Industry News

Interstate 80 and State Route 65 Interchange Project – Phase 1

Construction activities are in full swing on Phase 1 of the Caltrans Interstate 80 and State Route 65 Interchange Project (Project). The Project is located within Placer County in the cities of Roseville and Rocklin, near the Roseville Galleria. Flatiron Construction is the primary contractor responsible for widening the northbound viaduct of State Route 65, as well as the Galleria Boulevard/Stanford Ranch Road ramps. The scale of this Project is impressive with 13-foot wide and 100-foot deep holes being drilled for the viaduct column footings. In order to construct the columns, Flatiron Construction is temporarily diverting Antelope Creek that flows under the viaduct.

Gallaway Enterprises is providing environmental compliance services for Flatiron Construction as this project involves several environmental issues involving multiple state and federal agencies. Gallaway Enterprises is conducting migratory bird and bat surveys, providing relocation of sensitive native fish species and western pond turtles, and providing recommendations during the installation of the temporary stream diversion and water quality monitoring. A Biological Resource Information Program, Natural Resource Protection Plan, Species Protection Survey Protocol, Bat Avoidance Plan, and Bird Exclusion Plan have been prepared for the Project by Gallaway Enterprises to help ensure this Project is successfully completed while maintaining compliance.

Foothill Yellow-Legged Frogs at Harbin Creek

Harbin Hot Springs Resort, once home to nearly 300 residents and employees, has been closed since the Valley Fire evacuation orders in September 2015.  The resort community, just minutes outside of Middletown, found itself in the path of the fire and suffered major losses as the majority of the structures present onsite were destroyed.

The timber bridge over Harbin Creek that connects the Harbin Hot Springs Resort to Middletown was burned in the fire, and a temporary bridge was constructed in its place. A new bridge was slated for construction by Bridgeway Civil Constructors in July of 2017. Just before construction was to begin, the foothill yellow-legged frog was listed as a candidate threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), giving it full protected status for the duration of its review period and halting construction. Harbin Creek contains a healthy and sustainable population of foothill yellow-legged frog. Though foothill yellow-legged frog populations in Lake County are not in danger of extirpation, the foothill yellow-legged frogs present in Harbin Creek now needed the added protections of a threatened species.

Gallaway Enterprises worked fast to create a frog relocation plan and obtain an emergency Incidental Take Permit in order to get the project underway as soon as possible. The delayed construction led to long hours and weekends building the new bridge, and Gallaway Enterprises biologists were onsite daily to relocate frogs, monitor for environmental compliance, and conduct water quality testing within Harbin Creek. The completed Harbin Springs Road Bridge will contribute to the economic recovery of the area as Harbin Hot Springs Resort continues to rebuild its facilities.

Reviewing and Revising the Definition of Waters of the U.S.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have proposed to withdraw the 2015 waters of the U.S. rule, also referred to as the 2015 WOTUS rule. The intent of the 2015 WOTUS rule was to provide clarity as to which wetlands and waterways were covered by the Clean Water Act. Unfortunately the new rule was so ambiguous with unquantifiable terms such as “adjacent”, “significant nexus” and “tributary” that both professional wetland delineators and the Corps regulatory agents would interpret the new rules differently. While the 2015 WOTUS rule was halted due to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issuing a nationwide stay in October 2015, some Corps offices were reviewing delineations under the premise that the stay would be lifted, further adding to the confusion.

The group most impacted  by the new rules would have been farmers as the 2015 WOTUS rule effectively put a significant amount of upland farming area into the confines of the Clean Water Act, undermining their ability to farm as usual.

The next step for the administration and regulatory agencies will be to develop a WOTUS definition that protects water quality without asserting federal regulatory power over puddles and sheet flow in farm fields. If the past interpretations of a WOTUS definition are any indicator of the future, finding consensus on this issue between, farmers, environmentalists and regulatory agencies  won’t be an easy task.

The agencies are utilizing a notice and comment rulemaking process in which they are soliciting input from constituents. Information regarding this outreach process can be found on the EPA website at www.epa.gov/wotus-rule/outreach-meetings

Expanding Jurisdiction through Interpretation

While there is a current trend in lessening federal environmental regulations under the new administration, state agencies, such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, are prepared to step in and fill the regulatory gap. Furthermore, it is likely that these state agencies will put in place significantly more expansive sets of rules to counter major changes at the federal level.

Local agencies and the regulated public have found themselves subject to CDFW jurisdiction via the Lake and Streambed Alteration  Program (LSA) on projects outside of the traditional scope of the LSA. The most significant and often abused component of the Section 1600 code by the CDFW is the ability to regulate project activities when an action could “deposit/dispose of debris, waste, pavement where it may pass into a river, stream or lake”.

CDFW has recently claimed jurisdiction over portions of City stormwater collection systems, wetlands more than 4000 feet away from creeks and vernal wetlands located in uplands. Its not uncommon for CDFW regulators to demand landowners apply for a LSA agreement for activities in agricultural ditches and within flood plains outside of stream zones. The application fees are steep and have been consistently rising creating a revenue stream for CDFW. Through interpretation of their role in enforcing Section 1600 of the Fish and Game code CDFW has taken an aggressive stance resulting in significant scope creep. Assemblyman James Gallagher has responded to the scope creep by proposing AB 947 to more clearly define the limits of CDFW jurisdiction via the LSA program.

