Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation

Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation
June 3, 2021
The Central Valley 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 projects. The
Charles V. Stern
CVP covers approximately 400 miles in California, from Redding to Bakersfield, and draws from
Specialist in Natural
two large river basins: the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. It is composed of 20 dams and
Resources Policy
reservoirs and numerous pieces of water storage and conveyance infrastructure. In an average

year, the CVP delivers more than 7 million acre-feet of water to support irrigated agriculture,
Pervaze A. Sheikh
municipalities, and fish and wildlife needs, among other purposes. About 75% of CVP water is
Specialist in Natural
used for agricultural irrigation, including 7 of California’s top 10 agricultural counties. The CVP
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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. Dry conditions since the onset of these requirements—including a prolonged drought from 2012
to 2016 and dry conditions in 2020 and 2021—have once again led to curtailment of water supplies and increased the stakes
of these debates.
Various state and federal proposals are currently under consideration and have generated controversy for their potential to
affect CVP operations and allocations. 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 all of these requirements are currently being negotiated but have yet to be finalized. Concurrently, the Trump
Administration attempted to increase CVP water supplies for users and made changes to long-term operations of the CVP in
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. The court issued a preliminary injunction on May 11, 2020, temporarily prohibiting Reclamation from
implementing the operational changes through May 31, 2020; on June 24, 2020, the court declined to extend the preliminary
injunction further. Efforts to add or supplement CVP storage and conveyance also are being considered and are under study
by federal and state entities.
Congress has engaged in CVP issues through oversight and legislation, most recently in the form of provisions enacted under
the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN Act; P.L. 114-322). Among other things, this act
authorized changes to CVP operations that attempt to provide increased water supplies for agricultural and municipal
contractors under certain circumstances. In the same legislation, Congress also authorized funding for new water storage
projects that are expected to benefit CVP operations.
In the 117th Congress, legislators may consider bills 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 Allocations .................................................................................................................. 8
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 .......................................................................................................... 17
Central Valley Project Improvement Act................................................................................. 21
Ecosystem Restoration Efforts ...................................................................................................... 22
Trinity River Restoration Program .......................................................................................... 23
San Joaquin River Restoration Program ................................................................................. 23
CALFED Bay-Delta Restoration Program .............................................................................. 24
New Storage and Conveyance ....................................................................................................... 25
New and Augmented Water Storage Projects .......................................................................... 25
Delta Conveyance Project ....................................................................................................... 27
Congressional Interest ................................................................................................................... 27
CVP Operations Under the WIIN Act and Other Authorities ................................................. 28
New Water Storage Projects .................................................................................................... 28

Concluding Observations .............................................................................................................. 29

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

Tables
Table 1. Central Valley Project Contractor Water Allocations by Water Year, 2012-2021 ............ 10
Table 2. California State Water Project Allocations by Water Year, 2012-2021 ............................. 11
Table 3. Coordinated Operations Agreement (COA) Regulatory Requirements for
CVP/SWP In-basin Storage Withdrawals ................................................................................... 12
Table 4. Congressionally Approved Allocations for Section 4007 Water Storage Projects .......... 26

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Appendixes
Appendix. CVP Water Contractors ................................................................................................ 30

Contacts
Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 32

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Introduction
The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), part of the Department of the Interior (DOI), operates
the multipurpose federal Central Valley 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 well 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 allocations 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,
dry conditions in 2020 and 2021 (the driest year on record since 1977) have resulted in renewed
water supply curtailments.2 Absent major changes to existing hydrologic, legislative, and
regulatory baselines, most agree that at least some water users are likely to face constrained water
supplies. Due to the limited available water supplies, proposed changes to the current operations
and allocation system are controversial.
Because 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 lawmakers. 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.3 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.4 They also allowed 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

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 Personal correspondence with Megan Kelhart, Bureau of Reclamation, May 5, 2021.
3 For more information, see CRS Report R44986, Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act:
Bureau of Reclamation and California Water Provisions
, by Charles V. Stern, Pervaze A. Sheikh, and Nicole T. Carter.
4 The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires that a federal agency proposing an action that may have an effect on a
listed species consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service (i.e., regulatory
agencies). The action agency will commonly complete a biological assessment on potential effects to the fish or its
habitat and submit it to the regulatory agency. The regulatory agency then renders a biological opinion, or BiOp, to the
action agency making the proposal. The 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. For more information, see CRS Report R46677, The
Endangered Species Act: Overview and Implementation
, by Pervaze A. Sheikh, Erin H. Ward, and R. Eliot Crafton.
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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.
Due to increased precipitation and disagreements with the state, among other factors, the WIIN
Act’s operational authorities generally did not yield significant new water exports south of the
Delta in 2017-2020. However, Reclamation received funding for WIIN Act-authorized water
storage project design and construction in FY2017-FY2021, and the majority of this funding has
gone to CVP-related projects.
Separate state and federal plans under the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act,
respectively, would alter water allocation 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 Valley 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 valley is drained by the Sacramento River, and the southern two-thirds of the
valley are drained by the San Joaquin River. Historically, this area was home to significant fish
and wildlife populations.
The CVP was originally conceived as a state project; the state studied the project as early as 1921,
and the California state legislature formally 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 1935.5 The
Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration subsequently transferred the project to Reclamation.6
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.7 The New Melones

5 49 Stat. 1028.
6 Transfer 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).
7 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. Additionally, USACE constructed
and continues to operate several major dams in and around the Central Valley for flood control and other purposes,
including Terminus Dam, Isabella Dam, Pine Flat Dam, and Success Dam in the San Joaquin Valley. Since USACE
operates 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.8 CVP water supplies irrigate more than 3 million 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 million 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 well as numerous other conduits, tunnels, and storage and distribution facilities.9 In an
average year, it delivers approximately 5 million 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 million users in the San Francisco Bay,
Central Valley, 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 well 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 million AF. Other major storage facilities, from north to south, include Trinity Dam and
Reservoir (2.4 million AF), Folsom Dam and Reservoir (977,000 AF), New Melones Dam and
Reservoir (2.4 million AF), Friant Dam and Reservoir (520,000 AF), and San Luis Dam and
Reservoir (1.8 million AF of storage, of which half is federal and half is nonfederal).

