In order for Rincon to meet our client’s stormwater compliance needs during construction, it is important to understand the different requirements of the state, counties, and cities in California. Under the State of California Construction General Permit (CGP), construction or demolition activity resulting in land disturbance equal to or greater than one acre (or less than 1 acre if part of a common plan of development) will be regulated with project-specific requirements. Furthermore, several counties and cities in California have adopted storm water programs with specific standards and requirements that apply in addition to the CGP requirements. The Ventura Countywide Municipal Stormwater (Ventura MS4) Permit Development Construction Program is a great example.
If a project causes soil disturbance during construction or demolition activities and falls within any of the following categories, the site will be required to comply with the Ventura MS4 Permit.
- Small construction sites (less than 1 acre of soil disturbance)
- Large construction sites (1 acre or greater but less than 5 acres of soil disturbance)
- Over 5 acres of soil disturbance
- High risk sites (determined by site location and conditions)
All construction sites (small or large) must implement an effective combination of erosion and sediment control Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent erosion and sediment loss and the discharge of construction wastes for the construction site. BMP consideration is site specific and implementation will depend on site conditions and type of development. For further information regarding these BMPs please visit: Ventura County MS4 Permit, and Tables 6, 7 and 8 for BMP considerations
Regulated Under Ventura MS4 Permit
Regulated Under CA CGP
< 1 acre
Only if part of a common plan of development that is ≥ 1 acre
≥ 1 acre
High Risk Projects
If ≥ 1 acre or part of a common plan of development that is ≥ 1 acre
Understanding the Permits: Permittees are regulated under the Ventura MS4 Permit for all soil disturbance during construction or demolition activities. Permittees will also be subject to California CGP regulation if the project is greater than one acre of soil disturbance or is less than one acre but part of a larger common plan of development (greater than one acre). In this case, no additional planning is necessary since the site-specific Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) that is written to satisfy the State CGP requirements and BMP implementation considerations (refer to Tables 6-8 above) for the specific construction site can also be used to satisfy Ventura County requirements.
When ensuring stormwater compliance, it is a great idea to look into other counties and cities in California that have also adopted similar stormwater programs. For instance, the City of Santa Barbara has also implemented a program called: Storm Water Management Program (SWMP), which was created to reduce the discharge of non-point source pollutants into local creeks and the ocean by implementing six minimum control measures that are outlined and required in the California CGP. For further stormwater permit and program information please visit your local government and State Water Resources Control Board websites.
Have questions about stormwater compliance? Download Rincon's Stormwater Management Flyer or contact us.
Currently, amphibian populations all over the world are in decline. Declines are to a point that some consider the current situation as a sixth mass extinction. One of the many correlates of this decline is the presence of the disease Chytridiomycosis in amphibian populations. The Chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, was identified as the species causing Chytridiomycosis in amphibians. This fungal species infects the keratin of the skin, which is the major respiratory organ for amphibians. Infection by Chytrid fungus can cause reddening of the ventral skin as well as sloughing of skin over the entire body. On occasion, ulceration and hemorrhaging is also observed. These symptoms can ultimately lead to death. In addition to physiological effects, behavioral changes in animals infected with the fungus can occur, including lethargy, a failure to seek shelter or escape danger, abnormal posturing and the inability to turn themselves upright. These altered behaviors ultimately reduce the fitness of individuals and can increase exposure to predation.
Theories of how this disease has become so widespread are currently speculative, but it was first observed in amphibians in 1998. Susceptibility to the disease can vary among species, populations and individuals. Attention has increased around...
[click the following button to downlod the full white paper]
California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii
On September 25, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) No. 2402, which set in motion a number of changes to the way in which the California Department of Fish and Game operates, including changes to management strategies, fee structures, enforcement goals…and the Department’s name. The Department will now be referred to as the Department of Fish and Wildlife. This change is intended to reflect the Department’s mission to conserve all
of California’s native and non-native wildlife, both game and nongame alike.
This bill also introduced the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision that the Department has spent the past two years developing. The overall intent of the Strategic Vision is to improve the Department’s efficiency and effectiveness in the management and conservation of California’s natural resources, while providing better service to the public. The Strategic Vision incorporates five core values of stewardship, integrity, excellence, innovation, and teamwork and partnerships, each of which supports several foundational strategies:
- Engage in clear and compelling communication, education, and outreach;
- Commit to formal and informal collaboration and partnerships;
- Employ “ecosystem-based” management informed by credible science;
- Engage in broadly-informed and transparent decision making; and
- Where appropriate, engage in effective Integrated Resource Management Processes.
