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SACRAMENTO FWO: Service and East Bay Municipal Utility District Sign Largest Safe Harbor Agreement Ever in California
California-Nevada Offices , June 2, 2009
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Susan Moore, Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office, and Richard G. Sykes, Manager of Natural Resources for EBMUD, sign the historic Safe Harbor Agreement at Pardee Reservoir in Amador County on June 2. (photo: USFWS)
Susan Moore, Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office, and Richard G. Sykes, Manager of Natural Resources for EBMUD, sign the historic Safe Harbor Agreement at Pardee Reservoir in Amador County on June 2. (photo: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
Beautiful Pardee Reservoir in Amador County is part of the 28,000-acre Safe Harbor Agreement recently signed by USFWS and EBMUD. (photo: USFWS)
Beautiful Pardee Reservoir in Amador County is part of the 28,000-acre Safe Harbor Agreement recently signed by USFWS and EBMUD. (photo: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

 

by Steve Martarano, Sacramento FWO 

The largest Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) ever established in California is now final.

 

The historic 28,000-acre SHA to protect and enhance three listed species in the Mokelumne watershed was signed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) during a June 2 Pardee Reservoir ceremony. The agreement, while being the largest SHA in California, is among the largest single-landowner SHAs ever created in the country. The agreement, which took about a year to craft, covers parts of scenic San Joaquin, Amador and Calaveras counties.

 

“This SHA may have been the biggest one we’ve ever done, but it was about the easiest that I’ve been involved with,” said SHA coordinator Rick Kuyper, a USFWS biologist with the Conservation Partnerships Division of the Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office. “The coordination and cooperation with East Bay MUD and the Environmental Defense Fund was extraordinary.”

 

The 30-year SHA permit will cover three federally protected species: Valley elderberry longhorn beetle, California red-legged frog, and California tiger salamander. The final agreement can be found at www.fws.gov/sacramento/es/documents/Final_EBMUD_SHA.pdf

 

“We are very pleased to be signing this landmark agreement with East Bay MUD,” Susan Moore, Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office, said during the signing ceremony. “It’s a win-win. In order to successfully conserve federally listed species, we need cooperative conservation agreements with private landowners in California, and this is a great example of how that can be accomplished.”

 

Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, landowners voluntarily undertake management activities on their property to enhance, restore, or maintain habitat benefiting species listed under the Endangered Species Act. SHAs encourage private and other non-federal property owners to implement conservation efforts for protected species by assuring that the owners will not be subjected to increased property use restrictions as a result of their efforts to attract and help listed species on their property.

 

SHAs are not new to EBMUD, as the district has been participating since 2007 in another SHA on the lower Mokelumne River for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. 

 

In April 2008, East Bay Municipal Utility’s Board of Directors adopted the Mokelumne Watershed Master Plan to provide long-term guidance for future use and management of its 28,000 acres of watershed lands and reservoirs in the Mokelumne watershed,” said Richard G. Sykes, Manager of Natural Resources for EBMUD. “The Mokelumne Safe Harbor Agreement meets the Plan’s objectives of implementing prescriptive management activities that result in a net conservation benefit to California tiger salamanders, California red-legged frogs, and Valley elderberry longhorn beetles; providing a regulatory mechanism to facilitate watershed management; and establishing protocols for management, and routine maintenance and construction.”

 

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), whose attorney Michael Bean worked on the SHA concept more than 10 years ago, once again played a major role in bringing USFWS and EBMUD together to work out potential conflicts, and helping USFWS respond to comments that were submitted. Bean has just joined federal service as counsel on the ESA to the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

 

Safe Harbor, for certain landowners, is a fairly cost-effective way to remove the barrier that can exist to (helping species),” Eric Holst, Managing Director of the Center for Conservation Incentives of EDF told the Sonora Union Democrat newspaper. “It eliminates the problem for a landowner that ‘if I do something good for the species, it may result in a greater regulatory burden. ‘ ”

 

The EBMUD agreement centers on habitat surrounding two large dams and their reservoirs, Camanche and Pardee, plus lands adjacent to the Mokelumne River for a half-mile below Camanche Dam. Current and recent land use practices on the property include management for water supply, flood control, grazing, aquaculture, hydroelectric power, wastewater treatment, facility maintenance, residential use, and recreation. The 30-year agreement and the associated permit authorize EBMUD to incidentally take the three federally-listed species during specific maintenance and operation activities; and in exchange, EBMUD will enhance, create, and manage habitat for listed species on their property.

 

The property has known occurrences of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and the California tiger salamander. Although California red-legged frogs have not been found on the property, it has extensive suitable breeding habitat, and the frogs are known on adjacent privately owned property. EBMUD and USFWS are optimistic that California red-legged frogs will eventually inhabit EBMUD lands. The agreement is intended to result in an increase in species populations throughout the property, resulting in a net conservation benefit for the three federally listed species.

                                                        

EBMUD serves 1.3 million water customers and 640,000 wastewater customers east of the San Francisco Bay. Most of its water delivered to customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties comes from the Mokelumne River.

 

 


Contact Info: Steve Martarano, 916-930-5643, steve_martarano@fws.gov



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