Environmental Review Toolkit
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11 Practice: Caltrans Big Slough Watershed Partnership
Categories: Mitigation
Public Involvement
State: California
Organization: California Department of Transportation
Contact: Gary Winters
Title: Chief, Division of Environmental Analysis
Email: gary.winters@dot.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 653-7136
Description: The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 5 has developed a partnership with the Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) to cooperatively protect and improve the environment of the Elkhorn Slough watershed. The Foundation currently oversees long-term mitigation for important ecosystems associated with the Elkhorn Slough watershed and is uniquely positioned to work with Caltrans in gathering and sharing data on sensitive species, natural communities, and biological diversity.

Through the partnership, Caltrans and the ESF are identifying synergistic mitigation strategies for major transportation improvements to three major state highways, a rail line, and multiple county arterial roads that traverse the watershed. The partnership aims to “expand the quality, effectiveness, and sustainability of mitigation, ideally in advance of individual project construction impacts.” The agreement between Caltrans and ESF establishes the following objectives:

- Develop a regional planning process that is compatible with the existing Elkhorn Slough Foundation Watershed Conservation Planning Process, which focuses on comprehensive solutions to water quality and habitat preservation issues, and that will be acceptable to regulatory agencies.
- Identify sensitive areas that are most likely to be impacted by future transportation projects, and explore opportunities for project mitigation, either through fee simple purchases, conservation easements, or enhancement of properties currently under ESF stewardship. Develop an ongoing partnership that will develop mutually beneficial mitigation projects.
- Increase Caltrans’ ability to improve mobility in the Monterey Bay area by delivering transportation projects more quickly and with greater overall consensus on appropriate mitigation measures.
- Achieve the maximum environmental and community benefits from the public’s financial investment in mitigation related to individual transportation projects.
- Take greatest advantage of the technical expertise and cumulative knowledge and experience unique to Caltrans and ESF staff.
- Extend this working partnership to include the California Department of Fish and Game, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California Coastal Commission, The Nature Conservancy, and other stakeholders, as appropriate.
- Build public confidence that the transportation system can be improved while the natural environment is protected and enhanced.


It is intended that the MOU formalizing the partnership between Caltrans and ESF will stand as a model for other such proactive partnerships statewide and foster advance mitigation strategies.
Last Updated: July 18, 2007
12 Practice: Caltrans Determination of State Wildlife Connectivity Needs
Categories: GIS and Spatial Data
Habitat/Ecosystem Connectivity & Conservation
Interagency Coordination
Land Use Planning & Smart Growth
State: California
Organization: California Department of Transportation
Contact: Gary Winters
Title: Chief, Division of Environmental Analysis
Email: gary.winters@dot.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 653-7136
Description: Habitat fragmentation is becoming a great concern for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) along old as well as new alignments where traffic, median barriers, and widening are compounding the challenges to wildlife movement. Endangered species and the exclusion of higher order carnivores and the next level of predators these carnivores control—called meso-predators—have been driving forces on the issue. Decline and extinction of some bird populations has been linked to a disproportionate increase in the meso-predator population.

Due to the rising importance of the issue and implications for future construction, Caltrans participated in a statewide symposium/workshop to identify “Missing Linkages” in fall 2000. The California Department of Parks and Recreation, the Biological Resources Division of the United States Geological Survey, California Wilderness Coalition, the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) sponsored the meeting, which attracted 152 scientists, activists, and planners. Their report, Missing Linkages, identifies 232 critical habitat linkages in the state, 59 percent of which are threatened. The connectivity areas identified in the report ranged from narrow choke points, like the Coal Canyon underpass, to long stretches of rivers and broad swaths of redwood forest. More than half of the linkages were deemed to be high priorities because of development threats and good opportunities for conservation. Caltrans plans to utilize the products of the state’s collaborative “Missing Linkages” project to assess viable communities, habitats, and wildlife movement corridors throughout the state. This resource will be used to help environmental impacts wherever possible, and as a guide for addressing habitat and wildlife connectivity needs when the state implements conservation measures. Generation of the statewide conservation and connectivity maps is providing the foundation for interagency buy-in, acknowledgement, and utilization of a common set of environmental priorities. The mapped priorities are expected to streamline interagency coordination and negotiation on a project-by-project basis, reduce conflict, and facilitate achievement of mutual stewardship objectives among Caltrans, FHWA, federal and state resource and regulatory agencies, non-profit conservation organizations, and environmental advocates.

