Sacramento Bay Delta

Regional Spotlight: Partnering with California for Ecological and Economic Resilience


The Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta area is a rich mosaic of farms and levees that control floods and tides, providing food and water for people and abundant habitat for fish, birds and wildlife. Although people have greatly altered the natural system here over many years, it must still serve a wide variety of needs as an essential “green infrastructure” component of the California water system.

Since 2008, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service “biological opinions” have required the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to work to recover the dwindling Delta smelt population by restoring tidal wetlands that provide both food and shelter for the species. These tiny fish are important because they are a key indicator of the overall health of the Delta’s aquatic environment, and their declining numbers are evidence that the ecosystem is badly out of balance.

Restoring the Delta has been challenging however, because of the need to identify and acquire properties at the right locations for tidal influence, and the complexity of designing projects that can obtain permits by balancing the interests of many communities and constituencies.

The EIP team, working in close coordination with the responsible regulatory agencies, drew up plans to construct more than three miles of setback levees to protect an area in which over 25 miles of new channels will be constructed to convey tidewater onto land that had been cut off for nearly 100 years. Since signing a contract in October 2018, EIP and DWR have developed a meaningful public/private partnership. Staff from both organizations are working every day to advance the project, address the concerns of neighbors, and meet stringent requirements of regulatory agencies.

After the project receives its final permits, EIP will begin construction activity this spring with the goal of actually breaching the existing levees by the end of 2022. Once completed, the Lookout Slough project will provide both restored habitat and improved regional flood conveyance, with benefits for both endangered species and the local community.

In the coming years, EIP will work to complete additional projects in the Bay Delta to reduce the risk and shorten the time needed to move restoration projects from planning to implementation. There is consensus among all stakeholders here that ecological restoration is necessary in order to provide responsible offsets for the operation of California’s water system, and for the benefit of the many species on which the region depends.

Sacramento Bay Delta

An aerial view shows the magnitude of EIP's vast Lookout Slough Pay for Performance project in California.

Sacramento Bay Delta

Mitigation on this site will help to restore habitat for state and federally protected Delta smelt fish.

ESA Environmental Science Associates

Our Partners

Environmental Science Associates is a crucial partner to EIP in our efforts at Lookout Slough. ESA’s talented team worked with us to design, permit, mitigate, and restore important species and wetlands that positively impact California’s ecological health for the long term. ESA’s support helped allow EIP to work sustainably and cost-effectively on this multi-faceted project.

HARC Hanford ARC

Through our successful collaborations across California, Hanford ARC has proven a truly exceptional restoration specialist and partner, investing time and energy to be involved in the process. Hanford ARC’s ability to see construction and regulatory efficiencies helps us avoid redundancies and achieve substantial projects savings.

HEP Helix Environmental Planning

As one of our trusted local partners, Helix Environmental Planning displayed advanced knowledge of our California projects and provided technically advanced solutions to match. The sharp and innovative team also provides cultural archaeological resources, and are able to provide near instantaneous data that drives our decision making.

MCS McCollum Sweetwater

With deep relationships among local stakeholders, McCollum & Sweetwater is a trusted partner to EIP’s national team, bringing us their knowledge and experience in the conservation of sensitive habitats.

MC Mitchell Chadwick

As a California law firm that specializes in representing natural resource development companies, Mitchell Chadwick’s keen attorneys helped EIP navigate numerous challenges over the course of our work at Lookout Slough. The team understands EIP’s goals for sustainable restoration, allowing them to help us anticipate issues before they arise.

RF Riverfocus

River Focus Inc. is a trusted advisor to EIP in our California mitigation projects, bringing to the table its vast knowledge of water resource engineering to advance projects quickly with minimal roadblocks.

WRA Environmental Consultants logo

With its breadth of knowledge and deep connections to local stakeholders, Water Resource Associates is a trusted EIP partner and multi-disciplinary engineering firm, specializing in civil engineering, land development and permitting, water supply planning and permitting, and environmental sciences. EIP understands the complexities of water and water use in California and WRA shares our approach to creating long-term benefits for agriculture, business, residential, and recreational needs.