The promotion of “ecosystem-based” management of California’s natural resources using “credible science” is one of the core goals of the Strategic Vision. This is a sea change of sorts as the Department has historically approached resource management on a resource-specific level (e.g., for a single species). Now, the Department will consider all of the functions, processes, and species (including humans) within an ecosystem when making decisions, and they intend to use the best available scientific information available to achieve this goal. This is a noble and enlightened approach to resource management that has long been championed by resource managers who understand that a healthy ecosystem supports a wide variety of plant and animal species, not just those protected by law. However, it remains to be seen how this will play out, particularly during CEQA review of impacts to biological resources for individual projects. This new approach makes one wonder how the Department will exercise its authority over species that are not listed under the California Endangered Species Act or are otherwise granted special protections (e.g., Fully Protected species, plants designated as Rare under the Fish and Game Code, etc.). It is also unclear how the Department will approach effective management of ecosystems that have been altered, often substantially, by human use but still support sensitive species.
Another notable goal of the Strategic Vision is to encourage multi-agency collaborations, including early consultations, in order to streamline natural resource permitting processes through the development of strong relationship with other agencies, organizations, and the public. This should help bring the Department’s objectives in line with other resource agencies, as well as public stakeholders, to reduce competition and redundancy, and to promote healthy ecosystems. For developers, this should also mean a faster and more consistent permitting process. The formation of a Scientific Institute will further help this process along by improving the Department’s access to and use of sound scientific information when making decisions about impact analyses, permit approvals, and mitigation strategies. However, there is a great lack of information about a number of species and ecosystems in California, and especially about the effectiveness of many of the mitigation measures that are commonly used to offset project impacts. As such, many of the decisions the Department will make will continue to be based on little scientific information.
AB 2402 also sets out to establish new guidelines regarding renewable energy projects proposed within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan area and establishes a Renewable Energy Resources Development Fee Trust Fund. The intent of this fund is to provide financial support for mitigation actions developed and approved by the Department. Owners/developers of eligible renewable energy projects can voluntarily elect to pay fees calculated on a per acre basis into this fund and allow the Department to implement and oversee eligible mitigation actions, rather than perform the mitigation themselves. The fees would cover everything from land acquisition, to implementation of the mitigation/restoration, to perpetual management and protection of the mitigation lands. If project proponents choose to let the Department lead the way on mitigation, then project approvals may be granted more quickly. The bill also allows the Department to contract with third parties to implement mitigation actions, which is a good thing given that the Department is already short on staff. This may also benefit environmental consultants vying for opportunities to work directly with the Department.
Implementation of the new Strategic Vision is likely to come gradually, and it is hard to say how significantly it will affect the environmental consulting world. From a resource management perspective, these changes appear to be positive, but their overall effect on development in California remains to be determined. The main regulatory drivers for the Department will likely still be through the permit processes associated with Incidental Take Permits for take of Threatened and Endangered Species (Section 2081) and Streambed Alteration Agreements (Section 1600 et seq.). A key question will be how the Department extends its reach to the larger ecosystems through these permitting vehicles. Through the CEQA environmental review process, lead agencies will still be responsible for establishing significance thresholds for impacts to biological resources. The Department’s role as a Trustee agency in the CEQA process may limit its influence when it comes to broader consideration of ecosystem impacts, how significance thresholds are defined, and what forms of mitigation are appropriate. For now, project review and approval is expected to continue as it has in the past. Please click on the button below to learn about one example of a project Rincon performed under contract with the Department.
Rincon Consultants was represented at the annual Amphibian Summit held at the Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Research Reserve near Watsonville, California (May 30th, 2012). The summit’s purpose is to provide a forum where consultants, non-profit organizations and state/federal agencies discuss local amphibian conservation. The summit’s focal species were the California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, and Santa Cruz long-toed salamander. Some of the groups in attendance included biological consultants, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), California Department of Fish & Game, Save The Frogs!, and the Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Research Reserve. Presentation topics included breeding habitat restoration/design, using cattle to enhance stock ponds for the benefit of endangered amphibians, and educational outreach. This was a great opportunity as each presentation was supported with specific examples of projects currently underway in the Santa Cruz-Watsonville area to benefit these listed amphibians.
