August 23, 1993
The goal of the California Wetlands Conservation Policy is to establish a
policy framework and strategy that will:
Ensure no overall net loss and achieve a long-term net gain in the
quantity, quality, and permanence of wetlands acreage and values in California
in a manner that fosters creativity, stewardship and respect for private
- Reduce procedural complexity in the administration of State and Federal
wetlands conservation programs..
- Encourage partnerships to make landowner incentive programs and cooperative
planning efforts the Primary focus of wetlands conservation and
The policy means that are employed to achieve these objectives are largely
three in nature. They (and the pages in which they and their components parts
are fully outlined in this document) are:
I. Statewide policy initiatives (pages 2-7), including:
- a Statewide wetlands inventory
- support for wetland planning
- improved administration of existing regulatory programs
- strengthened landowner incentives to protect wetlands
- support for mitigation banking
- development and expansion of other wetlands programs
- integration of wetlands policy and planning with other environmental and
land use processes
II. Three geographically based regional strategies in which wetlands
programs can be implemented, refined, and combined in unique ways to achieve
the goals and objectives of the policy (pages 8-12). These strategies will be
- the Central Valley
- San Francisco Bay Area, and
- Southern California
III. Creation of an interagency wetlands task force on wetlands to direct
and coordinate administration and implementation of the policy (Page 13)
I. Wetlands Inventory and Goals
Statewide wetlands data collection efforts have occurred
only at a very a broad level. As a consequence, wetland decision-making -
whether related to regulation., acquisition, restoration or other activities -
has often proceeded in a piecemeal fashion. It has also been difficult to
establish specific statewide goals for restoration and enhancement of wetlands
absent such an inventory.
- A. Conduct statewide wetlands inventory and establish a wetlands
The inventory will compile U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetland
inventory and other available data into an understandable and accessible
format. it will serve as a baseline from which to determine losses and gains
(both functional and acreage) to the State's wetlands base. Biennial reports on
the status of the State's wetlands will be made. This inventory will not be
used for regulatory purposes.
B. Identify regional and Statewide restoration and enhancement
Using information derived from the inventory, the State will identify
regional and Statewide goals for conserving restoring and enhancing wetlands.
Achievement of these goals will emphasize maintaining economic uses (e.g.,
agriculture) of restored ' and enhanced lands and be achieved through the
voluntary participation of landowners. These goals are not meant to be
achieved on a permit-by-permit basis.
Participating entities: Department of Fish and Game, the Resources
Agency, Department of Food and Agriculture, Cal/EPA, SWRCB.
II. Support Wetlands Plan
To date, there have been very few integrated planning
efforts which included the use and conservation of wetlands in California.
The planning that has occurred has been in association with broader land use
planning efforts or has been driven by non-wetlands related needs.
- A. Encourage local and regional wetlands planning-in coordination with
State growth management policies.
The State will encourage efforts by local and regional governments to
incorporate wetlands into planning processes. These efforts are likely to
include watershed plans, advanced identification of wetlands, and floodplain
management. All new and existing wetlands policies with need to incorporate
and coordinate with growth management efforts.
Participating entities: The Governor's Office of Planning and Research,
the Resources Agency, Department of Fish and Game, local government
III. Improve the Administration of Wetlands Regulatory Programs
Federal and State regulations seek to protect wetlands from
being filled unnecessarily and assure mitigation of unavoidable wetland
impacts. However, the current Federal-State system of wetlands regulation in
California is unnecessarily fragmented and cumbersome for landowners, and, in
some parts of the State, fails to protect unique types of California
A. Assume the Federal Clean Water-Act Section 404 permitting authorities
on an incremental basis.
1) In the near-term, the State will-negotiate with the Army Corps of
Engineers the delegation of Section 404 permitting authority in the San
Francisco Bay Area, with possible funding, to the San Francisco Regional Water
Quality Control Board and, for a limited set of activities, the San Francisco
Bay Conservation and Development Commission through a "State Program General
Permit" (SPGP), or similar mechanism. once secured, the SPGP will effectively
remove one layer of review from the wetlands regulatory process, while
maintaining the effectiveness of the program. '(See San Francisco Regional
2) In the long-term, after evaluation and a determination that the San
Francisco Bay Area demonstration program has been a success, the State will
either take over full control of the Section 404 permitting authority or seek
additional State Program General Permits, or similar mechanism, tailored to
meet the needs of other regions. Adequate Federal funding will -need to be
obtained to support either approach.
3) Work with Congress to amend Section 404 ' of the Clean Water Act to
enhance the program's administration and the transfer of the program to the
states, including provision of funding.
