Secretary Salazar canoes the San Joaquin River. Photo: Tami Heilemann, DOI
San Joaquin River Restoration Program
Historically, spring-run Chinook salmon thrived in all the major river systems of California’s Central Valley. These amazing fish live most of their adult lives in the ocean, but migrate upstream and spawn in the small streams far inland. The largest historic run of spring-run Chinook in the Central Valley once occurred in the San Joaquin River. Those runs ended when the Friant Dam was constructed in 1942, and the water was diverted for agriculture.
The San Joaquin River Restoration Program is working to restore the hydrology of the, San Joaquin River- connecting it once again from Friant Dam to its confluence with the Merced River- and to reintroduce Chinook salmon to the San Joaquin River.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead federal agency on the fish reintroduction.
What is the San Joaquin River Restoration Program?
The San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP) is a comprehensive long-term effort to restore water flows to the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to its confluence with the Merced River, restoring a self-sustaining Chinook salmon fishery in the river while reducing or avoiding adverse water supply impacts from restoration flows.
The geographic area for the SJRRP includes California’s Central Valley from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) to the base of the Tehachapi Mountains south of Bakersfield. The river restoration area is 153 miles long and reaches from Friant Dam to the confluence of the San Joaquin and the Merced River. For the purposes of the SJRRP, the river has been divided into five primary stretches shown on the map. The SJRRP will also evaluate the Eastside and Mariposa bypasses for flows and fish passage.
What are the Goals of the SJRRP?
The goals of the SJRRP were established in 2006 when the National Resources Defense Council, the Friant Water Users Authority (FWUA), and the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Commerce entered into a settlement agreement. This settlement was approved by the U.S. Eastern District Court of California (Court) on October 23, 2006.
The settlement establishes two primary goals:
- Restoration Goal- To restore and maintain fish populations in “good condition” in the main stem San Joaquin River below Friant Dam to the confluence with the Merced River, including naturally reproducing and self-sustaining populations of salmon and other fish.
- Water Management Goal- To reduce or avoid adverse water supply impacts to all of the Friant Division long-term contractors that may result from the Interim Flows and Restoration Flows provided for in the Settlement.
The settlement also establishes a framework for accomplishing the goals. Doing so will require both National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance for the project design, construction, and monitoring over the multi-year period. On March 30, 2009, President Obama signed the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act (SJRRS Act) giving the U.S. Department of the Interior full authority to implement the Settlement.
What is the Service’s Role in the SJRRP?
The Service is one of the Implementing Agencies responsible for the management of the SJRRP. We are involved in all aspects of the SJRRP as the lead agency on the Restoration Goal and fish reintroduction.
In addition to the work our office is doing to ensure the success of the SJRRP several other Service offices have expert staff working on it as well.
- The Pacific Southwest Regional Officeis the overall lead for Service involvement in the SJRRP.
- The Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office is the lead for environmental compliance, permitting and terrestrial restoration.
- The Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office is the technical fisheries lead.
- The Bay Delta Fish and Wildlife Office is the lead for activities within their geographic boundary.