The Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District has been working to restore degraded habitats since 1993. RCRCD restoration projects improve habitat for native plants and animals, including critical wildlife species that are threatened or endangered, such as the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo, the threatened Santa Ana Sucker, and the Willow Flycatcher.
The RCRCD works with cooperating landowners and the community to conserve land. Numerous agencies collaborate to permit, fund, and monitor the restoration work that is completed on conservation lands:
- Army Corps of Engineers
- California Department of Fish and Game (1600 Permits)
- Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (401 Permits)
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
These regulatory agencies review plans and proposed actions that might impact waterways and habitat. For example, it’s essential that sensitive birds are not disturbed during breeding and nesting season. Therefore, no work is permitted in waterways during spring and into summer.
Counties and cities also have plans and ordinances that are designed to protect wildlife and water quality. There are special requirements for building near waterways to prevent encroachment and limit stream alteration.
Mitigation For Loss of Habitat
When a proposed development project may adversely impact habitat, regulatory agencies may require a developer to mitigate those impacts as a condition for granting necessary permits. Commercial or residential developers may be required to obtain environmental permits from regulatory agencies, including the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“Army Corps”), the California Department of Fish and Game, the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, and others.
The Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District (RCRCD) is a non-regulatory, not for profit, public agency that is able to assist private landowners with habitat creation, restoration, conservation, and related activities in riparian, upland, and woodland habitats. RCRCD has specialized in performing certain mitigation-related activities for those seeking or holding regulatory permits. RCRCD removes exotic aquatic and plant species, propagates and plants native habitat species, and more.
There are different ways to mitigate impacts, and the mitigation is imposed by the regulatory agencies, not by RCRCD. RCRCD provides services, “conservation activities”, that are commonly required as part (or sometimes even all) of the mitigation terms of a permit. Sometimes the required mitigation involves things RCRCD cannot do. The responsibility for either performing, or arranging for the activities required for mitigation is entirely the responsibility of the developer. RCRCD does not provide assistance in applying for, obtaining, or complying with the environmental permits.
As a permit condition, a permitting agency has set forth certain mitigation requirements, and the permit itself sometimes states that RCRCD is qualified to provide certain services.
Typically, the mitigation requirements specify both the type of activity and some standard for that activity. Those standards are usually specified in a planting plan: a Habitat Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (HMMP). If a developer does not have an acceptable plan, RCRCD can prepare one for a fee. A HMMP takes about 30 to 60 days to prepare. To complete a plan, RCRCD needs the project map, project description, and a copy of permits that require the mitigation in order to determine what activities RCRCD might provide; including easements, dedications, property grants, etc. RCRCD can usually provide an estimate within 30 days. The estimate remains valid for 30 days.
RCRCD requires a deposit before expending significant resources on conservation agreement negotiations. The deposit is to cover the administrative, staff, material, and legal costs incurred in preparing the conservation agreement. Unused portions of a deposit are returned upon entering into a conservation agreement or cancellation by either party.
Suitable specific habitat lands are sometimes not in supply. As a result, some project proponents prefer to reserve conservation habitat at the beginning of the negotiation process. RCRCD may accommodate such requests through an “In Lieu Fee” arrangement.
RCRCD may require certain language to be included in project grant deeds, CC and R’s (codes, covenants and regulations), and/or disclosures.
To begin the process, a developer must complete a Deposit Agreement, Permission to Enter Property, and an Indemnification Form.