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CVAG Votes to Rescind Existing Coachella Valley MSHCP and Proceed with Revised Coachella Valley MSHCP

By: Paul S. Weiland
08/07/06

On July 31, 2006, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) voted to rescind its February 6 resolution approving the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP or Plan) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  As contemplated, the Plan covered 1.1 million acres of land in central Riverside County.  The stated purpose of the Plan was to simplify compliance with the federal and California Endangered Species Acts by allowing the "take" of 27 species covered by the Plan in the course of otherwise lawful activities.  Each of the individual jurisdictions within the Plan Area – Riverside County and nine Coachella Valley cities – had to approve the Plan before it could take effect, but the City of Desert Hot Springs refused to approve the Plan.

The Plan would have conserved covered species and natural communities through the identification and protection of reserve lands from within 21 Conservation Areas, which encompassed approximately 750,000 acres of the 1.1 million acre Plan Area.  The Plan provided that, within the Conservation Areas, development would be limited and could occur only to the extent it was consistent with specific objectives and required measures.  Outside the Conservation Areas, the only constraints the MSHCP would have imposed on development are adjacency guidelines (that apply to lands adjacent to Conservation Areas) and payment of the MSHCP mitigation fee.

During the July 31, 2006, CVAG Executive Committee Meeting, in addition to rescinding the existing MSHCP, CVAG voted to direct staff to proceed to develop a revised MSHCP.  The revised Plan will include all of the jurisdictions in the existing Plan Area except the City of Desert Hot Springs.  In Desert Hot Springs, entitlement of proposed development should occur without consideration of the Plan.  While the revised Plan is being drafted, the other jurisdictions intend to permit proposed development only to the extent it is consistent with the existing Plan (but without the benefit of "take" authorization).  Preparation of the revised Plan is expected to take approximately 12 months and will include opportunities for public participation.

Paul Weiland counsels clients regarding environmental and land use matters and litigates such matters in trial and appellate courts under a variety of statutes, including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.  Formerly, he worked in the Law and Policy Section, Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  He can be reached at (949) 833-7800 or pweiland@nossaman.com.

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