries to contractors due to
drought and other factors.
Even under normal hydrological circumstances, the CVP often delivers much less than the
maximum contracted amount of water; since the early 1980s, an average of about 7 mil ion AF of
water has been made available to CVP contractors annual y (including 5 mil ion AF to
agricultural contractors). However, during drought years deliveries may be significantly less. In
the extremely dry water years of 2012-2015, CVP annual deliveries averaged approximately 3.45
mil ion AF.14
CVP contractors receive varying levels of priority for water deliveries based on their water rights
and other related factors, and some of the largest and most prominent water contractors have a
relatively low al ocation priority. Major groups of CVP contractors include water rights
contractors (i.e., senior water rights holders such as the Sacramento River Settlement and San
Joaquin River Exchange Contractors, see box below), North and South of Delta water service
contractors, and Central Val ey refuge water contractors. The relative locations for these groups
are shown in Figure 1.
Water Rights Contractors
California’s system of state water rights has a profound effect on who gets how much water and when, particularly
during times of drought or other restrictions on water supply. Because the waters of California are considered to
be “the property of the people of the State," anyone wishing to use those waters must acquire a right to do so.
California fol ows a dual system of water rights, recognizing both the riparian and prior appropriation doctrines.
Under the riparian doctrine, a person who owns land that borders a watercourse has the right to make
reasonable use of the water on that land (riparian rights). Riparian rights are reduced proportional y during times
of shortage. Under the prior appropriation doctrine, a person who diverts water from a watercourse (regardless
of his location relative thereto) and makes reasonable and beneficial use of the water acquires a right to that use
of the water (appropriated rights). Appropriated rights are fil ed in order of seniority during times of shortage.
Before exercising the right to use the water, appropriative users must obtain permission from the state through a
permit system run by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
Both the Central Val ey Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP) acquired rights for water use from the
State of California, receiving several permits for water diversions at various points between 1927 and 1967. Since
the Bureau of Reclamation found it necessary to take the water rights of other users to construct the CVP, it
entered into settlement or exchange contracts with water users who had rights predating the CVP (and thus were
senior users in time and right). Many of these special contracts were entered into in areas where water users
were diverting water directly from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.
Sacramento River Settlement Contractors include the contractors (both individuals and districts) that diverted
natural flows from the Sacramento River prior to the CVP’s construction and executed a settlement agreement
with Reclamation that provided for negotiated al ocation of water rights. San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors
are the irrigation districts that agreed to “exchange” exercising their water rights to divert water on the San
Joaquin and Kings Rivers for guaranteed water deliveries from the CVP (typical y in the form of deliveries from the
Delta-Mendota Canal and waters north of the Delta). In contrast to water service contractors, water rights
contractors receive 100% of their contracted amounts in most water-year types. During water shortages, their
annual maximum entitlement may be reduced but not by more than 25%.
The largest contract holders of CVP water by percentage of total contracted amounts are
Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, located on the Sacramento River. The second-largest
group are SOD water service contractors (including Westlands Water District, the CVP’s largest
contractor), located in the area south of the Delta. Other major contractors include San Joaquin
River Exchange Contractors, located west of the San Joaquin River and Friant Division
contractors, located on the east side of the San Joaquin Val ey. Central Val ey refuges and several

14 CRS analysis of CVP contract water delivery information by the Bureau of Reclamation, October 3, 2018.
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Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation

smal er contractor groups (e.g., Eastside Contracts, In-Delta-Contra Costa Contracts, and SOD
Settlement Contracts) also factor into CVP water al ocation discussions.15 Figure 3 depicts an
approximate division of maximum available CVP water deliveries pursuant to contracts with
Reclamation. The largest contractor groups and their relative delivery priority are discussed in
more detail in the Appendix to this report.
Figure 3. Central Valley Project: Maximum Contract Amounts
(relative share of total maximum contracted CVP supplies)

Source: CRS, using 2016 Bureau of Reclamation contractor data.
Notes: SOD = South-of-Delta; M&I = municipal and industrial water service contractors. Sacramento River
Settlement Contractors includes both “base” water rights supplies (18.6%) and additional CVP “project” supplies
(3.5%). For SOD Refuges, chart does not reflect “Level 4” supplies (for more information on Level 4 supplies,
see below section, “Central Val ey Wildlife Refuges”).

15 Central Valley Project refuges are discussed more in the below section, “ Central Valley Project Improvement Act .”
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CVP Allocations
Reclamation provided its al ocations for the 2020 water year in February 2020 (Table 1) and
subsequently revised these al ocations on multiple occasions in April and May 2020. Compared
with the last two years, water al ocation levels were decreased significantly due to diminished
precipitation in 2020. Reclamation stated that the al ocations took into account newly finalized
biological opinions for CVP operations (see below section, “Endangered Species Act”) but that
dry conditions left “little to no room to realize operational improvements under the biological
opinions.”16
The most senior water rights contractors and some refuges were initial y al ocated 100% of their
maximum contract al ocations in 2020, but this estimate was subsequently revised downward to
75% in April due to a determination that 2020 was a “Shasta Critical Year” (i.e., forecasted
inflows to Shasta Lake of 3.2 mil ion acre-feet or less). SOD agricultural water service
contractors, who have been critical of operations prior to the recent changes, were al ocated 20%
of their contracted supplies in 2020.17 They have received their full contract al ocations only four
times since 1990: 1995, 1998, 2006, and 2017.18 Reclamation increased Friant Class 1 contractor
al ocations (initial y 20%) on four occasions in 2020. These included increases to 40% in early
April, 55% in late April, 60% in mid-May, and 65% in late June. The increases were attributed to
late season precipitation in the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains.

