Road Design

The original 2014 road design plans were constructed using a 2004 aerial topographic survey. A new survey was needed to identify changes in the land that could require a plan alteration. That survey has been completed, and currently, the design plans are being altered as needed to match existing conditions. The recent environmental survey results has required slight alterations to the planned road alignment to reduce the impacts to natural resources and limit cost impacts of mitigating environmental concerns. The road design and technical specifications needed for bidding the Project are targeted for completion by early March 2019.

Environmental Compliance under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

This Project triggered the requirement for preparation of an Initial Study to assess the environmental factors that may be affected during and after construction. As a result of the Initial Study, it was determined that a focused survey for the federally threatened California Gnatcatcher (small bird species) would be required due to the prevalence of suitable habitat for the species within the proposed road alignment area and their historically documented presence. Surveys for this sensitive species are conducted under specific protocols outlined by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW), which involved nine daytime surveys conducted more than 14-days apart outside of breeding season (mid–March through end of June). The focused California Gnatcatcher surveys concluded in late November. Field biologists documented three sightings near the eastern side of the District near the roadway. As a result of these findings and the impact to the species and its habitat, consultation with the USFW will be required and they will likely require a permit, as well as some mitigation action. To quantify the impact to water courses and habitat areas affected by the proposed roadway, a jurisdictional delineation report is required for inclusion in the Initial Study.

The Initial Study cannot be finalized and submitted for a public review, comment, and response until after all reports are completed. The cumulative results of the reports and agency coordination will indicate any potential environmental mitigation measures that may need to be implemented before the Project can proceed to construction.

The anticipated period for public review of the Initial Study is projected to occur during January 2019, with potential approval of a Notice of Determination in late February 2019 depending on the outcome of the public review.

Reducing the mitigation requirements will be critical to keeping the Project within the existing budget. Some of the early environmental results have raised some concerns regarding potential mitigation costs, but it is still too early to determine whether there will be any significant impacts on the Project budget or timeline.