Monday, September 7, 2009

CGF Comments on Admin Draft County Habitat Plan

(Below are CGF's comments on the Santa Clara County Habitat Plan's Second Administrative Draft. They're imported from an Excel file so may be hard to understand the context, bu the first number refers to the Draft Chapter number (e.g., Chapter 9), and further numbers if any refer to chapter sections (9.2.1) and/or page numbers in a particular chapter (page 9-27). Then the comment follows. -Brian)

9 There is a systematic problem with Chapter 9 failing to distinguish between funding for enhancement and funding for impact mitigation. For example,.page 9-7 discusses the possibility of donated lands to reduce costs. Any sophisticated donor will require the donation be used for enhancement only. Funding partners such as the Open Space Authority and non-profits will similarly limit their contribution to enhancement components only. Whether the budget is sufficient to pay for mitigation is unclear, and needs a separate accounting for mitigation and funding for enhancement.

9 3.2 45 Open Space Authority section should contain language similar to County Parks language, that the value of the OSA contribution can be used only to offset OSA impacts and to provide environmental enhancement.

9 3.2 9-44 Committee for Green Foothills and other environmental organizations do not support using Parks Charter fund acquisitions to offset mitigations that would otherwise be required of County Roads and Airports. We note that this is an unstable source of funding as it expires in 2021 and environmental organizations that have supported the Parks Charter fund will oppose use of parkland to mitigate road and airport impacts at the time of reauthorization. Furthermore, County Supervisors approved use of Parks funding for road mitigation in 2008 by a 3-2 vote which indicate the close margin could be reversed by a future Board of Supervisors. At a minimum, therefore, the Habitat Plan should discuss what funding sources would be used in case Parks Charter fund acquisitions cannot be used for Roads and Airports mitigation.

9 3.2 9-44 Amount of land and monies from Park Charter fund for land acquisition are based on historical acquisition rates and the 2003 Strategic Plan, but the 2006 reauthorization reduced the percentage required to be spent on acquisition. I don't know if the 2003 Strategic Plan anticipated this reduction, but if not, the "conservative" estimates need to be reworked.

9 Costs of mitigation of impacts should be identified separately from the costs of environmental enhancements

9 Costs to mitigate impacts caused by each permittee should be identified for each permittee

9 Costs to mitigate impacts caused by private development operating under the authority of each permittee should be identified as separate total amounts for each permittee (separate from the costs to mitigate that permittee's impacts). If costs exceed development impact fees, that excess cost should be identified.

9 9.1 9-1 "Adaptive management" should be reinserted as a bullet point, either independently or together with "remedial measures"

9 9.2.2 9-7 fn 5 The best use of sites with haz mat present may be as wildlife habitat. Suggest changing to "will not be added to the Habitat Plan Reserve System IF CLEANUP WOULD BE LEGALLY REQUIRED."

9 9.2.11 9-56 Creation of an endowment fund from cost savings over estimated Plan costs should be mandatory until and unless a funding plan for costs in perpetuity has been approved by DFG, USFWS, and NMFS.

9 9.2.11 9-56 One of the conditions of approval of the Plan should be acceptance of the post-Permit funding plan by the wildlife agencies.

9 general All cost savings over estimated Plan costs should be used for adaptive management or for an endowment fund for permanent reserve management. No fees should be reduced until a permanent funding plan for reserve management has been approved by wildlife agencies.

8 8.6 8-24 Draft says Stay-Ahead "will only apply two years after the last local ordinance takes effect." A time-certain deadline is needed or delays in local ordinances could postpone Stay-Ahead indefinitely. We suggest three years from Habitat Plan approval and permit issuance.

8 8.6.1 to 8.6.2 8-28 The "Jump Start" provision conflicts with the Stay-Ahead concept unless the baseline for measuring Stay-Ahead starts at the same time as Jump-Start, in October 2005. Failing to do so means the negative impacts of since 2005 are ignored while positive enhancements are counted, and a false impression of net benefit created. If this is rejected, planners should indicate what degree of uncompensated impact degradation is expected between October 2005 and plan issuance.

4 4.2 4-2 There is a conceptual gap between the definition of "permanent" and "temporary" impacts, because temporary impacts are defined as lasting less than three years. "Permanent" impacts should be defined as "impacts that permanently, OR FOR MORE THAN THREE YEARS, remove or alter a land cover...."

5 Table 5-14 and elsewhere I may have missed where the Plan discusses mitigating for temporary impacts, but fn1 to Table 5-14 states impact estimates are based on permanent impacts only. Temporary impacts also require mitigation. We suggest mitigation should at a minimum be dependent on the amount of time of impact in relation to the permit term, so that a one-year impact requires zt leasts 1/50th the mitigation of a permanent impact.

4 4.4.1 4-44 parcels "anticipated to be permitted by the time of Plan implementation" and excluded from impact analysis provides no context for analysis and could be extremely large. Only previously-identified interim projects that are still under consideration (thereby excluding the now-withdrawn Coyote Valley Specific Plan) should fit this category. Absent such a change, there should be identifying information about what parcels and projects form part of this category.

4 4.4.1 4-44 Regarding permitted parcels and anticipated permitted parcels, there should be clarification that because these parcels are excluded from impact analysis, these parcels and any future permits issued are not covered by the Habitat Plan and take permits. This discusssion should specifically reference the Coyote Valley Research Park (note this is not the Coyote Valley Specific Plan) and any potential reauthorization permits for the Research Park.

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