Needlegrass Mitigation Experts at ECORP Can Help with New Requirements

What is Valley needlegrass grassland, and why are agencies interested in conserving it?

 

native-needlegrass-grassland

A Stand of Native Needlegrass Grassland

Throughout California, native grasslands are estimated to provide habitat for 90% of the state’s rare and endangered species. Prior to European colonization, native needlegrass species (such as purple needlegrass, nodding needlegrass, and foothill needlegrass) dominated the Central Valley; today, less than 1% of former Valley needlegrass grasslands remain. Mature needlegrasses have been found to live up to a century and can have roots up to 20 feet deep. The deep roots of these species contribute to erosion control, water infiltration, nutrient cycling, and carbon sequestration. Unlike nonnative annual grasses that now dominate the landscape, needlegrasses grow in bunches, leaving empty spaces in-between where native wildflowers flourish.

Impacts to Valley needlegrass grassland often require mitigation
On occasion, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is requiring mitigation plans for the preservation and restoration of Valley needlegrass grassland as a component of permitting. Valley needlegrass grassland mitigation plans may also be required during the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.

young-purple-needlegrass

Young Purple Needlegrass Bunches

In addition, general erosion control and restoration plans required for many projects can be tailored towards the goal of restoring Valley needlegrass grassland. ECORP has experienced staff biologists to handle needlegrass mitigation requirements; for example, ECORP biologist Taraneh Emam recently published a peer-reviewed research article discussing needlegrass restoration methods in the journal Restoration Ecology. ECORP is currently preparing Valley needlegrass grassland mitigation and restoration plans for projects within the 3,500-acre Folsom Plan Area Specific Plan.

ECORP’s New Services

flowering-purple-needlegrass

Flowering Purple Needlegrass

ECORP now provides services related to Valley needlegrass grassland mitigation, from the initial stages of field surveys and impact assessments through the preparation of mitigation and restoration plans. Mitigation measures often place an emphasis on using locally collected seed, and collection of seed from impact areas both conserves needlegrass diversity and helps increase the likelihood of successful restoration. Therefore, to support Valley needlegrass mitigation, ECORP is now offering the service of needlegrass seed collection from project impact areas for use during restoration.

Please contact Taraneh Emam at (916) 782-9100 (Northern California), or Josh Corona-Bennett at (858) 279-4040 (Southern California) for more information on Valley needlegrass mitigation requirements and strategies.

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ECORP Exhibiting at ACWA Conference

ECORP is looking forward to exhibiting at ACWA’s 2016 Fall Conference and Exhibition November 29 through December 2, in Anaheim! We hope you’ll stop by our booth (#105).  http://www.acwa.com/

 

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The Shrimp are Getting Ready to Hatch!

fairy-shrimpFairy shrimp and tadpole shrimp occur within ephemeral pools and wetlands. Many of the shrimp species found in California are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Shrimp eggs/cysts lie dormant in seasonal pools during the dry months and hatch once the wetlands become ponded from winter rains.

Surveys for these species must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and conducted by a qualified/permitted biologist. ECORP biologists have extensive experience identifying and working with these organisms and ECORP is permitted by the USFWS to conduct both wet and dry season surveys, which constitutes a complete survey pursuant to USFWS guidelines. draining-the-swampECORP regularly conducts these surveys to support Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultations, and the results of these surveys are often used to substantially reduce the time needed for permit authorization and the cost of mitigation. As winter rains are approaching, now is the time to schedule surveys for listed shrimp. This winter’s survey “window” is almost upon us, so don’t delay.
If you have questions or would like to discuss whether conducting surveys may be right for your project, please contact Peter Balfour or Todd Wood at (916) 782-9100 (Northern California), or Kristen Wasz at (909) 307-0046 (Southern California).

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Mandatory Dry Season Surveys Now Required for Threatened and Endangered Fairy Shrimp and Tadpole Shrimp

Fairy-Shrimp

On May 31, 2015 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released updated Survey Guidelines for federally listed threatened and endangered large branchiopods (e.g., fairy shrimp and tadpole shrimp) in California and southern Oregon. To complete a survey for large branchiopods, the new guidelines require that one wet season survey and one dry season survey, in no particular order, be conducted within a three-year period. This is a significant change, as there is no longer an option to conduct two wet season surveys in lieu of a dry season survey. A dry season survey is now required to complete the survey protocol.

Fairy-Shrimp-Collection

The advantages that dry season surveys offer are reduced overall survey cost and time, as well as additional survey window flexibility. Dry season sampling is conducted after vernal pools dry in the spring and prior to the onset of winter rains. Hence, the appropriate timing varies by location and year. Annual rainfall totals and patterns are not an issue, often making dry season survey results more reliable than wet season surveys for project proponents, in some instances.

The new guidelines require that dry season soil collection, processing, and egg identification for large branchiopods be conducted by permitted biologists that have these provisions specifically defined in their USFWS permit. ECORP is one of only a small number of firms with permitted biologists authorized for dry season sampling in California. In addition, ECORP currently has over a dozen biologists permitted for large branchiopod wet season sampling in our Rocklin, Redlands, Santa Ana, and San Diego offices. We have sampled vernal pools throughout California.

