News Worth Noting: CA WaterFix aquatic independent science peer review report completed; SF Bay Regional Water Board issues complaint and tentative cleanup order at Point Buckler Island; Lahontan Water Board approves largest mitigation bank in CA

2016 CA WaterFix Aquatic Independent Science Peer Review Report Completed

From the Delta Stewardship Council

Delta Stewardship Council new logoAt the request of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), select staff from the Council’s Delta Science Program convened on April 5-6, 2016 an independent scientific peer review for the joint Biological Opinion and 208 1(b) Incidental Take Permit analyses of the California WaterFix aquatic science. The peer review report has been completed.

For more information …

SF Bay Regional Water Board Issues Complaint and Tentative Cleanup Order at Point Buckler Island

From the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board:
SWRCB logo water boardsThe San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board Prosecution Team today issued an Administrative Civil Liability Complaint (Complaint) and a tentative Cleanup and Abatement Order (Cleanup Order) to John D. Sweeney and Point Buckler Club, LLC for the alleged fill and degradation of over 29 acres of tidal wetlands at Point Buckler Island, which is located in the Suisun Marsh, Solano County.

The Complaint proposes a monetary penalty of $4,600,000 for the unauthorized work and harm to tidal wetlands in Suisun Marsh, and the Cleanup Order includes requirements to restore wetland functions and abate harm to beneficial uses.  A Board hearing on these matters is scheduled for August 10, 2016.

Mr. Sweeney and Point Buckler Club, LLC allegedly conducted numerous construction activities without authorization from the Water Board, including the excavation and fill of tidal wetlands to build a perimeter levee, filling tidal wetlands inboard of the levee to build amenities that include helicopter pads, a lounge area and a toilet facility, and installation of a dock in the Bay. It is estimated that over 16,000 cubic yards of tidal marsh was excavated and that over 9,000 cubic yards of fill was placed in waters of the State and United States without authorization. This work was completed to develop the Island for use as a private sport and social club.

The levee construction has blocked tidal flow to about 29 acres of tidal wetland on Point Buckler Island.  As a result, the wetlands on the interior of the levee are highly degraded.  The loss of tidal wetlands at the island are having a direct, negative impact on beneficial uses of waters and wetlands in the Suisun Marsh, which provides critical habitat to migratory birds and threatened and endangered species including migrating salmon and Delta smelt.

Mr. Sweeney and Point Buckler, LLC are alleged to have violated Prohibition 9 of the San Francisco Bay Basin Plan and Clean Water Action section 301 for filling waters of the State and United States to construct a levee at the Island and to have violated Clean Water Act section 401 for failing to obtain a permit (401 Certification) for the unauthorized work. The tentative Cleanup Order would require future work to reestablish the tidal wetlands at the Island and provide compensatory mitigation for wetlands loss. The Cleanup Order includes provisions to submit and implement interim corrective action and wetland restoration plans.

More information about this matter is available on the Regional Water Board website: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/sanfranciscobay/water_issues/hot_topics/PointBuckler.shtml

The website includes a report on the construction activities conducted and harm to tidal wetlands (“Point Buckler Technical Assessment of Current Conditions and Historic Reconstruction Since 1985”) and more information about the scheduled hearing before the Board, including an opportunity for the public to comment on the Complaint and Tentative Cleanup Order.

Lahontan Water Board Approves Largest Mitigation Bank in California

State, Federal Agencies to Protect 4,000 Acres to Offset Ecological Impacts

From the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board:
SWRCB logo water boardsToday the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (Lahontan Water Board) approved the Petersen Ranch Mitigation Bank – the largest mitigation bank in California at more than 4,000 acres. The bank will serve the Antelope Valley, along with portions of Los Angeles, Kern and Ventura counties.

The Petersen Ranch Mitigation Bank offers credits for the mitigation of impacts to waters, such as wetlands, streams, floodplains, and open water areas, and to several types of special habitats, including chaparral, meadows and grasslands. The bank sponsor, Land Veritas, has worked with the Lahontan Water Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife over the past five years on developing this mitigation bank, which has been thoroughly vetted by the state and federal agencies.

“Public agencies and private-sector builders will now be able to mitigate their environmental impacts by purchasing credits, the most effective means of preserving our natural resources and protecting water quality,” said Patty Kouyoumdjian, executive officer for the Lahontan Water Board. “Having a beautiful wetland area in the eastern part of the state that is predominantly desert is wonderful as it will recharge groundwater resources, as well as protect wildlife and the environment. We are pleased to have such a magnificent resource here in the Lahontan region.”

The Petersen Ranch Mitigation Bank consists of two properties along the San Andreas Fault Zone in the Leona Valley of Los Angeles County: the Petersen Ranch bank property, which is approximately 3,789 acres and encompasses portions of Portal Ridge, an important wildlife corridor; and the Elizabeth Lake bank property, which is approximately 314 acres and encompasses portions of Elizabeth Lake. These properties are home to riparian habitats, wetlands, streams, Cismontane and Juniper woodlands, grasslands and more. These environments create habitats for a number of threatened and special-status species including Swainson’s hawk, burrowing owl, southwestern willow flycatcher, western pond turtle, California red-legged frog, coast horned lizard, golden and bald eagles and much more.

Mitigation banks are formed to protect, restore and enhance special environmental resources, such as wetlands, streams, or other resources to offset unavoidable impacts from projects that receive state and federal permits. Permit holders may then buy “credits” from the banks when their projects, that are located elsewhere but often within the same watershed, cause impacts on those special types of environmental resources. The bank then maintains and protects the environmental resources from any future development and ensures that the resources are kept in their natural state in perpetuity.

“EPA is pleased to join the Lahontan Regional Board and our other state and federal partners to approve the Petersen Ranch Mitigation Bank,” said Tomás Torres, Water Division director for U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “This is a truly unique opportunity to preserve and enhance nearly 1,200 acres of wetlands and streams and offset impacts to aquatic ecosystems in Southern California.”

The Southwest Resource Management Association will be the nonprofit that will manage and ensure the property’s environmental values are protected, with oversight by the federal and state agencies. For more information on the Petersen Ranch Mitigation Bank, see the Land Veritas webpage.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is a California state agency responsible for the preservation and enhancement of the quality of California’s water resources in eastern California. For more information about the Lahontan Water Board visit its website.

 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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