Restoring a Healthy Ecosystem

Preventing endangered species from becoming extinct is not enough. The Bay Institute also works to restore a healthy Bay-Delta environment for native plants and animals by identifying and securing the flows and habitats needed to recover endangered species populations, and provide the ecosystem services that support these populations in the long term.

The scientists and policy experts at The Bay Institute’s Rivers and Delta Program staff work to develop and win more adequate statutory and regulatory protections that promote long-term, comprehensive restoration and recovery of the estuary’s endangered species and ecosystems; to promote decision-making processes that are science-based and utilize adaptive management and decision analysis tools; to promote more sufficient and reliable environmental funding for large-scale restoration activities; and to ensure more rigorous enforcement of existing requirements for ecosystem protection, water quality and public health. The Rivers and Delta Program frequently provides expert testimony, briefing materials, and supporting technical evidence to legislators, regulatory boards, agency directors and other decision-makers.

We also work collaboratively with government agencies, independent experts, water users and land owners to design and implement large-scale ecological restoration programs through a number of state, federal and regional initiatives, including the Delta Stewardship Council, the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, the Central Valley Project Improvement Act Anadromous Fish Restoration Program, and the CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program.

Working with a broad coalition of conservation organizations we have developed a management framework to ensure a sustainable future for the Delta, based on the following elements:
 

  • Clear, measurable and enforceable targets for the Bay-Delta ecosystem, including targets to maintain sustainable fish populations, restore hundreds of thousands of acres of four historic habitat types, and increase flows in the spring and fall periods. The Bay Institute has been the leader in the science community in developing these targets and is currently working with independent scientists to finalize the targets and secure their adoption by federal and state regulators.
  • Enough dedicated environmental water to meet the targets, and a water master to oversee its use. The Rivers and Delta Program has been the leader in the environmental community in using the latest science to identify the flows needed to restore the Bay-Delta ecosystem. The State Water Resources Control Board relied heavily on our work in adopting new (non-binding) flow criteria in 2010 to protect the public trust values of that ecosystem. Over the next few years this information will be used to help set new water quality standards for the Bay-Delta.
  • A new Delta State Park and National Heritage Area, along with stronger oversight of land use in all areas of the Delta.
  • A new water use fee, and environmentally and economically sound criteria for financing future projects.

Many of our recommendations were incorporated by the independent Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force into the strategic plan for the Delta that was submitted to the Governor and State Legislature in December 2008. The task force's report served as the basis for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act, which we helped draft and pass, signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger on November 12, 2009. The Act created a new Delta Stewardship Council, which is charged with adopting a new master plan for the Delta by January 1, 2012. The Bay Institute is working with a large coalition of environmental, fishing and Delta interest groups to help shape the new plan.

The following links will take you to the Publication section of our website for additional information on ecosystem targets, ecosystem flow and habitat needs, and other elements of a comprehensive approach to restoring a healthy Bay-Delta estuary:

Delta Vision

Flow Criteria for the Delta Ecosystem Necessary to Protect Public Trust Resources

 

Increasing Water Exports from the south Delta

Increasing Water Exports from the south Delta

 

Rivers flowing backward

Rivers flowing backward


Freshwater flow to San Francisco Bay has been cut in half
Freshwater flow to San Francisco Bay has been cut in half