B. Develop and adopt a consistent wetlands definition for state
Because of the lack of consistency in the existing definitions of wetlands
definitions used by State agencies, the State will work toward the adoption of
a single definition for regulatory purposes. The definition will, to the
greatest extent possible, be consistent with the definition and wetlands
delineation manual used by the Federal government. The definition will also
recognize California unique wetland types, and not apply to prior converted
croplands currently exempt from federal .regulation.
C. Develop and Adopt a State policy regarding Army Corps of Engineers
The policy requests the. SWRCB, upon adequate environmental review, to
develop a balanced policy ' on such permits, which
emphasizes the conservation of large, non-fragmented, functioning wetlands.
In addition, the policy encourages the SWRCB to adopt as many of these permits
as quickly as possible, consistent with this direction.
D. Develop and adopt consistent wetlands standards and
The application of standards and guidelines varies in content and
application between State agencies and therefore can cause confusion about and
inconsistent application of the State's policies. The State will convene the
relevant agencies to develop consistent policies, standards and guidelines--on
a statewide or regional basis--relative to mitigation and restoration
monitoring and evaluation.
E. Enhance efficiency of and coordination in the wetland permitting
The State will initiate and support a number of activities to improve the
administration of wetlands programs. These include pre and post application
coordination meetings, firm time deadlines, and concurrent permit review
F. Encourage regulatory flexibility in situations in which wetlands are
created unintentionally or incidental to other activities.
Many private landowners and public agencies create wetlands unintentionally
or incidentally, e.g., drainage ditches, land held under agricultural best
management practices, and wet areas from parking lot run-off. The State will
encourage regulatory agencies to take a flexible approach in regulating these
types of wetlands.
G. Encourage regulatory flexibility to allow public agencies and water
districts to create wetlands but later remove them if the wetlands are found to
conflict with the primary purpose to which the property is devoted. (See also
Central Valley Regional Strategy)
Many Large public and private land owners, such as flood control agencies
and water districts, can often integrate substantial wetland habitat into the
operation of their lands. This habitat, however, may need to be removed or
modified periodically for the agency to achieve the primary purpose to which
the land is devoted, e.g., water storage or -flood management. Many agencies
with the potential of creating temporary wetland habitat would do so if they
had .assurances of regulatory flexibility.
Participating entities: Cal/EPA, SWRCB, RWQCB, Fish and
Game, Office of Permit Assistance, BT&H, T&C, CDFA,
Resources Agency, CCC, BCDC, SLC.
IV. Achieve Wetlands Conservation Through Landowner Incentives
By helping to make wetlands ownership an asset for
California landowners, incentive programs can be used to achieve
significant net gains of wetlands especially for example, in agricultural and
A. Support USDA's Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and other public
financial incentive programs.
The State will support funding for WRP and modification of it to meet
California unique needs. The State will also support additional Federal funds
from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and State funding of wetlands
incentive programs. These programs could include provision of income streams
for privately-owned wetlands.
B. Support other existing programs to voluntarily acquire, restore,
enhance, and manage wetlands.
The State will continue to support the voluntary acquisition, restoration,
enhancement and management of wetlands through sufficiently funded State,
Federal, local and private programs. The use of State funds will emphasize the
restoration, enhancement, and management of existing State-owned
C. Enhance coordination of State, Federal, and private, voluntary
acquisition, restoration, enhancement, and management programs.
The State will convene regular meetings of all the agencies involved in
wetlands acquisition, restoration, enhancement and management activities. The
intent will. be to improve the coordination of the existing programs-and
leverage limited funds for the implementation of these programs.
D. Support natural resources bond act.
The State will continue to support the need for a natural resources bond
act which includes over $70 million for wetlands acquisition, restoration, and
E. Publish landowners assistance guide.
The State will publish and widely distribute a landowner's assistant guide
detailing the range of State, Federal, and private incentive programs.
Participating entities: Resources Agency, OPR, Department of Fish and
Game, CDFA, WCB, Conservancies.
V. Support Wetlands Mitigation Banking
Wetland mitigation banking allows proponents of unavoidable wetland fills
to buy credits in pre-established mitigation sites or banks. The goal is to
develop high quality mitigation while freeing economic interests developers
from the responsibility of developing new mitigation for every project.
Project-by-project mitigation often results in low quality, fragmented
wetlands. Banking strategies thus can provide flexibility and regulatory
relief for landowners while financing the creation of large wetlands with high
functional values. Development of mitigation banks, however, has been stymied
in part because of uncertainties related to necessary but as yet undefined
governmental requirements for bank operations.
