Yolo County supervisors have long expressed frustration that local efforts to preserve farmland and open space are undermined by outside agencies and developers who seek to convert portions of that land to habitat projects.
Whether it’s state and federal efforts at flood control or delta conservation or an ongoing trend by out-of-county developers to create habitat easements in Yolo County to mitigate the impacts of development elsewhere, supervisors for several years now have expressed their concern over a lack of county say in the matter.
On Tuesday, the current board took steps toward having more say when it passed an ordinance giving the county limited regulatory control over habitat mitigation projects undertaken in Yolo County.
While projects by the state or federal government likely will remain beyond the county’s regulatory reach, county staff said, the ordinance will provide oversight for “out-of-county” mitigation projects.
So, for example, if a development in another county impacts Swainson’s hawk foraging habitat, and the developer wants to place Yolo County land into easement to mitigate that impact, the ordinance will provide the county with a formal role in the review, approval and implementation of the easement.
The ordinance, said Supervisor Jim Provenza of Davis, “isn’t aimed at a particular (developer or project).”
Rather, he said, it’s designed to protect Yolo County’s interests — and, specifically, its agricultural industry — which he said is threatened by out-of-county developers looking to convert that land for habitat mitigation.
“This is an appropriate measure for us to proceed with,” agreed Supervisor Don Saylor, also of Davis. “To not do this would be irresponsible and would abdicate our responsibility to take care of the resources of this county.”
Already, county staff noted, numerous projects are under way throughout the Yolo Bypass area aimed at habitat preservation. The northern part of the bypass is home to a large pilot project creating a seasonal floodplain habitat for migrating salmon while other areas are home to wetlands preservation as well as habitat for snakes, Swainson’s hawks and other species.
During their meeting on Tuesday, supervisors also took issue with a letter from the State and Federal Contractors Water Agency opposing the ordinance and refuting supervisors’ contention that Yolo County has not been consulted when it comes to the impact of Bay Delta projects.
Supervisor Mike McGowan called the letter “a repudiation of our efforts to be reasonable.”
And Supervisor Matt Rexroad of Woodland said he had intended to vote against the ordinance, “but because of the letter, I’m voting ‘yes.’ ”
The ordinance was approved unanimously.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy