Category Archives: Climate Change

Settlement Agreement Signed for Panoche Valley Solar Project

Agreement Resolves Long-Running Disputes, Advances Renewable Energy Goals, Creates Jobs, and Preserves more than 26,000 Acres for Endangered Wildlife

The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (collectively the “Environmental Groups”), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and Panoche Valley Solar LLC (a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison Development, Inc.), have entered into a settlement agreement concerning the size and location of a solar project currently under development in California’s Panoche Valley. The agreement will help advance renewable energy in the state, create local jobs, and protect the environment. Once final, the settlement will permanently conserve more than 26,000 acres for wildlife habitat.

Initially, 247 MW of solar generation was planned for development in the Panoche Valley, but now approximately 100 MW is instead proposed for development at a site in Imperial County, California. Development at the Imperial County site will have less impact on threatened and endangered species and their habitat. The relocation of that portion of the project is subject to approval by Southern California Edison (SCE) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The settlement will also resolve several legal challenges commenced against the project by the Environmental Groups.

The Panoche Valley Solar Project was first proposed in 2009 and as planned would have directly impacted nearly 5,000 acres of high quality and uniquely important habitat. This settlement will reduce the size of the project in the Panoche Valley to slightly more than 1,300 acres and permanently conserve approximately 26,418 acres in and around the Panoche Valley.

The Environmental Groups assert that the Panoche Valley has the last intact, but unprotected, grasslands in the San Joaquin Valley and is home to many rare and endangered species including the giant kangaroo rat, the San Joaquin kit fox, and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard.

The valley is also designated an Important Bird Area of Global Significance by the National Audubon Society and Birdlife International because the grasslands provide essential habitat for myriad resident and migratory bird species. All of these species have been under threat from the expansion of housing developments, agriculture, oil and gas exploration, and drought.

Sarah Friedman, Sierra Club’s Senior Campaign Representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign, said:

 “As we work toward lowering carbon pollution, it’s critical that new clean energy development is not done at the expense of endangered animals and their habitat. The Panoche Valley is critical habitat for three highly endangered species, and the development throughout the valley as originally planned would have been devastating. This settlement agreement came about after years of work to preserve the endangered wildlife and delicate habitat in this valley.”

Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife’s California Program Director, said:

 “The Panoche Valley is a globally important landscape and is the only remaining intact habitat for endangered upland San Joaquin Valley species like the giant kangaroo rat, San Joaquin kit fox and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard. The new agreement recognizes the significant conservation value of the Panoche Valley, reduces the size of the project in this unique valley and moves half of the project to a better site outside of the valley. When projects are planned ‘smart from the start’ it ensures that we will not sacrifice California’s natural heritage to meet our clean energy goals.”

Shani Kleinhaus, Environmental Advocate with the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, said:

“Birds and bird-enthusiasts should applaud this outcome. Our agreement helps achieve California’s goals of energy independence, and at the same time preserves critical grassland habitat that is home to 130 bird species, including species that are suffering steep population decline such as the burrowing owl, the mountain plover, and tricolored blackbirds.”

Charlton H. Bonham, Director of CDFW, said:

 “Con Edison Development’s leadership and the environmental groups deserve a lot of credit for opening a dialogue with the Department and asking whether it was better to negotiate and collaborate than litigate. Now these lands will be conserved in perpetuity for some of California’s rarest animals without a loss of one megawatt. This settlement shows that it is possible to balance the environment and the economy to achieve ambitious renewable energy goals.”

Mark Noyes, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panoche Valley Solar LLC, said:

 “This settlement with the CDFW and the Environmental Groups to lessen the impact of the PVS solar project on Panoche Valley is reflective of Con Edison Development’s corporate value of concern for the environment and commitment to continue the development of clean energy generation in a responsible manner. We will work diligently with the other parties to obtain the

remaining approval of SCE and the CPUC so that the conditions of the settlement can be fully implemented for the benefit of the Panoche Valley ecosystem and the citizens of California.”

