The Elkhorn Slough Early Mitigation Partnership is a Caltrans-sponsored interagency effort to provide early mitigation for a series of future transportation improvement projects within the Elkhorn Slough Watershed. This project seeks to help address regional scale conservation in a manner that also can help facilitate project delivery by developing a process for identifying funding strategies and implementing conservation agreements earlier than would be possible through existing traditional channels. The Information Center for the Environment at the University of California will assist Caltrans in supporting the Elkhorn Slough Early Mitigation Partnership (ESEMP) by helping to coordinate and facilitate the Interagency Steering Committee, assisting with compiling and editing Steering Committee documents, and providing strategic Geographical Information System (GIS) data to the Interagency Steering Committee.
[g2:336 class="right" size="192"]On January 28, 2009, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County awarded the Elkhorn Slough Early Mitigation Partnership (ESEMP) the 2008 Transportation Excellence Award. The award recognizes collaborative efforts that promote environmental stewardship among participants while promoting efficiency in developing transportation projects. The ESEMP is a collective of ten government agencies and a non-governmental organization who have been meeting for the last two years to develop advance mitigation practices in the ecologically-rich Elkhorn Slough watershed north of Monterey, California. The group is currently developing a mitigation bank to help protect many of the region’s resources, including wetlands, endangered species and agriculture. The ESEMP has finalized a Memorandum of Understanding to memorialize their mission, goals and strategies which will help focus agency resources toward concerted, coordinated protection of one of the most ecologically-sensitive areas in California. Caltrans District 5, with funding through the Transportation Planning Special Studies Program, provides support for the ESMP; and the University of California at Davis Information Center for the Environment provides technical assistance and facilitation.
The ESEMP builds on efforts underway at a statewide level to consider mitigation on a regional or watershed level. Using a GIS tool being developed statewide, and analyses conducted by ICE in the Elkhorn Slough watershed as part of a pilot project, this project will match an inventory of specific habitat types projected to be impacted by future transportation projects with suitable properties that would be available for compensatory mitigation. ESEMP invests in collaborative planning and negotiations with appropriate resource, regulatory, and planning organizations, relying on the best available science to develop mitigation agreements that meet the needs for transportation mitigation and promote resource conservation.
The overall objective of this task order is to help facilitate the development of early mitigation planning that will incorporate regional-scale mitigation which could be implemented prior to traditional transportation project milestones. Through this collaborative process, by investigating methods to allow for the early implementation of biological mitigation, the Interagency Steering Committee can help promote more cost effective, collaborative resource conservation on a watershed level while also achieving transportation objectives.