16 Media call with Kristin White, Central Valley Project Operations Office Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, February
25, 2020.
17 Reclamation increased its initial allocation for these contractors from 15% in February 2020 to 20% in May of 2020.
18 Bureau of Reclamation, “Summary of Water Supply Allocation s,” at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/vungvari/
water_allocations_historical.pdf.
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Table 1. CVP Water Allocations by Water Year, 2011-2020
(percentage of maximum contract al ocation made available)

2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
North-of-Delta










Users
Agricultural
100%
100%
75%
0%
0%
100%
100%
100%
100%
50%
M&I
100%
100%
100%
50%
25%
100%
100%
100%
100%
75%
Settlement
100%
100%
100%
75%
75%
100%
100%
100%
100%
75%
Contractors
Refuges (Level 2)
100%
100%
100%
75%
75%
100%
100%
100%
100%
75%
American River M&I
100%
100%
75%
50%
25%
100%
100%
100%
100%
75%
In Delta- Contra
100%
100%
75%
50%
25%
100%
100%
100%
100%
75%
Costa
South-of-Delta










Users
Agricultural
80%
40%
20%
0%
0%
5%
100%
50%
75%
20%
M&I
100%
75%
70%
50%
25%
55%
100%
70%
100%
70%
Exchange
100%
100%
100%
65%
75%
100%
100%
100%
100%
75%
Contractors
Refuges (Level 2)
100%
100%
100%
65%
75%
100%
100%
100%
100%
75%
Eastside Division
100%
100%
100%
55%
0%
0%
100%
100%
100%
100%
Friant Class I
100%
50%
62%
0%
0%
65%
100%
88%
100%
65%
Friant Class 2
20%
0%
0%
0%
0%
13%
100%
9%
a
0%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, CVP Historical Water Supply Al ocations and 2019 Al ocations, available at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/vungvari/
water_al ocations_historical.pdf.
Notes: CVP = Central Val ey Project. M&I = municipal and industrial water contractors. “Settlemen t” refers to contractors on the Sacramento River, and “Exchange”
refers to contractors on the San Joaquin River; both groups have contracts and minimum delivery levels recognizing water rights predating those acquired by Reclamation
for the CVP. Contra Costa, Eastside Division, and Friant Class 1 and Class 2 represent individual or groups of water contractors.
a. “Uncontrol ed” Class 2 releases for Friant Contractors were available through June 30, 2019.
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State Water Project Allocations
The other major water project serving California, the SWP, is operated by California’s
Department of Water Resources (DWR). The SWP primarily provides water to M&I users and
some agricultural users, and it integrates its operations with the CVP. Similar to the CVP, the
SWP has considerably more contracted supplies than it typical y makes available in its deliveries.
SWP contracted entitlements are 4.17 mil ion AF, but average annual deliveries are typical y
considerably less than that amount.
SWP water deliveries were at their lowest point in 2014 and 2015, and they were significantly
higher in the wet year of 2017. SWP water supply al ocations for water years 2012-2020 are
shown in Table 2.
Table 2. California State Water Project (SWP) Allocations by Water Year, 2012-2020
(percentage of maximum contract al ocation)
2020

2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
(est.)
State Water Project
65%
35%
5%
20%
60%
85%
35%
75%
20%
Source: California Department of Water Resources, “Notices to State Water Project Contractors,” at
https://water.ca.gov/Programs/State-Water-Project/Management/SWP-Water-Contractors.
Combined CVP/SWP Operations
The CVP and SWP are operated in conjunction under the 1986 Coordinated Operations
Agreement (COA), which was executed pursuant to P.L. 99-546.19 COA defines the rights and
responsibilities of the CVP and SWP with respect to in-basin water needs and provides a
mechanism to account for those rights and responsibilities. Several major changes to California
water supply al ocations that occurred since 1986 (e.g., water delivery reductions pursuant to the
Central Val ey Project Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act requirements, and new
Delta Water Quality Standards, among other things) caused some to argue for renegotiation of the
agreement’s terms.20 Dating to 2015, Reclamation and DWR conducted a mutual review of COA
but were unable to agree on revisions. On August 17, 2018, Reclamation provided a Notice of
Negotiations to DWR.21 Following negotiations in the fal of 2018, Reclamation and DWR agreed
to an addendum to COA in December 2018.22 Whereas the original 1986 agreement included a
fixed ratio of 75% CVP/25% SWP for the sharing of regulatory requirements associated with
storage withdrawals for Sacramento Val ey in-basin uses (e.g., curtailments for water quality and
species uses), the revised addendum adjusted the ratio of sharing percentages based on water year
types (Table 3).

