What is the DRECP?
California Executive Order S-14-08 requires the development of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) for the Mojave and Colorado deserts in order to provide binding, long-term endangered species permit assurances and to facilitate the review and approval of compatible renewable energy projects. The DRECP is a major component of California’s renewable energy planning efforts. It is intended to provide effective protection and conservation for desert ecosystems and to allow for the development of compatible renewable energy projects. The DRECP will include implementation of a scientifically based adaptive management and monitoring program as a part of its overall conservation strategy.
The DRECP is:
- A Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) to comply with the California NCCP Act and the California Endangered Species Act (CESA)
- A Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to comply with the Federal Endangered Species Act (FESA)
- A Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA) in accordance with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA)
Why is a Conservation Plan needed?
A plan is being developed to provide for the conservation and management of plant and wildlife communities in the desert regions of California while facilitating the timely permitting of compatible renewable energy projects. The deserts of California support many rare, threatened, and endangered plant and wildlife species and natural communities. They also provide some of the best opportunities in the world for renewable energy development. The DRECP is being developed to support both the conservation of species and natural communities and the development of compatible renewable energy projects, and to avoid conflicts between them.
What is the focus of the DRECP?
The DRECP will:
- Provide for the long-term conservation and management of Covered Species within the Plan Area
- Preserve, restore, and enhance natural communities and ecosystems that support Covered Species
- Streamline environmental review and permitting for compatible renewable energy projects
- Identify appropriate areas or zones within the Plan Area for the development of utility-scale renewable energy projects
What is the REAT?
The Renewable Energy Action Team (REAT) is a collaboration of state and federal agencies that was formed to streamline environmental review and permitting for compatible renewable energy projects and to recommend environmental avoidance, minimization and mitigation measures, or project alternatives, where appropriate. The REAT oversees development of the DRECP and is comprised of the following agencies:
- California Energy Commission (CEC)
- California Department of Fish and Game (DFG)
- Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
Who is preparing the DRECP?
The REAT is preparing the DRECP in cooperation with several other state and federal agencies. The State of California and the Department of the Interior signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure implementation of California Executive Order S-14-08 and Interior Secretarial Order 3285 in a cooperative and timely manner. Local governments, environmental organizations, industry, and other interested parties are also actively participating in the DRECP’s development and providing input to the planning process.
How long will it take to develop and implement the DRECP?
Please see the following letter regarding the DRECP schedule:
How is science being incorporated into the DRECP?
The DRECP is based on the best available scientific knowledge of desert communities and the plants and wildlife they support. In October 2010, an Independent Science Advisory (ISA) panel issued recommendations to the REAT, which are being considered, and will inform DRECP documents. The ISA recommendations are available at www.drecp.org. As Plan documents are drafted and further refined, review and advice from independent scientific reviewers will be solicited and incorporated into the DRECP. An Independent Science Panel Workshop will be convened in Spring 2012 to review key components of the DRECP to inform the REAT’s selection of a preferred alternative. Please refer to the DRECP Process Schedule at www.drecp.org to see which documents will receive independent scientific review.
Which Species Will be Included in the Conservation Plan?
Covered Species are plants and animals identified in the Plan for which conservation and management are provided and “take” will be authorized for most of the Covered Species over a long-term permit period. The Covered Species list is being developed as part of the DRECP conservation planning process and reflects input from the public, stakeholders and ISA. Please refer to the Covered Species fact sheet available at www.drecp.org for the complete list of species. The list will continue to be evaluated and revised throughout development of the DRECP. Among other species the initial list includes:
- Barstow Woolly Sunflower
- Flat-tailed Horned Lizard
- Bald Eagle
- Desert Cymopterus
- Burrowing Owl
- Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
- Mojave Monkeyflower
- Swainson’s Hawk
- Mohave Ground Squirrel
- Arroyo Toad
- California Condor*
- Nelson’s Bighorn Sheep
- Desert Tortoise
- Golden Eagle
What activities will be covered by the Plan?
The DRECP is focused on a specific range of Covered Activities related to compatible renewable energy projects and CESA and FESA compliance. These Covered Activities include the construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of renewable energy and related electric transmission projects within the Plan Area, such as those listed below, as well as DRECP conservation measures:
- Transmission Energy Facilities
- Geothermal Power plants
- Solar Power Plants (Photovoltaic and Thermal)
- Wind Power Plants
How is development of the DRECP being funded?
The CEC and BLM have provided funding for the development of the DRECP. The REAT agencies have committed substantial staff support to developing the DRECP and are identifying and securing additional State and Federal funds to support the continued development and implementation of the DRECP. Other funding sources are also being explored.
What are the long-term goals of the DRECP?
For a 25-40 year period, the DRECP will streamline the permitting process from state and federal wildlife agencies for impacts to endangered species from compatible renewable energy development. This will result in:
- Conservation and management of Covered Species by developing more effective mitigation measures and protecting and restoring habitat and natural communities
- Increased certainty and efficiency in environmental review and permitting
- Reduced conflicts between species conservation and renewable energy development
How will the impacts of the Plan be analyzed? What level of environmental review is required related to the development of a Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan?
