Many of the North Coast Region's aquatic ecosystems - rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, enclosed bays, and estuaries - are home to sensitive beneficial uses and at-risk species. The structure, function, and biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems are vulnerable to disruption, and often require proactive, restorative measures to correct impairment, prevent further degradation, or increase resilience. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (North Coast Water Board) supports the implementation of projects that are designed to restore, protect and enhance waters of the state.
In January 2015, the North Coast Water Board adopted the Policy in Support of Restoration in the North Coast Region – Resolution No. R1-2015-0001. The Restoration Policy was subsequently adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board and Office of Administrative Law, thereby incorporating it as an amendment to the Water Quality Control Plan for the North Coast Region.
The Restoration Policy is primarily a narrative expressing support for restoration and similar type projects. The Policy describes in detail: (1) the importance of restoration projects for the protection, enhancement and recovery of beneficial uses, (2) the obstacles that slow or preclude restoration actions, (3) the legal and procedural requirements for permitting restoration projects, (4) the ongoing Regional Water Board effort to provide support towards the implementation of restoration projects, and (5) direction to staff to continue to support restoration in the future.
Restoration Projects in the North Coast Region
Restoration projects in the North Coast Region typically include, but are not limited to: bioengineering of eroding or vulnerable streambanks, wetland restoration, fish migration barrier removal, decommissioning of roads and stream crossings, instream flow enhancement, habitat improvements, accelerated recruitment of large woody material, spawning gravel augmentation, exotic species removal, and the reestablishment of native wetland and riparian vegetation. Restoration projects can also include large-scale activities associated with estuary modification, creation of off-channel refuge, augmentation of instream flows, correction of stream diversions, and the dismantling or removal of materials associated with dams and reservoirs.
Permitting Restoration Projects
Restoration projects that discharge materials or pollutants into waters of the state must be authorized by the North Coast Water Board prior to implementation. Most restoration projects within the North Coast Region are administered through the Water Quality Certification Program. However, some restoration projects are administered through other North Coast Regional Water Board programs such as the Forest Activities Program, the Nonpoint Source Program, or the TMDL Program.
Many restoration projects in the North Coast Region are permitted through the State Water Board's General 401 Water Quality Certification for Small Habitat Restoration Projects (issued 3/27/13) and rely on the corresponding CEQA Categorical Exemption 15333 for Small Habitat Restoration. Projects that do not meet the eligibility requirements for this Certification must seek other permit coverage through an individual or general water quality certification, waste discharge requirements, or a waiver of waste discharge requirements.
Staff work closely with its partner agency, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, to support coordinated state level permitting programs such as the Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Act of 2014 and the Coho Habitat Enhancement Leading to Preservation Act (Coho HELP Act).
Restoration projects may also be subject to other local, state, Tribal government, or federal requirements, including but not necessarily limited to:
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- California Coastal Commission
- California Office of Historic Preservation
- California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
- County Governments
- City Governments
Permitting, Funding, and Restoration Coordination
The permitting of restoration projects can vary in complexity depending on the specific circumstances of the project, its setting, and the associated resources in the area. North Coast Water Board staff are available to assist practitioners who are considering implementation of a restoration project that is designed to protect, enhance, and recover the conditions of waters of the state. Additionally, the North Coast Water Board administers state and federal grants and loans that may be available for restoration projects.
For questions regarding permit Coordination and grant funding opportunities, please contact:
Jonathan W. Warmerdam
Senior Environmental Scientist (Specialist)
Permit and Restoration Coordinator
Tel: (707) 576-2468
For questions regarding the water quality certification program, please contact:
Senior Environmental Scientist (Supervisor)
Water Quality Certification Program
Photo credit: Scott River Watershed Council. Beaver dam analogue on Sugar Creek, Scott River valley.