One presentation showcased our efforts on the Salinas Road Interchange Project south of Watsonville. The construction of the new interchange involved draining and filling a portion of a fire-suppression pond where California red-legged frogs were present. Therefore, tadpoles, metamorphs and adults needed to be relocated from the original pond into a newly created, adjacent mitigation pond. Rincon biologists found the project area to contain a regionally significant breeding population of red-legged frogs, with more tadpoles than they expected. Rincon’s relocation work, which required careful attention to detail and close coordination with the contractor, resulted in mortality levels – only 1.1% for tadpoles, 1.9% for metamorphs, and 1 adult – that were well below what was allowed by the USFWS Biological Opinion for the project.
Imagine a scenario where, after years of hard work at the City’s redevelopment agency, the large blighted area of town that contains numerous irregular shaped properties now has:
- Several interested development partners,
- Supportive community members, and
- A creative development team
However, in the current era of “Missing Tax Increment Funding”, a stalled project is all too common throughout California. By thinking creatively and revising the strategy, though, there may be a way out – and it involves Brownfields contamination.
Typically we think of Brownfields as a negative, a project limiting factor because of the high cost involved for remediation. But in the context of “Missing Tax Increment Funding”, other underutilized funding sources, such as Brownfields grants and loans, are available for projects through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Interested applicants must take note of the several restrictions that the Brownfields funding sources carry. For instance, grants may be specifically designed for non-profits or Agencies – not private developers – and some funding sources are loans, which will need to be repaid.
Creative development teams may nevertheless be able to devise a way for the involved agencies to apply for the grant money and remediate the Brownfields impact to the project – thus reducing the overall cost of the project. Thus, the Brownfields portion of the project, which has typically been an obstacle, is now an advantage for the project.
The links below provide more information about the available Brownfields grant and loan funds provided by DTSC and EPA.
DTSC Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Program
This Brownfields remediation loan program is unique in that it is managed through a cooperative agreement with the EPA and a partnership including DTSC, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, and the City of Los Angeles. The loan program provides loans and subgrants to developers, businesses, schools, and local governments to remediate Brownfields properties for future redevelopment.
There is a prerequisite for application to this loan program – the initial environmental assessment of the site must be complete. However, the revolving loan funds can be used for demolition and or preparation for site cleanup activities, site remediation, public participation related to cleanup activities, and other onsite clean-up activities as long as they are necessary actions for responding to a release or threatened release of a hazardous material.
Up to $1 million is available for each applicant or coalition of applicants. For more information about this loan program, use these links to the DTSC and EPA websites.
EPA Assessment and Clean-up Grants
The EPA provides both Assessment and Clean-up grant funding directly for assessment or remediation at a specific site. The assessment grants can be utilized for Brownfields inventories, planning, environmental assessments, characterizations, and community outreach; while the Clean-up grants provide direct funding for cleanup and remediation activities. The following parties are eligible to receive the funding:
- state and local government
- tribal governments (except certain Indian tribes in Alaska)
- general purpose units of local government
- land clearance authorities, or other quasi-governmental entities
- regional council or redevelopment (successor) agencies
- non-profit organizations
Up to $200,000 is available for each clean-up site, and up to 5 sites may be applied for at one time. The assessment grants have various scenarios for funding, ranging from $200,000 to $350,000 for an individual site and up to $1 million for a coalition of 3 sites.
For more information, download a recent Rincon presentation by clicking on the button below, find out about Rincon's environmental due diligence services related to Assembly Bill (AB) 1484, and use these links to the Assessment and Clean-up grant programs. And for additional information about how Rincon can assist your project every step of the way, such as with applications and funding, site assessment and remediation, please contact Walt Hamann, PG, CEG, CHG, Principal with Rincon Consultants, at 805-644-4455.
The relatively recent introduction of horizontal drilling technology into the environmental field for soil and groundwater contamination evaluation and remediation has revealed numerous novel applications. Rincon’s Environmental Site Assessment team directed one such procedure this year in Huntington Beach, California, where the soil and groundwater had been impacted from a former dry cleaning facility. It was necessary in this situation to remediate the site without disturbing the tenants occupying the building above the contamination.
By installing horizontal wells and advancing them under the concrete slab of the building, we were able to save time, money, and difficulties. Overall, we installed five horizontal wells with a total length of 230 feet. Installing horizontally avoided the need for vertical wells, which would have been expensive and unsightly. Wells are used at contaminated sites for providing access to the subsurface to allow remediation by many techniques (e.g., soil vapor extraction, air sparging, injection, etc.). We have been using the soil vapor extraction technique at this site since December 2011 and have reduced concentrations of tetrachloroethene in the soil vapor up to 99%.