As a next step, TNC is assisting Caltrans in comparing the 20-year transportation plan to priority conservation areas, to minimize potential impacts and to identify opportunities where Caltrans mitigation projects could achieve the greatest environmental benefit and make a tangible contribution to achievement of interagency, public and private conservation objectives. To more effectively accomplish this, Caltrans is exploring ways to assess mitigation needs on a regional or plan-level basis. Currently, Caltrans is projecting and quantifying its mitigation needs over the next 10-20 years in the Desert and Central Coast regions, and Caltrans and FHWA are exploring opportunities to focus conservation measures to address ecoregional conservation and connectivity plan priorities in those areas. Caltrans is still working with resource agencies to ensure that advance mitigation will indeed satisfy resource and regulatory permitting and consultation requirements. TNC staff will work with Caltrans on identifying potential mitigation packages and identifying other stakeholders who may want to be involved in the design of such packages (based on anticipated needs and the best available science). As resource and regulatory staff were involved in the initial identification process of conservation priority areas, regulatory approvals are expected to be streamlined. Caltrans anticipates that advancing this environmental analysis into planning will contribute a broad, regional perspective; gain consensus among multiple resource agencies and partners; identify, avoid, and minimize significant impacts; identify opportunities for enhancements; and better assess cumulative impacts.
Last Updated: March 30, 2007
13 Practice: Interagency Funding
State: California
Organization: Federal Highway Administration CA Division
Contact: David Tedrick
Title: Environmental Program Manager
Email: David.Tedrick@fhwa.dot.gov
Phone: 916-498-5024
Description:

The California Department of Transportation is currently funding several positions through agreements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other resource agencies.

Current funding agreements include: Standard Contractor Agreement, EPA/CALTRANS Partnership, and San Diego Permitting Process.

Download the Mare Island Accord at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/offices/orip/PIP.htm

Related Documentation: http://wwwcf.fhwa.dot.gov/exit.cfm?link=http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/offices/orip/PIP.pdf
Last Updated: September 8, 2006
14 Practice: SACOG Blueprint Project
Categories: Land Use Planning & Smart Growth
Linking Planning and NEPA
State: California
Organization: Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG)
Contact: Debra Jones
Title: Project Delivery Manager
Email: DJones@sacog.org
Phone: 916.340.6242
Description: The Sacramento Council of Governments (SACOG) Blueprint Project for smart growth started as a way to look at and optimize land uses in the Sacramento County by overlaying GIS data layers (e.g., greenspace, agricultural land, rivers and streams) to accurately represent the existing environment and help develop a project's Purpose and Need. The Blueprint Concept Map depicts a way for the region to grow through the year 2050 in a manner that is generally consistent with seven draft Smart Growth Principles. SACOG is also continually engaging the resource agencies in the Blueprint Project by providing opportunities for agencies to confirm or revise the environmental data being utilized. Lessons learned are being used to help SACOG develop a more comprehensive planning process. A website has also been developed to provide information and increase public involvement in the Blueprint Project and process.
Related Documentation: http://www.sacregionblueprint.org/sacregionblueprint/home.cfm
Last Updated: August 3, 2006
15 Practice: Memorandum of Agreement for Early Mitigation Planning for Transportation Improvements
Categories: Environmental Stewardship & Streamlining
Habitat/Ecosystem Connectivity & Conservation
Interagency Agreements: MOAs, MOUs, and Programmatic Agreements
Process/NEPA
Wildlife and Threatened & Endangered Species
State: California
Organization: Federal Highway Administration CA Division
Contact: David Tedrick
Title: Environmental Program Manager
Email: David.Tedrick@fhwa.dot.gov
Phone: 916-498-5024
Description: The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for early mitigation planning for transportation improvements in California. The MOA recognizes the importance of thorough and coordinated planning for California's future and the need to balance development and the protection of valuable resources. In addition, the MOA fosters a long-range strategic planning process that examines transportation systems in light of economic, environmental, and social goals prior to the development of individual projects.