Media Contacts:

  • Thomas Young, Deputy Press Secretary, Sierra Club, young@sierraclub.org, (719) 393-2354
  • Catalina Tresky, Communications Associate, Defenders of Wildlife, ctresky@defenders.org, (202) 772-0253
  • Shani Kleinhaus, Environmental Advocate, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Advocate@scvas.org, (650) 868-2114
  • Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
  • Christine Nevin, Director, Business & Media Relations, Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, nevinc@conedsolutions.com, (914) 286-7094

CDFW Climate Change Expert Honored for Innovation

Dr. Amber Pairis, director of the Climate Science Alliance-South Coast, recently received the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Climate Adaption Leadership Award for Natural Resources. The award recognized her inventive approaches to preparing Southern California for the effects of climate change.

The Climate Science Alliance is a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative with more than 140 partner agencies and organizations. Its mission is to increase resilience to climate change among the natural and human communities of the South Coast Eco-region through community-focused activities and partnerships.

“Today we recognize individuals and agencies who are developing and using innovative methods to safeguard the nation’s living natural resources from a rapidly changing world,” said Kevin Hunting, chief deputy director of CDFW and co‐chair of the Joint Implementation Working Group of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. “Their leadership is a source of inspiration for additional efforts to advance climate‐smart resource conservation and management with lasting positive impacts on the nation’s communities and economy.”

Recipients were selected from 27 nominations representing activities from individuals and federal, tribal, state, local and non‐governmental organizations throughout the country. Dr. Pairis’ nomination was submitted by the Pala Band of Mission Indians.

Dr. Pairis has worked on climate change issues since 2005. In 2013, Governor Brown appointed her assistant secretary for climate change at the California Natural Resources Agency to coordinate the state’s nature-based climate adaptation activities. Previously, as senior climate change advisor for CDFW she created the Climate Science Program, CDFW Climate College, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Climate Committee, and supported development of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.

The San Diego native earned her doctorate in environmental studies with an emphasis on conservation biology at Antioch University New England.

California’s natural resources provide important benefits and services to Americans every day, including jobs, income, food, clean water and air, building materials, storm protection, tourism and recreation. For example, outdoor wildlife‐related recreation contributes an estimated $7.5 billion to our state’s economy every year, and marine ecosystems sustain a seafood industry that supports more than 130,000 jobs and $23.4 billion in economic activity annually.

Information about CDFW’s Climate Science Program is at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Climate-Science.

For more information about the 2017 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards for Natural Resources, including the eight recipients, honorable mentions, and all 27 nominees, please visit the Climate Adaptation Leadership Award main page.

A woman gestures enthusiastically with seven children at a classroom table
Amber Pairis teaches kids about climate change

Media Contacts:
Dr. Amber Pairis, Climate Science Alliance-South Coast, (916) 205-9478
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Fish and Wildlife Director Extends Commercial Rock Crab Fishery Closure in Northern California Due to Public Health Hazard

 

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham, under new authority granted this year, has acted to extend the emergency commercial rock crab fishery closure that was due to expire on May 16.

State health agencies determined last fall that rock crabs north of Pigeon Point (37° 11’ N. lat.) to the Oregon border had unhealthy levels of domoic acid and recommended a commercial fishery closure. Subsequently, Director Bonham submitted an emergency rulemaking to close the commercial rock crab fishery north of Pigeon Point. The recreational fishery for rock crab remained open statewide with a warning from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to recreational anglers to avoid consuming the viscera of rock crab caught in the closure area. Following the recommendation of state health agencies, the CDFW Director announced on February 10, 2017 that the open area of the commercial rock crab fishery had been extended northward to Bodega Bay, Sonoma County (38° 18′ N. Lat.).

Bonham’s decision today extends the emergency commercial rock crab fishery closure that was due to expire on May 16. CDFW is continuing to work closely with state health agencies to monitor levels of domoic acid in rock crabs and other species not affected by this closure. This closure shall remain in effect until the Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the Director of CDPH, determines that domoic acid levels no longer pose a significant risk to public health and recommends the fishery be open. CDFW will continue to coordinate with CDPH and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in crab along the coast to determine when the fishery can safely be opened.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine alga, whose levels can be increased under certain ocean conditions.