Cox Castle & Nicholson (www.coxcastle.com) developed an informative assessment of CDFW Permitting under Fish and Game Code Section 1600 (link to pdf) which describes the agency’s regulatory authority, limitations and “gray areas”.

 

 

 

 

President Trump Issues Executive Order to Rescind or Revise the Clean Water Rule

On February 28, 2017, President Trump honored his campaign promise to enact policy with the intent of providing regulatory relief by issuing an Executive Order that requires the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to review the Clean Water Rule (Rule). There is no denying that regulators within the EPA and Corps have engaged in regulatory and jurisdictional scope creep for many years. The Clean Water Rule, which sought to more clearly define Waters of the US (WOTUS) legitimized the scope creep with the EPA conceding that the Rule would, on average, increase federal jurisdiction of WOTUS by 3-5%, bringing in over 1 million additional waters, primarily drainages, ephemeral creeks, dry arroyos and ditches redefined as tributaries.

The Executive Order directs the EPA and Corps to review the Rule in the context of developing a revised rule that protects WOTUS while minimizing regulatory uncertainty. More importantly, the Executive Order directs the EPA and Corps to review the Rule “in a manner consistent with the plurality opinion of Justice Scalia in the Rapanos v United States Supreme County case”. The agencies, in their interpretation of jurisdiction following Rapanos, have largely ignored the plurality opinion and instead have focused on the concurrence opinion offered by Justice Kennedy. There are major difference between the opinions. Justice Scalia wrote that “the Corps has stretched the term “waters of the United States” beyond parody” and strongly concluded that ephemeral streams, dry arroyos, man-made drainage ditches, and storm water systems are not WOTUS and subject to the Clean Water Act. Justice Kennedy wrote that features on the landscape that are man-made, not hydrologically linked, ephemeral, etc., could be jurisdictional if there was a “significant nexus” to a navigable WOTUS. The determination by regulators of what constitutes a “significant nexus” is so broad, unpredictable, and constantly evolving that its often abused to the point where everything is potentially jurisdictional.

With over 20 years experience applying federal protocols, regulations, and policy in the field to identify WOTUS and then seek federal Clean Water Act permits we can attest to the incredible frustration from the regulated public with regards to regulatory uncertainty and inconsistent interpretation of jurisdiction. While we applaud efforts to create a more reliable and predictable regulatory process, there must be a balance between the protection of resources and refining the definition of WOTUS. The definition of WOTUS through a rule-making process will take years to accomplish, so currently Senior Regulatory Biologist, Jody Gallaway is working to propose regulatory reforms that could be enacted much sooner resulting in significant regulatory relief.

Cincinnati’s 6th Circuit US Court of Appeals Issues Stay Against EPA/USACE WOTUS Rule

In a 2-1 decision the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a nationwide stay against enforcement of the Waters of the U.S. rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE).

The court concluded that the rule has already been stayed in 13 states and that a nationwide stay would help maintain nationwide uniformity while the rule is litigated in court.  Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee called the Sixth Circuits order to suspend “a victory for all states, local governments, farmers, ranchers, and landowners. The EPA and Army Corps admitted in February before Congress that the proposed rule was flawed and ambiguous, yet the agencies continued forward and finalized the rule in May. Instead of fixing the overreach, EPA made it broader.”  Inhofe went on to say that the litigation over the WOTUS rule will likely take several years to conclude.

The WOTUS rule would have significantly impacted agriculture in Sacramento County, with 100% of lands being considered jurisdictional, farmers and ranchers would have been in violation for simple routine farming practices like weed spraying.

While this not over, the stay provides opportunity for the court system to get answers about over reaching authority of EPA and Army Corp of Engineers.

Source: Sacramento Farm Bureau

Corps gives plaintiffs a hand on WOTUS

If you have been following the proposed “New Rules” from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the Clean Water Act you may have seen the release of the “Litigation Sensitive” memos. These memos detail how the proposed “New Rules” ignore sound science, lack legal authority, and are not supported by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Read Corps gives plaintiffs a hand on WOTUS from Capital Press:

Source: Corps gives plaintiffs a hand on WOTUS – Editorials – Capital Press

Additional background from the Farm Bureau:

http://www.fb.org/newsroom/news_article/336/

 

Farm Bureau Offers Detailed Analysis Of Waters Of The U.S. Rule | Growing Produce

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) released documents outlining how EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule will give the agency sweeping powers to regulate land use despite a body of law clearly prohibiting such overreach. “Our analysis shows yet again how unwise, extreme and unlawful this rule is,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “Our public affairs specialists and legal team have assembled the best analysis available, and their conclusions are sobering: Despite months of comments and innumerable complaints, the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) proposal is even worse than before.”

The WOTUS rule, first released in draft form in April, 2014, has garnered fierce opposition from farmers, ranchers, and land owners of all kinds. Dozens of states and countless municipalities oppose the measure.

Read the Farm Bureau’s assessment of the new rule here

One of the most concerning aspects of the new rule is the ability of CWA regulators to ignore scientific indicators of jurisdictional waters and instead rely purely on aerial photos, opinions and past conditions.

Source / Link : Farm Bureau Offers Detailed Analysis Of Waters Of The U.S. Rule | Growing Produce