California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Strategic Initiative 3: Develop Strong Water Resource Management Program


  • Strategy 1: Develop Scientific Expertise
  • Strategy 2: Enable DFG to Compete Effectively with Other Major Water Interests in the Allocation and Protection of California’s Fish and Wildlife Resources

A primary of goal for DFG is to fulfill our public trust responsibility to the State of California by providing sound leadership in the balanced and integrated management of California's water resources, for the benefit of aquatic and terrestrial species and those habitats upon which they depend.

Recognizing the importance of an integrated program to address water and wildlife needs as part of meeting our public trust mandate, DFG created a Water Branch in 2008 to better define and assist in implementing the full compliment of water functions and programs across the state. Whether it is water associated with our wildlife areas and ecological reserves, ensuring sufficient water in streams to support and stabilize fish populations, or interacting in a regulatory context with other state and federal agencies to promote water for fish and wildlife, water is a central issue in many DFG programs.

Regarding water rights and water quality, DFG staff needs to have broad program development and support roles and interact with program counterparts in DFG regions. To provide more support to technical staff, for the sake of consistency and efficiency, in the regions who are reviewing permits, applications, doing CEQA review and giving input on regulatory and policy items at the Water Boards, DFG’s Water Branch will need to add staff to these programs. Experience has proven that one person staffing a program cannot achieve the program development workload along with the technical and regulatory liaison work.

Future Implementation

To see progress toward these goals, DFG must recognize and/or initiate the following:

  1. Instream Flow Program: One important goal of the water resources initiative is to develop expertise within the department to provide a scientific basis of in-stream flow recommendations for water acquisition, water rights, and statewide water planning processes. Staff will develop and implement a multi-disciplinary in-stream flow assessment team with statewide and regional components. The workload will increase over the next 10 years and either more staff will need to be added, or regions will need to provide dedicated staff to assist with growing number of studies. Some regions will have more than one study going on at the same time in the next couple of years.
  2. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission/Water Boards: DFG must have the resources necessary (modeling, data, scientific information and staffing) to participate in FERC and Water Board proceedings and to ensure that we are positioned as the most expert and credible resource on the subject of protecting fish and wildlife.
  3. Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) coordination (general): DFG must identify the resources needed to participate as required in the CVPIA process and to ensure that we can produce the required cost-share in order to continue to receive the full benefit of federal dollars for ecosystem improvement on federally operated rivers. DFG is currently working with the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to coordinate joint planning efforts with the Bureau of Reclamation toward project planning of current and future CVPIA projects with a state cost-share component. Additional staff is required. Capacity also is needed to develop accounting and budgetary processes to appropriately capture state cost-share.
  4. CVPIA coordination (refuge water supply): DFG’s goal is to contract or partner with others such as Grasslands Water District, to hire a water broker to ensure DFG is in position to compete for water purchases. Other entities use water brokers. DFG would also like to identify funds to expand delivery capacity (e.g. ditch capacity) so that we can receive additional water when it becomes available.
  5. Water acquisition: Policy is needed to develop water acquisition priorities, guidance, process and funding for instream flow, CVPIA objectives, and DFG-owned lands and facilities. The proposed 2012 Water Bond provides funds for the Wildlife Conservation Board to acquire water rights for instream flow and DFG policy in this regard would also assist matching priorities with acquisitions. A water acquisition policy would provide the basis for DFG to coordinate internally, with WCB, and externally with other agencies and interest groups. Without this coordination, there will be fewer acquisition opportunities in general, and fewer cooperative leveraged water acquisitions.
  6. Water infrastructure funding for DFG facilities (general): DFG incurs ongoing water infrastructure cost related to operation of DFG-owned lands. Ongoing fees include water right payments to the State Water Resources Control Board for permitted/licensed water rights, Watermaster fees for adjudicated water rights, jurisdictional dam payments to DWR, Regional Water Quality Control Board water quality regulatory program costs, and various other water-related assessment fees. There are no dedicated fund sources for these fees and often payments are made using operation and maintenance dollars at the expense of facility operation, public trust fish and wildlife resources, and public use. Policy and potential legislative solutions will be necessary.
  7. Water infrastructure funding for DFG facilities (specific): DFG is developing a Budget Change Proposal (BCP) to develop a strategy for compliance with SBX 8, which requires reporting of pre-1914 and riparian monthly water diversions using flow totaling devices starting January 1, 2012 (Water Code Section 5100 and 5103). The BCP requests $500,000 for a one-year study to conduct an assessment to inventory existing diversion structures, and identify where improvements may be needed to comply with the new code requirements. A subsequent effort would be needed for any required construction activities.
  8. Water Project Operations: Continue DFG data collection, analysis and oversight activity for State Water Project operations to ensure compliance with CESA/ESA permits and understanding of project operation impacts.
  9. Water quality program policy: A policy is needed to identify and prioritize DFG participation in water quality activities. This policy would provide guidance on how DFG should be involved in these activities, ensuring the needed expertise to protect fish and wildlife resources. With no policy or direction, DFG will fail to meet our trustee responsibilities in protecting public interest in clean water for fish and wildlife and risk allowing water quality criteria and protocols to be completely driven by EPA and the State Water Boards.
  10. Increase Coordination with OSPR: There is a huge opportunity to work conjunctively regarding funding, personnel, training and laboratory services.
  11. Continue to develop a more robust and integrated water program.