8 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.
9 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 federally operated Bill 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 Valley and in
some cases is integrated with CVP operations. Major non-CVP storage infrastructure in the
Central Valley includes multiple storage projects that are part of the SWP (the largest of which is
Oroville Dam and Reservoir in Northern California), as well 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 Valley 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.10

10 Tulare Lake, a freshwater dry lake in the San Joaquin River Valley, historically was one 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 (Terminus Dam),
Kern (Isabella Dam), Kings (Pine Flat Dam), and Tule Rivers (Success Dam), coupled with development of the basin
for irrigated agriculture, dried up the lake bed under most conditions.
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Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation

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 Valley Project or the State Water Project. For example, some large
areas have relatively small contracts for water compared with other, smaller 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 allocations. Water from snowpack typically
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 fall. By late winter, the state’s water supply outlook is
typically sufficient for Reclamation to issue the amount of water it expects to deliver to its
contractors.11 At that time, Reclamation announces estimated deliveries for its 250 CVP water
contractors in the upcoming water year.12
More than 9.5 million AF of water per year is potentially available from the CVP for delivery
based on contracts between Reclamation and CVP contractors.13 However, most CVP water
contracts provide exceptions for Reclamation to reduce water deliveries due to hydrologic
conditions and other conditions outside Reclamation’s control.14 As a result of these stipulations,

11 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).
12 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.
13 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 the Central Valley Project [CVP])
charge users based on the amount of water storage allocated to a contractor, among other things.
14 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 million AF of
water has been made available to CVP contractors annually (including 5 million 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
million AF.15
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 allocation 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 Valley 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 follows 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 proportionally 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 filled 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 Valley 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 allocation 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 (typically 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 (typically
designated as “critical years” based on inflows to Lake Shasta), 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

15 CRS analysis of CVP contract water delivery information by the Bureau of Reclamation, October 3, 2018.
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contractors, located on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. Central Valley refuges and several
smaller contractor groups (e.g., Eastside Contracts, In-Delta-Contra Costa Contracts, and SOD
Settlement Contracts) also factor into CVP water allocation discussions.16 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 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 Valley Wildlife Refuges”).
CVP Allocations
Reclamation released its allocations for the 2021 water year in February 2021.17 In announcing its
allocations, Reclamation stated that for the second year in a row, precipitation and snowfall were
“well below normal.”18 The 2021 forecasted inflow to Shasta Lake was at a low enough level

16 Central Valley Project refuges are discussed more in the below section, “Central Valley Project Improvement Act.”
17 Estimated allocations may be revised throughout the spring, depending on hydrology.
18 Bureau of Reclamation, “Reclamation outlines Central Valley Project initial 2021 water allocation,” press release,
February 23, 2021, https://www.usbr.gov/newsroom/newsrelease/detail.cfm?RecordID=73745.
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(i.e., 3.2 million acre-feet or less) for the 2021 water year to be designated by Reclamation as a
“Shasta Critical Year.”
Table 1, below, shows 2021 and prior year allocations. Because of the Shasta Critical Year
designation, the most senior water rights contractors and some refuges were allocated 75% of
their maximum contract allocations in 2021. SOD and NOD agricultural water service contractors
initially were allocated 5% of their contracted supplies in 2021, but Reclamation subsequently
reduced these allocations to 0% due to extremely dry conditions. These contractors have received
their full contract allocations four times since 1990: 1995, 1998, 2006, and 2017.19 In 2021,
Reclamation initially allocated 20% for Friant Class 1 contractor allocations and 0% for Class 2
allocations; these allocations have not changed.

19 Bureau of Reclamation, “Summary of Water Supply Allocations,” at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/vungvari/
water_allocations_historical.pdf.
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Table 1. Central Valley Project Contractor Water Allocations by Water Year, 2012-2021
(percentage of maximum contract allocation made available)

2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021
North-of-Delta










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










Users
Agricultural
40%
20%
0%
0%
5%
100%
50%
75%
20%
0%
M&I
75%
70%
50%
25%
55%
100%
75%
100%
70%
25%
Exchange
100%
100%
65%
75%
100%
100%
100%
100%
100%
75%
Contractors
Refuges (Level 2)
100%
100%
65%
75%
100%
100%
100%
100%
100%
75%
Eastside Division
100%
100%
55%
0%
0%
100%
100%
100%
100%
100%
Friant Class I
50%
62%
0%
0%
65%
100%
88%
100%
65%
20%
Friant Class 2
0%
0%
0%
0%
13%
100%
9%
a
0%
0%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, CVP Historical Water Supply Allocations and 2021 Allocations.
Notes: CVP = Central Valley Project. M&I = municipal and industrial water contractors. M&I contractor allocations typically reference a percentage in terms of historic
use (or public health and safety needs, whichever is greater).
a. “Uncontrolled” 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 typically makes available in its deliveries.
SWP contracted entitlements are 4.17 million AF, but average annual deliveries are typically
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. In 2021, contractors again received reduced allocations. SWP
water supply allocations for water years 2012-2021 are shown in Table 2.
Table 2. California State Water Project Allocations by Water Year, 2012-2021
(percentage of maximum contract allocation)

2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
State Water
65%
35%
5%
20%
60%
85%
35%
75%
20%
5%
Project
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. 99-546.20 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 allocations that occurred since 1986 (e.g., water delivery reductions pursuant to the
Central Valley 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.21 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.22 Following negotiations in fall 2018, Reclamation and DWR agreed to an
addendum to COA in December 2018.23 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 Valley 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).

20 “Agreement Between the United States of America and the State of California for Coordinated Operation of the
Central Valley Project and the State Water Project,” No. 7-07-20-WO551. November 24, 1986.
21 For example, see Joint Letter to the Bureau of Reclamation from Placer County Water Agency, City of Folsom,
Tehama-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.”
22 Letter from David G. Murillo, Regional Directory, Bureau of Reclamation, to Karla Nemeth, Director, California
Department of Water Resources, August 17, 2018.
23See Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources, 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 Valley Project and the State Water Project,
December 12, 2018.
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Table 3. Coordinated Operations Agreement (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
All
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
Critically 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 Valley 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.24 Finally, 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 called into question the
future of coordinated operations under COA.
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 well 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, overall export levels had increased over time, having
averaged more from 2001 to 2011 than over any previous 10-year period. The 6.42 million AF of
combined exports in 2017 was the second most on record, behind 6.59 million AF in 2011.
Over time, CVP exports have decreased on average, whereas SWP exports have increased.
Additionally, 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).

