California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Statewide Water Planning Program

Clean and abundant water is needed to conserve, protect, and manage California’s fish, wildlife and native plant resources. Uncontrolled, poorly planned, and poorly implemented water-related projects or discharges can adversely affect fish and wildlife by destroying forage, interrupting migration, impacting water temperature, or causing toxicity to fish and wildlife. The Water Branch’s statewide water planning responsibilities include coordination and integration of CDFW’s activities related to water rights, water quality, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydroelectric permitting, in-stream flow, and the California Water Plan.

water drop

Photo by Department of Water Resources

California Water Plan

The California Water Plan provides a framework for water managers, the legislature, and the public to consider options and make decisions regarding California’s water future. CDFW participates on the development of the Water Plan to provide expertise on fish and wildlife resources and to offer CDFW priorities for water-related actions that may enhance fishery resources.

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Waterfowl on the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

CVPIA Refuge Water

The CDFW Refuge Water Program coordinates closely with the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Grassland Water District (GWD), and the Central Valley Joint Venture (CVJV) to provide and manage water supplies for wetland habitat on specific state and federal wildlife refuges in the Central Valley as identified in the federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA).

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Copco 1 dam and powerhouse on the Klamath River

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

CDFW also reviews the applications of hydroelectric power generation being considered for licensing or relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Staff assesses the likelihood of impacts on fish and wildlife resources, mechanisms to avoid impacts, and development of mitigation and enhancement measures. The Statewide Water Planning Unit tracks projects with statewide and unique implications and facilitates CDFW regional staff interactions with FERC. Other reviewing agencies include the State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

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A deep pool on the South Fork of the Feather River

Instream Flow

CDFW’s Instream Flow Program (IFP) determines what instream flows are needed to maintain healthy conditions for fish and wildlife. The IFP develops information on the relationships between instream flow and available stream habitat to determine the adequacy of and prescribe appropriate instream flows. Flow criteria are developed for watercourses and streams throughout the state for which minimum flow levels need to be established in order to assure the continued viability of fish and wildlife as required by the Public Resources Code (§10000-10005) and FGC §5937 mandates. The IFP provides instream flow recommendations for water acquisition, water rights, and statewide water planning processes.

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A slough on Roe Island showing typical slough vegetation and adjacent tidal marsh

Water Quality

Protection of water quality is a vital component for conserving fish and wild life resources. CDFW’s Water Quality Program ensures that the needs of fish and wildlife inform water policy, legislation and execution of water quality policy and management. CDFW has specific authority to protect the waters of the State from pollution under Fish and Game Code §5650, §5651-5655 and §12015-12016 and to provide oversight and approval of projects altering or diverting lakes or streams (FGC §1600-1607).

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A creek in the upper foothills of the San Joaquin River Watershed.

Water Rights

As trustee for California’s fish and wildlife resources, the CDFW has jurisdiction over the conservation, protection, and management of fish, wildlife, native plants, and habitat necessary for biologically sustainable populations of those species. The California Water Code requires that when considering the appropriation of water, the State Water Resources Control Board consult with CDFW on the amounts of water needed for fish and wildlife. CDFW staff reviews all applications to appropriate and transfer water and, as a result of these reviews, may file protests or complaints to avoid adverse impacts on public trust resources.

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