The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, at its Sept. 11 meeting, voted to adopt the South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan and related Aquatic Resources Program, and to certify the Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report.
The South Sacramento HCP will streamline permitting processes for proposed development and infrastructure projects in much of south Sacramento County while more effectively conserving habitat, open space and agricultural land.
“The South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan forges a good balance between habitat protection and project permitting at the local level, while providing opportunities to partner with farmers, ranchers and rural landowners on conservation initiatives in the agricultural regions of Sacramento County,” said Sacramento County District 5 Supervisor Don Nottoli, who represents much of southern Sacramento County.
Under federal and state Endangered Species Acts, proposed development and infrastructure projects covered by the South Sacramento HCP would be permitted locally. Under the related Aquatic Resources Program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would implement an abbreviated federal Clean Water Act, Section 404 permitting process. The integration of endangered species and aquatic resource permitting into one local process would be the first of its kind under existing federal regulations.
The South Sacramento HCP also will produce an interconnected regional preserve system, which will be more beneficial to species and habitat than the current piecemeal mitigation process.
The South Sacramento HCP plan area encompasses 317,656 acres bordered by Highway 50 on the north, San Joaquin County on the south, El Dorado County and Amador County to the east and the Sacramento River to the west. It includes Galt and most of Rancho Cordova. Within the plan area, 36,282 acres will become part of an interconnected preserve system, including approximately 1,000 acres of vernal pool habitat. Twenty-eight plant and wildlife species, and their natural habitats, will be protected under the plan.
Subsequent hearings to consider adoption of the South Sacramento HCP will be held by the Galt City Council, Rancho Cordova City Council, Capital SouthEast Connector Joint Powers Authority and the South Sacramento Conservation Agency, which was formed to manage the plan’s implementation. Permit issuance to the plan partners from state and federal agencies will follow.
Under the South Sacramento HCP, property owners or project sponsors required to mitigate species and habitat impacts will either dedicate land to the preserve system or pay fees to support free-market easement or property acquisitions.
The South Sacramento HCP was developed through a multi-jurisdiction partnership that includes Sacramento County; the cities of Rancho Cordova and Galt; the Sacramento County Water Agency; the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District; and the Capital SouthEast Connector Joint Powers Authority. It will be managed by a joint powers authority called the South Sacramento Conservation Agency (SSCA) that includes Sacramento County, the City of Galt and the City of Rancho Cordova.
The agency will hold title to conservation easements and, in limited cases, fee title to preserved lands. It also will oversee cooperative agreements with other entities that will own or manage preserves or conservation easements as part of the South Sacramento HCP preserve system.