On July 21st, Governor Brown signed into law SB 103, a budget trailer bill that builds upon recent efforts to improve advance mitigation in California by making several important modifications to AB 2087 (Levine, 2016).
AB 2087 provided the legal authority for the creation of advance mitigation credits based on voluntary and non-regulatory Regional Conservation Investment Strategies (RCISs) to be approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). AB 2087 initially included a “cap” provision that only allowed eight RCISs to be approved, and a “sunset” provision that only allowed CDFW to approve RCISs, Regional Conservation Assessments (RCAs), and Mitigation Credit Agreements (MCAs) through December 31, 2019. For more information on AB 2087, please see our earlier blog post.
CDFW has established an RCIS Program and recently issued guidelines for RCISs and RCAs. CDFW is also working on guidelines for MCAs, which are the vehicle for defining how mitigation credits can be created and used once an RCIS has been approved.
SB 103 – Expanding the RCIS Program
Over a dozen entities have expressed an interest in initiating an RCIS in order to ensure that mitigation funding is directed toward high priority conservation projects and actions. SB 103 supports this growing interest in advance mitigation in California by allowing the RCIS program to grow beyond a pilot program.
Specifically, SB 103 makes two changes to AB 2087:
- It allows an RCIS to be exempt from the “cap” if a state water or transportation infrastructure agency requests approval of the RCIS.
- It removes the December 31, 2019 “sunset” provision.
Additionally, SB 103 provides CalTrans with $30 million per year for four years (a total of $120 million), to be used for advance mitigation that is consistent with approved Natural Community Conservation Plans, Mitigation Banks, and RCISs.
RCISs Around the State
Conservation Strategy Group has been working closely with numerous partners to jumpstart the preparation of RCISs throughout the state. In July, the Santa Clara County RCIS was the first RCIS submitted to CDFW. Three additional RCISs are scheduled to be submitted before the end of 2017; an RCIS in the Los Angeles County portion of Antelope Valley, an East Bay RCIS covering Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and one in Yolo County. An additional RCIS is being launched in August along the portions of the Sacramento River led by Reclamation District 108, the Department of Water Resources, and others.
CSG is currently working with partners to identify additional pilots around the state that can address key conservation issues including climate and greenhouse gas impacts, natural and working land conservation, and rural urban connections.
For more information on AB 2087 and Regional Conservation Investment Strategies, please contact Joe Caves (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Graham Chisholm (email@example.com) at 916-558-1516. To learn more about other CSG projects and services check out www.csgcalifornia.com. To stay up to date on major policy issues in California, sign up for our Policy Blog emails here.
 “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.”