Accelerated Permitting for Restoration Projects

Sustainable Conservation worked with Assemblyman Rich Gordon to sponsor the Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Act. The law establishes a simplified permitting process with the Department of Fish & Wildlife for landowners, state and local government agencies, and conservation organizations wanting to implement small-scale, voluntary habitat restoration projects across California.

 


Before – The first HRE Act project by South Coast Habitat Restoration successfully removed the final major barrier to steelhead trout migration on Carpinteria Creek, Santa Barbara County. Learn more. © South Coast Habitat Restoration


After – The new vehicular bridge allow landowners on a working agricultural ranch to safely access their property and for steelhead trout to swim upstream to historic spawning grounds. © South Coast Habitat Restoration

Permitting Roadblocks to Restoration

Extensive permit requirements for restoration projects can serve as a disincentive. Multiple federal and state permits or authorizations, as well as local county or municipal permits and coastal zone development permits are needed for even small habitat restoration projects. The sheer number of permits, plus the ballooning costs to fulfill the permit requirements and permit fees, can stymie restoration efforts. 

Developing Solutions

Simplified Statewide Permits

Many state and federal agencies have developed simplified approaches for permitting restoration projects. These "programmatic" permits apply to a variety of restoration projects saves significant time and money for both the applicant and agency staff, without sacrificing environmental protections.

Sustainable Conservation is working with state and federal agencies (Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the State Water Resources Control Board) to develop simplified approaches for permitting voluntary restoration projects. Work is ongoing to develop a simplified permit with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for critical habitat restoration projects in the Central Valley, through the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds and Delta, with plans for completion in 2018. See their list of expedited/simplified programmatic permits and approvals currently available from state and federal agencies for habitat restoration projects. 

Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Act of 2014

The Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Act of 2014 (AB2193) established a simplified permitting process with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for landowners, state and local government agencies, and conservation organizations wanting to implement small-scale, voluntary habitat restoration projects across California. Restoration and Enhancement projects approved by CDFW, pursuant to the Act, will not require additional permits from CDFW, such as a Lake or Streambed Alteration agreement or California Endangered Species Act permit. Additionally, CDFW will approve complete applications within 30-days or 60-days depending on the type of request submitted (i.e., Fish & G. Code, §§ 1652 or 1653). 

More information is available at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's webpage on the Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Act and Sustainable Conservation's HRE webpage. Sustainable Conservation's Application Guide is available here

Wood for Salmon Working Group

The Wood for Salmon Working Group to identify potential mechanisms to simplify permitting processes and incentivize implementation of more large wood augmentation projects. The group developed a Guidance Document on Permitting Wood Restoration Projects in Central and Northern Coastal California and other tools and resources.

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