VI. Develop and Expand Other Wetlands Programs
A. Develop and adopt state mitigation banking guidelines.
The State will develop and adopt guidelines for wetland mitigation banks
which recognize -regional concerns, contain flexible mitigation ratios, are
consistent with Federal agency guidelines, and encourage decisions to locate
banks in the context of local or regional plans. (See also Central Valley
- Participating entities: Resources Agency, Fish and Game commission, Fish
and Game, Cal/EPA, SWRCB, RWQCB, CCC, BCDC, SLC, CDFA
Several other programs will need to be improved or undertaken to meet the
overall objectives of this California Wetlands Policy. These include wetlands
management and education programs and public lands management.
A. Address management and operations of wetlands.
Recognizing that the responsibility for wetlands only beg-ins with
acquisition or restoration, the State will work to provide adequate financial
resources for wetlands management and operations, including water source and
delivery, mosquito abatement and vector control. The emphasis for these
programs will be on State-owned wetlands. The State also recognizes the
responsibility public and private wetlands landowners have to their neighbors
and will establish a model "good neighbor" policy to guide management of newly
created, restored or enhanced wetlands.
B. Establish State level wetlands information clearinghouse, education,
and research programs.
Because there is no single repository for information on wetlands in the
state, the Resources Agency will establish such a repository for information
related to the full range of wetlands policies, programs and projects. The
State will also undertake programs to increase public awareness of wetlands and
better coordinate and direct the wetlands research agenda.
C. Direct State agencies to develop internal policies and programs to
encourage wetland conservation activities.
The policy directs State agencies to develop internal wetlands conservation
policies and programs which are compatible with programmatic goals such as
flood control, groundwater recharge, water management, water pollution control,
transportation, recreation, and other purposes.
D. Work with Federal agencies to maximize and coordinate wetlands
conservation activities on Federal land.
Because over half of the land in California is owned and managed by the
federal government, the State will work closely with the land management
agencies to maximize wetlands conservation, while maintaining appropriate
Participating entities: Resources Agency, Fish and Game, WCB,
Conservancies, DWR, CDFA, BT&H, CalTrans, DPR, CDF, Executive Council on
Biodiversity, University of California, CSU, and various Federal
REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES
In order to successfully implement the many policies and programs described
above, regional projects have been identified in the Central Valley, San
Francisco Bay Area, and Southern California to serve as pilots for implementing
the policy. These projects will permit State government to tailor statewide
policies and programs to local conditions, help the State learn what works and
what does not, and can be implemented in those parts of the State where a high
likelihood of success will help sustain public support for the program over
I. Regional strategy for the Central Valley
A. Support the program of the Central Valley Habitat Joint
The State formally supports the program of the CVHJV to protect, restore
and enhance wetlands in the Central Valley. The State specifically supports the
Joint Venture's efforts to achieve its goals through maintaining agricultural
lands in production, and its broad-based partnerships.
B. Support substantial funding of financial incentive
Landowner-incentive programs, including State and Federal easement
acquisition programs, are an integral part of the Central Valley Habitat Joint
Venture's efforts to conserve and protect existing and restorable wetlands in
the Central Valley-
C. Maximize the potential of the Sacramento Valley Ricelands Habitat
This unique project involves enhancement of wetlands values while allowing
continued economic use of the land. The project also reduces the need to burn
rice straw. The State will continue to support this demonstration project and
apply similar principles to other geographic areas and crop types, e.g., corn
D. Initiate an endangered species planning process comparable to the
State's Natural Communities Conservation Planning program for a central Valley
As development pressures increase in the Valley, the conflict between
habitat and-species conservation and economic development will intensify. The
State will initiate a cooperative, long term planning process to identify and
protect a critical mass of wetlands habitat, while allowing economic activities
E. Develop pilot wetlands mitigation banks in the central
With the adoption of Statewide guidelines (see above), the State will
direct its efforts toward the development of wetlands mitigation banks in the
central Valley, a region where high demand for these banks exists.
F. Initiate a flood management/wetlands habitat program in the Yolo
The Yolo By-Pass,, which is managed as a floodway, could also accommodate
some wetlands projects in conjunction with existing agricultural activities.
The State will initiate a demonstration project to facilitate cooperation
between the flood control agencies, the fish and wildlife agencies, and local
agricultural interests to allow agricultural and flood control activities to
coexist with wetlands habitat.
