Title: Oak woodland conservation as mitigation for roadway improvement
Author: Steiner, Park; Ford, Jackson;
Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-251. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 481-494
Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)
Description: East Side Potter Valley (ESPV) Road is a heavily used rural collector road running north/south through the unincorporated area of Mendocino County known as Potter Valley. The roadway is significantly deteriorated and in need of repair and upgrade. The Mendocino County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) road project encompasses approximately 6.4 km of roadway that will be rehabilitated, straightened, and widened to bring the road section up to federal highway safety standards. An estimated 144 utility poles and miles of ditches will require relocation to accommodate the widening. New pole installations are required to meet strict fire prevention standards, necessitating relatively complete vegetation clearance near transformer poles and under power lines.
The total number of trees to be removed due to lane widening and pole relocations is estimated to exceed 800. Slightly over half of the trees are valley oak (Quercus lobata), ranging in diameter from 5 cm to greater than 50 cm. Trees to be removed occur in fence lines, under utility lines, and in riparian corridors immediately adjacent to the roadway. Due to the small size of each individual impact site and the already “domesticated” nature of the project landscape, it was felt that site-specific mitigations would be difficult to implement and of limited biological value. As a result, the concept of doing larger, collective mitigation at alternative sites was a more realistic approach.
Departing from more traditional mitigation approaches, MCDOT is providing a three-phase mitigation of 1) restoring approximately 2 ha of valley oak woodland habitat, and 1.2 ha of seasonal wetland/riparian forest habitat within Potter Valley, to be protected in perpetuity through a land trust conservation easement; 2) implementing a Potter Valley oak awareness program, whereby MCDOT sponsored a day-long public oak awareness workshop in September, 2014. This community collaboration provided local residents with information on the benefits of and methods for restoring oaks on private lands. Additionally, in response to community interest, MCDOT is committed to assisting the Potter Valley Unified Community School District (PVCUSD) initiate an environmental education program for their students; and 3) a one-time donation to the existing Redwood Valley Outdoor Education Program (RVOEP) to be utilized for student transportation, staffing, equipment, and for support of ongoing Mendocino County Resource Conservation District habitat rehabilitation efforts at the 18.2 ha RVOEP site.
Some aspects of the mitigation have already been implemented; others are in their final stages of development and/or approval. MCDOT anticipates having all easements, agreements, permits, and MOUs in place with landowners, schools, and regulatory agencies so that tree removal for utility pole relocation can commence in 2015. This unique mitigation program is an example of community and agency collaboration for oak restoration and positive conservation outcomes associated with road construction projects.
Keywords: conservation easement, linear transportation, mitigation, roads, valley oak, wetlands
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Steiner, Park; Ford, Jackson 2015. Oak woodland conservation as mitigation for roadway improvement. In: Standiford, Richard B.; Purcell, Kathryn L., tech. cords. Proceedings of the seventh California oak symposium: managing oak woodlands in a dynamic world. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-251. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 481-494.
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