The specific goals of the MOA are to:
1) improve coordination between the transportation agencies charged with developing transportation facilities, the resources agencies charged with protecting the natural environment, and the regulatory agencies charged with balancing the various public interests;
2) allow more timely resolution of conflicts between these agencies; and
3) obtain better results from funds spent for the compensation and enhancement of biological resources.

These goals shall be achieved through:
1) the early coordination of biological impacts in transportation system planning;
2) continuous coordination and early consultation between transportation agencies and resource protection agencies;
3) replacement of valuable habitat unavoidably lost via the creation of high quality habitat prior to impact; and
4) the exercise of creativity within an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Related Documentation: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/cadiv/pre/moajoan.htm
Last Updated: March 13, 2006
16 Practice: MOA for Early Mitigation Planning for Transportation Improvements in California
Categories: Habitat/Ecosystem Connectivity & Conservation
Interagency Coordination
Watersheds & Wetlands
State: California
Organization: Federal Highway Administration CA Division
Contact: David Tedrick
Title: Environmental Program Manager
Email: David.Tedrick@fhwa.dot.gov
Phone: 916-498-5024
Description: The California Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency have a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for Early Mitigation Planning for Transportation Improvements in California. The MOA recognizes the importance of thorough and coordinated planning for California's future and the need to balance development and the protection of valuable resources. In addition, the MOA will foster a long-range strategic planning process that will examine transportation systems in light of economic, environmental, and social goals prior to the development of individual projects.

The specific goals of the MOA are to:
1) improve coordination between the transportation agencies charged with developing transportation facilities, the resource agencies charged with protecting the natural environment, and the regulatory agencies charged with balancing the various public interests;
2) allow more timely resolution of conflicts between these agencies; and
3) obtain better results from funds spent for the compensation and enhancement of biological resources.

These goals shall be achieved through:
1) the early coordination of biological impacts in transportation system planning;
2) continuous coordination and early consultation between the transportation agencies and the resource protection agencies;
3) replacement of valuable habitat unavoidably lost, through creation of high quality habitat prior to impact; and
4) the exercise of creativity within an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Related Documentation: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/cadiv/pre/moajoan.htm
Last Updated: July 26, 2005
17 Practice: Caltrans Streambed Alteration Agreement with the California Department of Fish and Game
Categories: Habitat/Ecosystem Connectivity & Conservation
Indirect and Cumulative Impacts
Interagency Agreements: MOAs, MOUs, and Programmatic Agreements
Interagency Coordination
Mitigation
Watersheds & Wetlands
Wetland Banking
Wildlife and Threatened & Endangered Species
State: California
Organization: California Department of Transportation
Contact: Gary Winters
Title: Chief, Division of Environmental Analysis
Email: gary.winters@dot.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 653-7136
Description: The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Programmatic Streambed Alteration Agreement allows repetitive work to be conducted in and adjacent to streams without the need to repeat the application and approval process for impacts to waters of the United States. The agreement functions like a Section 404 Regional General Permit, but addresses the state review process. Similar classes of work are combined on a local or regional basis, matching the State Department of Fish and Game Office jurisdiction and Caltrans Office jurisdiction, enabling both parties to be in direct control of all aspects of the process.

