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61.1 STREAMSIDE MANAGEMENT AREAS AND WETLANDS ORDINANCE

61.1.1 Short Title. This section shall be known and cited as the “Streamside Management Areas and Wetlands Ordinance of the County of Humboldt” (SMAWO). In any administrative action taken by any public official under the authority of this code, the use of the term “Streamside Management Areas and Wetlands Ordinance” or “SMAWO,” unless further modified, shall also refer to and mean this section.

61.1.2 Purpose. The purpose of this section is to provide minimum standards pertaining to the use and development of land located within Streamside Management Areas (SMAs), wetlands and other wet areas such as: natural ponds, springs, vernal pools, marshes, and wet meadows.

The purpose of establishing the standards is to:

Create a Streamside Management Areas and Wetlands ordinance within the zoning regulations of the County of Humboldt pursuant to the mandates of state law.

Implement portions of the County’s General Plan policies and standards pertaining to open space, conservation, housing, water resources, biological resources, and public facilities.

61.1.3 Relationship to Other Regulations. These regulations shall be in addition to regulations imposed by the principal zone, combining zone, development regulations, and other open space or resource protection regulations. Wherever the provisions of these regulations conflict with or are inconsistent in application with any other regulation, the most protective of natural resources shall apply.

61.1.4 Scope of Application. This section shall be applicable to all development within or affecting SMAs, wetlands or other wet areas within the unincorporated areas of the County and outside the Coastal Zone.

The provisions of this section shall be applicable to all development permits issued by the County pursuant to:

(1) Division 1, Planning, of Title III, Land Use and Development.

(2) Division 2, Subdivision Regulations, of Title III, Land Use and Development.

(3) Division 3, Building Regulations, Title III, Land Use and Development.

(4) Division 1, Protection and Control of County Roads and Permits, Title IV, Streets and Highways.

These regulations shall not apply to:

61.1.4.1Routine maintenance activities associated with existing public or private facilities, defined as “activities to support, keep and continue in an existing state or condition without decline.” Routine activities include the replacement of culverts and related structures when conducted pursuant to a Department of Fish and Wildlife Lake or Streambed Alteration Agreement (LSAA).

For the purpose of these regulations, routine maintenance activities do not include:

Removal of trees with a diameter of twelve (12) inches or greater (thirty-eight (38) inch circumference), or

Removal of trees from within a contiguous or noncontiguous area of more than six thousand (6,000) square feet as measured under the tree canopy, or

Activities that could result in significant environmental impacts where the removal will:

Be located within a streamside management area, wetland or other wet area as defined in County regulations, or

Occur on slopes greater than fifteen percent (15%), or

Will expose more than two thousand (2,000) square feet of soil to erosion.

A site evaluation shall be made where necessary to determine if a project meets the exemption standards of these regulations or if the proposed development requires a special permit.

61.1.4.2Grading and construction activities associated with on-site wells and sewage disposal systems for single-family dwellings which have received all required County and State permits; or

61.1.4.3Any project where a complete application for grading or construction was accepted by the Planning and Building Department prior to April 25, 1995; or

61.1.4.4To any construction or grading on property which was subdivided and subject to discretionary and environmental review by the County after the effective date of the 1984 General Plan, January 2, 1985, and any subsequent and applicable Community Plans, if the responsible department has determined that all conditions of approval and specific mitigation requirements have been fully met; or

61.1.4.5Development activities proposed and carried out under the provisions of the Division 9, Mining Operations, of Title III, Land Use and Development.

61.1.4.6Timber harvest and management activities when approved and carried out consistent with the California Forest Practices Act. Activities which are not exempt from the local regulation pursuant to Public Resources Code Section 4516.5(f) are subject to these regulations. Permits are required for private roads within timber harvest areas where the proposed improvements are in excess of the minimum road standards required by the California Department of Forestry for timber harvesting activities.

The exemptions contained in Section 331-14(d)(2), Grading, Excavation, Erosion and Sedimentation Control, do not apply in SMAs, wetlands or other wet areas.

61.1.5 Permit Required and Processing. All development as defined in the General Plan within or affecting SMAs, wetlands or other wet areas not exempted under Section 314-61.1.4 shall require a permit pursuant to an application for development within SMAs, wetlands or other wet areas and processed as a special permit pursuant to the Humboldt County Zoning Regulations (Section 312-3.1.1 et seq.).