19 “Agreement Between the United States of America and the State of California for Coordin ated Operation of the
Central Valley Project and the State Water Project,” No. 7-07-20-WO551. November 24, 1986.
20 For example, see Joint Letter to the Bureau of Reclamation from Placer County Water Agency, City of Folsom,
T ehama-Colusa Canal Authority et al., March 1, 2016, at http://www.ccwater.com/DocumentCenter/View/1854. For
more information on water delivery restrictions as they apply to the CVP, see “ Constraints on CVP Deliveries.”
21 Letter from David G. Murillo, Regional Directory, Bureau of Reclamation, to Karla Nemeth, Director, California
Department of Water Resources, August 17, 2018.
22See Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources, Addendum to the Agreement Between the
United States of Am erica and the Departm ent of Water Resources of the State of California for Coordinated Operation
of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project,
December 12, 2018.
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Table 3. COA Regulatory Requirements for CVP/SWP In-basin Storage Withdrawals
(requirements pursuant to 1986 and 2018 agreements)
Water Year Type
1986 COA
COA with 2018 Addendum
Al
75% CVP, 25% SWP
NA
Wet & Above Normal
NA
80% CVP, 20% SWP
Below Normal
NA
75% CVP, 25% SWP
Dry
NA
65% CVP, 35% SWP
Critical y Dry
NA
60% CVP, 40% SWP
Source: Addendum to the Agreement Between the United States of America and the Department of Water Resources of
the State of California for Coordinated Operation of the Central Val ey Project and the State Water Project,
December
12, 2018.
The 2018 addendum also adjusted the sharing of export capacity under constrained conditions.
Whereas under the 1986 COA, export capacity was shared evenly between the CVP and the SWP,
under the revised COA the split is to be 60% CVP/40% SWP during excess conditions, and 65%
CVP/35% SWP during balanced conditions.23 Final y, the state also agreed in the 2018 revisions
to transport up to 195,000 AF of CVP water through the SWP’s California Aqueduct during
certain conditions. Recent disagreements related to CVP and SWP operational changes by the
federal and state governments, in particular those under the ESA, have cal ed into question the
future of coordinated operations under COA. These developments are discussed further in the
below section, “Endangered Species Act.”
CVP/SWP Exports
Combined CVP and SWP exports (i.e., water transferred from north to south of the Delta) is of
interest to many observers because it reflects trends over time in the transfer of water from north
to south (i.e., exports) by the two projects, in particular through pumping. Exports of the CVP and
SWP, as wel as total combined exports since 1978, have varied over time (Figure 4). Most
recently, combined exports dropped significantly during the 2012-2016 drought but have
rebounded since 2016. Prior to the drought, overal export levels had increased over time, having
averaged more from 2001 to 2011 than over any previous 10-year period. The 6.42 mil ion AF of
combined exports in 2017 was the second most on record, behind 6.59 mil ion AF in 2011.
Over time, CVP exports have decreased on average, whereas SWP exports have increased.
Additional y, exports for agricultural purposes have declined as a subset of total exports, in part
due to those exports being made available for other purposes (e.g., fish and wildlife).

23 “Balanced” conditions refer to those conditions under which reservoir releases and unregulated flows in the Delta are
equal to the water supply needed to meet Sacramento Valley in -basin uses plus exports. Excess conditions are periods
in which releases and unregulated flows exceed the aforementioned uses.
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Figure 4. Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) Exports
(exports in mil ions of acre-feet, 1978-2018)

Source: CRS from data provided by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, email
communication, June 19, 2019, Total Annual Pumping at Banks, Jones, and Contra Costa Pumping Plants 1976-2018
(MAF).

Constraints on CVP Deliveries
Concerns over CVP water supply deliveries persist in part because even in years with high levels
of precipitation and runoff, some contractors (in particular SOD water service contractors) have
regularly received al ocations of less than 100% of their contract supplies. Al ocations for some
users have declined over time; additional environmental requirements in recent decades have
reduced water deliveries for human uses. Coupled with reduced water supplies available in
drought years, some have increasingly focused on what can be done to increase water supplies for
users. At the same time, others that depend on or advocate for the health of the San Francisco Bay
and its tributaries, including fishing and environmental groups and water users throughout
Northern California, have argued for maintaining or increasing existing environmental
protections (the latter of which would likely further constrain CVP exports).
Hydrology and state water rights are the two primary drivers of CVP al ocations. However, at
least three other regulatory factors affect the timing and amount of water available for delivery to
CVP contractors and are regularly the subject of controversy:
 State water quality requirements pursuant to state and the federal water quality
laws (including the Clean Water Act [CWA, 33 U.S.C. §§1251-138]);
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 Regulations and court orders pertaining to implementation of the federal
Endangered Species Act (ESA, 87 Stat. 884. 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1544);24 and
 Implementation of the Central Val ey Project Improvement Act (CVPIA; P.L.
102-575).25
Each of these factors is discussed in more detail below.
Water Quality Requirements: Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan
California sets water quality standards and issues permits for the discharge of pollutants in
compliance with the federal CWA, enacted in 1972.26 Through the Porter-Cologne Act (a state
law), California implements federal CWA requirements and authorizes the State Water Resources
Control Board (State Water Board) to adopt water quality control plans, or basin plans.27 The
CVP and the SWP affect water quality in the Bay-Delta depending on how much freshwater the
projects release into the area as “unimpaired flows” (thereby affecting area salinity levels).
The first Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay-Delta (Bay-Delta Plan) was issued by the State
Water Board in 1978. Since then, there have been three substantive updates to the plan—in 1991,
1995, and 2006. The plans have general y required the SWP and CVP to meet certain water
quality and flow objectives in the Delta to maintain desired salinity levels for in-Delta diversions
(e.g., water quality levels for in-Delta water supplies) and fish and wildlife, among other things.
These objectives often affect the amount and timing of water available to be pumped, or exported,
from the Delta and thus at times result in reduced Delta exports to CVP and SWP water users
south of the Delta.28 The Bay-Delta Plan is currently implemented through the State Water
Board’s Decision 1641 (or D-1641), which was issued in 1999 and placed responsibility for plan
implementation on the state’s largest two water rights holders, Reclamation and the California
DWR.29
Pumping restrictions to meet state-set water quality levels—particularly increases in salinity
levels—can sometimes be significant. However, the relative magnitude of these effects varies
depending on hydrology. For instance, Reclamation estimated that in 2014, water quality

