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Delta Conservation Framework


Delta Conservation Framework 2017-2050

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is working with federal, state, and local agencies, and the Delta stakeholder community to develop a high-level conservation framework for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Yolo Bypass and Suisun Marsh. Building on prior Delta planning efforts, the Delta Conservation Framework will serve as the long-term continuation of link opens in new windowCalifornia EcoRestore, a recent link opens in new windowCalifornia Natural Resources Agency led Delta restoration implementation initiative. The Delta Conservation Framework will be completed in 2018 and will guide Delta conservation efforts to 2050.

Thank you for providing comments on the public draft of the Delta Conservation Framework. The comment period is now closed.

We appreciate the interest and feedback received. We will incorporate the input provided as best as possible into the final document.

The final document will be posted on this website in early 2018.

Delta Conservation Framework Public Draft Documents (9/26/2017) are available for download below.

Printed copies are also available at the following Delta libraries: Courtland, Clarksburg, Walnut Grove, Isleton, and Rio Vista.

Please find materials from our recent Delta Conservation Framework public draft review workshops below.

  • November 16, 2017, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m,

sandhill crane with wings extended


The Delta Conservation Framework will guide long-term implementation of strategies and related actions for Delta conservation and stakeholder integration and the protection, enhancement, restoration, and adaptive management of Delta ecosystems and their ecological functions to benefit human and natural communities.


The Delta Conservation Framework will:

  1. Serve as the long-term continuation of the California Natural Resource Agency's California EcoRestore initiative;
  2. Provide a shared vision and overarching goals for Delta conservation;
  3. Offer a forum for collaborative engagement and broad buy in;
  4. Inform the amendment of the ecosystem elements of the Delta Plan;
  5. Lay out a path for integrating stakeholder concerns into landscape scale goal setting and regional conservation strategies;
  6. Acknowledge challenges, potential regulatory conflicts, and other barriers to conservation project implementation;
  7. Solicit and integrate local, state, and federal agency feedback to ensure alignment with Habitat Conservation Plans/Natural Community Conservation Plans and other conservation opportunities;
  8. Inform State funding priorities.

Vision for a Dynamic Delta

We envision the future Delta as a mosaic of towns, agricultural landscapes, managed wetlands, and resilient ecosystems where people prosper and healthy fish, wildlife, and plant communities thrive.


view of central Isleton ©Christina Sloop
Central Delta Community

aerial view of agriculture fields and highway ©Christina Sloop
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area – An example of Multi-benefit Land Use

Desired Conservation Benefits

Implementation goals of the Delta Conservation Framework are focused on achieving desired conservation and Delta community benefits by:

  1. Integration of Delta community and conservation goals
  2. Preservation, enhancement, restoration, and adaptive management of the function of Delta ecosystems.

Multi Benefit DiagramEcosystem Function - The magnitude of expected changes and major associated uncertainties in the future require us to focus Delta conservation practices on the improvement or reestablishment of ecological processes. This will nurture ecosystem resilience in the face of continued pressures.

Delta Community and Agricultural benefit
include agricultural sustainability, low-impact recreation and tourism, including fishing, hunting, bird watching, and flood protection.

Biophysical benefits include natural functional flows, improved water quality, subsidence reversal, and carbon sequestration.

Ecological benefits contain natural communities dominated by native species, self-sustaining populations of special status species, expanding total available habitat and patch size for targeted species and communities, improving connectivity, and reestablishing mosaics of complementary habitat types.

Multiple-outcome benefits result from projects that promote strategies that combine biophysical, ecological, and Delta community benefits. Examples include wildlife-friendly farming and low-impact outdoor recreation including boating, birding, fishing, and hunting.

waterfowl and tule sedge in shallow flooded fields
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Recreation and Working Landscape

motorboat pulling people of floating watercraft in river
Delta Water Recreation

A Transformed Delta

In the past 150 years, Delta ecosystems were altered such that meandering channels were straightened, vast and fertile floodplains were converted for agricultural use, and steep rip-rapped levees were built, where lush riparian forests used to be. As a result, Delta habitat for native California fish, wildlife, and plant species was lost or severely degraded.  A number of California native species are now on the brink of extinction, and degraded ecosystems are increasingly dominated by non-native invasive species and impacted by pollution. The link opens in new windowDelta Transformed publication provides an account of how the Delta has changed.

An aging Delta levee system is of concern to ensure sustained flood protection of Delta communities, and climate change promises to put additional stresses on ecosystems, such as increasing sea levels and extreme weather events, including sustained drought, and severe storms.

California EcoRestore and the long-term Delta Conservation Framework are aimed at reversing this trend of loss and degradation to increase Delta ecosystem health and resilience. The idea is to protect and restore functional ecosystems not only to provide habitat for native plant and animal communities, but also to secure the natural services that benefit people, such as clean water, open space, recreational opportunities and flood protection.

aerial view of field crops divded by serpentine water channel
Delta Agriculture and Leveed Channel

aerial view of barrier stretched across water channel
2015 Temporary Salinity Barrier Installed in Response to Sustained California Drought

Thank You for Your Participation in the Delta Conservation Framework Workshop Series

Your input and recommendations throughout the workshops provided us with invaluable contributions to the Delta Conservation Framework document. 

salt marsh harvest mouse

Beginning in June 2016 the link opens in new windowDelta Restoration Network  held a series of six public meetings/workshops to capture input and feedback from the Delta stakeholder community and inform the development of the central elements of the Delta Conservation Framework. These elements include the Delta Conservation Framework purpose, vision, principles, goals, and strategies that address the need for: 

  1. Integration of conservation, agriculture and community goals,
  2. Conservation of ecosystem processes to promote function, and
  3. Addressing conservation implementation challenges and establishing good-neighbor practices.

