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Proposed Conservation Plan Gets Favorable Reception In Washington, D.C.

February 22, 2011

The proposed Placer County Conservation Plan got a favorable reception from federal officials during meetings with a delegation of county representatives in Washington, D.C. last week.

The feedback from federal officials is critical because Placer County must get a stamp of approval from federal agencies before it can put the conservation plan into operation.

Bruin Ranch“It all went very well,” explained Placer County Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt, a member of the county delegation and a leading force behind creation of the PCCP. “I am very pleased with the quality of our discussions both locally and in Washington, D.C. I feel strongly that the relationships we have developed will position us very well for the best possible outcome."

Weygandt went to Washington, D.C. Feb. 15-17 along with 3rd District Supervisor Jim Holmes and County Executive Officer Thomas M. Miller.

The trio discussed the PCCP with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s environmental counsel and officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers and National Marine Fisheries Service.

Supervisor Weygandt explained why the favorable reception from federal officials is so critical: Placer County is proposing a conservation plan that is both entrepreneurial and innovative, and county officials needed a better idea of whether federal agencies are open to considering new concepts.

“There are essential details in the plan that the regulatory agencies have to support and be willing to try,” he explained. “We think, in total, it hasn't been done before.”

Supervisor Weygandt emphasized that last week’s meeting confirmed that county and federal officials are on the same page so far.

On Jan. 25, the Board of Supervisors agreed to send the PCCP to both federal and state regulatory agencies for comment.

The PCCP seeks to balance growth and the conservation of wildlife habitat, wetlands, and other natural resources in Placer County. It would create a comprehensive framework for complying with federal and state environmental rules and benefit the business community and local government by providing a streamlined approval process for development and public infrastructure projects. In many cases, the PCCP would allow permits required by state and federal regulations to be issued locally.

The PCCP also would promote long-range, comprehensive planning that would help protect the area’s high quality of life.

The PCCP may become the most comprehensive plan of its kind in the nation. The county’s effort is unusual because it is proposing a dual-purpose plan that would comprehensively integrate all the laws that protect both endangered species and wetlands.

“It looks like it will be a template for other jurisdictions throughout the nation to use,” Supervisor Holmes explained during a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

Under the PCCP, property and conservation easements would only be acquired from willing sellers and a proposed reserve map would not change zoning on any properties in the proposed reserve area.

Development would be restricted in the reserve area only if a property was acquired in fee title for conservation purposes or a conservation easement was acquired. Conservation easements can prevent properties from being subdivided or developed, but often allow farming to continue. Property owners are compensated financially for conservation easements.

The county’s partners on the project are the City of Lincoln and the Placer County Water Agency. Approximately 212,000 acres of land would be included within the PCCP’s boundaries, including unincorporated areas of the foothills and valley floor and the build-out area of Lincoln’s new General Plan.

Placer County sends a delegation to Washington, D.C. annually to meet with federal officials about local projects that need federal support. Over the years, the trips have helped secure more than $115 million for Placer County projects.

Topics of discussion during this year’s trip included funding for the Auburn State Recreation Area, the region’s wastewater treatment needs, Lake Tahoe restoration efforts, biomass utilization, the proposed Placer Parkway, other transportation projects and a radio network project that will improve communications among local, state and federal public safety agencies.