Water Project Biological Opinions ("OCAP")

Federal pumping plant near Tracy, John Ridilla, USFWS

Federal pumping plant near Tracy
John Ridilla USFWS


To avoid jeopardizing listed species or adversely modifying their critical habitat, Federal agencies consult with the Fish & Wildlife Service or National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. (See Section 7 Consultation.)

If a Federal agency believes that a project may adversely affect a listed species, it requests a formal consultation with one or both of the services. The consulting service then issues a biological opinion about whether a project is likely to jeopardize a listed species or destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat.

Current Biological Opinion - 2019

On August 2, 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the lead federal agency, and the California Department of Water Resources, the applicant, jointly requested the reinitiation of Endangered Species Act consultation on the coordinated long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted the reinitiation request on August 3, 2016.

On January 31, 2019, Reclamation transmitted their Biological Assessment to the Service. As stated in the BA, the purpose of this action is “…to continue the coordinated long-term operation of the CVP and SWP to maximize water supply delivery and optimize power generation consistent with applicable laws, contractual obligations, and agreements; and to increase operational flexibility by focusing on nonoperational measures to avoid significant adverse effects.”

San Joaquin Sacramento Bay, Delta

Sacramento San Joaquin Bay- Delta

The Service finalized our biological opinion on the coordinated operations of the CVP/SWP on October 21, 2019. The Service carefully evaluated the impact of CVP/SWP water operations on imperiled species including Delta smelt and 15 terrestrial species that could be impacted. The proposal includes habitat management measures in the Delta and entrainment management related to water exports in the South Delta.

The Service documented impacts from the proposed operations and worked with Reclamation to modify their proposed operations to minimize and offset those impacts. The Service undertook two independent scientific peer reviews. By using the best science available and receiving input from a number of peer reviewers, the Service is upholding our commitments to scientific integrity. Ultimately, the Service has concluded that Reclamation’s proposed operations will not jeopardize threatened or endangered species or adversely modify their designated critical habitat.

For more information on the Biological Opinions, see the links below:

Suisun Marsh, USFWS

Suisun Marsh, USFWS

Previous Biological Opinion - 2008

On May 16, 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources asked the Service to initiate consultation on the Long-Term Operational Criteria and Plan (OCAP) for coordination of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, specifically concerning the delta smelt and its critical habitat. (See OCAP Legal Archives.)

On December 15, 2008, the Fish & Wildlife Service issued a biological opinion (BO) on the Long-Term Operational Criteria and Plan (OCAP) for coordination of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.

The Service determined that the continued operation of these two water projects, as described in the plan, was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the delta smelt and adversely modify its critical habitat. The inclusion by the Service of reasonable and prudent alternatives, and their acceptance by the water agencies, avoided jeopardy and adverse modification.

California WaterFix

AKA "Delta Tunnels." Visit our California WaterFix page.

Smelt Working Group

The Smelt Working Group (formerly known as the Delta Smelt Working Group) evaluates up-to-date biological and technical issues regarding delta and longfin smelt and develops recommendations for consideration by the Service in its implementation of the Operational Criteria and Plan Biological Opinion. See the Smelt Working Group for notes and determinations.

Information about the Delta Smelt

Delta Smelt, Peter Johnson USFWS (More species photos)