Participating entities: Resources Agency, Fish and
Game, WCB, DWR, OPR, OPA, CDFA, BT&H, CVRWQCB, Cal/EPA, Reclamation Board, federal agencies
II. Regional strategy for wetlands planning and regulatory streamlining
in the San Francisco Bay Area
A. Inventory wetlands in the San Francisco Bay Area.
As a component of the Statewide wetlands inventory, the State will
identify: 1) the extent and types of wetlands in the Bay Area; 2) the relative
values and functions within different wetlands types and sub-regions; and 3)
areas with potential for restoration and enhancement. This Bay Area inventory
will use, to the greatest extent feasible, existing data.
B. Incorporate wetlands and restoration inventory information into
broader, participatory wetlands planning effort.
The State will work with local governments to develop a comprehensive
wetlands plan for the Bay Area. This effort will include identification of
areas for the voluntary acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of wetlands
including the establishment of a preservation-restorationenhancement goal. The
plan and final goal will be prepared with broad public participation. The goal
is not meant to be achieved on a permit-by permit-basis.
C. Promote the acquisition (fee and less than fee), trades, restoration,
and enhancement of Day Area wetlands.
These activities will be undertaken by a variety of State, Federal, local,
and private entities with willing landowners. The state will rely in part on a
natural resources bond act to maximize its role. The State will emphasize
continued economic use (agriculture and salt production) of enhanced lands as
it pursues these activities to accomplish the preservation, restoration and
enhancement goal. The State will also encourage application of the concepts of
the Sacramento Valley Ricelands Partnership to the Bay Area.
D. Encourage the use of landowner incentives.
Significant potential exists to use landowner incentives to achieve Bay
Area restoration targets. Two particularly promising incentive programs
include transfer and purchase of development rights programs, and management
agreements to maximize compatible agricultural wetlands values on diked
E. Improve the-wetlands permitting process in the Bay Area
Consistent with the Statewide goal to assume permitting authority under
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the State will negotiate terms and
conditions of a State program general permit (SPGP), or -similar mechanism,
from the U.S. A-rmy Corps of Engineers to the SFRWQCB and, for a limited set of
activities, SFBCDC. This permit would streamline the regulatory process by
eliminating the Corps, role.
Participating entities: SFRWQCB, SWRCB, SFBCDC, Resources Agency,
Cal/EPA, Fish and Game, CDFA, OPR, and OPA
III. Regional strategy to initiate better coordination and communication among diverse interests in Southern California by establishing a "Southern California Joint Venture."
There is no mechanism for coordinating regional wetland conservation
activities in Southern California. As a result, no regional priorities have
been set for protecting, restoring, enhancing or creating wetlands in the
region. Consequently, conservation and mitigation--sometimes large scale--are
often done on an ad hoc basis without regard to what is good for any
relationship to the region as a whole. The Southern California project intends
to adopt some of the principles of the successful Central Valley Habitat Joint
Venture, while recognizing that the region's resources are much different, in
shorter supply, and under much greater threat.
The Administration envisions bringing together the principle stakeholders
in the wetlands arena in the region. This would include environmental
organizations, agriculture, public agencies, water agencies, and economic
interests in need of substantial mitigation (ports, utilities, and large land
owners.) This group would set long-term goals and priorities for the
conservation of wetlands and develop a-policy to achieve those goals, and would
encourage a variety of demonstration projects designed to enhance the State's
ability to constructively address regional wetlands issue.
Participating Entities: Resources Agency, DFG, CDFA, SWRCB, local
governments, Federal agencies, and local conservation, Agricultural, and
ADMINISTRATION AND COORDINATION OF PLAN IMPLEMENTATION AND OF STATE WETLANDS PROGRAMS THROUGH NEW INTER-AGENCY TASK FORCE
Establish an interagency wetlands task force.
In order to ensure continued coordinated development and implementation of
the. Wetlands Policy, task force will be established. It will be comprised of
senior administration officials representing the broad range of interests on
wetlands issues. It will be advisory to the Governor. The task force will
also help resolve inter-agency conflicts on wetlands. The task force will
appoint an advisory committee of stakeholders and may seek additional technical
advice as necessary.
Participating Entities: The Resources Agency and Cal/EPA will lead in
cooperation with Cal-EPA, Business, Transportation and Housing Agency,
Department of Food and Agriculture, Trade and Commerce Agency, Governor's
Office of Planning and Research, Department of Fish and Game, Department of
Water Resources, and the State Water Resources Control Board. Other State agencies, Federal agencies and private organizations will participate on the task force on specific components of the Policy.
Copyright © 2007 State of California