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    • Donald Sanders

    • July 22, 2018 in Columnists

    These “friends” are not on the side of Putah Creek

    Here we go again! The so-called “Friends of Putah Creek” have taken legal action through the Solano County Superior Court, naming the Central Valley Flood Protection Board (CVFPB), the Solano County Water Agency, The City of Winters, and (correct me if I’m wrong) up to 100 as yet unnamed individuals yet to be identified. The action claims that the permit issued by CVFPB failed to satisfy the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The verification was signed by a Charlie Manson type guy named Jeff TenPas.

    From what I gather, and correct me if I’m wrong, the so-called Friends of Putah Creek are seeking to stop the restoration of Putah Creek in its tracks. Personally, I think the whole idea is crazy and I fail to see what could be gained by stopping a project that has been decades in the planning at a cost of millions of dollars. Countless studies and research projects have been carried out by the top names in the environmental restoration field. The Putah Creek restoration work has undergone years and years of planning and has been studied by the top names in the field that have written countless numbers of scientific papers on the subject.

    “The construction of the Monticello Dam in 1957 caused a decrease in sediment load and flow levels in Putah Creek. Putah Creek is very different today than it was a century ago. Changes include decreased flows, decreased sediment load from upstream, fish barriers in the forms of dams, and the influx of invasive Arundo. Rivers with large dams can experience an effect known as “hungry water,” in which water below a dam is low in sediment content and therefore has extra energy which is spent on bank erosion (Kondolf 1997).” Putah Creek experienced this effect, and incised “over 20 feet below historic elevations” in some areas.” Gina Blackledge and Gabrielle Boisramé

    In 2005, the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee implemented a project to move the channel of Putah Creek northward to its approximate historical course. Even before that the top names in the field have been looking, planning, studying, researching, and working with government officials to get this project up and running. Imagine the work involved after years and years of effort.

    I can only rely on a paper written by Sharon Laine Fiala entitled “An Assessment of the Regulatory Process for Restoration Projects” to illustrate the process of getting government permission to carry out a project of this nature. Shannon Fiala is from the University of California at Berkeley, College of Environmental Design, and is a Master of Environmental Planning Candidate 2011 (https://escholarship.org/uc/item/29h3t2kw)

    Here are a few of the regulatory agencies that have to approve this project:

    • Clean Water Act: CWA Section 404 permit granted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for projects that involve dredging or filling ‘waters of the United States,’ which includes wetlands, and CWA Section 401
    • Water Quality Certifications granted by the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCB).
    • Endangered Species Act: project sponsors must begin a Section 7 consultation with the USFWS under the ESA. Project proponents will submit a Biological Assessment’ to the USFWS, in order to obtain a ‘Biological Opinion’ that will provide explicit instructions as to how the project should avoid and/or mitigate for impacts to threatened and endangered species.
    • National Environmental Policy Act: environmental impact statements (EIS) be prepared for major federal actions that have potentially significant effects on the environment.
    • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in1970 and the California Endangered Species Act (CESA): process typically begins with an ‘Initial Study’.
    • Depending on the complexity and the level of impact, habitat restoration projects must either submit ‘Negative Declarations (ND),’ ‘Mitigated Negative Declarations (MND),’ or if the impacts to these resources are too significant or too complex, proponents must prepare an ‘Environmental Impact Report (EIR),’California Department of Fish and Game Code 1600 permit, ‘Streambed Alteration Agreement,’

    As restoration projects become increasingly complex, particularly with the rise of adaptive management and process-based restoration, agreement among scientists and regulatory staff will be critical to the implementation of these projects. There are smaller projects, also requiring permits within the greater project like vegetation removal projects, constructing Environmental Impact Reports (PEIR), revisions to existing processes, unforeseen impacts, effect and expense of the regulatory process, working with federal agencies and Environmental Consulting Firms, United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and so on. As one regulatory agency staff member stated, project sponsors are “paying more for permitting than they are for the structure.”

    Then there is the CWA Section 401 Water Quality Certification, CWA Section 404, Department of the Army, CDFG Notification of Streambed Alteration, CDFG SAA Fee Schedule, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB).

    If you want to know the facts involved in this case go to “Project Evaluation of Channel Morphology, Invasive Plant Species, and Native Fish Habitat in Putah Creek in Winters, CA.

    Six Years After Channel Relocation” by Gina Blackledge and Gabrielle Boisramé

    So, Friends of Putah Creek, who in their right mind would seek to stop a project like this? With friends like you, who needs enemies?


      • Carolyn Wyler

      • July 22, 2018 at 2:22 pm
      • Reply

      They need to change their name.

    Leave a Reply to Carolyn Wyler Cancel reply