Public review period opens for Upper Santa Ana River Wash Habitat Conservation Plan

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Members of the public will soon have an opportunity to review and comment on a draft environmental impact statement and supplemental environmental impact report associated with a new Habitat Conservation Plan for the Santa Ana Wash area.

The San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host two public meetings on the proposal, both on January 9, at the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District office, 1630 West Redlands Boulevard, Suite A, Redlands. The meetings will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Requests for sign language interpreting services, closed captioning or other accommodations should be directed to Karin Cleary-Rose, TTY 800-877-8339 by close of business on January 6.

The meetings will review the Upper Santa Ana River Wash Habitat Conservation Plan (Wash Plan) as analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Supplemental Environmental Impact Report. The Wash Plan proposes a coordinated process for permitting and mitigating specific public and private projects such as aggregate mining, water conservation, wells and water infrastructure, transportation, flood control, trails, habitat enhancement and agriculture.

Implementation of these covered activities may result in impacts to five endangered species: the slender-horned spineflower, Santa Ana River woolly-star, cactus wren, California gnatcatcher and San Bernardino kangaroo rat.

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Approval of the Wash Plan would provide the District with an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Endangered Species Act, and allow the Conservation District to extend such take coverage to other participating entities implementing covered projects through a Certificate of Inclusion process. The SEIR adds to and revises the 2008 EIR approved by the Conservation District over 10 years ago.

Dan Silver, the executive director of Endangered Habitat League, a regional habitat conservation plan expert who participated in the project’s development, said the plan achieves a mutually beneficial balance between land uses at the wash.

“It protects and manages a rare community of life along Santa Ana River, and simultaneously ensures compatible economic activity,” he said. “It also shows how the Endangered Species Act can be successfully implemented when there is strong local leadership and collaboration.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley), who worked with Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) on the Wash Plan legislation allowing for the land transfer, agreed — calling the project a win for the economy and a win for the environment.

“This will align local land ownership with appropriate uses, setting aside already disturbed land for aggregate mining and setting aside important habitat for conservation purposes,” he said.

The 4,900-acre Wash Plan was developed over many years by a local Wash Plan Task Force made up of the cities of Highland and Redlands; the SBVWCD, East Valley Water District, and San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District; CEMEX and Robertson’s Ready Mix; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, Inland Valley Development Agency and the Endangered Habitats League.

Copies of the plan are available for public viewing at the following locations:

  • Internet: https://www.fws.gov/carlsbad/ or https://sbvwcd.org/wash-plan/hcp.html. 
  • Public Libraries: Copies are available for public viewing at the following libraries:
    • A.K. Smiley Library at 125 Vine St, Redlands, CA.
    • Highland Branch Library, 7863 Central Ave, Highland, CA.
  • San Bernardino Water Conservation District: Copies are available for public viewing at the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, 1630 W. Redlands Blvd., Ste. A, Redlands, CA. Digital copies of the documents will be provided on CD at the District office upon request.

Comments may be submitted using one of the following methods. The CEQA and NEPA leads agencies are listed below.  Please submit comments to both USFWS and SBVWCD

(The writer’s contact information should be included with the submission.)

  • Email: fw8psfwocomments@fws.gov.
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Karin Cleary-Rose, Santa Ana River Wash Project, Palm Springs Fish and Wildlife Service Office, 777 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite 208, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

And

  • Email: dcozad@sbvwcd.org
  • US Mail or hand-delivery:  Daniel B. Cozad, Santa Ana River Wash Project, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, 1630 W. Redlands, Boulevard, Redlands, CA 92373

For more information, contact:

  • Karin Cleary-Rose of the USFWS via email at Karin_cleary-rose@fws.gov or
  • Daniel Cozad, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, at dcozad@sbvwcd.org.
  • TTY users can contact the above individuals by calling 800–877–8339.

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