Legal Update: The Truckhaven lawsuit is moving with the final preliminary briefs being filed on Nov 4. There is a pending Nov 30, 2011 evidentiary hearing scheduled. State Parks is challenging that some of the documents submitted by recreation interests should not be admitted as part of the administrative record. Opening briefs and counter briefs will be filed in late December and January. As CEQA issues receive docket preference, a ruling is expected as early as April 2012.
Forest Service Water Quality Management Plan: The California State Water Resources Board has released the revised proposed State Waiver for the USFS Water Quality Management Handbook. The revised draft documents in the proposed State Waiver package can be viewed at: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/nps/wqmp_forests.shtml
A December 6, 2011 meeting at CALEPA in Sacramento has been scheduled for consideration of adoption of: 1) a proposed statewide Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Nonpoint Source Discharges Related to Certain Activities on National Forest System Lands in California, and 2) a supporting Mitigated Negative Declaration
Public comment on proposed changes to the State Waiver will be accepted until November 21. 2011.
After reviewing the changes to the proposed State Waiver, I believe all concerns submitted on behalf of CA4WDC have been adequately addressed. Specifically, the revision clearly articulates that NEPA review applies to all projects and activities initiated under the proposed State Waiver. In addition, clarification of State Categories A and B have been clarified with their relation to USFS “projects and activities”.
With the release of this revision of the proposed State Waiver, the SWRB has clearly noted that a CEQA Environmental Impact Report of the proposed State Waiver as supported by the environmental community and others is not warranted.
The "effect" of this action is that all National Forests in California will now have consistent guidelines dealing with water quality without having to submit each activity or project to the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board for approval.
The proposed State Waiver accepts the USFS Water Quality Management Handbook as the guide for the management activities such as road maintenance, grazing, mining, and all activities requiring a permit.
As long as projects comply with the guidance in the Handbook, they should proceed with no extra approval or review necessary. The Handbook, in existence since 2001, has been updated and defines actions to be used by Forest Service, contractors and permittees involved in activities or projects on National Forest lands within California.
Over a period of almost two years, stakeholders have held meetings discussing the Handbook content and the proposed State Waiver. All documents have been circulated for public review and comment. Extensive legal review has been conducted by State Water Board and USFS to ensure compliance with state and federal laws. I have been an active participant in all phases of the discussions and meetings on this topic as the statewide OHV representative selected by USFS staff.
Oceano Dunes SVRA: The proposed Oceano Dunes "Dust Rule" legislation was heard by the San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District Board on Wednesday, Nov 16. The proposed rule is based upon the highly questionable "Phase 2 Dust Study" completed by the Air Pollution Control District in March 2010. It is the second use of the CapWiz Action Alert to solicit comments for submission on an issue.
Forest Service Planning Rule: The Forest Service will establish an advisory committee to help oversee implementation of a soon-to-be-finalized planning rule for managing 193 million acres of forests and grasslands.
The agency's planning rule -- which it hopes to finalize sometime this winter -- will determine how the agency's 175 national forests and grasslands develop individual management plans, which govern activities from logging to recreation and the protection of endangered plants and animals.
Department of Interior/BLM National Landscape Conservation System: U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has submitted a report to Congress entitled, "Preliminary Report on BLM Lands Deserving Protection as National Conservation Areas, Wilderness or Other Conservation Designation." The report identifies 18 backcountry areas in nine states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar highlighted recently as deserving protection by Congress as National Conservation Areas or Wilderness areas. Those states are California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Access to certain public land in these nine states could be lost to motorized recreation under the massive land-use designation proposal submitted to Congress.
America’s Great Outdoors Report: The DOI also released a final 50-State America’s Great Outdoors Report outlining more than 100 of the country’s most promising projects designed to protect special places and increase access to outdoor spaces. The full report – which contains two projects per state – comes as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative to establish a community-based, 21st century agenda for conservation, recreation, and reconnecting Americans to the outdoors.
This report lists two projects per state with San Joaquin River National Blueway, Restoration, and Recreation Friant Dam to Confluence at Merced River and Los Angeles River Trail & San Gabriel River Trail Improvements Trails and Urban Park Los Angeles, California Region as the the California projects.
Solar PEIS: As part of President Obama’s commitment to developing our domestic energy portfolio, including our clean energy resources, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar the DOI has released a supplement to the federal plan to facilitate responsible utility-scale solar development on public lands in six western states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
The revised plan, the Supplement to the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development (Solar PEIS), reinforces and improves upon Interior’s work to establish meaningful solar energy zones with transmission solutions and incentives for solar energy development within those zones. The blueprint’s early, comprehensive analysis will ultimately make for faster, better permitting of large-scale solar projects on public lands.
For additional status on other projects and legislation being tracked on behalf of CA4WDC, please refer to my Project and Legislation Lists.