In instances in which unidentifiable fairy shrimp eggs are found during a dry season survey, USFWS may require that the eggs be sent to an appropriate facility for DNA analysis and identification, or that the eggs be hydrated and reared (cultured) until they are identifiable to species. ECORP has the ability to culture fairy shrimp eggs and partners with a well-qualified lab that can conduct DNA analysis. ECORP has biologists with the additional permit terms and conditions for processing, isolating, identifying, and culturing large branchiopod eggs/cysts. To expedite processing and reduce costs, we operate an in-house laboratory for conducting these tasks.

If you have questions about the newly issued USFWS guidance or would like to discuss whether conducting surveys may be right for your project, please contact Peter Balfour or Todd Wood at (916) 782-9100 (Northern California), or Kristen Wasz at (909) 307-0046 (Southern California).

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ECORP Leads Educational Sunday FunDay in Redlands

Redlands-FunDay

Redlands residents enjoyed an afternoon of archaeology in the park, including a short hike to an archaeological site and a full-scale, controlled, mock excavation. ECORP Associate Archaeologist Andrew Myers led the expedition as attendees were educated about archaeological methods and issues facing development within open spaces. The event was coordinated by the Redlands Conservancy and was well received by those who attended.

For more information about ECORP’s archaeology and cultural resources capabilities, contact Evelyn Chandler at (909) 307-0046 or Roger Mason, Ph.D. at (714) 648-0630 (Southern California), or Lisa Westwood at (916) 782-9100 (Northern California).

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California Rapid Assessment Method – Trained!

cram-raft

In April, two additional staff members completed the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) “Practitioner” training for riverine and depressional wetlands. CRAM is an assessment toolkit used to evaluate the functional condition and status of aquatic features such as streams, wetlands, vernal pools, and riparian or estuarine systems. These types of evaluations are not only useful, but are required in some regions of the state to develop and/or analyze proposed mitigation measures during the design and permitting phases. You might also see this as a requirement on a Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Standards Certification as a pre-construction or post-construction special condition of approval, or specified in restoration plans as a method for measuring and reporting progress towards meeting success criteria or achieving compensatory mitigation goals. ECORP has CRAM-trained professionals ready to help with your projects throughout California.

For more information on how ECORP can assist with CRAM assessments and restoration projects, contact Scott Taylor at (909) 307-0046, or Margaret Bornyasz at (858) 279-4040 (Southern California), or contact Debra Sykes or Pete Balfour at (916) 782-9100 (Northern California).

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Pioneering Change with New Technologies

obllique aerial photograph

Oblique aerial photograph of historic lime kiln

ECORP is leading the environmental consulting field with the use of ground-based laser scanning, high resolution and dynamic range-enhanced digital photography, and even experimentation with the use of small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAVs or drones). ECORP has been utilizing these advanced technologies for the documentation of cultural resources, which has opened up an exciting new world of mitigation options for our clients regarding the preservation of cultural resources. These new technologies are highly regarded by resource agencies and often exceed all of the standards set by the industry for developing appropriate mitigation measures that satisfy our clients’ needs of affordability and effectiveness.

geolocated 3d model

Geolocated high-precision 3D model of historic lime kiln

The use of ground-based laser scanning (lidar) technology has allowed ECORP to capture archaeological resources data in enhanced detail and preserve it in state of the art archival permanence. Using a high-speed laser rangefinder to digitally scan resources far exceeds the accuracy and precision of detail as compared to the methods of hand-drawn sketching, while reducing the time and effort spent on recordation. Due to the value of the high-quality digital data over that of other data capture methods, lead federal and state agencies have been accepting this method openly and many are transitioning their mitigation platforms to this new technology. Laser scanning allows us to view archaeological resources from new perspectives that may enhance our understanding of the methods and techniques of the mining that occurred on a property, all while permanently archiving all of the relevant data on the site.

hdr mining adit

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photograph of mining adit

high density laser scan

High density laser scan data capture portraying the profile view of the interior of a mining adit

ECORP is also testing the use of sUAVs or drones as a form of documentation of cultural resources. Recently, ECORP flew drones above a large historic lime mining complex in El Dorado County. The drones flew carefully planned transects using GPS guided technology to capture hundreds of aerial images, high definition video, and other digital data. With the data, the team was able to construct a high-quality orthomosaic of the complex that mapped the intricate design of the mining district. In addition to their mapping benefits, drones have the capacity to capture new data that was previously unavailable. The opening at the top of a large lime kiln within the complex was previously inaccessible for cultural resources staff to document its interior.

plan view aerial view

Plan view aerial view of the opening of the lime kiln

Utilizing the sUAV, ECORP was able to capture high definition photographs of the interior of the kiln exposing previously unknown and undocumented data and information about the functionality and materials of the interior of the historic structure. Lastly, using geolocated images and Structure from Motion (SfM) software, a point cloud of the entire complex was developed. This information will be used to build 3D models of the marble monolith and lime kiln. With the 3D model data, we have the option of utilizing our 3D printer to print an accurately scaled down 3D replica of these large built environment cultural resources, which may someday be used as educational tools in a museum or archive.

With these new technologies, ECORP is pioneering the trail for new strategies to mitigate adverse effects to cultural resources to satisfy CEQA and Section 106 compliance. To learn more about ground-based laser scanning or to discuss the potential for the use of drones on your project, please contact Dave Krolick, at (916) 782-9100. For assistance developing a creative mitigation strategy using new technologies for cultural resources, contact Lisa Westwood or Jeremy Adams, at (916) 782-9100.

A special thank you to our friends at Aerotas for providing the sUAV platform, pilot, and software for the lime kiln data collection.

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