Salinas River Habitat Conservation Plan
Building on the Long-Term Management Plan (LTMP), the Salinas River Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is a comprehensive plan that is intended to provide an effective framework to protect, enhance, and restore natural resources within the portions of Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties where activities carried out by Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) occur. The HCP is also the mechanism by which MCWRA will obtain federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits for the activities associated with the agency’s water operations and management activities including facility maintenance, water supply operations, floodwater management, capital projects, and, in the long-term, implementation of the HCP. This HCP provides the basis for issuance of incidental take permits under the ESA that provide legal protection for the impact to federally listed species from the public and private activities carried out by MCWRA, including activities that are essential to the ongoing viability of Monterey County’s agricultural and urban economies. To develop the HCP, MCWRA applied for and received Conservation Planning Assistance Grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund as well as the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Grant Program.
Purpose and Goals
The goals of the Salinas River HCP are to restore the balance between natural resource conservation and water resources management by improving habitat conservation efforts in the Salinas River watershed; encouraging sustainable water resources operations; and maintaining and enhancing riverine processes while meeting the needs of agricultural, urban, and domestic water users in the watershed. The Salinas River HCP is being designed to meet the following purposes.
- Provide for the protection and enhancement of aquatic and terrestrial species and their habitats in the Salinas River watershed, while accommodating appropriate and compatible water resources operations and management consistent with applicable local land use laws and associated general plans.
- Provide a comprehensive means for coordinating and standardizing the mitigation and compensation requirements of the ESA, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and other applicable laws and regulations related to listed species in the HCP Plan Area. This will ensure that public and private actions will be governed equally and consistently, thereby reducing delays, expenses, and regulatory duplication.
- Provide a less costly, more efficient project review process that results in greater conservation values than the current project-by-project, species-by-species review and regulatory regime.
- Serve as a platform for coordination and cooperation among various and ongoing conservation planning efforts occurring both within Monterey County and in neighboring jurisdictions.
- Provide a basis for the permits and authorizations necessary to incidentally take species lawfully that have been listed as threatened or endangered pursuant to the terms of the ESA and/or California Endangered Species Act (CESA).
- Provide a process for the issuance of take authorizations for species that are not currently listed but may be listed in the future without the imposition of additional mitigation or conservation requirements outside of the HCP process.
- Reinforce the role of local government in overseeing local land use planning and decision-making.
- Provide clear expectations and regulatory predictability for land users and conservation efforts related to the species within the HCP Plan Area by identifying relevant conservation requirements for ongoing and future activities.
MCWRA is working with stakeholders and consultants to develop the HCP. The HCP is currently in the phase of development that consists of technical studies, species surveys, and habitat modelling.
Supporting Technical Studies
Numerous technical studies are in the planning phase and/or currently underway to inform important components of the HCP. These studies include:
- Analysis of the previous ten years of MCWRA water management operations.
- Feasibility analysis of modifying Nacimiento and San Antonio Dam to support passage of juvenile and adult steelhead trout.
- Analysis of minimum in-river flows required to facilitate upstream movement of adult steelhead through the Salinas River.
- Long-term monitoring of juvenile steelhead within the Salinas River and its major tributaries.
- Long-term monitoring of tidewater goby in the Salinas River Lagoon.
- Hydraulic modeling of proposed water operations within the Salinas River basin.
- Evaluation of aquatic habitat within the upper Nacimiento and San Antonio River basins.
MCWRA is committed to working with landowners, organizations, agencies, and other interested parties to develop the HCP. Community and agency involvement is critical to the development of a successful HCP. MCWRA will convene broad-based planning groups, focused working groups, and provide other opportunities for focused stakeholder engagement as needed to inform the HCP. MCWRA is currently working to develop and implement a communication and engagement plan to share information and solicit feedback from community members.
Upcoming meeting dates and materials will be posted here as they become available.
An update on HCP progress was presented at the November 21, 2022 MCWRA Board of Directors meeting. Find meeting materials here.