24 “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 millions of acre-feet, 1976-2020)

Source: CRS from data provided by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, email
communication, October 8, 2020, Total Annual Pumping at Banks, Jones, and Contra Costa Pumping Plants 1976-
2020 (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 allocations of less than 100% of their contract supplies. Allocations 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 allocations. 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);25 and
 Implementation of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA; P.L.
102-575).26
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 1972.27 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.28 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 generally 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.29 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.30
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

25 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.
26 P.L. 102-575, Title 34, 106 Stat. 4706.
27 The 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).
28 See Cal. Water Code §13160.
29 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.)
30 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.31 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
Updates to the 2006 Bay Delta Plan (i.e., the Bay-Delta Plan Update) are being carried out in two
separate processes: one for the San Joaquin River and Southern Delta, and the other for the
Sacramento River and tributaries north of the Delta.32 In December 2018, the State Water Board
adopted amendments to the 2006 Bay Delta Plan establishing flow objectives and revised salinity
objectives for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta.33 The San Joaquin portion of the
Bay-Delta Plan Update requires additional flows to the ocean (generally referred to 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 is
approximately 40% (within a range of 30%-50%); average unimpaired flows currently range from
21% to 40%.34 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 critically dry years.35 The state also is updating flow requirements on the
Sacramento River and its tributaries, but a detailed plan has yet to be finalized.36 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.
According to the state, the Bay Delta Plan Update establishes a “starting point” for increased river
flows but also makes allowances for reduced flow requirements on tributaries where stakeholders
have reached so-called voluntary agreements (see box below) to pursue both flow and “non-flow”
measures, such as habitat restoration projects and funding.37 Negotiations to finalize these
agreements have been ongoing since prior to the passage of the first plan update amendments, and
the negotiations involve the state and federal governments as well as numerous stakeholders.
According to the State Water Board, if water users do not enter into voluntary agreements to

31 Personal communication with the Bureau of Reclamation, October 15, 2015.
32 For more information, see the State Water Resources Control Board Bay Delta Plan update website at
https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/bay_delta/.
33 See California State Water Board, Adoption of Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco
Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary and Final Substitute Environmental Document
, Resolution No. 2018-
0059, December 12, 2018.
34 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.
35 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. “Critically dry” years refers to a classification that is part of a broader index of water
year types for the San Joaquin River; it is calculated based on runoff from the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. A
similar index characterizes Sacramento River runoff.
36 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%). See, 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.”
37 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.
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implement the plan update, the board could eventually take actions to require their
implementation, such as promulgation of regulations and conditioning of water rights.38
Voluntary Agreements
Voluntary agreements are proposed agreements between the State of California and water users that would aim to
improve conditions for native fish with new flows for the environment, habitat restoration, and new funding for
environmental improvements and science. These agreements, if finalized, would apply in lieu of flow-only measures
in the State Water Resources Control Board’s update to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan. The state has
created a framework for the agreements, which it expects would be monitored, enforceable, and in place for 15
years. Preliminary estimated costs for implementing the agreements by the state indicate they will cost
approximately $5.2 billion over 15 years. Of this amount, the federal government is assumed to contribute $740
million, the state government would contribute $2.2 billion, and water users would contribute $2.3 billion.
Sources: California Natural Resources Agency, Voluntary Agreements to Improve Flow and Habitat, 2020; and
California Natural Resources Agency, Framework of Voluntary Agreements to Update and Implement the Bay-Delta
Water Quality Control Plan,
February 4, 2020.
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 Bay Delta Plan under D-1641. Pursuant to
Section 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902,39 Reclamation generally 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 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.40 Another
complicating factor is that the voluntary agreements have assumed a baseline for flows based on
the 2008-2009 biological opinions, despite the federal government finalizing new biological
opinions (see below section, “Endangered Species Act”).
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 (CEQA).41 The federal district court stayed the CEQA claim until the state case is
resolved,42 which the United States appealed to the Ninth Circuit.43 The state case is being
coordinated with 11 other cases challenging the Bay Delta Plan Update.44

38 California Water Boards, “July 2018 Framework.”
39 43 U.S.C. §383.
40 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.
41 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; Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, United States v. State Water Res. Control Bd., No. 2:19-cv-
00547 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 28, 2019); Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate Under the California Environmental Quality
Act, United States v. State Water Res. Control Bd., No. 34-2019-80003111 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Mar. 28, 2019).
42 United States v. State Water Res. Control Bd., 418 F. Supp. 3d 496, 515-19 (E.D. Cal. 2019).
43 Notice of Appeal, United States v. State Water Res. Control Bd., No. 2:19-cv-00547 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 31, 2020)
(docketed in Ninth Circuit as No. 20-15145).
44 Order Granting Petition for Coordination of Add-On Case, State Water Board Cases, JCCP No. 5013 (Dec. 13, 2019
Cal. Sup. Ct.) (granting petition to coordinate United States v. State Water Resources Control Board, No. 34-2019-
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Endangered Species Act
Several species that have been listed under the federal ESA are affected by the operations of the
CVP and the SWP.45 One species, the Delta smelt, is a small 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.46 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 overall
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 Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, the
threatened Central Valley steelhead, threatened Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho
salmon, and the threatened Central California Coast steelhead.47
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
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 usually
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 challenged 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 challenged the agencies’ 2004 BiOps; this
challenge resulted in the development of new BiOps by the FWS and NMFS in 2008 and 2009,
respectively.48 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.49 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

80003111, with coordinated cases in State Water Board Cases, JCCP No. 5013).
45 Act of December 28, 1973, P.L. 93-205; 87 Stat. 884, codified at 16 U.S.C. §§1531 et seq. This report assumes a
basic knowledge of the act; an overview of the ESA and its major provisions may be found in CRS Report R46677, The
Endangered Species Act: Overview and Implementation
, by Pervaze A. Sheikh, Erin H. Ward, and R. Eliot Crafton.
46 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.
47 Anadromous fish are born in freshwater, spend the majority of life in saltwater, and return to freshwater to spawn.
Examples include salmon and some species of sturgeon. Winter-run Chinook salmon, listed in 1991, were the first
anadromous species listed from the Central Valley. Other species were listed subsequently.
48 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-Term 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.
49 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.
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reasonable and prudent alternatives (RPAs) designed to allow 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.50 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.51
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.52 Reclamation
completed the BA and sent it to FWS and NMFS for review on January 31, 2019.53 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 well 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, 2019.54 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

