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California adopts new statewide wetland definition and procedures

  • California adopts new statewide wetland definition and procedures

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The State Water Resources Control Board voted to adopt new regulations concerning wetlands and other environmentally sensitive waterways throughout California.

The newly adopted rules provide a statewide definition of what is considered a wetland and provide standards for how the State Water Board and nine regional water boards are to regulate activities in order to protect wetlands and other waterways, such as rivers, streams, bays and estuaries.

“Californians take pride in balancing both the ecologic and economic needs of our state,” said State Water Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “It’s critical we established this consistent statewide framework that protects and enhances our most sensitive water resources, while creating regulatory certainty for housing, agriculture, water managers, conservationists, and communities.”

ACWA has played an important leadership role throughout the stakeholder input process that has taken place during the last couple of years. ACWA and its coalition of water agencies were successful at obtaining numerous amendments in the final version of the policy that will support California water agencies’ water supply, water quality and public health and safety operations.

Leading the effort on behalf of ACWA was Regulatory Advocate Chelsea Haines, who spearheaded ACWA’s working group, engaged in coalition meetings and met with State Water Board staff and Board members over the past few months to discuss improvements to the Procedures.

“The Procedures are the result of diverse stakeholders coming together and recognizing that water agencies operations are achieving multiple objectives and multiple benefits, both for water users and the environment,” Haines said. “We appreciate the additional time the Board provided over the past few months to ensure that water agencies are part of the solution being developed and we hope these lessons learned will be applied to future efforts.”

ACWA’s advocacy efforts during the stakeholder process centered on two main areas:

  1. Minimizing impacts to existing water facilities – Many water facilities around the state have existed for decades, providing various benefits that the state strongly supports, such as groundwater recharge, water quality improvements, local water supply reliability and flood control. One of ACWA’s highest priorities during the process was to ensure the new procedures exempted existing facilities routine and emergency O&M projects from being subject to considerable regulatory requirements.
  2. Streamlining the regulatory process for future water projects – ACWA advocated for an efficient and transparent process for agencies that are subject to all of the permitting, mitigation, and application requirements associated with new infrastructure projects. ACWA and its partners believe that utilizing a more streamlined process will encourage water agencies to continue investing in critically needed water projects that provide local and regional benefits throughout the state.

Development of the new rules started more than 10 years ago. The rules are expected take effect in about a year, following approval by the state Office of Administrative Law.

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