Ecological restoration is an essential tool in addressing urgent concerns across California, including reducing carbon in the atmosphere and protecting residents from the impacts of climate change. But regulatory compliance requirements can be significant hurdles that slow the pace of restoration. The State of California has recognized this issue and is working to streamline the regulatory process for strategic, science-based restoration projects. Two projects on which PCI has collaborated are utilizing new regulatory compliance tools developed by the State’s Cutting the Green Tape Team. In fact, these two projects — The Nature Conservancy’s Garcia River Estuary Enhancement Project and the Sonoma Land Trust’s Lakeville Creek Restoration Project — are the first two Statutory Exemption for Restoration Projects (SERP) approvals in the State. Both projects are highlighted in a recent article from San Francisco Estuary Magazine and on the CDFW Statutory Exemption for Restoration Projects (SERP) website. Read the article here, and visit CDFW’s SERP informational page, here.
In September of 2021, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 155, which provided a new California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) statutory exemption for restoration projects. PCI, along with partners at the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, was instrumental in working with CDFW’s Cutting the Green Tape Team to develop the first statewide habitat restoration statutory exemption for the Garcia River Project. That project will increase the extent and value of in-channel and floodplain habitat for salmonids within the Garcia River estuary in coastal Mendocino County.
The Lakeville project in southern Sonoma County, pictured above, will restore ecological form and function that was lost from an alluvial valley due to channel incision, wetland draining, and decades of intensive grazing. The overarching project goal is to create a functioning coastal alluvial fan ecosystem that more closely resembles historic conditions, is self-sustaining, and is more resilient to climate change. The project will provide more diverse plant and wildlife habitat, allow for greater infiltration and storage of water, and increase the likelihood of sustaining wetlands into the future.