50 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.
51 Bureau of Reclamation, “Notice of Intent to Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Revisions to the
Coordinated Long-Term 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.”
52 White House, “Presidential Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West,”
October 19, 2018. Hereinafter, 2018 White House Memo on Western Water.
53 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.
54 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. 08FBTD00-2019-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.
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Lake Shasta, increasing habitat restoration, and introducing a process for independent scientific
review, among other things.55
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.56 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.57 Having
completed ESA and NEPA review, Reclamation’s proposed changes were finalized in a Record of
Decision on February 20, 2020.58
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.59 Historically, DWR received coverage for the SWP’s
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,60 and it finalized its incidental take permit for the SWP on
March 31, 2020.61 The permit calls 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).62 Among other relief sought, California asked that the
court enjoin Reclamation from implementing any actions that rely on the BiOps.63 Separately, a

55 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.
56 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.”
57 Final 2019 EIS, pp. 1-2.
58 Bureau of Reclamation, Record of Decision, Reinitiation of Consultation on the Coordinated Long-Term 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.
59 For more information, see California Department of Water Resources, “DWR Moves to Strengthen Protections for
Fish, Improve Real-Time Management of State Water Project,” November 21, 2019,” at https://water.ca.gov/News/
News-Releases/2019/November/Long-Term-Operations-of-State-Water-Project.
60 California Natural Resources Agency and California Environmental Protection Agency, “State 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.
61 California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Long-Term Operation of the State Water Project in the Sacramento San
Joaquin Delta, California Endangered Species Act Incidental Take Permit No. 2081-2019-066-00, March 31, 2020, at
https://water.ca.gov/-/media/DWR-Website/Web-Pages/Programs/State-Water-Project/Files/ITP-for-Long-Term-SWP-
Operations.pdf?la=en&hash=AE5FF28E0CB9FA5DC67EF1D6367C66C5FF1B8B55.
62 Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Cal. Nat. Res. Agency v. Ross, No. 3:20-cv-01299 (N.D. Cal. Feb.
20, 2020).
63 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).
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group of nongovernmental organizations also sued the federal government for alleged violations
stemming from the BiOps and Record of Decision and similarly asked that the court prohibit
implementation of the new operations.64
Both the nongovernmental organizations and California also had requested that the court prohibit
Reclamation from implementing the operational changes while the litigation is pending.65 While
the nongovernmental organizations requested an injunction until the court resolves the merits of
the case,66 California’s motion focused specifically on the harm that might be caused through
May 31, 2020, from operational changes connected to an RPA that NMFS included in its 2009
BiOp,67 but omitted in its 2019 BiOp.68 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
identified RPA from the 2009 BiOp was likely to cause irreparable harm to the California Central
Valley Steelhead.69 The court’s order required Reclamation to implement the RPA from the 2009
BiOp instead of any conflicting operational changes through May 31, 2020.70 On June 24, 2020,
however, the court denied the nongovernmental organizations’ motion to extend the injunction
while the case was pending.71 The court determined that based on the evidence presented to date,
the injunction was not “likely to materially improve conditions vis-à-vis the current operating
regime for the species of concern during the current temperature management period.”72
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 typically
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

64 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, congressional clients may contact CRS Legislative Attorney Erin H. Ward.
65 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).
66 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).
67 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. 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 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).
68 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).
69 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).
70 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).
71 Order Denying Without Prejudice Motion for Preliminary Injunction as to Shasta Operations, Pac. Coast Fed’n of
Fishermen’s Ass’n v. Ross, No. 1:20-cv-00431, at 4 (E.D. Cal. June 24, 2020).
72 Order Denying Without Prejudice Motion for Preliminary Injunction as to Shasta Operations, Pac. Coast Fed’n of
Fishermen’s Ass’n v. Ross, No. 1:20-cv-00431, at 19 (E.D. Cal. June 24, 2020).
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reductions in 2015 (both years were extremely dry). In wet years, when more water is delivered to contractors,
ESA reductions may be larger, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of total deliveries.
During the 2012-2016 drought, implementation of the RPAs (which generally limit pumping under specific
circumstances and call 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 allowed more water to be pumped during certain periods based on real-time monitoring of species and
water conditions. DWR estimated 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/programs/drought/docs/tucp/tucp_order030515.pdf.
Central Valley Project Improvement Act
In an effort to mitigate many of the environmental effects of the CVP, in 1992, Congress 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 formally established fish and wildlife purposes as an official project
purpose of the CVP and called for a number of actions to protect, restore, and enhance these
resources. Overall, 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);73
 allocate 800,000 AF of “(b)(2)” CVP yield (600,000 AF in drought years) to fish
and wildlife purposes;74
 provide water supplies (in the form of “Level 2” and “Level 4” supplies) for 19
designated Central Valley wildlife refuges;75 and
 establish a fund, the Central Valley 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) allocations 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 annually as (b)(2)

73 CVPIA’s “fish doubling” goal was established on a baseline of average population levels during the period of 1967-
1991.
74 The term “(b)(2) water” references the provision in CVPIA that required these allocations.
75 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 Appendix.
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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 typically varies. For example, in
2014 (a critically 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.76 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).77 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.78
The CVPRF, which funds CVPIA restoration activities, receives approximately $54 million
annually in congressional appropriations. These funds typically are offset by the water and power
user surcharges authorized under CVPIA. In previous years, revenues from water user surcharges
(which are based largely on actual water deliveries) dictated the corresponding level of CVPRF
charges for power users. However, a recent court ruling required, among other things, that
Reclamation adjust the assessment of these charges to make them proportional to water and
power user repayment obligations.79 As a result, Reclamation is implementing changes to the
assessment of and accounting for CVPIA surcharges in accordance with the ruling; these changes
could alter future CVPRF balances and activities. While most water and power users generally
support the changes, some environmental interests are concerned that the changes have the
potential to reduce the reliability of CVPRF funding.
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,
congressionally 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.
 The San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP) is an ongoing effort to
implement a congressionally 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.

