BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1833


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          Date of Hearing:  April 4, 2016


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION


                                 Jim Frazier, Chair


          AB 1833  
          (Linder) - As Amended March 16, 2016


          SUBJECT:  Transportation projects:  environmental mitigation


          SUMMARY:  Creates an advanced mitigation program within the  
          California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to accelerate  
          project delivery.  Specifically, this bill:  


          1)Creates an Advanced Mitigation Program within Caltrans to  
            streamline the environmental process and accelerate project  
            delivery. 


          2)Requires Caltrans to establish, no later than February 1,  
            2017, an interagency transportation advanced mitigation  
            steering committee (Interagency Committee) consisting of  
            Caltrans and appropriate state and federal agencies.


          3)Defines "advanced mitigation" as mitigation implemented  
            before, and in anticipation of, environmental effects of  
            future transportation projects.


          4)Authorizes Caltrans to utilize a variety of mitigation  
            instruments including mitigation banks, in lieu fee programs,  








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            and conservation easements.


          5)Authorizes Caltrans to use advanced mitigation credits to  
            fulfill mitigation requirements of any eligible State  
            Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) or State Highway  
            Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) project.


          6)Requires Caltrans to track all implemented advanced mitigation  
            for use as credits for environmental mitigation of  
            state-sponsored projects.


          7)Requires the Interagency Committee to advise Caltrans on  
            opportunities to carry out advanced mitigation projects; to  
            develop streamlining opportunities with regard to alignment of  
            state and federal regulations and procedures related to  
            mitigation requirements and implementation; and to provide  
            input on crediting, using, and tracking advanced mitigation  
            investments.


          EXISTING LAW:  


          1)Gives Caltrans authority and control over state highways.


          2)Requires state and local agencies, pursuant to the California  
            Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), to identify significant  
            environmental impacts of projects and to avoid or mitigate  
            those impacts, if feasible.


          3)Requires, pursuant to CEQA, that lead agencies prepare a  
            negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration, or  
            environmental impact report with regard to project impacts.









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          4)Pursuant to CEQA, the National Environmental Policy Act, and  
            numerous other state and federal laws, requires mitigation for  
            unavoidable impacts to certain resources as a result of a  
            project construction. 


          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown


          COMMENTS:  State and federal environmental laws have long  
          required mitigation as a means of compensating for adverse  
          impacts.  While it is widely acknowledged that ecological  
          impacts should be first avoided or minimized and then restored  
          at the location where the impact occurs, many times unavoidable  
          losses occur and can only be addressed by replacing (mitigating)  
          the impacted habitat.  For large infrastructure development  
          entities, like Caltrans, whose activities can result in a broad  
          range of impacts from small, temporary disturbances associated  
          with maintenance activities to large multi-acre impacts  
          associated with building bridges or highway alignments,  
          developing multiple small mitigation sites can be costly, time  
          consuming, and result in fragmented habitats.





          To address these issues, both state and regional entities have  
          utilized advanced mitigation as a way to provide high quality  
          replacement habitat, achieve economies of scale in its  
          development, and reduce project delivered delays.  For the most  
          part, Caltrans has greater experience developing smaller-scale  
          advanced mitigation sites in comparison to regionally-led  
          efforts where large-scale mitigation, some exceeding 500 acres,  
          is more the norm.











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          One of the reasons Caltrans more frequently performs  
          smaller-scale advanced mitigation is that it must rely, almost  
          exclusively, on funds from individual project budgets.  Since  
          project funds are not available far enough in advance, it is not  
          possible for them to complete the costly and time consuming  
          steps needed to complete advanced mitigation before the project  
          goes to construction and mitigation credits are needed.  





          Regionally-based advanced mitigation efforts, on the other hand,  
          are distinguished by their large scale, both in term of land  
          area and financial commitment.   Advanced mitigation efforts  
          undertaken by regional entities in California are typically  
          funded by local developer fees, bonds, grants and, sometime,  
          sales taxes.  They also result in the protection of large land  
          areas, sometimes up to 500 acres.  Additionally, it can take  
          regional entities decades to complete the mitigation site and  
          make it ready for use as project mitigation.  Also, costs to  
          complete advanced mitigation can range from tens of millions to  
          billions of dollars.  





          Committee concerns:  By introducing AB 1833, the author seeks to  
          provide Caltrans with the tools it needs to develop an advanced  
          mitigation program so that greater project environmental  
          streamlining can be achieved.  While this is laudable, it can be  
          argued that Caltrans already possesses and exercises much of the  
          authority this bill provides.  It could also be argued, however,  
          that by setting a deadline in statute, AB 1833 provides Caltrans  
          with incentive to move forward with advanced mitigation efforts.  
           Unfortunately, what this bill does not provide is the  








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          desperately needed funding mechanism to ensure that Caltrans can  
          successfully create advance mitigation. 





          Double referral:  This bill will be referred to the Assembly  
          Natural Resources Committee should it pass out of this  
          committee.


          Related legislation:  SB 901 (Bates) is identical to this bill  
          with the exception that SB 901 requires that Caltrans set aside  
          at least $30 million annually for the program from the STIP and  
          SHOPP and that the CTC allocate those funds consistent with the  
          Advanced Mitigation Program.  AB 901 is awaiting a hearing in  
          the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.  





           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          None on file




          Opposition










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          California League of Conservation Voters


          Sierra Club California




          Analysis Prepared by:Victoria Alvarez / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093