United Water Conservation District is in the process of developing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for its current and future operations within the Santa Clara River watershed.
(To see the report of Vern Freeman Diversion Dam Fish Passage Review Panel click here.)
HCPs are planning documents required as part of an application for a permit under the federal Endangered Species Act to undertake activities that affect species currently protected under ESA or that may be listed in the future. When completed and approved, United's HCP and associated permit will allow United to carry out their lawful activities while becoming partners in conserving rare species. These documents will set criteria for operation of United's facilities, including the Freeman Diversion Dam, and lay out measures to reduce and mitigate the effects on species covered in the HCP. The HCP and permit will likely have a term of many years (perhaps as many as 40 or 50), providing United and other local stakeholders with a measure of certainty about the requirements placed upon them.
A key species of concern related to United's facilities and operations is the endangered southern California steelhead. The HCP will also address effects to several other species as well, including Pacific lamprey, least Bell's vireo, and arroyo toad.
United is working closely with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Department of Fish and Game in the development of the HCP. The HCP process provides several mechanisms for the public to be involved. United has held multiple public information meetings and will hold additional meetings as the process progresses. In addition, United has established a Stakeholder Advisory Committee to provide guidance throughout the planning process.
The HCP process is complicated making it a challenge to identify a completion date. Completing the HCP process is a priority for United with the hope of completing it in the next year or two.