This review of habitat improvements along Delta levees was conducted to support the development of the Delta Stewardship Council’s (Council) Delta Levee Investment Strategy (DLIS), which focuses on flood risk reduction as the primary purpose of State levee investments. The report is intended to provide guidance to the Council to ensure that those investments also contribute to long-term improvement of river corridors, with net benefits for fish and wildlife.
The Council must ensure that the DLIS helps to implement the Delta Reform Act and the Delta Plan. The Delta Reform Act of 2009 established the Council and defined its mission: to achieve the coequal goals of water supply reliability for California and ecosystem restoration in the Delta, in a manner that protects and enhances the values of the Delta as an evolving place (Water Code section 85054). The Delta Plan includes 14 regulatory policies, including one that calls for levee projects to incorporate habitat benefits, where feasible, and another requiring the use of the best available science and adaptive management.
This report is intended to support the application of best available science and adaptive management to habitat improvements along Delta levees. It should be noted that levee-related habitat improvements alone are not expected to provide all the ecosystem benefits needed by native species. These projects take place within the larger context of ecosystem restoration in the Delta and Suisun Marsh, which will require more natural functional flows, restoration and conservation of a wide range of habitat types1, improved water quality, and the management of nonnative invasive species.
Nevertheless, given its significant role in Delta levee investments, the State must ensure that these habitat projects are part of a program that provides a net benefit for aquatic species in the Delta.