76 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.
77 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.
78 Bureau of Reclamation, Water Year 2016 CVIPA §3406(b)(2) Accounting, at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/
vungvari/FINAL_wy16_b2_800TAF_table_20170930.pdf.
79 N. Cal. Power Agency v. United States, 942 F.3d 1091, 1093, 1098-99 (Fed. Cir. 2019).
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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 originally 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 called for additional water for instream flows,80 river channel restoration, and watershed
rehabilitation.81
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 million per year in discretionary appropriations from Reclamation’s Fish and
Wildlife Management and Development activity.
San Joaquin River Restoration Program
Historically, 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.
In 1988, a coalition of environmental, conservation, and fishing groups advocating for river
restoration to support Chinook salmon recovery sued the Bureau of Reclamation. A U.S. District
Court judge eventually ruled that operation of Friant Dam was violating state law because of its
destruction of downstream fisheries.82 Faced with mounting legal fees, considerable uncertainty,
and the possibility of dramatic cuts to water diversions, the parties agreed to negotiate a
settlement instead of proceeding to trial on a remedy regarding the court’s ruling. This settlement

80 The 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 Trinity River water goes to the
river in dry years, and a greater proportion of the water goes to CVP contractors in wet years.
81 DOI, Record of Decision for Trinity River Mainstem Fishery Restoration Final Environmental Impact
Statement/Environmental Impact Report, December 2000, at http://www.restoresjr.net/?wpfb_dl=2163.
82 NRDC v. Patterson, 333 F. Supp. 2d 906, 925 (E.D. Cal. 2004).
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was agreed to in 2006 and implementing legislation was enacted by Congress in 2010 (Title X of
P.L. 111-11).
The settlement agreement and its implementing legislation form the basis for the SJRRP, which
requires new releases of CVP water from Friant Dam to restore fisheries (including salmon
fisheries) in the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam (which forms Millerton Lake) to the
confluence with the Merced River (i.e., 60 miles). The SJRRP also requires efforts to mitigate
water supply delivery losses due to these releases, among other things. In combination with the
new releases, the settlement’s goals are to be achieved through a combination of channel and
structural modifications along the San Joaquin River and the reintroduction of Chinook salmon.
These activities are funded in part by federal discretionary appropriations and in part by
repayment and surcharges paid by CVP Friant water users that are redirected toward the SJRRP in
P.L. 111-11.
Because increased water flows for restoring fisheries (known as restoration flows) would reduce
CVP diversions of water for off-stream purposes, such as irrigation, hydropower, and M&I uses,
the settlement and its implementation have been controversial. The quantity of water used for
restoration flows and the quantity by which water deliveries would be reduced are related, but the
relationship is not necessarily one-for-one, due to flood flows in some years and other mitigating
factors. Under the settlement agreement, no water would be released for restoration purposes in
the driest of years; thus, the agreement would not reduce deliveries to Friant contractors in those
years. Additionally, in some years, the restoration flows released in late winter and early spring
may free up space for additional runoff storage in Millerton Lake, potentially minimizing
reductions in deliveries later in the year—assuming Millerton Lake storage is replenished.
Consequently, how deliveries to Friant water contractors may be reduced in any given year is
likely to depend on many factors. Regardless of the specifics of how much water may be released
for fisheries restoration vis-à-vis diverted for off-stream purposes, the SJRRP will impact existing
surface and groundwater supplies in and around the Friant Division service area and affect local
economies. SJRRP construction activities are in the early stages, but planning efforts have
targeted a completion date of 2024 for the first stage of construction efforts.83
CALFED Bay-Delta Restoration Program
The Bay-Delta Restoration Program is a cooperative effort among the federal government, the
State of California, local governments, and water users to proactively address the water
management and aquatic ecosystem needs of California’s Central Valley. The CALFED Bay-
Delta Restoration Act (P.L. 108-361), enacted in 2004, provided new and expanded federal
authorities for six agencies related to the 2000 ROD for the CALFED Bay-Delta Program’s
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.84 These authorities were extended through
FY2019 under the WIIN Act. The interim action plan for CALFED has four objectives: a
renewed federal-state partnership, smarter water supply and use, habitat restoration, and drought
and floodplain management.85

83 For more information, see San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP), see Funding Constrained Framework
for Implementation
, May 2018.
84 CALFED Bay-Delta Program, Programmatic Record of Decision, August 28, 2000, at http://www.calwater.ca.gov/
content/Documents/ROD8-28-00.pdf. Other key documents available at http://www.calwater.ca.gov/calfed/library/
Archive_ROD.html.
85 Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta, December 22, 2009, at http://www.doi.gov/news/doinews/
upload/CAWaterWorkPlan.pdf.
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From FY2010 to FY2020, Reclamation’s Bay-Delta restoration activities received congressional
appropriations averaging $37 million per year; the majority of this funding has gone for projects
to address the degraded Bay-Delta ecosystem (see below section, “Delta Conveyance Project”).86
Other agencies receiving funding to carry out authorities under CALFED include DOI’s U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey; the Department of Agriculture’s Natural
Resources Conservation Service; the Department of Defense’s Army Corps of Engineers; the
Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and the
Environmental Protection Agency. Similar to Reclamation, these agencies report on CALFED
expenditures that involve a combination of activities under “base” authorities and new authorities
that were provided under the CALFED authorizing legislation. The annual CALFED crosscut
budget reports the funding for CALFED across all federal agencies. The budget is generally
included in the Administration’s budget request and contains CALFED programs, their authority,
and requested funding. Overall funding for CALFED is typically in the hundreds of millions of
dollars. For instance, in FY2020, $602.6 million was spent on CALFED related activities.87
New Storage and Conveyance
Reductions in available water deliveries due to hydrological and regulatory factors have caused
some stakeholders, legislators, and state and federal government officials to look at other methods
of augmenting water supplies. In particular, proposals to build new or augmented CVP and/or
SWP water storage projects have been of interest to some policymakers. Additionally, the State of
California is pursuing a major water conveyance project, the California WaterFix, with a nexus to
CVP operations.
New and Augmented Water Storage Projects
The aforementioned CALFED legislation (P.L. 108-361) authorized the study of several new or
augmented storage projects throughout the Central Valley that have been ongoing for a number of
years. Additionally, a number of other projects in and around the Central Valley have been
proposed in recent years. While it is unclear whether any of these projects will be completed
and/or incorporated into the CVP itself, their status has ramifications for the water supply
questions related to the CVP. In the past, construction recommendations for new Reclamation
projects have been subject to congressional approval; however, Section 4007 of the WIIN Act
authorized $335 million for Reclamation financial support for new or expanded federal and
nonfederal water storage projects and provided that these projects could be deemed authorized,
subject to a finding by the Administration that individual projects met certain criteria.88 As of the
date of this report’s publication, most recommendations under this authority had been approved in
appropriations acts, with the only exception being proposed funding for the Shasta Dam and
Reservoir Enlargement Project, which has appeared in the most recent three project
recommendation lists. Table 4 shows recent funding levels for these projects.