24 Requirements of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) currently are being satisfied through
implementation of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to a California state determination that project
operations under the federal biological opinions are consistent with requirements under CESA. Presumably, if
protections afforded to threatened and endangered species under the federal ESA were no longer in place, the State of
California could invoke protections under CESA.
25 P.L. 102-575, Title 34, 106 Stat. 4706.
26 T he CWA requires the states to implement water quality standards that designate water uses to be protected and
adopt water quality criteria that protect the designated uses. For application to California, see United States v. State
Water Resources Control Board (Racanelli), 182 Cal. App. 3d 82, 109 (Cal. Ct. App. 1986).
27 See Cal. Water Code §13160.
28 Inability to reach agreement on water quality objectives through deliberation and litigation nearly shut down Delta
pumping in the early 1990s and was a significant factor in the creation of the Bay -Delta Accord—a partnership
between federal and state agencies with projects, responsibilities, and activities affecting the Delta. Habitat protection
commitments in the accord were incorporated into the Bay -Delta Water Quality Control Plan, as were actions called for
under the Vernalis Adaptive Management Program, and were included by the State Water Board in D -1641. (See U.S.
Department of the Interior (DOI), Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region, Long-Term Central Valley Project
Operations Criteria and Plan
, Sacramento, CA, May 22, 2008, pp. 2 -6.)
29 California Environmental Protection Agency, State Water Resources Control Board, “Revised Water Right Decision
1641,” March 15, 2000, at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/board_decisions/adopted_orders/decisions/
d1600_d1649/wrd1641_1999dec29.pdf.
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restrictions accounted for 176,300 AF of the reduction in pumping from the long-term average for
CVP exports.30 In 2016, Reclamation estimated that D-1641 requirements accounted for 114,500
AF in reductions from the long-term export average.
Bay-Delta Plan Update
In mid-2018, the State Water Board released the final draft of the update to the 2006 Bay Delta
Plan (i.e., the Bay-Delta Plan Update) for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta. It
also announced further progress on related efforts under the update for flow requirements on the
Sacramento River and its tributaries.31 The Bay-Delta Plan Update requires additional flows to
the ocean (general y referred to in these documents as “unimpaired flows”) from the San Joaquin
River and its tributaries (i.e., the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers). Under the proposal,
the unimpaired flow requirement for the San Joaquin River would be 40% (within a range of
30%-50%); average unimpaired flows currently range from 21% to 40%.32 The state estimates
that the updated version of the plan would reduce water available for human use from the San
Joaquin River and its tributaries by between 7% and 23%, on average (depending on the water
year type), but it could reduce these water supplies by as much as 38% during critical y dry
years.33
A more detailed plan for the Sacramento River and its tributaries is also expected in the future. A
preliminary framework released by the state in July 2018 proposed a potential requirement of
55% unimpaired flows from the Sacramento River (within a range of 45% to 65%).34 According
to the State Water Board, if the plan updates for the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers are
finalized and water users do not enter into voluntary agreements to implement them, the board
could take actions to require their implementation, such as promulgation of regulations and
conditioning of water rights.35
Reclamation and its contractors would likely play key roles in implementing any update to the
Bay-Delta Plan, as they do in implementing the current plan under D-1641. Pursuant to Section 8
of the Reclamation Act of 1902,36 Reclamation general y defers to state water law in carrying out
its authorities, but the proposed Bay Delta Plan Update has generated controversy. In a July 2018
letter to the State Water Board, the Commissioner of Reclamation opposed the proposed
standards for the San Joaquin River, arguing that meeting them would necessitate decreased water
in storage at New Melones Reservoir of approximately 315,000 AF per year (a higher amount

30 Personal communication with the Bureau of Reclamation, October 15, 2015.
31 For more information, see the State Water Resources Control Board Bay Delta Plan update website
https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/bay_delta/.
32 California Water Boards, “State Water Board Seeks Public Comment on Final Draft Bay -Delta Plan Update for the
Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta,” July 6, 2018, at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/
water_issues/programs/bay_delta/docs/Bay-Delta_Plan_Update_Press_Release.pdf.
33 California Water Boards, “Summary of Proposed Amendments to the Bay -Delta Water Quality Control Plan,” July 6,
2018, at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/bay_delta/docs/sed/
lsjr_sdwq_summary_070618.pdf.
34 California Water Boards, “July 2018 Framework for the Sacramento/Delta Update to the Bay -Delta Plan,” July 6,
2018, at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/bay_delta/docs/sed/
sac_delta_framework_070618%20.pdf. Hereinafter California Water Boards, “ July 2018 Framework.”
35 California Water Boards, “July 2018 Framework.”
36 43 U.S.C. §383.
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than estimated by the State Water Board). Reclamation argued that such a change would be
contrary to the CVP prioritization scheme as established by Congress.37
On December 12, 2018, the State Water Board approved the Bay Delta Plan Update in Resolution
1018-0059.38 According to the state, the plan establishes a “starting point” for increased river
flows but also makes al owances for reduced river flows on tributaries where stakeholders have
reached voluntary agreements to pursue both flow and “non-flow” measures.39 The conditions in
the Bay-Delta Plan Update would be implemented through water rights conditions imposed by
the State Water Board; these conditions are to be implemented no later than 2022.
On March 28, 2019, the Department of Justice and DOI filed civil actions in federal and state
court against the State Water Board for failing to comply with the California Environmental
Quality Act.40
Endangered Species Act
Several species that have been listed under the federal ESA are affected by the operations of the
CVP and the SWP.41 One species, the Delta smelt, is a smal pelagic fish that is susceptible to
entrainment in CVP and SWP pumps in the Delta; it was listed as threatened under ESA in 1993.
Surveys of Delta smelt in 2017 found two adult smelt, the lowest catch in the history of the
survey.42 These results were despite the relatively wet winter of 2017, which is a concern for
many stakeholders because low population sizes of Delta smelt could result in greater restrictions
on water flowing to users. It also raises larger concerns among stakeholders about the overal
health and resilience of the Bay-Delta ecosystem. In addition to Delta smelt, multiple anadromous
salmonid species were listed under ESA dating to 1991, including the endangered Sacramento
River winter-run Chinook salmon, the threatened Central Val ey spring-run Chinook salmon, the
threatened Central Val ey steelhead, threatened Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho
salmon, and the threatened Central California Coast steelhead.43
Federal agencies consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in DOI or the
Department of Commerce’s (DOC’s) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to determine if

