The latest draft of a Mitigation Policy for the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (APOSD) prohibits private mitigation on most District conservation easements or property. Laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act require compensation, or mitigation, when an activity harms habitat or waterways. Mitigation may be in the form of money, or it may require long-term protection of other at-risk habitat.
The District has needed to set policy guidelines for mitigation – this was made clear by the Roblar Road quarry proposal in 2010. A complicated exchange was worked out by quarry proponents which included mitigating for the loss of a California Tiger Salamander breeding pond on the quarry site by constructing habitat on a nearby property protected by an Open Space conservation easement. This deal was criticized for several reasons, but especially because the mitigation would occur on land that was already protected by the conservation easement. However, there was no Open Space District policy on mitigation at the time and the Board of Supervisors voted to approve the quarry. Lawsuits have stopped the project for the last couple of years, giving the District time to put together the new Mitigation Policy.
The second draft of the Mitigation Policy contains the following guidelines:
- The District will not accept mitigation funding from private parties or accept acquisitions that result from third party mitigation projects.
- Existing conservation easements that expressly allow habitat mitigation will be able to do so, but new easements will mostly expressly prohibit mitigation.
- Mitigation-related funding (that is, when mitigation requires paying money rather than buying land) from public projects only, may be used by the District to buy land or to fund habitat-enhancement projects on District land.
This Policy, if adopted and followed by the Board, will close the door to most private mitigation projects on Open Space District land, but will still allow some kinds of mitigation for public projects.
APOSD Mitigation Policy draft