First in the State: Cutting the Green Tape at the Garcia River Estuary

In September 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 California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Cutting the Green Tape Team to develop the first statewide habitat restoration statutory exemption–for the Lower Garcia River Estuary Salmonid Habitat Enhancement Project.

In the words of Peter van de Burgt, the North Coast Restoration Project Manager for TNC, and PCI alum: “This statutory exemption could not have come at a better time for the Garcia project, and it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to immediately put it into practice. I’m optimistic that the exemption will be an invaluable tool for implementing ambitious restoration projects in a more time- and cost-efficient manner than ever before, which is exactly what we need given the enormity of the challenges we face.”

The Lower Garcia River in coastal Mendocino County is important steelhead and coho salmon habitat. However, winter rearing and outmigration habitat in the estuary is limited due to a history of channelization and simplification for agricultural use, excessive sedimentation from upper watershed land use, and large woody debris clearing. The enhancement project is designed to increase in-channel and floodplain habitat through the middle estuary and expand access to the newly created habitat for salmonids during their most critical life stages. PCI has provided site assessment, design, planning, and regulatory compliance services to TNC for the project.

Our team worked hard to make this use of the new  pathway possible, and we’re delighted to be part of the statewide effort to reduce hurdles for large-scale restoration work! PCI is proud to be part of a community that is committed to increasing the scale and pace of salmonid restoration across California.