Jump to main content.

Project XL Logo

Newhall Land & Farming Company

Letter from James Harter, Re: Application for Permit


November 16, 1995

Regulatory Reinvention Pilot Projects
FRL-5197-9, Water Docket, Mail Code 4101
401 M Street, SW
Washington, DC 20460

  Re: The Newhall Land and Farming Company application for Project XL for a General Permit on the Santa Clara River, Los Angeles County, California, Dated August 24, 1995


Pursuant to a telephone conversation with and at the request of Ms. Julie Frieder of EPA, we are submitting the following additional information concerning The Newhall Land and Farming Company application for the above project.

Ms. Frieder requested additional information on three subjects:

A. Benefits of the proposal over results which would be obtained under existing regulations.

B. Relationship of the proposal to the Santa Clara River Enhancement and Management Plan, and

C. EPA's role.

Benefits Over Existing Regulations

The river management plan and general permit:

  • Maintain fifteen miles of the Santa Clara River and its tributaries in a natural state with preservation of soft bottom and habitat.
  • Past and existing practice of flood control within Los Angeles County has been to size drainage channels (including rivers) to handle storm waters without the obstruction of vegetation. This is accomplished by constructing a narrow channel with a hard (concrete) channel bottom or soft bottom with all vegetation removed. The river management plan, called natural river management, proposes retaining a much wider channel allowing flood flows to pass without the removal of existing and potential future habitat growth. The wider channel also does not accelerate flood flows, which would result in scouring of the river bottom due to faster velocities.

    Past practice has been for the flood control district to periodically remove habitat within the flood control channels to maintain flood flows. The natural river management retains the habitat and does not require its removal. Furthermore, bank stabilization is accomplished with ungrouted rip-rap, not gunited cement. This maintains groundwater replenishment similar to natural levels.

  • Protect threatened and endangered species.
  • The natural river management concept retains the natural habitat within the river, thereby preserving the habitat used by threatened and endangered species, including the Unarmored Three-spined Stickleback fish and Least Bell's Vireo bird. A Section 10 consultation will be conducted in conjunction with the approval of the General Permit. However, there is no need for a "take" permit to be issued because the comprehensive planning incorporates flood control concepts which preclude the need for taking and also results in a minimum of habitat modification; modification would probably be much greater under a piecemeal approach.

  • Add significant area to the river system outside the statutory legal limits of "waters of the United States".
  • A wetlands delineation and jurisdictional determination of this reach of the Santa Clara River shows a total of 700 acres within the jurisdiction of the ACOE. The natural river management plan proposes to incorporate 1300 acres within the river corridor, an additional 600 acres over that which would be included under existing strict application of the jurisdictional limits. A piecemeal approach or individual permitting would probably result in less total acreage.

  • Establish mitigation banks to provide biotic function and value prior to construction.
  • Under existing processing of individual Section 404 permits, mitigation is done piecemeal, resulting in the temporal loss of habitat, and mitigation ratios of greater than 1 to 1 are typically required. Under the natural river management concept, mitigation banks are proposed to create habitat and biotic function and value ahead of actual construction. This would result in the maintenance of function and value at existing levels rather than the temporal loss under individual permitting procedures. A mitigation bank and restoration area has been established under a previous permit in this area and is very successful, providing evidence that mitigation banking can be achieved in the area.

  • Provide assurances for fish migration by eliminating the use of stabilizers.
  • Under existing practices, flood control measures typically accelerate flood flow velocities thereby creating scouring. To offset the effects of scouring, stabilizers are built to retain the channel bottoms. These then interfere with the migration and movement of the endangered Unarmored Three-spined Stickleback. The natural management concept allows flood flows to pass without accelerated velocities, thereby precluding the need for stabilizers and their interferences with fish migration.

    Relationship to the Santa Clara River Enhancement and Management Plan

    The natural river management plan would be an integral part of the overall river enhancement and management plan. Furthermore, it provides a model and precedent for other reaches of the river. For example, as discussed above, the natural river management plan precludes the use of stabilizers to maintain the channel bottom and thereby allows for fish migration. The implementation of this concept would prove valuable as a model for downstream reaches where efforts are being made to restore Steelhead Trout and accommodate their migration up the river.

    This concept also would demonstrate the ability to maintain a continuous natural river and habitat linkage (wildlife corridor) along with urban growth and development.

    EPA's Role

    We envision EPA's role to be as facilitator to the issuance of a General Permit. As indicated in our August 24, 1995 application letter we are requesting:

  • EPA assistance in coordinating federal agencies timely review and cooperation in the processing of the permit and the necessary consultations, and
  • An interpretation of federal law that the temporary construction impacts do not preclude the determination of "minimal" impacts and that a General Permit is the appropriate form of permit.
  • The long processing time incurred so far demonstrates the need for the timely processing of a large-scale permit. Construction activity continues to met the population and employment growth in the area and demands that individual Section 404 permits be processed. This results in piecemeal permitting of this reach of the river.

    Federal budget cuts at US Fish and Wildlife Service usually result in the greatest detriment to the permit review and consultations. US Fish and Wildlife has indicated this is an important project they want to work on, but budget considerations may motivate them to reduce their efforts on the project.

    In a previous scoping response, EPA indicated it could "elevate" the project. This overhanging threat is of concern and in our opinion has made the ACOE more cautious, resulting in a much slower process. EPA adoption and involvement in the project and its efforts to assist in the timely cooperation of other federal agencies would minimize the necessity for individual piecemeal permitting.

    If we can provide any additional information, we will be pleased to do so.


    James M. Harter

    Senior Vice President
    Newhall Ranch Division

    JMH:mn sp;

    Local Navigation

    Jump to main content.