Supervisors’ split vote favors staying with Habitat Conservation Plan

Supervisors' split vote favors staying with Habitat Conservation Plan

Santa Clara County’s Supervisors were split on supporting the
50-year, $660 million Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan, voting 3-2
this week and directing county staff to prepare a final plan for
board consideration by mid-2012.
SAN JOSE – Santa Clara County’s Supervisors were split on supporting the 50-year, $660 million Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan, voting 3-2 this week and directing county staff to prepare a final plan for board consideration by mid-2012.

Supervisors Mike Wasserman (District 1), Ken Yeager and Liz Kniss voted in favor of continuing support of the habitat conservation plan, while George Shirakawa and board president Dave Cortese voted against it.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District and the City of Morgan Hill are the county’s local partners, with the cities of San Jose, Gilroy and the Valley Transportation Authority yet to make official votes.

On May 16, the Gilroy City Council voted 4-3 to rejoin the habitat conservation plan after the council opted out of the plan March 28.

Pinheiro, Arellano, Cat Tucker and Peter Leroe-Munoz voted for the motion, which includes a caveat that the city must have a vote during liaison meetings with other member agency representatives, something Tucker said the city doesn’t currently have.

Dillon, Woodward and Dion Bracco voted against the motion.

The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan would involve nearly 62 percent of the land area of Santa Clara County (approximately 520,000 acres). One of the goals of the plan is to develop a long-range conservation strategy to enhance ecological diversity and function within Santa Clara County. Nineteen species of plants, animal and insects are protected in the Plan, including California tiger salamander, California red-legged frog, western burrowing owl, and Bay checkerspot butterfly.

It would also create a uniform way of assessing developmental impacts on natural habitats and reduce the time it takes to issue permits.

“Time is money and the Plan is designed to shorten the permitting process for both the private and public sectors,” said Supervisor Mike Wasserman, whose District 1 contains the majority of the study area. “I look forward to refining the plan to further reduce costs.”

The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan is a regional partnership between six local partners (the County of Santa Clara, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and the Cities of San Jose, Gilroy and Morgan Hill) and two Wildlife Agencies (the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). The County of Santa Clara staff has proposed that approximately 13,000 acres of existing park land and about 6,000 acres of future park land be designated and managed to protect local habitat.

In June 2011, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors directed staff to scale back on the expense of the Habitat Plan amid budget constraints. The partnering agencies have also scheduled meetings to discuss if they will continue their support for the Plan.

On Sept. 13, the water district board voted to continue its participation. Last night, the City of Morgan Hill Council also voted to continue to participate in the plan. The cities of San Jose and Gilroy will vote on their participation in the plan by mid-October.

Leave your comments