The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors today approved several important measures that will ensure that environmentally sensitive habitat and species in San Diego County are protected for decades to come, while facilitating the construction and operation of current and future facilities vital to the water supply reliability of the region.
The measures are the culmination of 15 years of collaboration between the Water Authority and federal and state wildlife agencies. They provide important long-term environmental protections while streamlining the Water Authority’s environmental permitting process through 2065.
The cornerstone of today’s action was the approval of a Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP) that will help to secure long-term endangered species permits required by state and federal wildlife agencies.
“Today’s board action exemplifies the Water Authority’s commitment to protecting the environment,” said Michael T. Hogan, Water Authority Board Chair. “This plan comprehensively addresses endangered species impacts from our projects. It also will benefit our ratepayers by saving both time and money as we build and operate future water projects. We are grateful to the state and federal wildlife agencies for their guidance and collaboration in completing this important and complex plan.”
The state’s Natural Community Conservation Program (NCCP) and federal Habitat Conservation Program (HCP) promote coordination and cooperation among public agencies, landowners and other interested parties to minimize conflicts during construction and other activities that may affect endangered or threatened species.
A critical component of the NCCP/HCP was the development of best management practices and mitigation measures for up to 63 endangered plant and animal species that could be affected by existing and future Water Authority capital improvement projects and ongoing operations and maintenance activities. The protocols, which will be integrated into long-term endangered species permits, preclude the need to obtain individual permits for each project and activity, simplifying future compliance with state and federal endangered species regulations.
The board also authorized Water Authority staff to execute an agreement with the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue the permits, which the Water Authority expects to receive by spring 2011. The board also certified the required state environmental impact report, which describes expected project impacts and the measures required to avoid or substantially reduce potentially significant environmental impacts.
The plan encompasses the western third of San Diego County and the extreme southwestern portion of Riverside County. Under the plan, the Water Authority will preserve 1,920 acres of sensitive land and create or restore an additional 80 acres of vital riparian habitat.
The Water Authority’s plan will be compatible with, and complement other existing and planned habitat conservation plans in the county.
A copy of the plan and the EIR is available at: www.sdcwa.org/habitat-conservation.