Point Reyes Station, California - Today, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Park Service (NPS) is beginning the public planning process for the preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) for Phases I and Phase II of a Winter Habitat and Floodplain Enhancement Project on Lagunitas Creek. The project is proposed by the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD or the district) on NPS lands as part of the district’s efforts to improve habitat for coho salmon and steelhead, both listed species under the Endangered Species Act.
The project was originally to be completed in staggered phases as funding was initially available only for Phase I. Scoping for that phase was completed on January 11, 2016. Recently, funding for Phase II has been secured by MMWD. The district has decided to restart the planning process and the EA will address both Phases I and II as a single proposal. Compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for Phases I and II was completed by the funding agency, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
Scoping for this EA is being reinitiated to solicit comments from the public on both Phases I and II; comments originally submitted by the public for Phase I in late 2015 will be carried forward and considered in this planning process as scoping comments for the combined EA.
Public scoping is the first step to involve the public in the NPS NEPA planning process. Its objective is to engage agencies, organizations, and the public early in the EA development process and receive input on the proposed action, environmental issues that should be addressed in the EA, potential project alternatives, and sources of data that should be considered. Scoping allows agency and public concerns to be identified early and helps focus the analysis on important issues.
Eight of the ten locations for habitat enhancement are within NPS lands in western Marin County administered by Point Reyes National Seashore. As such, the proposed project requires NPS approval through a public NEPA planning process. Two of the ten sites are on State Park lands; CEQA compliance was completed for these projects through the CDFW grant selection process. The two State Park sites will be considered in the NPS EA as part of the cumulative impact assessment. Of the ten sites, nine are on the main stem of Lagunitas Creek and one is on Olema Creek.
The purpose of the proposed project is to increase the winter carrying capacity for coho salmon and steelhead in Lagunitas Creek. A 2008 Limiting Factors Analysis (4,331 KB PDF) concluded that the lack of sufficient overwintering habitat was the most critical factor limiting the increase of the federally-listed coho salmon (listed as endangered) and steelhead trout populations (listed as threatened) in Lagunitas Creek. The district proposal—supported by the CDFW, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), and the NPS—proposes to stabilize and restore Lagunitas Creek salmonid populations by increasing the winter habitat for the listed fish species by modifying creek hydrology and enhancing and restoring existing floodplain and instream habitat.
The primary method proposed for modifying creek hydrology would be the construction of large log structures in the main stream channel that would obstruct and backwater flows to raise creek water levels while deflecting flows into the existing floodplain side channels on a more frequent basis than currently occurs (which is typically only during very large storms). Allowing side channels to be more frequently inundated would provide additional high quality sites for coho and steelhead to successfully forage, find high flow refuge, seek cover from predators, grow, and survive through the winter (Stillwater Sciences 2008 [4,331 KB PDF]). This would also improve water quality by allowing fine sediments to be sorted and stored in the floodplain. Installation of large wood structures within the main channel would provide the same habitat enhancement benefits within the main channel of the creek.
The 30-day period for the scoping phase of the EA will close at the end of the business day on August 3, 2016. The NPS is encouraging the public to participate by submitting comments online or by letter. The preferred method for submitting comments is via the Internet through the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) site at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/lagunitas. Click on the “Open for Comment” link to comment. You may also mail or hand deliver comments to:
Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956