FAIRFIELD — The year 2013 ended without the release of the county’s long-waited habitat conservation plan, which has been about 14 years in the making.
Make that 15 years as the new year dawns.
The Solano County Water Agency is spearheading the project. Officials a few months ago had hoped to release the plan and the associated environmental documents this month.
But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Service must sign off on the environmental work. That has yet to happen.
Solano County Water Agency General Manager David Okita said the documents should come out for public review in 2014. He didn’t try to guess a timeframe.
“It’s in the hands of the federal and state fish agencies,” Okita said. “They’ve always found a reason why it’s going to take a little bit longer.”
The basic habitat conservation plan itself has been intact for several years, Okita said.
Releasing the plan this month would have had coincided with a milestone. The federal Endangered Species Act that is driving the habitat conservation plan turned 40 on Saturday, having been signed into law by President Richard Nixon on Dec. 28, 1973.
The local habitat conservation plan will address how to preserve habitat for 36 rare species of plants, animals, birds and fish. Among then are the California tiger salamander, Bogg’s lake hedge-hyssop, giant garter snake, vernal pool ferry shrimp, the Swainson’s hawk, the Suisun thistle, the salt marsh harvest mouse and the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
It will also let developers know upfront what they must do to address endangered species issues connected with a particular project.
A key idea to the plan is creating a reserve system of about 25,000 acres using public lands, conservation banks and lands with conservation easements. Among the ideas is protecting up to 15,000 acres of valley floor grasslands and vernal pool areas, 5,970 acres of farmland used as foraging habitat and 3,300 acres of upland hills. Developers would pay to create and manage the system.
Agencies required to participate in the habitat conservation plan because of the Lake Berryessa federal water contract are the Solano County Water Agency, Vacaville, Fairfield, Suisun City, Vallejo, Solano Irrigation District and Maine Prairie Water District.
In addition, voluntarily participating are Rio Vista, Dixon, Reclamation District 2068, Dixon Resource Conservation District, Dixon Regional Watershed Joint Powers Authority, Vallejo Sanitation and Flood Control District and the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District.
Once the plan and environmental reports are released, the Solano County Water Agency will hold workshops during the public review period. Ultimately, the governing boards of the participating agencies will vote on the plan at various public meetings.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.