Under this agreement, Caltrans found that attempting agreements based on a larger geographic area resulted in delays and unwieldy requirements, because, in the words of Caltrans’ Chief of Biology and Technical Assistance, “each office ended up adding items to the point where the programmatics became too cumbersome to implement.” The smaller regions covered by the programmatic agreement facilitate understandings on a person-to-person basis.

Caltrans has benefited by receiving faster response times from the California Department of Fish & Game on time-sensitive maintenance work. Caltrans has noted lower per-project costs as a result. The programmatic agreement benefited Fish & Game by better managing their workload from Caltrans, and allowing more time to focus on higher impact projects. Finally, aquatic resources have benefited through more consistent management and greater attention to cumulative effects.
Last Updated: July 25, 2005
18 Practice: Caltrans Coal Canyon Interchange Removal for Enhancement of Wildlife Habitat Connectivity
Categories: Environmental Stewardship & Streamlining
Habitat/Ecosystem Connectivity & Conservation
Interagency Coordination
Wildlife and Threatened & Endangered Species
State: California
Organization: California Department of Transportation
Contact: Gary Winters
Title: Chief, Division of Environmental Analysis
Email: gary.winters@dot.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 653-7136
Description: Two intersecting state highways divide a large natural area that includes the Chino Hills, Prado Basin, and Cleveland National Forest in southern California. This area of the Puente-Chino Hills and Santa Ana Mountains totals over 512,000 acres and contains resources of statewide and worldwide significance, including a greater diversity of vegetation types than any other area of comparable size in the United States. The region has been called “an archipelago of tenuously connected habitat islands in a sea of urban area.” The Riverside Freeway and an associated band of urban development have almost dissected the area. Coal Canyon is the only viable linkage remaining; however the linkage was obstructed by an interchange built in the late 1970s to serve anticipated development.

In examining the diminished connectivity in the region and rare habitats, the California State Parks Department concluded that “substantial and potentially catastrophic ecosystem decay will occur in the Chino Hills and Santa Ana Mountains if the Coal Canyon corridor is not acquired and preserved” and that “it can be predicted with certainty, using accepted scientific methods, that numerous local species extinctions will occur if the (wildlife movement) corridor is not maintained.” In response to the request from State Parks and the interest of local groups, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) worked with State Parks to find funding to purchase approximately 685 additional acres of conservation lands adjacent to the freeway and interchange. In the process Caltrans and the California State Parks linked the Tecate Cypress Reserve, the Cleveland National Forest and the Irvine Company’s Gypsum Canyon Preserve. The combined area hosted two federally listed species and a number of other sensitive species and habitats. Nevertheless, the California State Parks determined the value of the acquisition to be far greater than the net acreage and on-site resources; the most important value of the land was the linkage it provided between two large and critically important wildland areas. The habitat purchase by Caltrans and California State Parks, along with adjacent acquisitions, also lowered development pressure. Low usage of the interchange facilitated the decision to remove the on and off ramps to increase habitat connectivity and wildlife mobility. By closing the ramps, removing the pavement and lighting, rearranging fencing, and restricting access, Caltrans created a wildlife crossing with substantial height, width, ample natural lighting, and openness.

Clearly delineated wildlife movement needs with sufficient background information and justification to develop tangible solutions were driving factors in implementing the connectivity improvements. Such background information included wildlife studies, definitive land use plans, and ties to resource land management and existing major natural resource areas.

Caltrans determined that the site has great mitigation value for transportation impacts, but no agreements exist with other resource agencies to obtain credits at this point. Caltrans still considers the site an excellent example of leadership and interagency cooperation, which “indirectly facilitates other transportation efforts.” The interchange removal also complements Caltrans’ work in Western Riverside County on the Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan. Wildlife passage features were incorporated into current and future state highway improvements on the other side of the park, benefiting both federally listed species and non-federally listed species with large habitat ranges. Removal of the crossing allowed Caltrans to show responsiveness to an issue that was sensitive and important to the public, environmental groups, and resource agencies.
Last Updated: Last recorded update not available
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