It was necessary to install soil vapor probes inside the building located over the contamination to monitor the remediation program; however, it was important to impact the building’s tile floor as little as possible. Therefore, we devised a method to use the piece of tile that was cored for the installation of the probe to cover the probe after its installation, which impressed the owner of the tile shop himself. For more information about how Rincon can apply horizontal drilling or other state-of-the-practice technologies to a specific site assessment or remediation application, please contact Walt Hamann, PG, CEG, CHG, Principal with Rincon Consultants, at 805-644-4455. Please also click on the button below to download our statement of qualifications for site assessment and remediation.
Horizontally drilling (left) to access contamination located underneath a tile shop, within which we installed (middle), and then concealed (right), vapor probes.
As part of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill (AB) 32) requires “Early Action” reductions of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), a “Scoping Plan” to achieve reductions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, an adoption of GHG emission reduction measures, and adoption of requirements for GHG reporting and verification. The California Air Resources Board’s (ARB) Regulation for the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Title 17, California Code of Regulations §95100 – 95157) requires the reporting and verification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is intended to satisfy AB 32 requirements to estimate, report and track GHG emissions. Facilities that are required to report GHG emissions must submit a report to the ARB by April 1st of each year. In addition, if required, the facilities need to obtain verification of the report from an ARB certified Verification Body by September 1st of each year.
In accordance with the Mandatory Reporting Regulation, Rincon Consultants, Inc. is one of approximately forty certified Verification Bodies with the ARB. For the past three years, Rincon has worked with various clients including oil and gas facilities, solid waste landfills, electronic components manufacturers, and public utilities to verify that each facilities GHG report is free of material misstatements and conforms to the regulation. Verification services are essentially an audit of the facilities GHG emissions, electricity transactions, fuel usage data, and reporting structure. The work scope typically includes the following:
- reviewing emissions and fuel data,
- reviewing energy usage and transactions,
- assessing quality assurance/quality control policies,
- performing a site inspection,
- interviewing key personnel,
- completing a sampling plan to assess risk,
- performing data checks to confirm the accuracy of the reported emissions,
- completing a full verification report detailing the findings
- making a determination as to whether there is reasonable assurance that the reported facility emissions are within 95 percent of actual total emissions for the facility.
Verification services are typically completed within approximately one month from the start date.
In addition, Rincon is also a certified Verification Body for the California Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade Program. The ARB’s Cap on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Market Based Compliance Mechanisms Regulation requires the third-party verification of all GHG emission reductions or sequestered carbon before any ARB offset credits may be issued. Only ARB-accredited offset verification bodies and offset verifiers may provide offset verification services under the compliance offset program.
For more information about how to obtain verification services, or how to conduct verification services in accordance with the ARB’s Mandatory Reporting Regulation and/or the Cap and Trade Regulation, please contact Rincon’s Verification Project Managers - Matthew Maddox, MESM or Erik Feldman, REA, LEED AP with Rincon Consultants at 805-644-4455.
Click here to learn more about Rincon's Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Services.
On June 26, 2012, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court found that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is “unambiguously correct” in its efforts to address climate change through the Clean Air Act, and upheld the agency’s legal authority to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from motor vehicles and industrial sources under the Clean Air Act. The ruling affirms a 2007 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency) ruling that GHGs are air pollutants subject to Clean Air Act regulation.
Specifically, the Court affirmed the following EPA policies:
- The Climate Pollution Endangerment Finding, which determined that the latest science demonstrates that GHGs pose a danger to human health and welfare. “The existence of some uncertainty does not, without more, warrant invalidation of an endangerment finding,” wrote the Court.
- The Clean Cars Standards, which limit GHG emissions from motor vehicles, primarily by increasing fuel-efficiency standards for passenger cars and light trucks.
- The Timing and Tailoring Rules for GHG emission standards for new power plants and large industrial sources, which allow EPA to focus permitting requirements on the largest industrial emitters (those with GHG emissions exceeding 75,000 or 100,000 tons per year, depending on the particular provision).
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that the ruling was “a strong validation” of EPA’s approach to regulating GHG emissions. The court held that “EPA followed both the science and the law in taking common-sense, reasonable actions to address the very real threat of climate change by limiting greenhouse-gas pollution from the largest sources.”
Fourteen states, led by Virginia and Texas, sued to block the rulings. Fifteen states, including New York, California, and Massachusetts, went to court in support of the EPA. The attorney general of Virginia has stated that he will appeal the ruling.
Recent shifts in Government policy have placed an increase in emphasis on employing small businesses for contracts. Accordingly, agencies have broadened the requirements to qualify as a small business, opening the doors to a number of new opportunities. Rincon Consultants has provided services to State and Federal government agencies since 1994, and these recent changes will allow us to provide services on a much wider scale.