37 Letter from Brenda Burman, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, DOI, to Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water
Resources Control Board, July 27, 2018, at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/
bay_delta/docs/comments_lsjr_finalsed/Brenda_Burman_BOR.pdf. Hereinafter Letter from Brenda Burman to Felicia
Marcus.
38 California State Water Resources Control Board, Resolution No. 1 018-0059, Adoption of Amendments to the Water
Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento -San Joaquin Delta Estuary and Final Substitute
Environmental Document , December 12, 2018, at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_decisions/adopted_orders/
resolutions/2018/rs2018_0059.pdf.
39 California Water Boards, “State Water Board Adopts Bay-Delta Plan Update,” press release, December 12, 2018, at
https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/press_room/press_releases/2018/pr121218_bay-delta_plan_update.pdf.
40 Department of Justice, “United States Files Lawsuit Against California State Water Resources Control Board for
Failure to Comply With California Environmental Quality Act,” press release, March 28, 2019, at
https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/united-states-files-lawsuit-against-california-state-water-resources-control-board-
failure.
41 Act of December 28, 1973, P.L. 93-205; 87 Stat. 884, codified at 16 U.S.C. §§1531 et seq. T his report assumes a
basic knowledge of the act; an overview of the ESA and its major provisions may be found in CRS Report RL31654,
The Endangered Species Act: A Prim er, by Pervaze A. Sheikh.
42 California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Fall Midwater Trawl Monthly Abundance Index for Delta Smelt, at
http://www.dfg.ca.gov/delta/data/fmwt/indices.asp, accessed August 2, 2018.
43 Winter-run Chinook salmon, listed in 1991, were the first anadromous species listed. Other species were listed
subsequently.
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a federal project or action might jeopardize the continued existence of a species listed under ESA
or adversely modify its habitat. If an effect is possible, formal consultation is started and usual y
concludes with the appropriate agency issuing a biological opinion (BiOp) on the potential harm
the project poses and, if necessary, issuing reasonable and prudent measures to reduce the harm.
CVP and SWP BiOps have been chal enged and revised over time. Until 2004, a 1993 winter-run
Chinook salmon BiOp and a 1995 Delta smelt BiOp (as amended) governed Delta exports for
federal ESA purposes. In 2004, a proposed change in coordinated operation of the SWP and CVP
(including increased Delta exports), known as OCAP (Operations Criteria and Plan) resulted in
the development of new BiOps. Environmental groups chal enged the agencies’ 2004 BiOps; this
chal enge resulted in the development of new BiOps by the FWS and NMFS in 2008 and 2009,
respectively.44 These BiOps placed additional restrictions on the amount of water exported via
SWP and CVP Delta pumps and other limitations on pumping and release of stored water.45 Since
then, the CVP and SWP have been operated in accordance with these BiOps, both of which
concluded that the coordinated long-term operation of the CVP and SWP, as proposed in
Reclamation’s 2008 Biological Assessment, was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of
listed species and destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat. Both BiOps included
reasonable and prudent alternatives (RPAs) designed to al ow the CVP and SWP to continue
operating without causing jeopardy to listed species or destruction or adverse modification to
designated critical habitat. Reclamation accepted the BiOps and then began project operations
consistent with the FWS and NMFS RPAs.
In August 2016, Reclamation and DWR requested reinitiation of consultation on long-term,
system-wide operations of the CVP and the SWP based on new information related to multiple
years of drought, species decline, and related data.46 In December 2017, the Trump
Administration gave formal notice of its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement
analyzing potential long-term modifications to the coordinated operations of the CVP and the
SWP.47
On October 19, 2018, President Trump issued a memorandum on western water supplies that,
among other things, directed DOI to issue its final biological assessment (BA) proposing changes
for the operation of the CVP and SWP by January 31, 2019; it also directed that FWS and NOAA
issue their final BiOps in response to the BA within 135 days of that time.48 Reclamation

44 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Formal Endangered Species Act Consultation on the Proposed Coordinated
Operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP), December 15, 2008, at
https://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/Documents/SWP-CVP_OPs_BO_12-15_final_OCR.pdf; National Marine Fisheries
Service, Biological Opinion and Conference Opinion on the Long-T erm Operations of the Central Valley Project and
State Water Project, June 4, 2009, at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/document/biological-opinion-and-
conference-opinion-long-term-operations-central-valley.
45 Among other things, the 2009 National Marine Fisheries Service BiOp requires temperature considerations for the
benefit of species in the Sacramento River and in the Bay -Delta.
46 Letter from David Murillo, Regional Director, Bureau of Reclamation, and Mark W. Cowin, Director, Department of
Water Resources, to Ren Lohoefener, Pacific Southwest Regional Director, August 2, 2016, at https://www.fws.gov/
sfbaydelta/documents/08-02-2016_BOR-DWR_Reinitiation_Letter.pdf.
47 Bureau of Reclamation, “Notice of Intent to Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Revisions to the
Coordinated Long-T erm Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, and Related Facilities,” 82
Federal Register
61789-61791, December 29, 2017. Hereinafter Reclamation, “ Intent to Prepare a Draft Environmental
Impact Statement.”
48 White House, “Presidential Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West,”
October 19, 2018, at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-memorandum-promoting-reliable-
supply-delivery-water-west/. Hereinafter, 2018 White House Memo on Western Water.
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completed the BA and sent it to FWS and NMFS for review on January 31, 2019.49 The BA
discussed the operational changes proposed by Reclamation and mitigation factors to address
listed species. According to Reclamation, the changes in the BA reflected a shift to pumping
based on real-time monitoring rather than calendar-based targets, as wel as updated science and
monitoring information and a revised plan for cold water management and releases at Shasta
Dam. The BA also stated that nonoperational activities would be implemented to augment and
bolster listed fish populations. These activities include habitat restoration and introduction of
hatchery-bred Delta smelt, among other things.
FWS and NOAA simultaneously issued BiOps for Reclamation’s proposed CVP operations on
October 21, 2019.50 In contrast to the 2008 and 2009 BiOps, the agencies concluded that
Reclamation’s proposed operations would not jeopardize threatened or endangered species nor
adversely modify their designated critical habitat. In coming to these conclusions, FWS and
NMFS reported that they worked with Reclamation to modify the proposed action to reduce
potential threats to the species and their critical habitat and to increase mitigation measures such
as habitat restoration to support listed species. Some of the changes in the final action included
adding performance metrics for real-time monitoring, implementing cold-water management in
Lake Shasta, increasing habitat restoration, and introducing a process for independent scientific
review, among other things.51
After issuing the BiOps, Reclamation completed its review of environmental impacts of the
proposed action under NEPA. Reclamation concluded its NEPA review by issuing an
environmental impact statement (EIS) on December 19, 2019, regarding the anticipated
environmental effects of the action.52 The EIS evaluated four alternatives and selected a preferred
alternative, Alternative 1, which included a combination of flow-related actions, habitat
restoration, and measures to increase water deliveries and protect fish and wildlife.53 Having
completed ESA and NEPA review, Reclamation’s proposed changes were finalized in a Record of
Decision on February 20, 2020.54
For the state and federal projects to be operated in a coordinated manner and to avoid
management confusion, the state also must approve SWP operations pursuant to a permit under
the California Endangered Species Act.55 Historical y, DWR received coverage for the SWP’s