86 In addition to funding under its CALFED authorities, Reclamation counts funding under its other CVP restoration
authorities (e.g., CVPIA, SJRRP) as CALFED activities in its annual reporting.
87 Office of Management and Budget, Analytical Perspectives: CALFED Bay-Delta Federal Budget Crosscut Report,
Office of Management and Budget, 2020.
88 For more information, see CRS In Focus IF10626, Reclamation Water Storage Projects: Section 4007 of the Water
Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act
, by Charles V. Stern.
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Table 4. Congressionally Approved Allocations for Section 4007 Water Storage Projects
($ in millions)
FY2018 Enacted
FY2020 Enacted

Appropriations
Appropriations
FY2021 Enacted Appropriations
Project (State)
Jan 2018 List
Feb 2019 List
June 2020 List
December 2020 List
Shasta Dam and Reservoir Enlargement Project
$20.00



(CA)
Sites Reservoir Storage Project (CA)
$4.35
$6.00
$4.00
$9.70
Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage
$1.50



Investigation (CA)
Friant-Kern Canal Subsidence Challenges Project
$2.20
$2.35
$71.00
$135.00
(CA)
Boise River Basin Feasibility Study (ID)
$0.75
$1.75
$2.88
$10.00
Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement
$2.00
$4.00
$1.00
$2.00
Project—Cle Elum Pool Raise (WA)
Upper Yakima System Storage Feasibility Study
$2.50



(WA)
Del Puerto Water District Feasibility Study (CA)

$1.50
$1.50

Los Vaqueros Reservoir Phase 2 Expansion (CA)

$2.16
$7.85
$4.10
Delta Mendota Canal Subsidence Correction


$3.00

(CA)
San Luis Low Point Improvement Project (CA)


$1.70

Sacramento Regional Water Bank (CA)


$0.87

Total
$33.30
$17.76
$93.80
$160.80
Sources: Bureau of Reclamation Reports to House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, January 2018, February 2019, June 2020, and December 2020; enacted
appropriations legislation for FY2018 (P.L. 115-141), FY2020 (P.L. 116-94), and FY2021 (P.L. 116-260).
Notes: In its proposed project allocations to Congress for 2019 and 2020, Reclamation recommended a total of $172 million for the Shasta Dam and Reservoir
Enlargement Project. Congress did not agree to these allocations.
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Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation

Delta Conveyance Project
In addition to water storage, some have advocated for a more flexible water conveyance system
for CVP and SWP water. Originally, this took the form of a combined state and federal habitat
conservation plan known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. In 2015, California Governor Jerry
Brown’s Administration recast this plan as two separate plans—known as California WaterFix
and California EcoRestore—to address water conveyance and ecosystem issues in the Bay-Delta.
The WaterFix project’s objective was to divert water from the Sacramento River, north of the
Bay-Delta, into twin tunnels running south along the eastern portion of the Bay-Delta and
emptying into existing pumps that feed water into the CVP and the SWP. In spring 2019,
California Governor Gavin Newsom canceled the plans for the WaterFix project and introduced
an alternative plan for conveying water through the Delta, known as the Delta Conveyance
Project. In the meantime, implementation of the EcoRestore project has continued.89
The Delta Conveyance Project is expected to involve the construction of a single tunnel to convey
water from two intakes on the Sacramento River to the existing pumps in the Bay-Delta. DWR’s
stated reasons for supporting this approach are to protect water supplies from sea-level rise,
saltwater intrusion, and earthquakes.90 The project will require a new environmental review
process for federal and state permits. The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority, a
joint powers authority created by public water agencies to oversee the design and construction of
the new conveyance system, is leading the project.91 DWR is overseeing the planning effort for
the project; the estimated $15.9 billion cost is expected to be paid largely by public water
agencies. The federal government’s role in the project beyond evaluating permit applications and
maintaining related CVP operations has not been defined. However, regardless of federal
participation, the operations of a new Delta Conveyance Project could have implications for
combined state/federal pumping operations in the Bay-Delta. Some stakeholders support the
initiative because it might result in less fish mortality at the pumps, more consistent water
supplies for users, and greater protection against earthquakes and levee failures. Others assert that
the project’s cost might not be worth the benefits and that the effort might not benefit water users
without assurances of water supplies.
Congressional Interest
Congress plays a role in CVP water management and has attempted to make available additional
water supplies in the region by facilitating efforts such as water banking, water transfers, and the
construction of new and augmented storage. In 2016, Congress enacted provisions aiming to
benefit the CVP and the SWP, including major operational changes in the WIIN Act and
additional appropriations for western drought response and new water storage that have benefited
(or are expected to benefit) the CVP. Congress also continues to consider legislation that would
further alter CVP operational authorities and responsibilities related to individual project units.
The below section discusses some CVP-related issues that may receive congressional attention.

