The Environmental Resources Section (ERS) provides environmental services that improve the native fish resources and habitats of the Russian River watershed through a variety of projects. Fisheries research addresses potential effects of the Agency's management and operations activities on threatened steelhead, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon. Stream and wetland restoration, habitat enhancement, and improved fish passage projects are conducted in the Russian River and San Pablo Bay watersheds. The Agency provides grants to private and public organizations as an incentive to implement enhancement projects. Also, a variety of general and focused wildlife and wetland studies are conducted.
Environmental Resources also provides staff support and documentation in complying with various federal, state, and local environmental laws and regulations for Agency projects. In addition, ERS staff provides environmental impact analysis, permitting, mitigation planning and monitoring and coordinates reviews of environmental documents for non-Water Agency projects throughout the Agency's service area as a responsible agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Specifically, staff provides documentation for:
- Compliance with CEQA and the Agency's Procedures for Implementation of CEQA. For these documents, environmental planners and scientists conduct resource surveys and evaluate environmental impacts of projects. The types of documents prepared by staff include Environmental Impact Reports, Initial Studies, Mitigated Negative Declarations, Notice of Determination, and Notices of Exemptions. In addition to CEQA documents completed for Agency projects, the Agency also completes Mitigation Monitoring Plans (MMP). The Agency maintains a Mitigation Monitoring Inventory database and library to monitor and track Agency MMPs. A Jurisdiction–Wide Mitigation Monitoring Program Annual Report is also prepared to review the progress and effectiveness of the Agency's MMPs. If you would like to learn more about CEQA, please visit the State's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) Website;
- Compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the federal environmental impact assessment law equivalent to the state's CEQA, when required. The Agency is required to prepare NEPA documentation for projects that either have federal jurisdiction or approval, or for projects that the Agency has initiated a process to obtain federal funding. Many times when NEPA is required, ERS staff will prepare a joint CEQA/NEPA document that fulfills all requirements for both NEPA and CEQA. For more information about NEPA, please visit the Federal NEPANET website;
- Public participation in the CEQA, which is a fundamental component of the environmental review process. As part of the Agency's Procedures for Implementation of CEQA, procedures are in place to encourage and facilitate public participation. Agency staff strive to achieve public outreach and input through various methods including mailings, public meetings, workshops, or through informal contact initiated by the public. The type of public outreach varies depending on the scope of the project. The Agency's main goal for public involvement is to educate the public about ongoing projects and obtain public input on projects. Public comments on environmental documents provides a means by which private citizens can take part in the decision-making process;
- Permitting with federal, state, and local agencies. ERS staff is responsible for obtaining federal, state, and local permits as necessary. In particular, staff coordinate with federal and state regulators regarding potential impacts to wetlands, endangered species, streams, air quality, and land use to obtain:
- Section 404 permits in compliance with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands regulatory program;
- Section 401 Water Quality Certifications in compliance with the Regional Water Quality Control Board's wetlands permit program;
- Streambed Alteration Agreements in compliance with California Department of Fish and Game's permit program (Fish and Game Code 1601); Approval from federal and state regulators regarding potential impacts to endangered species under the federal and state Endangered Species Acts;
- Compliance with the Sonoma County General Plan (administered by the County Permit and Resource Management Department);
- Sonoma County Code and County Local Coastal Plan in compliance with the County Permit and Resource Management Department;
- Documentation for Air Quality permitting with the Northern Sonoma County and San Francisco Air Pollution Control Districts; and Other documentation as necessary to comply with federal, state, and local laws and regulations;
- Compliance with Federal and State Endangered Species Acts. This may include initiating and overseeing formal and informal consultations with regulatory agencies under the state and federal Endangered Species Acts, preparing biological assessments and assisting with recovery planning efforts and watershed planning. ERS maintains close coordination with regulatory agencies during review and implementation of Agency primary responsibilities, which include water supply, flood control, and sanitation. If you would like to learn more about the Federal and State Endangered Species Acts, please visit the Federal Endangered Species Act website and the California Endangered Species Act website;
- Land use consistency with the County's General Plan.