Workshop Materials for Download

Introductory Meeting - June 28, 2016

Workshop 1 - August 18, 2016

Workshop 2 - September 21, 2016

Workshop 3 - October 20, 2016

Workshop 4a - November 30, 2016

Workshop 4b - December 1, 2016

people looking at papers in a meeting August 2016 workshop stakeholders

September 2016 workshop stakeholders October 2016 workshop stakeholders

November 2016 Workshop Stakeholders 

Delta stakeholders participating in the public workshop series.

Franks Tract Restoration Feasibility Study

Delta Smelt

The 2016 link opens in new tab or windowDelta Smelt Resiliency Strategy (PDF) identified a number of actions to be implemented to improve conditions in the Delta for the declining state listed endangered and federally listed species. As a result of the extended drought between 2013 and 2015 Delta Smelt abundance had declined to historic lows. The Strategy identified thirteen management actions including development of the Franks Tract Restoration Feasibility Study. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is the lead for preparing the study.

The objective of the Study was to assess the feasibility of restoring components of the historic tidal marsh form and function to create habitat suitable for Delta Smelt. Key restoration objectives include reducing the extent of aquatic weeds, decrease predation on Delta Smelt and other native fishes by lowering habitat suitability for non-native species, and improve food webs.

Franks Tract & Little Franks Tract
Franks Tract & Little Franks Tract facing westward - CDFW Photo

Franks Tract and Little Franks Tract are flooded islands in the Central Delta located in northeastern Contra Costa County adjacent to the community of Bethel Island. The 3,532 acre area, flooded by levee breaches in 1937 and 1982, is currently shallow open water habitat and remnant levees managed as part of the Franks Tract State Recreation Area.

Franks Tract is one of the most popular and heavily used areas of the Delta. Neighboring Bethel Island hosts numerous bass fishing tournaments, including some of national importance.These tournaments and associated recreational boating directly affects the sustainability of the local communities.

Franks Tract Futures?, the final study report, summarizes the restoration concepts developed to date, early stakeholder feedback, and results of initial hydrodynamic modeling and engineering studies including preliminary cost estimates. Findings conclude that it is feasible to restore portions of Franks Tract to improve habitat conditions for Delta Smelt and other native and pelagic fish species. Restoration has the potential to enhance water quality in the central and south Delta, reduce the extent of aquatic weeds, and limit the entrainment of fish from the west Delta into the south Delta.

Invasive species control has been identified as a high priority component of a Central Delta Corridor vision, and as an important near-term action within this corridor. Improving habitat for endangered Delta smelt populations is another primary focus of the vision, as has been outlined in the Delta Smelt Resiliency Strategy.

Existing Delta Intrusion - click to view video in new window
Existing Delta salinity intrusion video
The restoration design eliminates tidal pumping from False River, an important mechanism of salinity intrusion into the mid-Delta. Two video animations, one of the link opens in new windowexisting Delta salinity intrusion (YouTube) in the summer, where saline water from San Francisco Bay is entering and exiting the central Delta with the tides, and a simulation with a link opens in new windowrestored Franks Tract (YouTube) also in summer. The video animations provide conceptual illustrations of how tidal pumping of saline water works with and without a restored Franks Tract. On flood tide, a jet of higher salinity (red) water is seen entering Franks Tract from False River through an aperture sometimes referred to as a nozzle. Water quality in this jet is heavily influenced by that of the San Joaquin River at Jersey Point which is saltier than most of the Delta and Franks Tract. The return flow from Franks Tract is fresher— the salty jet of water will have mixed out somewhat and the ebb flow is drawn radially from a broader area so it includes more of the ambient water in Franks Tract.

Restored Frank Tract Video - click to view video in new window
Restored Franks Tract video
Even if the volume of flow is the same in both directions, the asymmetry between a salty flood and fresher ebb adds up and causes a net transport of salt into the Delta — like a bus that travels both north and south, but carries many more passengers in the southern direction. The CDFW Franks Tract restoration approach reduces False River flows and isolates the tidal pumping region from the Old River fresh water corridor. Regions upstream of the restoration site are shielded from ocean saltwater intrusion and the central Delta becomes fresher.

Stakeholders have many concerns about restoration adversely affecting economically important navigation access, fishing, recreational boating and hunting. The report makes recommendations for next steps in planning following the Delta Conservation Framework. While local boaters, hunters, and fishers value the open waters of the Tract, the ecological and water quality problems of the area are starting to impinge on the greater Delta and California water uses. Franks Tract/Little Franks Tract restoration is part of a larger vision that the link opens in new windowCentral Delta Corridor Partnership is exploring further in a regional planning process in 2018.

The restoration feasibility study was conducted in 2017-18 to inform a feasible and locally accepted restoration design. The following versions of the report are available for download here:

For fast viewing

For high-resolution on-screen viewing and printing

Reports of the following study components are available below

  1. link opens in new tab or windowAppendix A: Hydrodynamic Modeling in Support of Franks Tract Restoration Feasibility Study, Delta Resiliency Strategy (PDF)
  2. link opens in new tab or windowAppendix B: Franks Tract Engineering Feasibility Assessment (PDF)
  3. link opens in new tab or windowAppendix C: Franks Tract & Little Franks Tract User Survey (PDF)
  4. link opens in new tab or windowAppendix D: Franks Tract ROM Cost Estimate - Locally Proposed Conceptual Design (PDF)

CDFW Water Branch
830 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 445-8576