Smart Planning Completed for Development and Habitat Conservation for Santa Clara Valley

Coyote Ridge Anderson Lake

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, the last stronghold of the threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly and other threatened and endangered serpentine soil species. Photo Credit: USFWS


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.

Eighteen Species will be protected by the plan

Eighteen species will be protected by the Plan including the Bay checkerspot butterfly, the Tiburon Indian paintbrush, the California red-legged frog and the San Joaquin kit fox. Photo Credit: Josh Hull, Florence Gardipee and Carley Sweet – USFWS


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 most 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.

View from Anderson Damn

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: Santa Clara Valley Water District


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.

Work Possible from staff and representatives

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. Pictured here from
the left are: Ash Kalra, City of San Jose Council member, Rich Constantine, City of Morgan Hill Council member, Scott
Wilson, CDFW Acting Regional Manager, Steve Tate, Mayor, City of Morgan Hill, Dennis Kennedy, Santa Clara Valley
Water District Board member, in back---Don Gage, Mayor of City of Gilroy, in front---Rose Herrera, City of San Jose
Council member, Mike Wasserman, County Board of Supervisors member. Photo credit: Santa Clara Valley Water District


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 this page


by Sarah Swenty, External Affairs