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

CDFW Now Accepting Fisheries Habitat Restoration Project Proposals

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for projects under its 2017 Fisheries Habitat Restoration Proposal Soliciation Notice (PSN). The PSN and online grant application can be found online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants/frgp/solicitation. Applications must be submitted online by 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, 2017.

CDFW will also hold a series of public workshops to assist applicants in understanding the requirements of the PSN. Applicants are encouraged to attend a workshop even if they have submitted proposals in the past. Workshops will be held in Yreka, Fortuna, Fort Bragg, Sacramento, Petaluma, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Camarillo on various dates in February. For details and meeting contact information, please see https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=137841&inline.

The PSN invites restoration projects that meet the funding requirements of the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (focusing on recovery of state-listed salmon and steelhead along the coast and in the Central Valley), the Forest Legacy Program (focusing on the restoration of watersheds affected by historic forest practices), the Commerical Salmon Stamp Program (focusing on projects enhancing the salmon fishery) and the Steelhead Restoration and Report Card Program (focusing on projects enhancing the recreational steelhead fishery). Eligible applicants include public agencies, recognized tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations. Funded projects could include habitat restoration, water conservation, education, monitoring and restoration planning.

While the amount of available funding is not known at this time, in 2016 the program was able to provide more than $15 million in funding for eligible projects. Funding for 2017 grants is expected to be awarded to approved projects in early 2018.

For information or questions about the PSN or application process, please contact Patty Forbes, CDFW Fisheries Restoration Grant Program Coordinator, at (916) 327-8842.

Media Contacts:
Patty Forbes, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 327-8842
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

CDFW Awards $40 Million for Ecosystem and Watershed Restoration and Protection Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced that it is awarding $40 million in Proposition 1 funds for water quality, river and watershed protection, and restoration projects for vital waterways throughout California.

In the second of ten planned annual grant cycles, CDFW has selected 44 projects to receive funding from its Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Prop 1) Restoration Grant Programs. The awards, totaling $40 million, include approximately $28 million awarded through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program to projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and approximately $12 million awarded through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program to projects that directly benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“In year two of our Prop 1 grant program we continue to support on-the-ground actions that meet the objectives of the California Water Action Plan, as well as planning activities that set the stage for future restoration statewide,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “We have made great progress in the first two grant cycles and we cannot wait to get more multi-benefit projects done throughout the state.”

Each of these multi-benefit projects addresses the priorities outlined in the 2016 Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs Solicitation and the California Water Action Plan. Priorities include: Protecting and restoring mountain meadow ecosystems, managing headwaters for multiple benefits, protecting and restoring anadromous fish habitat, and protecting and restoring coastal wetland ecosystems.

Projects approved for funding through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program include:

