The Stream Flow Enhancement Program (SFEP) funds projects that enhance stream flows across the state of California. The SFEP defines enhanced streamflow to mean: a change in the amount, timing, and/or quality of water flowing down a stream, or a portion of a stream, to benefit fish and wildlife. Funded projects are also consistent with the objectives and actions outlined in the California Water Action Plan, with the primary focus on enhancing flow in streams that support anadromous fish; support special-status, threatened, endangered, or at-risk species; or provide resilience to climate change.
California voters approved the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) to provide funding to implement the three objectives of the California Water Action Plan, namely: 1) more reliable water supplies, 2) the restoration of important species and habitat, and 3) a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system that can better withstand inevitable and unforeseen pressures in the coming decades. Proposition 1 authorized the Legislature to appropriate $200 million to the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) to fund projects that result in enhanced stream flows and which WCB distributes through a competitive basis via the SFEP.
In 2021, the California State legislature passed Senate Bill 170 the Budget Act of 2021 (SB 170). SB 170 allocated $100 million dollars from the state general fund to the WCB to fund projects to enhance instream flow for the purposes of protecting fish and wildlife.
The process, procedures, and criteria through which WCB administers the SFEP are described in the General Grant Guidelines (PDF)(opens in new tab) .
Examples of project types (should not be viewed as exhaustive lists of eligible project types):
- Water Transactions (refer to California Water Code section 79709)
- Acquisition of water or water rights from willing sellers, or acquisition of land that includes water rights or contractual rights to water
- Short- or long-term water transfers and leases
- Water rights instream dedication pursuant to CWC section 1707
- Forbearance agreements
- Conservation easements
- Water conservation projects (actions that provide more efficient use of water diverted or reduces the amount diverted from a stream, resulting in enhanced stream flow) coupled with adequate long term (≥20 years) protections for the conserved water
- Off-channel water storage
- Changes in the timing or rate of diversion or source water supply
- Irrigation ditch lining or piping
- Stock-water systems
- Agricultural tailwater recovery/management systems
- Changing points of diversion
- Groundwater storage and conjunctive use
- Reservoir operations both at existing and new storage sites
- Habitat restoration projects that enhance stream flow and improve aquatic and riparian conditions
- Wet meadow restoration
- Forest management practices (e.g., thinning)
- Reconnecting flood flows with restored flood plains
- Eradication of invasive plant species with high water use rates, relative to native plant species
- Acquisition of land or interests in land that lead to a direct and measurable enhancement to stream flow, improving upon existing flow conditions
- Stream flow gauging
- Scientific studies that assess effectiveness of previously implemented projects and/or inform design and implementation of future stream flow enhancement project(s)
From 2016 to 2021, the SFEP has granted approximately $134 million in funding to 128 projects. For additional information, see:
Figure 1. Amount of Funding Awarded by the Board by Year and Project Category