Special Programs

Early Mitigation Planning for Transportation Projects

The Early Mitigation Planning (“EMP”) project is an effort to bring transportation planners together with resource agencies to select, plan, and construct mitigation projects for transportation improvements in an earlier, more streamlined, and more cost effective manner.

Why Do We Need EMP?

  • Fosters coordination among and between public trust resource agencies and transportation agencies and builds a common foundation for collaborative project development.
  • Early engagement leads to better transportation projects, which maximize multiple benefits and minimize negative impacts to natural resources.
  • Leads to increased stakeholder and public confidence in more predictable outcomes for infrastructure and natural resources.
  • Expedites project delivery because negative impacts have been minimized and mitigation has been secured in advance of construction work.
  • Reduces burden on public funds, increasing cost-effectiveness for transportation projects through more efficient planning and project delivery.
  • More effective conservation because mitigation projects are developed to address known, critical, local and regional conservation priorities.

History of the EMP

A successful effort to develop an EMP process within the Elkhorn Slough Watershed inspired Santa Cruz County to use this as a model for its transportation projects. In 2009, the Elkhorn Slough Early Mitigation Partnership (ESEMP) signed an MOU with 11 stakeholders (government and nonprofit) to develop and implement early mitigation planning. The ESEMP has successfully developed specific criteria for advanced mitigation, created a GIS tool for early evaluation of transportation project impacts, identified specific mitigation and conservation areas, and developed a wetland/conservation bank for the Elkhorn Slough Watershed.

In 2009, the Santa Cruz Integrated Watershed Restoration Program (IWRP) partners were invited to meet with the ESEMP team and discuss the potential for developing the first county-wide EMP based on the IWRP's success in implementing collaborative conservation in Santa Cruz County. This first meeting led to a series of meetings between interested regulatory agencies, CalTrans, and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). The partners have all agreed to move forward and use the Elkhorn MOU as a model. A pilot project using IWRP to identify and implement a mitigation project for the Soquel-Morrissey Highway 1 widening project was completed in 2012 and further set the stage for this MOU to be completed and the EMP to be formalized. The EMP group, consisting of the RTC, Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, County of Santa Cruz, the California Coastal Commission, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the State Coastal Conservancy, and Caltrans, has been meeting over the past four years and is in the final review stages for completing and signing the EMP MOU.

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