Groundbreaking effort to balance conservation and development in Placer County moving ahead
February 25, 2016
The Placer County Board of Supervisors’ vision of conserving our uniquely rich natural resources while facilitating continued smart and sustainable development is closer to becoming a reality. This week, the board of supervisors heard an update from county staff that the Placer County Conservation Plan is on track with strong support from federal regulatory agencies the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Leading the plan to the finish line is Gregg McKenzie, Placer County Conservation Plan administrator, taking over the helm from Loren Clark. Clark, who is retiring, served over 30 years with Placer County and helped build the policy foundation for the PCCP starting in 1994. The board of supervisors approved funding in September 2015 for a new permanent position to oversee the PCCP’s completion and implementation.
When approved, the plan will result in a larger, more contiguous area of open space and natural habitat, as well as a more streamlined, cost-effective and predictable permitting process to promote sustainable future development in unincorporated areas of the county and the City of Lincoln.
PCCP would comply with federal and state regulations for wetlands and endangered species, setting aside 47,300 acres of land under permanent conservation in western Placer County. The plan would also allow the environmental permit processes to be expedited and approved at the county level, greatly reducing the cost and amount of time to receive permits including permits typically issued by state and federal wildlife agencies.
The proposed PCCP is only one of three regional conservation plans in the United States, combining regional wetlands permitting with endangered species permits. When approved, the plan stands to serve as a regional and national model for how to integrate a number of state and federal regulations under one common conservation strategy.
“This is a grand vision that protects our natural resources and streamlines government regulation to achieve high-quality growth while protecting and enhancing our open spaces for the benefit of all our citizens,” said District 2 Supervisor Robert Weygandt. “This project also reflects how local, state and federal governments can work together at extremely effective levels."
County staff have been coordinating with stakeholders and federal and state regulatory agencies to develop the comprehensive plan.
“In our line of work there are very few things that are a win-win,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Supervisor Jennifer Norris. “We truly think this project is one."
“I want to applaud Placer County and its staff in bringing the PCCP forward,” said Mike Jewell, regulatory division chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District. “The Corps is interested in developing streamline permitting that allows for reasonable development to occur that balances out the protection of aquatic resources."
The plan is still under development, with the next milestone being a 60-day review by the state and federal agencies anticipated to begin in March. A draft is expected to be available for public in late 2016.
The public is encouraged to attend the City of Lincoln’s City Council Meeting March 17, when Placer County staff will present a PCCP update.
More audio clips of Weygandt discussing the PCCP available here.