This Delta Plan chapter describes the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) ecosystem and the factors that affect and too often degrade it. It proposes policies and recommendations for restoring the Delta ecosystem organized into five core strategies to achieve the coequal goals of the Delta Reform Act:
Create more natural functional flows
Improve water quality to protect the ecosystem
Prevent introduction of and manage nonnative species impacts
Improve hatcheries and harvest management
These core strategies form the basis of the five policies and nine recommendations found at the end of the chapter.
In the Delta Reform Act, the goal of protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem is coequal to the goal of providing a more reliable water supply for California. Both must be accomplished while protecting and enhancing the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place.
Some past land and water uses have put these goals in conflict. For example, reliable water supplies have been associated with artificially stabilized flows and a complex human-made system of infrastructure that includes dams, levees, and channelized rivers and sloughs. Yet healthy rivers and estuaries, and the native species that live in them, depend on naturally variable water flows and a dynamic landscape. Many native species also depend on wetlands that have been drained for farming and other human uses.
Despite these conflicts, the Delta Stewardship Council must work to achieve the goal of protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. Inherent in that goal is the objective to “restore the Delta ecosystem, including its fisheries and wildlife, as the heart of a healthy estuary and wetland ecosystem” (Water Code section 85020(c)).