Early Mitigation Partnership

The Early Mitigation Partnership (“EMP”) 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.

In 2018, the RCD, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, and 11 other transportation and natural resource regulatory agencies entered into the Santa Cruz Early Mitigation Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (EMP MOU). The EMP MOU fosters early and collaborative engagement among transportation and natural resource regulatory agencies to improve predictability and effectiveness of transportation project mitigation to meet regional conservation priorities. Signatories to the EMP MOU include the California Coastal Commission (Commission), California State Coastal Conservancy (Conservancy), CDFW, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CCRWQCB), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), RCD, Santa Cruz County Planning Department, RTC, San Francisco District of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and Region 9 of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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 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. The partner agencies signed the Early Mitigation Partnership MOU for Santa Cruz County in 2018, and meet regularly to coordinate efforts to implement the MOU, for example through the development of a Regional Conservation Investment Strategy.

Contact the RCD for assistance.

Conservation benefit: Wise investment of transportation project mitigation dollars for greatest benefits to species, habitats, and watersheds.

California Coastal Commission
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
California State Coastal Conservancy
Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
County of Santa Cruz
National Marine Fisheries Service
Regional Transportation Commission
Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

RCD Contact: Lisa Lurie

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