California Wetlands Information System

California Wetland Policies and Programs

Recent policies and laws adopted by the Governor and the legislature underscore the importance of protecting and restoring California's wetlands. The following discussion briefly outlines several of the most significant State wetland policies.

California Wetlands Conservation Policy. In August 1993, the Governor announced the "California Wetlands Conservation Policy." The goals of the policy are to establish a framework and strategy that will:

The Governor also signed Executive Order W-59-93, which incorporates the goals and objectives contained in the new policy and directs the Resources Agency to establish an Interagency Task Force to direct and coordinate administration and implementation of the policy.

The State's wetland acreage is expected to increase as a result of the Governor's new policy. The policy recommends the completion of a statewide inventory of existing wetlands that will then lead to the establishment of a formal wetland acreage goal. The Resources Agency expects that the wetland acreage and quality could increase by as much as 30 to 50 percent by the year 2010. Based on the current estimate that there are 450,000 acres of existing wetlands in the State, the increase could be as much as 225,000 acres.

Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture and North American Waterfowl Management Plan. In 1986, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan was signed by the United States and Canada. The NAWMP provides a broad framework for waterfowl management in North America through the year 2000; it also includes recommendations for wetland and upland habitat protection, restoration, and enhancement.

Implementing the NAWMP is the responsibility of designated joint ventures, in which agencies and private organizations collectively pool their resources to solve waterfowl habitat problems. The plan focuses on seven habitat areas; the Central Valley of California is one of those areas.

The Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture was established in 1988 to "protect, maintain, and restore habitat to increase waterfowl populations to desired levels in the Central Valley of California consistent with other objectives of the NAWMP."

To achieve this goal, the CVHJV adopted six objectives for the Central Valley: (1) protect 80,000 acres of existing wetlands through fee acquisition or conservation easement; (2) restore 120,000 acres of former wetlands; (3) enhance 291,555 acres of existing wetlands; (4) enhance water habitat on 443,000 acres of private agricultural land; and (5) secure 402,450 af of water for 15 existing refuges in the Central Valley. The CVHJV derived their estimates of water needs for existing refuges from the USBR's 1989 refuge water supply study. In August 1993, DWR became an ex-officio member of the CVHJV Management Board.

Suisun Marsh Plan of Protection. The Suisun Marsh, in southern Solano County, is the largest wetland in the State. In 1974, the California Legislature recognized the threat of urbanization and enacted the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act (SB 1981), requiring that a protection plan be developed for the Marsh.

In 1978, the SWRCB issued D-1485, setting water salinity standards for Suisun Marsh from October through May to preserve the area as a brackish-water tidal marsh and to provide optimum waterfowl food plant production. D-1485 placed operational conditions on the water right permits of the federal CVP and the SWP. Order 7 of the decision requires the permittees to develop and fully implement a plan, in cooperation with other agencies, to ensure that the channel salinity standards are met.

In 1984, DWR published the Plan of Protection for the Suisun Marsh Including Environmental Impact Report. DWR, DFG, the Suisun Resource Conservation District and the USBR prepared this report in response to D-1485. The USFWS also provided significant input. The Plan of Protection proposes staged implementation of several activities such as monitoring, a wetlands management program for marsh landowners, physical facilities, and supplemental releases of water from CVP and SWP reservoirs. The Suisun Marsh Preservation Agreement entered into among the four agencies has also been authorized by an Act of Congress in PL 99-546. To date, $66 million has been spent on studies and facility construction.

Inland Wetlands Conservation Program. In 1990, the Legislature passed legislation authorizing the Inland Wetlands Conservation Program within the Wildlife Conservation Board. This program carries out some of the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture objectives by administering a $2-million-per-year program to acquire, improve, buy, sell, or lease wetland habitat.

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