Orange County Branch Newsletter

July 2015

Branch News

Environmental Panel Discussion

By: Joe Gonzalez, P.E.

ASCE Orange County held its June lunch event at the Center Club in Costa Mesa.  We had a great panel of that included a permit manage and environmental planners representing Orange County Public Works, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), and Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA). The topics presented were related to permitting, environmental mitigation, and environmental restoration.

Nardy Khan, manager of the Project Management Division of the OC Infrastructure Service Area, presented on the permit process for Orange County Public Works.  She discussed the more common permits from Army Corps of Engineers (404 Permit), California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), and California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Topics included typical permits for County projects, timelines of permits, evaluation criteria, mitigation options and financial responsibilities.   Nardy closed out by providing a few very helpful hints for permitting which included,

  • Start early
  • Define jurisdictional impacts
  • Provide detailed project description
  • Think about permanent and temporary impacts
  • Follow Up
  • Wetlands Mitigation
  • Educate staff
Wetlands Mitigation
Dan Phu, manager of the M2 Environmental Mitigation Program (EMP) and Environmental Cleanup Program (ECP), presented on the Measure 2 Environmental Programs.  Dan provided a brief overview of the Measure M2 which was voted in by Orange County residents in 2006.  This extended the Measure M one-half cent sales tax for transportation projects and will provide over $15 billion for transportation improvements.  Dan noted that 2% and 5% of the M2 revenues will go towards the EMP and ECP, respectively.
The ECP funding is divided into Tier 1 and Tier 2 projects.  Tier 1 projects include improvements to drainage inlets. Tier 2 projects include wetlands and detention basins.
Tier 1 – Catch Basin Insert
Tier 2 – Constructed Wetland
The EMP satisfies State & Federal Wildlife Agencies’ Permitting Processes and other mitigation needs such as State and Federal Clean Water Act Permits.  OCTA has acquired seven properties that will serve as preserves and fortunately these acquisitions are adjacent to public and private lands that have no access.  The EMP also includes 11 restoration projects. OCTA has a program in place to monitor Preserves and Restoration projects.  OCTA is in the process of developing the Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP) for their freeway projects.  Next steps for OCTA include establishing endowment, developing and releasing Resource Management Plans (RMPs), and developing long-term funding strategies.
Dr. Doug Feremenga, TCA Principal Environmental Analyst, presented on the Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP). TCA is a participant and landowner within the Central/Coastal NCCP and funded $6.6 million of the $10 million dollar endowment.  TCA currently has sixteen mitigation sites along the SR 73, SR 133 and SR 241 in south Orange County.
An Environmental Compliance Program is in place that covers over 2,200 acres of open space and provide habitat for multiple species such as those shown below,
Doug presented on a few impressive habitat restoration projects including the following SR 241 slopes that survived a fire,
TCA is also tasked with maintaining several wildlife crossings along the SR 241, SR 261, SR 133 and SR 73 corridors.
Map of Wildlife Crossings
A recent project that TCA is working on is the construction of wildlife fencing for the protection of wildlife.  Several design considerations were investigated such as type of fencing, fence height, bottom of fence to prevent digging and crawling, top of fencing to prevent climbing, and location of fencing in relation to the roadway.  The end result is shown below with fencing being 10 to 12 feet in height depending on the location of the slope and climbing areas strategic locations to allow wildlife to re-enter open areas.
Doug also shared that there is an exhibit Cougars and Grizzlies: Sharing Their Path at the MUZEO Museum and Cultural Center ( This exhibit will be on display thru September 13, 2015.