Yuba-Sutter weigh conservation efforts
• Discussion for plan began in 2001 between Yuba and Sutter counties.
• Would be framework for development to mitigate loss of habitat by paying a fee or buying easements or property elsewhere in region.
• Proponents said the plan would streamline development approval process, retain local control and improve habitat protection.
• Current plan members are Yuba and Sutter counties and cities of Yuba City, Live Oak and Wheatland. Marysville was originally a participant but dropped out.
By the end of the year, Yuba and Sutter counties and most of the cities within them could have a plan to account for open space lost to development, helping streamline new approvals in the bargain.
A Yuba-Sutter Regional Conservation Plan would establish a way developers could get the OK from state and federal agencies for a project by paying a fee for or direc ly buying an easement or property meeting certain conditions.
As conceived, the plan would cover about 468,000 acres in Yuba and Sutter counties, excluding the Sutter Buttes and the foothills of Yuba County.
Improvements to highways 99 and 70 in 2001 triggered discussions on the plan, so moving forward on it by the end of 2013 is the goal, said Danelle Stylos, Sutter County's community services director, at a joint meeting of boards of supervisors and city councils to discuss the plan Tuesday.
"It's a bit ambitious, but if we don't put an end date on the schedule, it gets pushed back indefinitely and it doesn't get done," she said.
But she and Yuba County planning director Wendy Hartman told the elected officials at the hearing they would acknowledge plenty of details still need to be fleshed out.
Among them is whether the plan would call for a 1:1 mitigation ratio, meaning an acre of property would have to be set aside from development for every acre to be developed. As well, the plan doesn't address mitigation for orchards slated to be developed.
County officials also said they're unsure who will manage the bought lands and easements under the plan. While the Natomas Basin Conservancy was identified as one possibility, a representative for the Yuba-Sutter based Middle Mountain Foundation said her group might also meet the criteria.
Along with those issues, the various boards and councils were asked to consider what the plan would cost and whether there should be an advisory committee to oversee its implementation.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at bvandermeer @appealdemocrat.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.
Yuba, Sutter officials see benefit to adopting conservation plan
Planning officials in Yuba and Sutter counties believe if it's adopted, the Yuba-Sutter Regional Conservation Plan could be beneficial both in terms of planning control and improved habitat.
Currently, a developer must get permits from either or both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife for proposals affecting endangered species or wetlands and streams.
As envisioned, the Yuba-Sutter conservation plan would take the place of applying for those permits, streamlining the development process.
But those who attended a Tuesday hearing to discuss the plan saw potential problems.
Yuba County Supervisor Mary Jane Griego said when it came to habitat mitigation, she could see participating local governments differing in how they decided to implement it.
"If Sutter County goes in one direction, could Yuba County's board vote to go another?" she asked.
And discussing endangered species, mitigation and other land-use concerns struck some observers as veering into potential concerns over property rights and values.
Nick Spaulding, an Oregon House resident who was a frequent critic of Yuba County's General Plan update, said the goal of retaining local control should be tempered.
"Local control doesn't exist," he said. "Look at the effort to delist the elderberry longhorn beetle."
Another speaker, Don Kessel of Yuba City, asked questions even more pointedly, including whether the plan was tied to Agenda 21, a two-decade-old United Nations resolution many see as an attack on private property rights.
— Ben van der Meer