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SB-790 Advance Mitigation Program: wildlife connectivity barriers.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 02/20/2021 04:00 AM
SB790:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 790


Introduced by Senators Stern and Cortese
(Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Friedman)
(Coauthor: Assembly Member Bloom)

February 19, 2021


An act to amend Section 800.6 of the Streets and Highways Code, relating to transportation, and making an appropriation therefor.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 790, as introduced, Stern. Advance Mitigation Program: wildlife connectivity barriers.
Existing law creates the Advance Mitigation Program in the Department of Transportation to enhance communications between the department and stakeholders to, among other things, protect natural resources through project mitigation and accelerate project delivery. Existing law authorizes the department, for the purpose of implementing the program, to develop a programmatic mitigation plan to address the potential environmental impacts of future transportation projects for the purpose of required mitigation approved by federal, state, and local agencies. Existing law creates the Advance Mitigation Account and continuously appropriates moneys in the account for purposes of the program, and specifies what those funds can be used for.
This bill would additionally authorize those funds to be used to modify or remove wildlife connectivity barriers not covered by existing regulatory programs. By expanding the purposes for which a continuously appropriated account may be used, the bill would make an appropriation.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: YES   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 800.6 of the Streets and Highways Code is amended to read:

800.6.
 (a) The funds in the Advance Mitigation Account created in Section 800.7 shall be used only to do the following:
(1) Purchase, or fund the purchase of, credits from mitigation banks, conservation banks, or in-lieu fee programs approved by one or more regulatory agencies. The department may also establish mitigation banks, conservation banks, or in-lieu fee programs, or fund the establishment of mitigation banks, conservation banks, or in-lieu fee programs, in accordance with applicable state and federal standards, if the department determines that those banks or in-lieu fee programs would provide appropriate mitigation of the anticipated potential impacts of planned transportation improvements identified pursuant to Section 800.8.
(2) Pay, or fund the payment of, mitigation fees or other costs or payments associated with coverage for the department’s or other transportation agency’s projects under natural community conservation plans approved pursuant to Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 2800) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code, or habitat conservation plans approved in accordance with the federal Endangered Species Act. The department shall, upon commencement of a regional conservation investment strategy pursuant to paragraph (3), provide written notification thereof to the executive administrative officer of any administrative draft natural community conservation plan, approved natural community conservation plan, or approved regional federal habitat conservation plan that overlaps the proposed area of the regional conservation investment strategy.
(3) Prepare, or fund the preparation of, regional conservation assessments and regional conservation investment strategies. Where a regional conservation investment strategy has been approved by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the department may do either of the following:
(A) Enter into, or fund the preparation of, mitigation credit agreements with the Department of Fish and Wildlife; purchase credits from an established mitigation credit agreement; or implement, or fund the implementation of, conservation actions and habitat enhancement actions as needed to generate mitigation credits pursuant to those mitigation credit agreements.
(B) Acquire, restore, manage, monitor, enhance, and preserve lands, waterways, aquatic resources, or fisheries, or fund the acquisition, restoration, management, monitoring, enhancement, and preservation of lands, waterways, aquatic resources, or fisheries that would measurably advance a conservation objective in the regional conservation investment strategy if the department concludes that the action or actions could conserve or create environmental values that are appropriate to mitigate the anticipated potential impacts of planned transportation improvements.
(4) Where the advance mitigation mechanisms in paragraphs (1) to (3), inclusive, are not practicable, the department may implement advance mitigation, or fund the implementation of advance mitigation, in accordance with a programmatic mitigation plan pursuant to Section 800.9. No more than 25 percent of the funds in the Advance Mitigation Account may be allocated for this purpose over a four-year period.
(5) Modify or remove wildlife connectivity barriers not covered by existing regulatory programs.
(b) The department may use, or allow other transportation agencies to use, mitigation credits or values generated or obtained under the program to fulfill the mitigation requirements of planned transportation improvements if the applicable transportation agency reimburses the program for all costs of purchasing or creating the mitigation credits or values, as determined by the department. Those costs shall be calculated using total cost accounting and shall include, as applicable, land acquisition or conservation easement costs, monitoring and enforcement costs, restoration costs, transaction costs, administrative costs, contingency costs, and land management, monitoring, and protection costs.
(c) The department shall track all implemented advance mitigation projects to use as credits for environmental mitigation.
(d) Projects or plans prepared pursuant to this section that overlap with any approved natural community conservation plan or approved regional federal habitat conservation plan, shall be consistent with that plan and shall include an explanation of whether and to what extent they are consistent with any overlapping state or federal recovery plan, or other state-approved or federal-approved conservation strategy.
(e) Mitigation credits created pursuant to this section may be used for covered activities under an approved natural community conservation plan only in accordance with the requirements of the plan. Individuals and entities eligible for coverage as a participating special entity under an approved natural community conservation plan may use mitigation credits created pursuant to this section only if the plan’s implementing entity declines to extend coverage to the covered activity proposed by the eligible individual or entity.
(f) By July 1, 2019, and biennially thereafter, the department, pursuant to Section 9795 of the Government Code, and notwithstanding Section 10231.5 of the Government Code, shall submit to the Legislature a report that describes to what extent the Advance Mitigation Program has accelerated the delivery of transportation projects. At a minimum, the report shall include the following:
(1) An accounting of the Advance Mitigation Account funds.
(2) Identification of expected state and federal resource and regulatory agency mitigation requirements for transportation projects utilizing the Advance Mitigation Program.
(3) A discussion of the extent to which those requirements are satisfied using advance mitigation credits.
(4) The use of funds to prepare, or to fund the preparation of, regional conservation assessments and regional conservation investment strategies.
(5) Recommendations for maximizing the ability of the Advance Mitigation Program to satisfy state and federal mitigation requirements.
(g) By July 1, 2018, or one year after the initial Advance Mitigation Program investments have begun, whichever is earlier, and biennially thereafter, the Department of Fish and Wildlife shall, pursuant to Section 9795 of the Government Code, and notwithstanding Section 10231.5 of the Government Code, submit a report to the Legislature that describes the extent to which the Advance Mitigation Program has improved the quality and effectiveness of habitat mitigation provided by the department for transportation projects and makes related recommendations on how to maximize these attributes. The report shall also include recommendations on how to maximize the quality and effectiveness of habitat mitigation developed pursuant to the Advance Mitigation Program.
(h) Nothing in this article shall be construed to impose any restrictions or requirements on the department for activities that do not involve the utilization of Advance Mitigation Account funds. Nothing in this article shall be construed to require the department to use the Advance Mitigation Program.
(i) Prior to Before making any expenditure from the Advance Mitigation Account, the Director of Transportation shall make a determination and justification that the proposed expenditure is likely to accelerate project delivery of specific projects.
(j) Any state water or transportation infrastructure agency that requests approval of a regional conservation investment strategy pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 1852 of the Fish and Game Code that may be used to facilitate mitigation for an infrastructure project shall not be subject to the limitation on the number of regional conservation investment strategies set in Section 1861 of the Fish and Game Code.