Stream and Wetland Systems Protection Policy
Status Update (8/17/2011)
The Stream and Wetlands Systems Protection Policy has gone through external scientific peer review pursuant to the requirements of Health and Safety Code Section 57004. At this time, staff is continuing to develop the Policy and supporting documents. No date has been set for the public comment period.
Staff of the North Coast and San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Boards are developing proposed amendments—to the Water Quality Control Plans (Basin Plans) for the North Coast and San Francisco Bay regions—that will protect stream and wetlands systems, including measures to protect riparian areas and floodplains.
The goals of the proposed Stream and Wetlands System Protection Policy are:
- To achieve water quality standards and protect beneficial uses of waters of the state
- To protect drinking water through natural water quality enhancement and protection of groundwater recharge zones
- To restore habitat and protect aquatic species and wildlife
- To enhance flood protection through natural functions of stream and wetlands systems
- To restore the associated recreational opportunities, green spaces and neighborhood amenities that water resources provide
- To protect property values and community welfare by protecting natural environments
- To encourage local watershed planning and support local oversight of water resources
- To improve Regional Water Board permitting and program efficiency
A single Stream and Wetlands System Protection Policy will be proposed for Basin Plan adoption in the North Coast and San Francisco Bay Regions to improve regulatory consistency. The Policy will serve as a model for other Regional Water Boards and for the state in the protection of water quality. The Policy will promote regulatory efficiency by linking to existing relevant permit conditions and provisions in 401 water quality certifications, timber harvesting plans (THPs), waste discharge requirements (WDRs), WDR waivers, and urban runoff National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. The Policy will also promote general efficiency by linking to Regional Water Boards' monitoring programs (e.g., Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program) and grants program. The Policy will provide incentives for local jurisdictions to develop watershed management plans that can be used by project applicants to offset impacts to stream and wetland functions when on-site avoidance of impacts is impossible. In this way the Policy will create a vehicle for working with local jurisdictions to develop effective implementation strategies consistent with local stakeholder interests.
All reasonable alternatives will be evaluated and discussed in an accompanying staff report and implementation plan. In addition to a synthesis of the relevant science and technical data linking physical characteristics to water quality, the staff report will include an economic analysis of the public and private benefits and costs of stream and wetlands system protection. Potential elements of the Stream and Wetlands System Protection Policy may include:
- Developing statewide definitions for function-based beneficial uses of waters of the state.
- Defining functional relationships between streams, wetlands, riparian areas, and floodplains and describing scientifically the importance of each in protecting water quality.
- Compiling case study information linking the physical characteristics of stream and wetland systems with measurable water quality effects.
- Offering prescriptive solutions to protect water quality based on the preceding analysis. Such solutions may include specific measures as justified, but will otherwise describe the methodology that should be used to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on a watershed or project-specific basis.
- Developing an implementation plan to enhance local jurisdictional development, adoption and implementation of watershed management plans in accordance with the goals of the Stream and Wetland Systems Protection Policy.
Staff of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board will hold stakeholder workshops on the proposed Stream and Wetlands System Protection Policy. These meetings will be open to the public. Interested groups and individuals will have the opportunity to ask questions, offer comments, and supply input on both technical and implementation related aspects of the proposed Policy at these workshops. To receive emails containing meeting information and updates on the Policy, please sign-up here.
No meetings scheduled at this time.
Coordination with State Water Board Wetland and Riparian Area Protection Policy:
The Policy is being coordinated with the developing State Water Resources Control Board's Wetland and Riparian Area Protection Policy. This collaborative effort between the State and Regional Water Boards will result in policies that complement and support each other and result in the protection and restoration of stream and wetland systems. When complete, the Stream and Wetland Systems Protection Policy will serve as a model for other Regional Water Boards and for the State of California in the protection of water quality.
For Additional Information Contact:
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400
Oakland, CA 94612