20 YEARS OF PROGRESS IN CALIFORNIA: ADVANCES IN STATE AND FEDERAL PERMITTING AND CEQA REVIEW FOR WILDLIFE HABITAT RESTORATION AND MULTI-BENEFIT PROJECTS
|Erik Schmidt; WRA, Inc.; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Beginning in 2002 with a state report, 20 years of efforts have been made in California to address permitting challenges that impede work to restore fish and wildlife habitat and recover imperiled species populations. In recent years, leaders of state and federal agencies have collaborated to break new ground in developing innovative regulatory tools that represent a sea change in the permitting and environmental review of beneficial projects. The state’s Cutting Green Tape Initiative has ensured the completion of crucial statewide programmatic permits and exemptions, while the Governor and legislature have provided funding and staff for efficient, coordinated review and approval of restoration and multi-benefit projects. Federal regulatory agencies implementing the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act – USFWS, NOAA and the Army Corps Regulatory Division – have partnered to create broad, far-reaching biological opinions that set a new standard for ensuring swift yet effective permitting oversight of habitat projects. Together, with the support of restoration proponents throughout the state, agencies have shifted the regulatory role from limiting restoration to accelerating it, providing project proponents with clear design guidance and general and species protection measures to ensure appropriate usage. Project examples are presented to highlight successful use of these regulatory processes.