The environmental review of the draft DRECP under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has been initiated. CEQA and NEPA require an evaluation of the DRECP’s impacts on the environment. An Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) will be prepared identifying and evaluating the Plan’s effect on the environment as a whole (such as non-biological, or cultural impacts, etc.) in addition to the impact on Covered Species. The REAT agencies expect to complete the final EIR/EIS, and release the Record of Decision and Notice of Determination in the second quarter of 2013.
Will the DRECP approve new development?
The DRECP will not approve any renewable energy development projects or other projects. Renewable energy projects will continue to follow existing laws and regulations that apply to energy projects, and will continue to seek necessary approvals from applicable local, state or federal agencies, such as county governments, the CEC and BLM. Instead, the DRECP will establish permit conditions and other environmental safeguards for Covered Species affected by Covered Activities in the Plan Area. If the CEC or any local governments that become permitees under the Plan choose to authorize a particular renewable energy project pursuant to their independent authorities, that project would have to comply with the DRECP in order to be covered by the incidental “take” permits issued for the Plan.
How will landowners benefit from the DRECP?
For participating landowners and renewable energy developers, the DRECP will streamline the regulatory permitting process and set consistent mitigation obligations. The DRECP will allow landowners and project developers seeking permits to pursue renewable energy projects with increased certainty regarding the time and cost associated with environmental review and permitting.
Once approved, how long will the DRECP be in effect? How will the success of the DRECP be monitored throughout Plan implementation?
A planning horizon of 25-40 years is being considered in the preparation of the DRECP, which would result in a term of 25-40 years for incidental “take” permits issued for the DRECP. The DRECP will be implemented through specified conservation measures, avoidance and minimization measures, and a science based monitoring and adaptive management program. Adaptive management is a type of natural resource management where the results of actions are monitored to provide ongoing information to determine whether a specific course of action should be altered or refined. The DRECP will be implemented using adaptive management and scientific input throughout the permit term to achieve the Plan’s objectives.
How can stakeholders and the interested public participate in the DRECP planning process?
The DRECP Stakeholder Committee provides input to the REAT agencies on the DRECP, and monthly public meetings of the committee are held either in Ontario, CA, or Sacramento, CA. The meetings are also available via Webex which allows for remote participation. Participation in these monthly meetings, as well as reviewing and commenting on documents, is the most effective way to contribute to the planning process. Please visit the web site at www.drecp.org for more information on the Stakeholder Committee and to register for project updates and meeting notifications. Throughout development of the DRECP, the following will be provided to interested parties:
- Timely information about the process, schedule and opportunities for public input
- Opportunities to provide input or comment at key milestones in the development process
- Informational updates regarding key decisions
This exchange of information is provided by the following outreach activities:
- Regular Stakeholder Committee meetings (in-person and via WebEx) throughout Plan development
- Email notification and public updates when draft documents are available for review and comment
- Regular updates to the Plan web site
- Fact sheets and news releases
Who is, or would be, eligible to use the DRECP to permit renewable energy projects?
Certain public agencies will hold state and federal incidental “take” permits issued for the DRECP that will authorize “take” of Covered Species. “Take” would be incidental to implementation of approved Covered Activities during DRECP’s expected 25–40 year duration. Project proponents under the jurisdiction of a permittee can also receive “take” coverage from the permittee for activities covered by the DRECP. Currently, the CEC, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and the California State Lands Commission (CSLC) are potential applicants and permit holders under the DRECP. Other potential applicants include local governments. Applicants who choose to join the DRECP after it is approved will likely be required to complete a supplemental or subsequent CEQA/NEPA analysis.
What is California Executive Order S-14-08?
California Executive Order S-14-08 established a state policy goal of producing 33 percent of California’s electrical needs with renewable energy sources by 2020. Senate Bill No. 2X (Simitian), Public Resources Code § 25740, signed into law in April 2011, requires California to meet this renewable energy mandate. A substantial increase in the development of qualified Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) energy projects is needed to meet this goal. The RPS energy projects, including wind, solar, and geothermal, also contribute to the state’s climate change goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The success and expansion of RPS energy generation is a key priority for California’s economic and environmental future.
California Executive Order S-14-08 also specifies the development of the DRECP in the Colorado and Mojave desert regions.
What is Secretarial Order 3285?
The Secretary of the Interior’s Secretarial Order 3285 established a national policy encouraging the production, development, and delivery of renewable energy as one of the Department of the Interior’s highest priorities. From this policy, agencies and bureaus within the Department will work collaboratively with each other and with other Federal agencies, departments, states, local communities and private landowners to encourage the timely and responsible development of renewable energy and associated transmission while protecting and enhancing the nation’s water, wildlife, cultural, and other natural resources.
What conservation measures will be covered by DRECP?
Conservation measures are measures undertaken for the benefit of Covered Species such as habitat protection, restoration, and management. Conservation measures include certain activities that may result in incidental “take” of Covered Species and need to be authorized under the CESA and the FESA and, as such, are included as Covered Activities under the DRECP. Potential conservation measures that will be Covered Activities under the DRECP include:
- Vegetation management
- Relocation of Covered Species under limited circumstances
- Demolition or removal of structures or roads to increase public safety or to restore habitat
- Control of predators
- Control of invasive species
- Habitat enhancement, restoration, and creation
- Species surveys, monitoring, and research
How do I get more information on the DRECP?
For more information and to sign up for the listserve to receive notices of DRECP meetings and publications, please visit www.drecp.org.