Do you know what a wetland looks like or the limits of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife jurisdiction? Do you know how the US Army Corps of Engineers classifies “normal and on-going” farming practices? Many landowners from across the North State have received Clean Water Act or California Fish and Game Code violation notices from federal and/or state agencies, after farming or developing lands where 1) the presence of wetlands had not been properly assessed by qualified biologists and were thought to contain no environmental constraints, 2) farmers had planted wheat or rice in previous years and converted the land to orchards, or 3) previous environmental permit requirements were not addressed. Due to the large number of Clean Water Act violations, the US Army Corps of Engineers have created a new enforcement division to specifically work on processing violations.
While working on the Shasta Constructors team, Gallaway Enterprises recently completed a sophisticated fish passage project on State Route 1 at Dunn Creek in Mendocino County. Dunn Creek crossed State Route 1 through a nine-foot diameter structural steel plate pipe culvert. There was a six-foot vertical drop downstream of the culvert, creating a barrier to fish passage, including the Federal and State listed Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and the Federal listed Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).
On Wednesday, February 5, 2014 the US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) posted a Public Notice on conducting wetland delineations during drought conditions to their website. Due to the drought conditions that have developed over the past few years in California, the COE is recommending, when applicable, that delineators use the difficult Wetland Situations protocol. In the guidance posted, the COE identify two documents which describe approaches that may be useful in completing wetland delineations during periods of below-normal rainfall, drought conditions and unusually low winter snowpack. The documents identified include two Regional Supplements to the Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual, one for the Arid West Region and one for the Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast Region.