89 For more information, see https://water.ca.gov/Programs/All-Programs/EcoRestore.
90 California Department of Water Resources, “State Withdraws WaterFix Approvals, Initiates Planning and Permitting
for a Smaller Single Tunnel,” press release, May 2, 2019, at https://water.ca.gov/News/News-Releases/2019/May/
State-Withdraws-WaterFix-Approvals. Hereinafter “DWR May 2019 Press Release.”
91 California Department of Water Resources, Modernizing Delta Conveyance Infrastructure Q&A, California
Department of Water Resources, at https://water.ca.gov/-/media/DWR-Website/Web-Pages/Programs/Delta-
Conveyance/Delta-Conveyance-QA.pdf?la=en&hash=373E0DBCD7AD988C9987A3197304E55D9115F798.
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CVP Operations Under the WIIN Act and Other Authorities92
According to Reclamation, there was limited implementation of many of the WIIN Act’s
operational authorities. Reportedly, pursuant to the WIIN Act, communication and transparency
between Reclamation and other agencies have occasionally increased for some operational
decisions, allowing for reduced or rescheduled pumping restrictions.93 Additionally, in spring
2018, WIIN Act allowances of relaxed restrictions on inflow-to-export ratios were used to effect a
transfer resulting in additional exports of 50,000-60,000 AF of water.94 Reclamation noted,
however, that hydrology during 2017 and 2018 affected the agency’s ability to implement some
of the act’s provisions. In some cases, Reclamation proposed other federal operational changes
pursuant to the WIIN Act that reportedly were deemed incompatible with state requirements.95
Most of the WIIN Act’s operational provisions are set to expire at the end of 2021 (five years
after the bill’s enactment). However, Reclamation has stated that its revised BiOps (see below)
are consistent with congressional direction to maximize water supplies in Section 4001 of the
WIIN Act. Reclamation also has reported that the general principles in Sections 4002-4003 of the
WIIN Act have been incorporated into its recent operational changes.96 Thus, even if the WIIN
Act’s CVP directives expire, many of them may remain manifest in CVP operations.
As noted, in early 2020, the Trump Administration finalized changes to CVP operations.
Congress may be interested in oversight of these modified operations and the process
underpinning these changes. Some also may propose extension of the WIIN Act operational
provisions, thereby extending legislatively mandated requirements and authorities on CVP
operations. In the 117th Congress, H.R. 737 (the RENEW WIIN Act), would extend the WIIN
act’s CVP operational authorities through the end of 2031. The Biden Administration also may
evaluate and act within its authority on CVP-related operations actions, such as withdrawing or
changing the Trump Administration BiOps, and other actions within its authority.
In debating CVP operations issues, stakeholders likely will focus on the extent to which the
changes provide for increased water deliveries relative to pre-reconsultation baselines for CVP
and SWP contractors and any related effects on species and water quality. Congress also may be
interested in recent disagreements between state and federal project operators related to proposed
operating procedures and species protections, including how these disagreements may affect the
historical norms of coordinated project operations and what this might mean for water deliveries.
Proposed voluntary agreements under the Bay Delta Water Quality Plan also may receive
congressional attention in this context.
New Water Storage Projects
As noted, Reclamation and the State of California have funded the study of new water storage
projects in recent years. Congress may opt to provide additional direction for these and other

92 For more information on these provisions, see CRS Report R44986, Water Infrastructure Improvements for the
Nation (WIIN) Act: Bureau of Reclamation and California Water Provisions
, by Charles V. Stern, Pervaze A. Sheikh,
and Nicole T. Carter.
93 Personal communication with the Bureau of Reclamation, May 30, 2018.
94 This provision of the WIIN Act generally lessened existing restrictions on the amount of water that could be exported
for water transfers. Personal communication with the Bureau of Reclamation, May 30, 2018.
95 Personal communication with the Bureau of Reclamation, May 30, 2018.
96 Bureau of Reclamation, Reinitiation of Consultation on the Coordinated Long-Term Operation of the Central Valley
Project and State Water Project
, Final Biological Assessment, October 2019, pp. 1-6.
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efforts to develop new water supplies for the CVP in future appropriations acts and reports. In
addition, Congress may consider oversight, authorization, and/or funding for these projects. Some
projects, such as the Shasta Dam and Reservoir Enlargement Project, could augment CVP water
supplies but have generated controversy for their potential to conflict with the intent of certain
state laws.97 Although Reclamation has indicated its interest in pursuing the Shasta Dam project,
the state opposed the project under Governor Brown’s Administration and has continued its
opposition during Governor Newsom’s Administration; it is unclear how such a project might
proceed absent state regulatory approvals and financial support. As noted, in early 2018,
Reclamation proposed and Congress agreed to $20 million in design and preconstruction funding
for the project.98 The Trump Administration recommended an additional $172 million for the
Shasta Project in subsequent proposals to Congress for Section 4007 projects, but Congress did
not approve this funding.99
Apart from the Shasta Dam and Reservoir Enlargement Project, Congress approved Reclamation-
recommended study funding for other projects that could add flexibility to CVP operations,
including the Sites Reservoir Project, the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Phase 2 Project, and the Friant-
Kern Canal Subsidence Challenges Project, among others. Overall, from FY2017 to FY2021,
Congress appropriated a total of $603 million to Reclamation for new water storage projects
authorized under Section 4007 of the WIIN Act. A significant share of this total is expected to be
used on projects that benefit the CVP and other related water supply efforts in California.
In the 117th Congress, H.R. 737 would reauthorize the WIIN Act’s storage authorities through the
end of 2031 (most of these authorities expire in late 2021). In the 116th Congress, proposals were
advanced that would have extended some aspects of the Section 4007 authority while altering the
underlying process authorized by Congress for these projects.
Concluding Observations
The CVP is one of the largest, most complex water storage and conveyance projects in the world.
Congress has regularly expressed interest in CVP operations and allocations, in particular
pumping in the Bay-Delta. In addition to ongoing oversight of project operations and previously
enacted authorities, a number of developing issues and proposals related to the CVP may be of
interest to congressional decisionmakers. These issues include study and approval of new water
storage and conveyance projects, updates to the state’s Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan, and the
status of efforts by the Trump Administration to make available more water for CVP water
contractors, in particular those south of the Delta. Drought or other stressors on California water
supplies are likely to magnify these issues.

