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Partnership, Funding Award to Advance South of Delta Drought Resiliency Pilot Program

The United States Department of Interior, United States Bureau of Reclamation, along with the Friant Water Authority (FWA), San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA), and the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority (SJRECWA), are pleased to announce the execution of a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a South of Delta Drought Resiliency Framework. This partnership establishes a program and advances projects that increase regional climate resilience in the San Joaquin Valley, and its implementation is being advanced through funding provided by the United States Bureau of Reclamation from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”) and the Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”), which nearly doubled the annual funding provided to the Bureau of Reclamation over eight years. Today marks a significant milestone to improve climate resilience for the communities, farms, and ecosystems served by the Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. ​

Over the past decade, California has experienced unprecedented hydrologic variability, recording six of the driest years as well as two of the wettest years in California’s nearly 100-year historical hydrologic record.  While the historic unpredictability of hydrology in the state is the reason the CVP was built to begin with, the impacts of ever growing regulatory constraints on project operations has exacerbated the hydrologic variability, resulting in significantly reduced reliability of CVP water supplies for the Water Authorities’ member agencies. The Authorities involved in this MOU have collectively identified projects and potential actions aimed at enhancing drought resiliency south of the Delta, which will be referred to as the “South of Delta Drought Resiliency Framework.”

The MOU establishes a cooperative and collaborative approach to implement drought resiliency projects and provides a framework for the Parties to work together, set short and long-term goals, and ensure successful implementation. The MOU is a living document that will evolve and change over time, with periodic updates to reflect progress made and new components identified. ​

Key components of the Framework include: ​

  1. The development and implementation of a Drought Plan that allows participating entities to voluntarily conserve and securely store or exchange a portion of their CVP south of Delta deliveries for use in future years with lower supplies, in addition to supporting the advancement of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program.
  2. Allocation of Costs for Large Extraordinary Maintenance (XM) Projects, including the Delta-Mendota Canal (DMC) Subsidence Correction Project.
  3. Commitment by the Bureau of Reclamation and SJRECWA to develop processes to ensure that the San Joaquin River Restoration Program can provide specific flows past Sack Dam via the San Joaquin River to Mendota Pool.
  4. Resolution on the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir Project by FWA and the Exchange Contractors to ensure it supports the objectives outlined in the Drought Plan.

“It is critical that we not only continue to invest in new infrastructure to capture and store water to prepare for future dry years, but that we work collaboratively to make the most of the resources we currently have. This agreement marks a new level of cooperation that will help to mitigate the impact of droughts on urban, agricultural, and environmental water users in our region, and to advance the goals of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program while maintaining water rights. We appreciate the collaboration of our partners as well as the Bureau of Reclamation for their commitment and resources for this effort,” said Chris White, Executive Director of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority.

“As water operations certainty continues to decrease, and once reliable supplies become less so, it’s critical for water agencies and water managers to work together to find creative ways to meet our common goals”, said Jason Phillips, CEO of the Friant Water Authority.  “The agreement between our neighbors in the Valley, the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority and the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, as well as our partners at the Bureau of Reclamation, will help bring some predictability to water allocations and will help to provide certainty for the farms and communities we represent.  These efforts and outcomes are not easily achieved, but are a welcomed development and hopefully a sign of more partnering in the future.”

“Today’s announcement is a positive step forward to improve climate resilience for the urban and rural communities, wildlife and wildlife enthusiasts, and agricultural productivity that the Water Authority’s member agencies support,” said Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. “This partnership – coordinated between the federal government and south of delta water users – and associated funding award will allow us to implement projects to improve our ability to manage water supplies across the dry years we know will come. This year’s allocation highlights the water supply reliability challenges that impact our members across all year types and further reinforces the need to develop proactive solutions to improve reliability. Today’s announcement advances one such solution and establishes a framework for south-of-delta water users and Reclamation to work together to improve outcomes for the San Joaquin Valley.”

The South of Delta Drought Resiliency Framework represents a significant step towards ensuring a more reliable water supply for communities, farms, and ecosystems dependent on the Central Valley Project.

The Exchange Contractors Water Authority, Friant Water Authority, and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority express their gratitude for the funding provided by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and emphasize the need to secure additional funding to move these projects forward.

About the Project Area
The CVP water supplied by the Water Authorities member agencies serves approximately 2.5 million acres of agricultural lands within the San Joaquin, Santa Clara, and San Benito Valleys, a portion of the water supply for nearly 4 million people, including in urban areas within Santa Clara County referred to as the “Silicon Valley,” Fresno and Kern Counties, and millions of waterfowl that depend upon up to 200,000 acres of managed wetlands and other critical habitat within the largest contiguous wetland in the western United States.

FWA is a joint-powers authority formed in 2004 by public agencies that receive water from the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project. Its primary purposes are to operate and maintain the Friant-Kern Canal and to serve the information and representation needs of its member agencies.

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