WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
CARLSBAD FWO: Fish and Wildlife Office, Partner Agencies Win 2010 Transportation Environmental Stewardship Excellence Award
Region 8, September 22, 2010
Agency representatives honored for the 2010 Transportation Award. Front Row: Susan Sturges, EPA; Carolyn Washburn, CH2M Hill; Sally Brown, USFWS; Stephanie Hall, ACOE; Tay Dam, FHWA Back Row: John Standiford, Riverside County Transportation Commission; Scott Quinnel, CalTrans; Richard Mazyczek, City of Hemet
Agency representatives honored for the 2010 Transportation Award. Front Row: Susan Sturges, EPA; Carolyn Washburn, CH2M Hill; Sally Brown, USFWS; Stephanie Hall, ACOE; Tay Dam, FHWA Back Row: John Standiford, Riverside County Transportation Commission; Scott Quinnel, CalTrans; Richard Mazyczek, City of Hemet - Photo Credit: n/a

Sally Brown of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, and nine other partner agencies were selected as the recipients of the the Service's 2010 Transportation Environmental Stewardship Excellence Award. Using a partnership approach to project planning and environmental review, the State Route 79 (SR 79) Realignment project in Riverside County, California, identified an alternative road alignment that avoids severe impacts to the Salt Creek Seasonally Flooded Alkali Vernal Plain (Salt Creek Plain).

The SR 79 Realignment Project will realign a four lane highway along a 19-mile stretch in Riverside County, California. At the beginning of the planning process, the locally preferred project alternative would have resulted in severe impacts to the Salt Creek Plain. The Salt Creek Plain is arguably the most significant remaining vernal pool area in Riverside County due to its high diversity, large size, and abundance of rare and endemic species, including five federally listed species. The Central Alignment would have bisected the Salt Creek Plain, altering the hydrologic regime upon which the vernal pool habitat depends.

Through the NEPA/404 MOU coordination process, the signatory agencies (Federal Highway Administration, California Department of Transportation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with representatives from the Riverside County Transportation Commission, their consultant CH2M HILL, and the City of Hemet worked together early in the permitting process to identify an alternate road alignment that avoids the ecologically significant Salt Creek Plain, satisfies the transportation need, and facilitates the identification of the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative for the purposes of NEPA and Clean Water Act permitting.

The project has been largely moved out of sensitive habitat areas but will cross wildlife movement corridors at Salt Creek and in the vicinity of the Hemet Hills and Lakeview Mountains. To address wildlife connectivity issues in an effort to protect critical ecosystem functions, four new bridge undercrossings and six new culverts have been incorporated into the project to facilitate wildlife movement in these areas.

With this innovative approach, cumulative effects to wildlife movement have been taken into account and connectivity resources that facilitate critical ecosystem functions will be protected. This project is nearing completion of the planning phase, with public circulation of the draft EIR / EIS scheduled for late summer/early fall 2010.

The recipients were recognized at an award event on September 22, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, Carlsbad, California.  Alexandra Pitts, Deputy Regional Director for Region 8, presented each of the recipients with plaques.  More than 100 people attended the award event, including peers and supervisors from the partner agencies.  Jeff Stone, a member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors also attended the event.

Contact Info: jane hendron, , jane_hendron@fws.gov