49 Bureau of Reclamation, Updates to the Coordinated Long-Term Operation of the CVP and SWP and Related
Facilities
, January 2019, at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/bdo/lto.html.
50 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Opinion For the Reinitiation of Consultation on the Coordinated
Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, Service File No. 08FBT D00 -2019-F-0164, October
21, 2019, at https://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/CVP-SWP/documents/10182019_ROC_BO_final.pdf; and National
Marine Fisheries Service, Biological Opinion on Long-term Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water
Project, WCRO-2016-00069, October 21, 2019, at https://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/CVP-SWP/documents/
10182019_ROC_BO_final.pdf.
51 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Opinion For the Reinitiation of Consultation on the Coordinated
Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, Summary, October 21, 2019, at https://www.fws.gov/
sfbaydelta/CVP-SWP/documents/Overall_Summary.pdf.
52 Bureau of Reclamation, Final Environmental Impact Statement, Reinitiation of Consultation on the Coordinated
Long-Term Modified Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project
, December 2019, at
https://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_project_details.php?Project_ID=39181. Herinafter, “ Final 2019 EIS.”
53 Final 2019 EIS, p. 1-2.
54 Bureau of Reclamation, Record of Decision, Reinitiation of Consultation on the Coordinated Long-T erm Modified
Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project , February 2020, at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/
nepa_project_details.php?Project_ID=39181.
55 For more information, see California Department of Water Resources, “ DWR Moves to Strengthen Protections for
Fish, Improve Real-T ime Management of State Water Project,” November 21, 2019,” at https://water.ca.gov/News/
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state law requirements through state “consistency determinations” that federal protections
complied with the California Endangered Species Act. However, in April 2019, the state
announced that it would develop a permit for the SWP that does not rely on the federal process
and has since taken steps to improve protections for fish and wildlife. In November 2019, the
state announced it had determined that Reclamation’s proposed changes did not adequately
protect species and state interests,56 and it finalized its incidental take permit for the SWP on
March 31, 2020.57 The permit cal s for additional protective actions beyond those provided for in
Reclamation’s operational plans.
On February 20, 2020, California sued the federal government for violations of the ESA, NEPA,
and Administrative Procedure Act (APA).58 Among other relief sought, California asked that the
court enjoin Reclamation from implementing any actions that rely on the BiOps.59 Separately, a
group of nongovernmental organizations also sued the federal government for al eged violations
stemming from the BiOps and Record of Decision and similarly asked that the court prohibit
implementation of the new operations.60
Both the nongovernmental organizations and California have also requested that the court
prohibit Reclamation from implementing the operational changes while the litigation is pending.61
While the nongovernmental organizations requested an injunction until the court resolves the
merits of the case,62 California’s motion focused specifical y on the harm that might be caused
through May 31, 2020, from operational changes connected to an RPA that NMFS included in its
2009 BiOp63 but omitted in its 2019 BiOp.64 On May 11, 2020, the court granted the motions in
part based on California’s narrower request, finding that NMFS’s failure to carry forward the

