On December 12, 2018, the California State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”) adopted a plan designed to restore water flows on the San Joaquin River and its main tributaries – the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers. The plan establishes water quality control measures and flow requirements needed to provide protection of beneficial uses in the watershed.

The Bay Delta Plan is being updated through two separate processes. The first plan amendment is focused on San Joaquin River flows and southern Delta salinity. The second plan amendment is focused on the Sacramento River and its tributaries, Delta eastside tributaries, delta outflows, and interior Delta flows.

The plan is intended to stem the decline in native fish species, including the Chinook salmon. Populations of salmon returning to the San Joaquin basin have declined from 70,000 in 1984 to 10,000 in 2017. The plan sets a benchmark of 40% of unimpaired flow during the critical February to June migratory period. The plan allows for reduced river flows on tributaries where stakeholders reach agreements on flow and “non-flow” measures, such as habitat restoration projects.

The City and County of San Francisco joined a lawsuit on January 10, 2019 against the State’s implementation of a plan to increase water flows to the lower San Joaquin River and southern Delta. While the lawsuit is a technicality to buy time while agencies work together to create an alternative plan, additional litigation over the plan is expected.