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SACRAMENTO FWO: Smart Planning Completed for Development and Habitat Conservation for Santa Clara Valley
California-Nevada Offices , October 10, 2013
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One of the most ambitious conservation efforts of the past decade in California, the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan will protect a majority of the Coyote Valley ridgeline.
One of the most ambitious conservation efforts of the past decade in California, the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan will protect a majority of the Coyote Valley ridgeline. - Photo Credit: Photo Credit: USFWS
Eighteen species will be protected by the Plan including the Bay checkerspot butterfly.
Eighteen species will be protected by the Plan including the Bay checkerspot butterfly. - Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Josh Hull/USFWS
Seen here from the Anderson Dam, the City of Morgan Hill will benefit from the Plan’s streamlined permitting process as it and the cities of Gilroy and San Jose receive piece-of-mind with a planned major seismic upgrade.
Seen here from the Anderson Dam, the City of Morgan Hill will benefit from the Plan’s streamlined permitting process as it and the cities of Gilroy and San Jose receive piece-of-mind with a planned major seismic upgrade. - Photo Credit: Photo credit: Santa Clara Valley Water District
The Santa Clara Valley HCP was possible because of diligent work from staff and representatives from the various local jurisdictions, numerous stakeholders, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Service.
The Santa Clara Valley HCP was possible because of diligent work from staff and representatives from the various local jurisdictions, numerous stakeholders, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Service. - Photo Credit: Santa Clara Valley Water District

By Sarah Swenty

California is a really big state. Even for people who live here it’s easy to forget just how big it is, to under-emphasize how diverse its landscape is and to downplay how overwhelming addressing the multitude of environmental challenges faced in a single micro-region can be. Add the micro-regions on either side and the competing politics of the day and you’ll wonder how anything ever gets accomplished.

The answer – vision, shared goals for progress and a lot of hard work.

Vision

More than a decade ago when concerns about the threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly could have significantly delayed important infrastructure and educational facilities in the Bay Area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) suggested development of the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan).

In 2001, the County of Santa Clara agreed to partner with other local agencies to develop a habitat conservation plan/natural community conservation plan. A formal agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding, was signed by the City of San Jose, County of Santa Clara, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and the Santa Clara Valley Water District in 2004. The cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy joined in 2005. Along the way additional partners, concerned about impacts associated with contracts for importation of water from the Central Valley, also joined the effort.

This Plan was possible because of diligent work from staff and representatives from the various local jurisdictions, numerous stakeholders, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Service. Throughout the process it was their dedication and efforts that made the Plan possible.

Progress

Progress for Service and the other conservation agencies that supported the Plan means preserving about 46,500 acres of vital habitat for some of the areas most threatened species. For the cities and county agencies, progress means having a streamlined process to permit projects in an area of about 460,000 acres, under 18,000 of which will be impacted.

One of the most ambitious conservation efforts of the past decade in California, the Plan will protect a majority of the Coyote Valley ridgeline, the last stronghold of the threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly and other threatened and endangered serpentine soil species, such as Coyote ceanothus, Santa Clara Valley dudleya, and the beautiful jewelflower. In total, 18 species will be protected. Nine of the 18 species are currently listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and four species are listed under the state Endangered Species Act.

The Plan not only creates a more efficient process for protecting and managing natural resources by creating habitat reserves, it strengthens local control over the permitting process.

A major seismic upgrade at Anderson Dam, the water supply for San Jose, Calif., is one of the important projects that will benefit from the new streamlined process. In the event of a large earthquake, without this retrofit roughly one million people in the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy, and portions of San Jose could find themselves under several feet of water.

The Plan also creates a more efficient process for smaller projects, such as individual home construction. Individual land owners do not always have the financial resources on their own to address all the environmental issues that come with living in California. The Plan creates a “cookbook” process for smaller individual projects; this process eliminates the need for individuals to navigate the twists and turns that can come with addressing environmental issues.

Hard work

A planning effort as large has the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan needs both standard bearers and foot soldiers to see it from vision to reality.
Special thanks goes to:

Elected Officials:

Don Gage, County Board, SCVWD and City of Gilroy---and the acknowledged prime champion of the Plan

Mike Wasserman and Ken Yeager, County of Santa Clara

Blanca Alvarado, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

Cat Tucker, City of Gilroy

Steve Tate , City of Morgan Hill

Kansen Chu, City of San Jose

Ash Kalra, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

Linda LeZotte and Brian Schmidt, Santa Clara Valley Water District

Virginia Holtz and Sequoia Hall, Santa Clara County Open Space Authority


Wildlife Agencies:

Scott Wilson and Dave Johnston at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Cay Goude, Cori Mustin, Eric Tattersall, Mike Thomas from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Local Partner Staff:

Rob Eastwood, Debbie Cauble, Lisa Killough, and Lizanne Reynolds from Santa Clara County

Vera Todrov, Joseph Horwedel, Andrew Crabtree, Akoni Danielson and Darryl Boyd from the City of San Jose

Jim Rowe from the City of Morgan Hill

Stan Ketchum, Andrew Faber and Linda Callon from the City of Gilroy

Jane Mark and Don Rocha from Santa Clara County Parks

Tom Fitzwater and Ann Calnan with the Valley Transportation Authority

Deborah Caldon, Don Arnold and Rita Chan at the Santa Clara Valley Water District

Andrea MacKenzie with Open Space Authority


Consultants:

David Zippin, Kathryn Gaffney, Troy Rahmig and Terah Donovan from ICF International

Matt Frank with CH2MHill

Bob Spencer from Urban Economics

Ken Schreiber, Program Manager with Land Use Planning Services, Inc

Joan Chaplick from MIG

Chris Beale with Resources Law Group

Moving Forward

There is still more work to be done. What has taken a decade to plan will take 50 years to implement. Primary responsibility for implementation of the Plan’s conservation strategy rests with a joint powers agency, the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency.

For more information on this and other Habitat Conservation Plans visit
http://www.fws.gov/sacramento/es/Habitat-Conservation-Plans/es_hcp.htm

Sarah Swenty is the deputy assistant field supervisor of External Affairs at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office in Sacramento, Calif.


Contact Info: Sarah Swenty, 916-414-6571, sarah_swenty@fws.gov



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