News-Releases/2019/November/Long-T erm-Operations-of-State-Water-Project.
56 California Natural Resources Agency and California Environmental Protection Agency, “St ate Agencies Lay Out
Actions to Protect Endangered Species and Meet State Water Needs,” press release, November 21, 2019, at
http://resources.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/CNRA-CalEPA-11.21.19-State-Agencies-Lay-Out-Actions-to-
Protect -Endangered-Species-and-Meet -State-Water-Needs.pdf.
57 California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Long-T erm Operation of the State Water Project in the Sacramento San
Joaquin Delta, California Endangered Species Act Incidental T ake Permit No. 2081 -2019-066-00, March 31, 2020, at
https://water.ca.gov/-/media/DWR-Website/Web-Pages/Programs/State-Water-Project/Files/IT P-for-Long-Term-SWP-
Operations.pdf?la=en&hash=AE5FF28E0CB9FA5DC67EF1D6367C66C5FF1B8B55 .
58 Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Cal. Nat. Res. Agency v. Ross, No. 3:20 -cv-01299 (N.D. Cal. Feb.
20, 2020).
59 Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief at 36, Cal. Nat. Res. Agency v. Ross, No. 3:20 -cv-01299 (N.D. Cal.
Feb. 20, 2020).
60 First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief at 57 -67, Pac. Coast Fed’n of Fishermen’s Ass’ns v.
Ross, No. 3:19-cv-07897 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 24, 2020). For additional background on these lawsuits and other legal issues
related to the CVP, contact CRS Legislative Attorney Erin H. Ward.
61 Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Pac. Coast Fed’n of Fishermen’s Ass’ns v. Ross, No. 3:19 -cv-07897
(N.D. Cal. Mar. 5, 2020); Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Cal. Nat. Res. Agency v. Ross, No. 1:20 -cv-
00426 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 21, 2020).
62 Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Pac. Coast Fed’n of Fishermen’s Ass’ns v. Ross, No. 3:19 -cv-07897, at
1-2 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 5, 2020).
63 California focused specifically on Reasonable and Prudent Alternative Action IV.2.1 from NMFS’s 2009 BiOp,
which restricted exports from pumping plants in the South Delta based on an inflow to export ratio. Plai ntiffs’
Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Cal. Nat. Res. Agency v.
Ross, No. 1:20-cv-00426, at 19 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 21, 2020); Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part as Moot Motion
for Preliminary Injunction and Holding Certain Issues in Abeyance, Cal. Nat. Res. Agency v. Ross, No. 1:20 -cv-00426,
& Pac. Coast Fed’n of Fishermen’s Ass’n v. Ross, No. 1:20 -cv-00431, at 4 (E.D. Cal. May 11, 2020).
64 Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Cal. Nat. Res.
Agency v. Ross, No. 1:20-cv-00426, at 2 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 21, 2020).
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identified RPA from the 2009 BiOp was likely to cause irreparable harm to the California Central
Val ey Steelhead.65 The court’s order required Reclamation to implement the RPA from the 2009
BiOp instead of any conflicting operational changes through May 31, 2020.66 The court stated
that it would address other aspects of the nongovernmental organizations’ motion and any
additional injunctive relief in a separate order.67
How Much Water Do ESA Restrictions Account For?
The exact magnitude of reductions in pumping due to ESA restrictions compared to the aforementioned water
quality restrictions has varied considerably over time. In absolute terms, ESA-driven reductions are typical y
greater in wet years than in dry years, but the proportion of ESA reductions relative to deliveries depends on
numerous factors. For instance, Reclamation estimated that ESA restrictions accounted for a reduction in
deliveries of 62,000 AF from the long-term average for CVP deliveries in 2014 and 144,800 AF of CVP delivery
reductions in 2015 (both years were extremely dry). In 2016 (a wet year), ESA reductions accounted for a much
larger amount (528,000 AF, when more water was delivered.
During the 2012-2016 drought, implementation of the RPAs (which general y limit pumping under specific
circumstances and cal for water releases from key reservoirs to support listed species) was modified due to
temporary urgency change orders (TUCs). These TUCs, issued by the California State Water Resources Control
Board in 2014 and again in 2015, were deemed consistent with the existing BiOps by NMFS and FWS. Such
changes al owed more water to be pumped during certain periods based on real-time monitoring of species and
water conditions. DWR estimates that approximately 400,000 AF of water was made available in 2014 for export
due to these orders.
Sources: Reclamation, “Water Year 2016 CVIPA §3406(b)(2) Accounting,” at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/
vungvari/FINAL_wy16_b2_800TAF_table_20170930.pdf, and California Environmental Protection Agency
and State Water Resources Control Board, “March 5, 2015 Order Modifying an Order That Approved in
Part and Denied in Part a Petition for Temporary Urgency Changes to Permit Terms and Conditions
Requiring Compliance with Delta Water Quality Objectives in Response to Drought Conditions,” p. 4, at
http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/prog rams/drought/docs/tucp/tucp_order030515.pdf.
Central Valley Project Improvement Act
In an effort to mitigate many of the environmental effects of the CVP, Congress in 1992 passed
the CVPIA as Title 34 of P.L. 102-575. The act made major changes to the management of the
CVP. Among other things, it formal y established fish and wildlife purposes as an official project
purpose of the CVP and cal ed for a number of actions to protect, restore, and enhance these
resources. Overal , the CVPIA’s provisions resulted in a combination of decreased water
availability and increased costs for agricultural and M&I contractors, along with new water and
funding sources to restore fish and wildlife. Thus, the law remains a source of tension, and some
would prefer to see it repealed in part or in full.
Some of the CVPIA’s most prominent changes to the CVP included directives to
 double certain anadromous fish populations by 2002 (which did occur);68

