Our Sunday Best

Easing conflicts, stressing mutual benefit

By From page A8 | March 09, 2014

Rather than a conflict of interest, leaders of Yolo County’s Habitat Conservation Plan see mutual benefit in the hiring of the consulting firm that is handling the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to work on Yolo’s plan as well.

ICF International was chosen out of five competing contractors. Two bowed out due to workload, and ICF had the lowest bid of the three remaining as well as the experience of finishing draft plans for both Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties, said Petrea Marchand, executive director of joint powers authority in charge of Yolo’s plan.

Marchand has public policy experience in Washington, Sacramento and Yolo County, specializing in natural resources, agriculture, transportation, regulatory reform, water supply and quality and flood management, according to her biography from her firm Consero Solutions in Davis.

“Given our need to get this done quickly and efficiently, they (ICF International) are the best choice,” Marchand said late last week.

More than 15 of California’s 58 counties already have HCPs in place — most recently, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties. Sacramento County’s also is in the planning stages.

“I also work on the BDCP for Yolo County clients. I help to advise them on potential impacts,” Marchand said. “It’s my responsibility as executive director to identify potential conflicts with BDCP and bring them to the board.”

Advisers to the Yolo County plan say having a common consulting firm for both groups could bring some mutual benefits in sharing costs associated with mitigating species impacts. An example could include replacing endangered species habitat in the Yolo Bypass floodway with an equal amount of land elsewhere in the county.

“What’s worrisome to the (Yolo) project is that we will compete against the BDCP for mitigation lands and drive the cost of mitigation up,” said Steven Greco, a UC Davis scientist who teaches conservation planning and also is a JPA adviser. “If they and we want to mitigate, are we now competing for the same lands? It’s not clear how that’s going to work.

“Because the plans overlap and we have the same species we’re trying to mitigate for … (the) bottom line is the species needs a certain amount (of habitat). Yolo County can contribute and so can the BDCP,” he added. “What we would like to see is if the BDCP could lower our costs. … Yolo County would be much more conducive to this plan if BDCP would take some of the costs down mitigating the same species we’re required to (mitigate).”

Jason McAlister

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