What this permitting pathway covers
Using this process for coverage under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act for NMFS species is a faster and lower-cost process than writing a biological assessment and receiving a biological opinion for your individual project.
To be eligible for this Program a restoration project must have a federal nexus (e.g. typically federal permitting or funding from a federal agency). Requiring a permit from the Army Corps (Section 404 or Section 10) is often a federal nexus.
Restoration Consistency Determination
The NOAA Restoration Center (RC) coordinated with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and added language to the Incidental Take Statement so that CDFW can issue Restoration Consistency Determinations for this PBO, providing another permitting efficiency.
Late-arriving action agencies
This PBO allows for late-arriving action agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Forest Service, USFWS, and others to ask for concurrence of their inclusion under this program and increase efficiencies for their Section 7 responsibilities.
- Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast (SONCC) coho salmon ESU (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
- California Coastal (CC) Chinook Salmon ESU (Oncorhynchus tsawytscha)
- Northern California (NC) steelhead DPS (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
- Southern Green Sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris)
- Southern Eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus)
See the Programmatic Biological Opinion, starting on page 14 of the PDF, for full descriptions of the restoration project types and associated minimization measures. Protection, avoidance, and minimization measures, begin on page 42 of the PDF.
- Improvements to stream crossings and fish passage – Projects to address upstream and downstream movement by fish and other species and improve connectivity of habitats.
- Removal of small dams, tide gates, levees, bank revetments, and other legacy structures – Projects to improve fish and wildlife habitat, migration, tidal and freshwater circulation, flow, and water quality.
- Riparian restoration and protection – Projects that stabilize banks while reducing fine sediment input, enhancing aquatic and riparian habitat, and improving water quality.
- Restoration and enhancement of off-channel and side-channel habitat – Projects to reconnect and/or improve aquatic and riparian habitat for fish and wildlife.
- Restoration and enhancement of tidal, subtidal, and freshwater wetlands – Projects to improve ecological functions.
- Floodplain restoration – Projects including breaching and removal of levees, berms and/or dikes, resulting in hydrologic reconnection and revegetation, to improve ecosystem function through hydrological connection between streams and floodplains.
- Water conservation projects for enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat – Projects such as off-stream storage tanks and ponds, including necessary off-channel infrastructure, to reduce low-flow stream withdrawals.
- Removal of pilings and other in-water structures – Projects to improve water quality and aquatic habitat for fish and wildlife.
- Removal of non-native terrestrial and aquatic invasive species and revegetation with native plants – Projects to improve aquatic and riparian habitat for fish and wildlife and improve other watershed functions.
- Instream restoration – Projects to restore functions of streams and riparian areas.
- Upslope watershed restoration – Projects that enhance geomorphic processes and reduce anthropogenic sediment pulses.
Limits on Area of Disturbance for Stream Dewatering
A maximum of 1,000 contiguous feet of a stream reach may be dewatered at any given time. Other sections of stream within the same project area may be dewatered in up to 1,000-foot increments, as long as listed fish that were handled during the initial dewatering event are not handled during subsequent dewatering events during the same year. To avoid handling the same fish multiple times during sequenced dewatering events, fish must be relocated to suitable habitat conditions outside of the zone that could be dewatered during that season. In addition, for each dewatering and relocation event, sufficient field staff must be available to efficiently move and care for relocated fish. The fish relocation plan submitted prior to the event must describe this sufficiency.
The following activities are not within the scope of the Proposed Restoration Program, are not analyzed in this biological opinion, and will require separate authorization:
- Removal of any dam under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdiction.
- Use of gabion baskets.
- Use of chemically treated timbers used for grade or channel stabilization structures, bulkheads, overwater structures, or other instream structures.
- Construction of new fish ladders.
- With the exception of storage projects to reduce low flow stream withdrawals, off-channel/side-channel habitat projects that require the installation of a flashboard dam, head gate, or other mechanical structure.
- Use of riprap, RSP or any other form of bank protection, other than the minimum amount needed to achieve restoration project goals.
- Projects that include impact pile driving that exceeds the Interim Pile Driving Criteria (June 2008) (or current Pile Driving Criteria when 2008 criteria are updated) are excluded for inclusion in the Program.
- Projects that are likely to cause, for any Covered Species, a permanent net loss of habitat, permanent net loss of habitat function, or permanent net loss of functional value of designated or proposed critical habitat (e.g., the physical and biological features essential for the species’ recovery and conservation).
- Projects that would result in any net loss of eelgrass resources.
See the full list of protection, avoidance, and minimization measures starting on page 36 of the PDF of the Biological Opinion.
Application Tips and Resources
The NOAA RC will serve as the Lead Federal Action Agency responsible for Program coordination for this Program under applicable Federal and State laws. Oversight and administration of the Proposed Program will be coordinated between NOAA RC, the Corps, and NMFS West Coast Region California Coastal Office (WCR CCO) to ensure that aquatic habitat restoration project applications are submitted and evaluated for Program eligibility.
Initial Project Screening and Technical Assistance
There are three pathways through which restoration projects included under this program will be identified:
1) The project Application or request for technical assistance comes to the NOAA RC first.
The NOAA RC will be the first level of review in screening potential NOAA RC-funded projects, and projects for which applicants request NOAA RC technical assistance for authorization under the Program. Once the NOAA RC receives a request for technical assistance or an Application (see Submittal Requirements on page 6 of the PBO), they will screen the project to determine eligibility and if it will require agency engineering review. If NOAA RC determines that the project is eligible for the program, they will notify the Corps that the review of the project has begun and provide the technical assistance request or application documents to the Corps.
2) The project Application or request for technical assistance comes to the Army Corps first.
The Army Corps will be the first level of review in screening potential projects for authorization under the Program if they are the entity that receives a request for technical assistance or an Application for potential inclusion under the program (see Submittal Requirements on page 6 of the PBO). The Corps will screen the project to determine eligibility and ask the RC for confirmation. If the RC concurs on eligibility, and if engineering review is required, the NOAA RC will coordinate this review with the appropriate agency engineer.
3) The request for technical assistance comes to WCR CCO first as an individual consultation request.
If WCR CCO receives a request for technical assistance or individual ESA Section 7 consultation that WCR CCO believes could be included under the Program, then WCR CCO will forward the available information to the NOAA RC for consideration and project consideration will proceed as though NOAA RC had received the Application first (see above).
Confirmation of Project Inclusion
If the project is approved for acceptance into the Program, the NOAA RC will email the project applicant, the Army Corps, and the WCR CCO Branch supervisor that the project has been accepted into the Program and that programmatic ESA coverage has been issued. All applicants for projects included under this Program will ensure that NMFS and CDFW have access to these restoration project sites for 10 years post implementation to ensure that they are operating as described in the Programmatic Application Form.