65 Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part as Moot Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Holding Certain Issues in
Abeyance, Cal. Nat . Res. Agency v. Ross, No. 1:20-cv-00426, & Pac. Coast Fed’n of Fishermen’s Ass’n v. Ross, No.
1:20-cv-00431, at 4 (E.D. Cal. May 11, 2020).
66 Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part as Moot Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Holding Certain Issues i n
Abeyance, Cal. Nat. Res. Agency v. Ross, No. 1:20 -cv-00426, & Pac. Coast Fed’n of Fishermen’s Ass’n v. Ross, No.
1:20-cv-00431, at 4 (E.D. Cal. May 11, 2020).
67 Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part as Moot Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Holding Certain Issues in
Abeyance, Cal. Nat. Res. Agency v. Ross, No. 1:20 -cv-00426, & Pac. Coast Fed’n of Fishermen’s Ass’n v. Ross, No.
1:20-cv-00431, at 4 (E.D. Cal. May 11, 2020).
68 CVPIA’s “fish doubling” goal was established on a baseline of average pop ulation levels during the period of 1967-
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 al ocate 800,000 AF of “(b)(2)” CVP yield (600,000 AF in drought years) to fish
and wildlife purposes;69
 provide water supplies (in the form of “Level 2” and “Level 4” supplies) for 19
designated Central Val ey wildlife refuges;70 and
 establish a fund, the Central Val ey Project Restoration Fund (CVPRF), to be
financed by water and power users for habitat restoration and land and water
acquisitions.
Pursuant to court rulings since enactment of the legislation, CVPIA (b)(2) al ocations may be
used to meet other state and federal requirements that reduce exports or require an increase from
baseline reservoir releases. Thus, in a given year, the aforementioned export reductions due to
state water quality and federal ESA restrictions are counted and reported on annual y as (b)(2)
water, and in some cases overlap with other stated purposes of CVPIA (e.g., anadromous fish
restoration). The exact makeup of (b)(2) water in a given year typical y varies. For example, in
2014 (a critical y dry year), out of a total of 402,000 AF of (b)(2) water, 176,300 AF (44%) was
attributed to export reductions for Bay-Delta Plan water quality requirements.71 Remaining (b)(2)
water was comprised of a combination of reservoir releases classified as CVPIA anadromous fish
restoration and NMFS BiOp compliance purposes (163,500 AF) and export reductions under the
2009 salmonid BiOp (62,200 AF).72 In 2016 (a wet year), 793,000 AF of (b)(2) water included
528,000 AF (66%) of export pumping reductions under FWS and NMFS BiOps and 114,500 AF
(14%) for Bay-Delta Plan requirements. The remaining water was accounted for as reservoir
releases for the anadromous fish restoration programs, the NMFS BiOp, and the Bay-Delta
Plan.73
Ecosystem Restoration Efforts
Development of the CVP made significant changes to California’s natural hydrology. In addition
to the aforementioned CVPIA efforts to address some of these impacts, three ongoing,
congressional y authorized restoration initiatives also factor into federal activities associated with
the CVP:
 The Trinity River Restoration Program (TRRP), administered by Reclamation,
attempts to mitigate impacts and restore fisheries impacted by construction of the
Trinity River Division of the CVP.

1991.
69 T he term “ (b)(2) water” references the provision in CVPIA that required these allocations.
70 Authorized refuge water supply under CVPIA is divided into two categories: Level 2 and Level 4 supplies. Level 2
supplies (422,251 AF, except in critically dry years, when the allocation is reduced to 75%) are the historical average of
water deliveries to the refuges prior to enactment of CVPIA. Reclamation is obligated to acquire and deliver this water
under CVPIA, and costs are 100% reimbursable by CVP contractors through the Central Valley Project Restoration
Fund. For more information, see Appe ndix.
71 Bureau of Reclamation, Water Year 2014 CVPIA Section 3406(b)(2) Operations and Accounting , January 28, 2015,
at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/data/FINAL_WY14_b2_presentation.pdf.
72 Bureau of Reclamation, Water Year 2014 CVPIA Section 3406(b)(2) Operations and Accounting , January 28, 2015,
at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/data/FINAL_WY14_b2_presentation.pdf.
73 Bureau of Reclamation, Water Year 2016 CVIPA §3406(b)(2) Accounting, at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/
vungvari/FINAL_wy16_b2_800T AF_table_20170930.pdf .
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 The San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP) is an ongoing effort to
implement a congressional y enacted settlement to restore fisheries in the San
Joaquin River.
 The California Bay-Delta Restoration Program aims to restore and protect areas
within the Bay-Delta that are affected by the CVP and other activities.
In addition to their habitat restoration activities, both the TRRP and the SJRRP involve the
maintenance of instream flow levels that use water that was at one time diverted for other uses.
Each effort is discussed briefly below.
Trinity River Restoration Program
TRRP—administered by DOI—aims to mitigate impacts of the Trinity Division of the CVP and
restore fisheries to their levels prior to the Bureau of Reclamation’s construction of this division
in 1955. The Trinity Division primarily consists of two dams (Trinity and Lewiston Dams),
related power facilities, and a series of tunnels (including the 10.7-mile tunnel Clear Creek
Tunnel) that divert water from the Trinity River Basin to the Sacramento River Basin and
Whiskeytown Reservoir. Diversion of Trinity River water (which original y required that a
minimum of 120,000 AF be reserved for Trinity River flows) resulted in the near drying of the
Trinity River in some years, thereby damaging spawning habitat and severely depleting salmon
stocks.
Efforts to mitigate the effects of the Trinity Division date back to the early 1980s, when DOI
initiated efforts to study the issue and increase Trinity River flows for fisheries. Congress
authorized legislation in 1984 (P.L. 98-541) and in 1992 (P.L. 102-575) providing for restoration
activities and construction of a fish hatchery, and directed that 340,000 AF per year be reserved
for Trinity River flows (a significant increase from the original amount). Congress also mandated
completion of a flow evaluation study, which was formalized in a 2000 record of decision (ROD)
that cal ed for additional water for instream flows,74 river channel restoration, and watershed
rehabilitation.75
The 2000 ROD forms the basis for TRRP. The flow releases outlined in that document have in
some years been supplemented to protect fish health in the river, and these increases have been
controversial among some water users. From FY2013 to FY2018, TRRP was funded at
approximately $12 mil ion per year in discretionary appropriations from Reclamation’s Fish and
Wildlife Management and Development activity.
San Joaquin River Restoration Program
Historical y, the San Joaquin River supported large Chinook salmon populations. After the
Bureau of Reclamation completed Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River in the late 1940s, much
of the river’s water was diverted for agricultural uses and approximately 60 miles of the river
became dry in most years. These conditions made it impossible to support Chinook salmon
populations upstream of the Merced River confluence.

74 T he additional flows outlined in the 2000 record of decision are based on water -year type and range from 369,000
AF in critically dry years to 815,000 AF in extremely wet years. A greater proportion of T rinity River water goes to the
river in dry years, and a greater proportion of the water goes to CVP contractors in wet years.
75 DOI, Record of Decision for T rinity River Mainstem Fishery Rest oration Final Environmental Impact
Statement/Environmental Impact Report, December 2000, at http://www.restoresjr.net/?wpfb_dl=2163.
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