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Environmental Review Toolkit


Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives — 2011

California: Madera Pools Restoration and Mitigation Site

Aerial photograph of a large, flat plain dotted with numerous vernal pools

Figure 1. Aerial view of vernal pools, 10 months after construction
Source: California Department of Transportation

The Madera Pools Restoration and Mitigation Site project, developed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), is located on approximately 198 acres that provide habitats for many species, including several protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act, such as: vernal pool fairy shrimp, California tiger salamander, and San Joaquin Valley Orcutt grass. The project restores vernal and seasonal swales and pools. Vegetation collected from project sites during the dry season also serves as inoculum for the newly formed and restored habitats.

The Madera Pools project addresses mitigation and habitat restoration in an innovative way. The project established a mitigation bank for vernal pool habitats in California's Central Valley and provided credits for use in current and proposed Caltrans projects in Madera, Fresno, and Kings Counties. The use of mitigation banking ensures habitat connectivity, as vernal pools mitigation projects are clustered and connected to each other across the Madera Pools site, as opposed to being spaced widely across the Central Valley.

The Madera Pools project results from a collaborative effort initiated by Caltrans and its partners, including the California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These agencies recognize the importance of maintaining the natural connectivity of vernal pools. Instead of strictly locating mitigation sites next to project sites, the Madera Pools project considers the larger environmental network, and reduces habitat fragmentation.

The Madera Pools project offers environmental benefits in restoring and enhancing vernal pools. The centralized mitigation site also allows for uniform monitoring and less time spent negotiating contracts for individual mitigation locations, making mitigation efforts here less resource intensive. The Madera Pools project encourages an efficient form of environmental mitigation that consolidates resources to provide thriving vernal pool habitats.

For more information, contact Elbert Cox, California Department of Transportation, District 6, at

Map of central California, with a red star showing the location of the project

Figure 2. Madera Pools project location
Source: California Department of Transportation

Photograph looking across a large Madera vernal pool with a rainbow arching over it and stormclouds in the distance

Figure 3. Madera Pools site during a storm event
Source: California Department of Transportation