97 In particular, Section 5093.542 of the California State Public Resources Code prevents participation (other than
technical or economic feasibility studies of the Shasta Dam raise project) by state departments or agencies in facilities
that would have an adverse effect on the free-flowing condition of the McCloud River. In previous documents,
Reclamation indicated this requirement could limit some state agency participation in the project.
98 This funding was provided from a pool of funds appropriated for FY2017 that was designated for water storage
projects authorized under Section 4007 of the WIIN Act. Enacted appropriations in FY2018 and FY2019 have included
similar funding amounts. For more information, see CRS In Focus IF10692, Bureau of Reclamation: FY2018
Appropriations
, by Charles V. Stern.
99 For more information, see CRS In Focus IF11158, Bureau of Reclamation: FY2020 Appropriations, by Charles V.
Stern.
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Appendix. CVP Water Contractors
The below sections provide a brief discussion some of the major contractor groups and individual
contractors served by the CVP.
Sacramento River Settlement Contractors and San Joaquin River
Exchange Contractors (Water Rights Contractors)
CVP water is generally made available for delivery first to those contractors north and south of
the Delta with water rights that predate construction of the CVP: the Sacramento River Settlement
Contractors and the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors. (These contractors are sometimes
referred to collectively as water rights contractors.) Water rights contractors typically 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%.
Sacramento River Settlement Contractors include the 145 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 allocation of
water rights. Reclamation entered into this agreement in exchange for these contractors
withdrawing their protests related to Reclamation’s application for water rights for the CVP.
The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors are four 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 (typically in the form of deliveries from the Delta-
Mendota Canal and waters north of the Delta). During all years except for when critical
conditions are declared, Reclamation is responsible for delivering 840,000 AF of “substitute”
water to these users (i.e., water from north of the Delta as a substitute for San Joaquin River
water). In the event that Reclamation is unable to make its contracted deliveries, these Exchange
Contractors have the right to divert water directly from the San Joaquin River, which may reduce
water available for other San Joaquin River water service contactors.
Friant Division Contractors
CVP’s Friant Division contractors receive water stored behind Friant Dam (completed in 1944) in
Millerton Lake. This water is delivered through the Friant-Kern and Madera Canals. The 32
Friant Division contractors, who irrigate roughly 1 million acres on the San Joaquin River, are
contracted to receive two “classes” of water: Class 1 water is the first 800,000 AF available for
delivery;100 Class 2 water is the next 1.4 million AF available for delivery. Some districts receive
water from both classes. Generally, Class 2 waters are released as “uncontrolled flows” (i.e., for
flood control concerns), and may not necessarily be scheduled at a contractor’s convenience.
Deliveries to the Friant Division are affected by a 2009 congressionally enacted settlement
stemming from Friant Dam’s effects on the San Joaquin River.101 The settlement requires
reductions in deliveries to Friant users for protection of fish and wildlife purposes. In some years,
some of these “restorations flows” have been made available to contractors for delivery as Class 2
water.

100 This water typically is provided for municipal and industrial use or for districts without access to groundwater.
101 When constructed, Friant Dam impounded the entire flow of the San Joaquin River, except for releases to manage
flooding and provide water for some riparian water rights holders immediately below the dam. For more information,
see the section “San Joaquin River Restoration Program.”
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Unlike most other CVP contractors, Friant Division contractors have converted their water
service contracts to repayment contracts and have repaid their capital obligation to the federal
government for the development of their facilities. In years in which Reclamation is unable to
make contracted deliveries to Exchange Contractors, these contractors can make a “call” on water
in the San Joaquin River, thereby requiring releases from Friant Dam that otherwise would go to
Friant contractors.
South-of-Delta (SOD) Water Service Contractors:
Westlands Water District
As shown in Figure 3, SOD water service contractors account for a large amount (2.09 million
AF, or 22.1%) of the CVP’s contracted water. The largest of these contractors is Westlands Water
District, which consists of 700 farms covering more than 600,000 acres in Fresno and Kings
Counties. In geographic terms, Westlands is the largest agricultural water district in the United
States; its lands are valuable and productive, producing more than $1 billion of food and fiber
annually.102 Westlands’ maximum contracted CVP water is in excess of 1.2 million AF, an amount
that makes up more than half of the total amount of SOD CVP water service contracts and
significantly exceeds any other individual CVP contactor.103 However, due to a number of factors,
Westlands often receives considerably less water on average than it did historically.
Westlands has been prominently involved in a number of policy debates, including proposals to
alter environmental requirements to increase pumping south of the Delta. Westlands is also
involved in a major proposed settlement with Reclamation, the San Luis Drainage Settlement.
The settlement would, among other things, forgive Westlands’ share of federal CVP repayment
responsibilities in exchange for relieving the federal government of its responsibility to construct
drainage facilities to deal with toxic runoff associated with naturally occurring metals in area
soils.
Central Valley Wildlife Refuges
The 20,000 square mile California Central Valley provides valuable wetland habitat for migratory
birds and other species. As such, it is the home to multiple state and federally designated wildlife
refuges north and south of the Delta. These refuges provide managed wetland habitat that
receives water from the CVP and other sources.
The Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA; P.L. 102-575),104 enacted in 1992, sought
to improve conditions for fish and wildlife in these areas by providing them coequal priority with
other project purposes. CVPIA also authorized a Refuge Water Supply Program to acquire
approximately 555,000 AF annually in water supplies for 19 Central Valley refuges administered
by three managing agencies: California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, and Grassland Water District (a private landowner). Pursuant to CVPIA, Reclamation
entered into long-term water supply contracts with the managing agencies to provide these
supplies.

102 Westlands Water District, “Who We Are,” at https://wwd.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/wwd-who-we-are.pdf
.
103 CRS analysis of data from Bureau of Reclamation, “Central Valley Project Water Contractors,” March 30, 2016, at
https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvp-water/docs/latest-water-contractors.pdf.
104 P.L. 102-575, Title 34, 106 Stat. 4706.
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Authorized refuge water supply under CVPIA is divided into two categories: Level 2 and Level 4
supplies. Level 2 supplies (approximately 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.105 Reclamation is obligated to acquire and deliver this water under CVPIA,
and costs are 100% reimbursable by CVP contractors through a fund established by the act, the
Central Valley Project Restoration Fund (CVPRF; see previous section, “Central Valley Project
Improvement Act”).
Level 4 supplies (approximately 133,264 AF) are the additional increment of
water beyond Level 2 supplies for optimal wetland habitat development. This water must be
acquired by Reclamation through voluntary measures and is funded as a 75% federal cost
(through the CVPRF) and 25% state cost.
In most cases, the Level 2 requirement is met; however, Level 4 supplies have not always been
provided in full for a number of reasons, including a dearth of supplies due to costs in excess of
available CVPRF funding and a lack of willing sellers. In recent years, costs for the Refuge Water
Supply Program (i.e., the costs for both Level 2 and Level 4 water) have ranged from $11 million
to $20 million.

Author Information

Charles V. Stern
Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy




Disclaimer
This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan
shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. It operates solely at the behest of and
under the direction of Congress. Information in a CRS Report should not be relied upon for purposes other
than public understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in
connection with CRS’s institutional role. CRS Reports, as a work of the United States Government, are not
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copy or otherwise use copyrighted material.


105 Although this represents the historical average for deliveries, prior to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act
(CVPIA; P.L. 102-575), refuges only had a legal entitlement to 121,700 acre-feet (AF).
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