Federal and state officials say they already have taken steps to address some of the concerns raised in a National Research Council report that was critical of a draft plan to protect fragile and endangered species in the California Bay-Delta while diverting water to the central and southern parts of the state.

The draft plan, which was circulated in fall 2010, calls for the construction of a large structure—either a canal or two 33-ft-dia 37-mile twin-bore tunnels—to provide a reliable source of freshwater from areas north of the delta, where water is plentiful, to central and southern California. The plan also calls for restoration of thousands of acres of marshes and other sensitive areas near the delta to protect endangered wildlife.

A steering committee of federal, state and local agencies, environmental organizations and other interest groups have spent $150 million so far to develop the plan, which is expected to take 50 years to implement.

The National Research Council's report, released on May 5, concluded that the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) lacked clearly defined goals and presented information in a fragmented way. “There is a strong body of solid science to support some of the actions discussed … but because the science is not well integrated, we are getting less from the science than we could,” says Henry Vaux, professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley and Riverside, who led the National Research Council panel.

California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird says, “[The report] only represents a snapshot of where this process was seven months ago.” Since then, the BDCP team has made progress on the “effects analysis,” a critical component of the plan that looks at potential impacts of the proposed project on wildlife in the delta. The effects analysis, overseen by McClean, Va.-based SAIC, was not included in the draft plan reviewed by the National Research Council.

In February, BDCP also brought in Fairfax, Va.–based environmental consulting firm ICF International to analyze how to improve the BDCP process.