Research Vessel Sentinel

DWR’s new state-of-the-art research vessel (RV), Sentinel, was delivered to Antioch, California, on December 12, 2016. The Sentinel is replacing the RV San Carlos as the Department’s principal platform for conducting scientific studies and collecting water quality phytoplankton, zooplankton, and benthos data in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Suisun Bay, and San Pablo Bay. The Environmental Water Quality and Estuarine Studies Branch, which ensures DWR compliance with state water monitoring mandates, has seen a rise in special study requests, including numerous studies focusing on the drought’s effect on water quality and biological communities.

The Sentinel will ensure the Environmental Monitoring Program can:

  • Comply with mandated monitoring requirements under Water Rights Decision 1641
  • Conduct monitoring and special studies in a safer and more efficient manner
  • Meet new monitoring requirements that are anticipated when the State Water Resources Control Board releases a new water right decision

View more photos in our Sentinel gallery and watch a video of the Sentinel commissioning ceremony.


Built in Seattle, Washington, the 60-foot vessel:

  • Has a state-of-the-art laboratory which contains the most sophisticated instrumentation currently available
  • Is designed to collect accurate and precise water quality and biological data
  • Features adaptable design to meet new monitoring requirements
  • Meets the U.S. Coast Guard’s most stringent safety regulations for passenger vessels


Obtaining the Sentinel has been a multiyear, collaborative effort between many agencies, including the California Department of General Services, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

  • July 2010 - Project initiation and charter signed
  • April 2014 - Request for Proposal posted on Bid Sync
  • September 2014 - Contract developed with Vigor Kvichak, LLC
  • September  2015 - Approved vessel design
  • November 2015 - Construction began
  • October 2016 - Engine start up
  • December 2016 - Final delivery and acceptance