  • Lost Coast Redwood and Salmon Initiative Phase 2 (2016) – Indian Creek Conservation Easement ($1,400,00 to Northcoast Regional Land Trust);
  • Humboldt Bay Regional Invasive Spartina Eradication Project ($450,000 to Redwood Community Action Agency);
  • Modoc Plateau Meadows Assessment and Restoration Design Project ($253,309 to California Trout, Inc.);
  • Dry Creek Meadow Restoration ($290,000 to Truckee River Watershed Council);
  • Stanford-Vina Fish Passage Planning and Design Project ($418,408 to Trout Unlimited);
  • San Vicente Creek Watershed Clematis vitalba Control Project ($1,141,555 to Sempervirens Fund);
  • Carman Watershed Restoration Project, Phase II ($589,732 to Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District);
  • Lagunitas Creek Floodplain and Riparian Restoration Project ($935,467 to Salmon Protection and Watershed Network);
  • Napa River Restoration Oakville to Oak Knoll Project ($200,000 to Napa County Department of Public Works);
  • Protecting and Restoring Wilderness Meadows in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks ($86,340 to American Rivers);
  • Oroville Wildlife Area Flood Stage Reduction and Restoration Project ($2,509,700 to Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency);
  • Dennett Dam Removal ($363,183 to Tuolumne River Trust);
  • Marshall Ranch Conservation Easement – 2016 ($5,012,125 to California Rangeland Trust);
  • Middle Branch of Russian Gulch – Forbearance Agreement/Conservation Easement ($400,000 to Sonoma Land Trust);
  • Matilija Dam Removal 65 Percent Design Planning Project ($3,300,504 to County of Ventura);
  • A Watershed Approach to Enhancing Habitat for Salmonids in the San Lorenzo River Watershed ($705,094 to Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County);
  • Green Valley Watershed Coho Migration Enhancement Project – Design Phase ($376,895 to North Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council);
  • McInnis Marsh Restoration Project ($550,000 to Marin County Parks);
  • South Canal Diversion Fish Screen ($829,129 to Yuba County Water Agency);
  • Thompson Meadow Restoration and Water Budget Evaluation Project ($196,784 to Plumas Corporation);
  • Freshwater Creek Off-Channel Habitat Restoration Project-Regulatory Compliance ($124,701 to Redwood Community Action Agency);
  • Mill Creek Barrier Removal and Riparian Restoration Project in Talmage ($383,939 to Mendocino County Resource Conservation District);
  • Non-Natal Habitat Enhancement Planning For ESA-Listed Salmonids in the Humboldt Bay Watershed ($179,316 to Pacific Coast Fish, Wildlife and Wetlands Restoration Association);
  • Van Norden Meadow Restoration Project ($1,108,657 to South Yuba River Citizens League);
  • Laguna-Mark West Creek Watershed Master Restoration Planning Project ($517,000 to Sonoma County Water Agency);
  • CICC Packer Ranch Fish Screen Project and Pump Station Upgrade ($467,611 to Family Water Alliance, Inc.);
  • Fish Passage Design at Interstate 5 Bridge Array on Trabuco Creek ($383,890 to California Trout, Inc.);
  • Salmon River Floodplain Restoration Planning and NEPA Analysis ($225,340 to Salmon River Restoration Council);
  • Grayson Restoration Planning ($188,679 to River Partners);
  • Planning for Priority Meadow Restoration in Lahontan Basin Watersheds ($346,352 to American Rivers);
  • DCWC Lower Deer Creek Flood and Ecosystem Improvement Project, Phase 1 ($1,950,289 to Deer Creek Watershed Conservancy);
  • Rancho Cañada Carmel River Protection and Instream Flow Enhancement Project ($1,450,000 to Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District);
  • Developing Restoration Strategies for Hydrologic Connectivity in Williams Creek ($291,594 to Humboldt County Resource Conservation District);
  • Restoration of Priority Meadows in the Walker Watershed ($235,757 to American Rivers);
  • Cottonwood Canyon Acquisition Project ($507,000 to Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy);
  • Auburn Ravine-Hemphill Diversion Assessment Phase 2 ($177,042 to Nevada Irrigation District); and
  • Hat Creek Enhancement Project – 2016 ($196,564 to Fall River Resource Conservation District).

Projects approved for funding through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program include:

  • Paradise Cut Flood and Conservation Easement Acquisition ($2,035,000 to American Rivers);
  • Contaminant Effects on Two California Fish Species and the Food Web That Supports Them ($1,701,829 to The Regents of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine);
  • Impact of Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Water Flows on Migratory Behavior of Chinook Salmon Smolts in the South Delta ($1,510,723 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Agriculture and Natural Resources);
  • Investigating the Factors that Affect Age-0 Longfin Smelt Abundance, Distribution, and Recruitment in the Upper SF Estuary ($330,811 to Metropolitan Water District of Southern California);
  • Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Habitat and Drainage Improvement Project Construction ($4,852,766 to Ducks Unlimited);
  • Impact of Climate Variability on Surface Water Quality: Cyanobacteria and Contaminants ($891,341 to The Regents of the University of California, Davis, Aquatic Toxicology Program); and
  • Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project ($537,457 to Contra Costa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District).

CDFW plans to release the next Prop 1 solicitation in late spring or early summer 2017. Prior to its release, CDFW will host a series of workshops to engage potential project proponents. CDFW hopes to provide additional outreach to certain regions of the state that have submitted fewer proposals, particularly in Southern California.

At that time, general information about CDFW’s Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs, as well as a schedule of locations and dates for workshops will be available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants.

Funding for these projects comes from the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act 2014 (Proposition 1) bond funds, a portion of which are allocated annually through the California State Budget Act. More information about Proposition 1 can be found here.

Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 445-1285
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937