Federal Small Business Concern
Effective March 12, 2012, the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) increased the Size Standards for 34 industries and three sub-industries in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sector 54: Professional, Technical, and Scientific Services. Rincon Consultants primarily performs work under a subset of this main sector: NAICS Code 541620 Environmental Consulting and this increase in size standards established Rincon as a Federal Small Business Concern.
This Small Business designation allows Rincon to pursue Federal contracts that are Small Business set aside as well as team with larger firms on Federal contracts to establish a Small Business utilization percentage.
Prior to this new designation, Rincon had been involved in Federal projects through a General Services Administration (GSA) contract. This GSA Contract allows federal agencies to procure services at set rates directly from Rincon through the GSA Advantage!® website. We are eligible to bid on projects posted on government websites that are not accessible for all environmental consulting firms. Since 2010 Rincon has been approved to provide services through our GSA contract for the following Special Item Numbers (SINs):
- 899-1, 899-1RC – Environmental Consulting Services
- 899-7, 899-8RC – Geographic Information Services
- 899-8, 899-8RC – Remediation and Reclamation Services
For additional information about Rincon’s GSA contract or to see our Federal Supply Schedule (FSS), click here.
State of California Certified Small Business
Since 2003 Rincon Consultants has been a Certified Small Business (#4417) through the California Department of General Services (DGS), Office of Small Business & Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Services (OSDS). This certification offers a number of advantages for pursuing contracts including a 5% bid preference and precedence over non-small business bidders on applicable State solicitations. The Small Business certification also allows prime contractors to utilize our 5% bid preference if they acquire our services for at least 25% of the net bid price on applicable contracts.
In order to increase the number of successful small business practices in California, the Governor instituted a 25% small business participation in the procurement process. To successfully meet this percentage, a number of State agencies including Caltrans, the California State University System, and various Cities and Counties recognize the DGS certification and strive to contract with Small Businesses. Being certified as a Small Business allows Rincon to meet or exceed this goal and helps establish the firm as a key strategic player in the California environmental consulting market.
To see Rincon's Small Business profile on the California DGS website, click here.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) delivers millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance to small businesses. In keeping with the mandate of Section 15(g) of the Small Business Act, SBA’s Office of Government Contracting sets goals with other federal departments and agencies to reach the statutory goal of 23% in prime contract dollars to small businesses. They also provide small businesses with subcontracting procurement opportunities, outreach programs, and training. For more information about the SBA, click here.
About CA DGS
The DGS-PD, Office of Small Business and DVBE Services (OSDS) is the State of California's certifying agency administering the Small Business and DVBE Certification Programs. The OSDS' Communications & Outreach section assists Small and Disabled Veteran businesses by participating in outreach events, providing resource guidance and supporting the businesses through advocacy. For more information about the CA DGS, click here.
Court Rules CEQA Review Required
By Chris Bersbach
In a ruling that could have statewide ramifications, the Alameda County Superior Court recently overturned the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMD) recently-adopted CEQA thresholds for determining the significance of air quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Court ruling in California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District, ordered the BAAQMD to take “no further action to disseminate” the thresholds without first completing CEQA review.
In 2010, the BAAQMD adopted standards of significance for assessing the impact, under CEQA, of development projects’ air quality and GHG-related emissions. The thresholds have been used by lead agencies throughout the BAAQMD, as well as by other air districts and lead agencies as models for their own CEQA GHG guidance.
The Court’s decision was based on a finding that the thresholds constitute a “project” under CEQA, because they may cause a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment; therefore, the Court found that the BAAQMD is required to conduct CEQA review before adopting such thresholds.
The Court’s decision calls into question whether other air districts and lead agencies around the state are expected to conduct CEQA review before adopting CEQA thresholds on topics such as GHG emissions. Air districts and other lead agencies that have adopted or are in the process of developing their own CEQA thresholds will be paying close attention to the BAAQMD’s response to the ruling to determine how to proceed, likely slowing the adoption of GHG significance thresholds throughout the state.
The BAAQMD may elect to appeal the decision, rather than proceeding with CEQA review of its thresholds; however, it is currently unclear what their response to the ruling will be.
For more information about how to proceed with using CEQA thresholds in light of this decision, or how to conduct CEQA review now that BAAQMD’s thresholds have been set aside, please contact Joe Power, AICP CEP, Principal with Rincon Consultants at 805-644-4455.
Click here to learn more about Rincon's Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Services.