For those activities subject to these regulations and conducted by the County Department of Public Works, the Director of the Department (of Public Works) shall be responsible for the environmental review and public notice requirement, be empowered to approve and issue a special permit following the making of findings, be empowered to meet with and work out solutions with impacted parties, and be required to provide notice and staff support to the Planning Commission when a hearing is requested. The impacted parties shall have a mandatory meeting with the Department of Public Works in an attempt to work out any issues before a hearing is requested or an appeal to the Planning Commission is filed.

61.1.6 Findings of Exception – Written Report. Where there is disputed evidence, or controversy, regarding a finding of exception, the Administrative Official shall issue a written report containing the evidence, or referencing the evidence, upon which a finding of exemption is made. Copies of the report shall be sent to CDFW or any person or group requesting such report in writing. Any person dissatisfied with the finding of exemption may request a formal review pursuant to Section 314-61.1.8.

61.1.7 Definitions. Whenever the words listed below are used in the Zoning Regulations or other regulations related to the Streamside Management Areas and Wetlands Ordinance, they shall have the following meaning:

61.1.7.1“Grading” means all grading, filling, land contouring, clearing and grubbing, drainage activities, site preparation, and road building.

61.1.7.2“CDFW” means the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

61.1.7.3“Construction” means the erection or construction of, or addition to, any building or structure but shall not include the structural alteration, repair, remodeling, or demolition and reconstruction of and additions to any building or structure where the work would not increase the “footprint” of the building or structure. “Construction” does not include “minor additions” as defined in this section.

61.1.7.4“Minor additions” means an exception to these standards for additions to buildings or structures existing on April 25, 1995, of up to five hundred (500) square feet of floor area. From this date forward, any number of individual additions to an existing building or structure may be permitted provided the aggregated total increase in square footage for all changes does not exceed five hundred (500) square feet of floor area. A “minor addition” is not “construction” as defined in these standards. Note: Physical additions to a building or structure where a condition or a prior discretionary permit or subdivision approval indicated that any future additions would be prohibited are not minor additions as defined in these Implementation Standards.

61.1.7.5“Project” means any “grading” or “construction” activities subject to the provisions of these standards.

61.1.7.6“Streamside management areas” (SMAs) [Policy BR-S5. Streamside management areas defined of the 2017 General Plan] shall be as defined in the Humboldt County General Plan Section 10.3, Biological Resources, of Chapter 10, Conservation and Open Space Elements of the Humboldt County General Plan and includes, a natural resource area along both sides of streams containing the channel and adjacent land. SMAs do not include watercourses consisting entirely of a manmade drainage ditch, or other manmade drainage device, construction, or system. Streamside management areas (SMA) are identified and modified as follows:

61.1.7.6.1Areas specifically mapped as SMA and Wetland (WR) Combining Zones, subject to verification and adjustment pursuant to site-specific biological reporting and review procedures.

61.1.7.6.2For areas along streams not specifically mapped as SMA and Wetland (WR) Combining Zones, the outer boundaries of the SMA shall be defined as:

61.1.7.6.2.1One hundred (100) feet, measured as the horizontal distance from the top of bank or edge of riparian drip-line whichever is greater on either side of perennial streams.

61.1.7.6.2.2Fifty (50) feet, measured as the horizontal distance from the top of bank or edge of riparian drip-line whichever is greater on either side of intermittent streams.

Where necessary, as determined by the responsible department, the width of SMAs shall be expanded to include significant areas of riparian vegetation adjacent to the buffer area, slides and areas with visible evidence of slope instability, not to exceed two hundred (200) feet measured as a horizontal distance from the top of bank as necessary to include slides, or areas with visible evidence of slope instability.

61.1.7.6.3The streamside management area may be reduced or eliminated where the County determines, based on specific factual findings, that:

61.1.7.6.3.1The mapping of the SMA is not accurate, there are no in-channel wetland characteristics or off-channel riparian vegetation, or the reduction will not significantly affect the biological resources of the SMA on the property.

61.1.7.6.3.2For projects subject to ministerial review, reductions may be allowed without a special permit in consultation with California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

When the prescribed buffer would prohibit development of the site for the principal use for which it is designated, measures shall be applied that result in the least environmentally damaging feasible project.

Such determinations require a special permit pursuant to Section 312-3.1.1 et seq.

61.1.7.6.4“Other wet areas,” i.e., natural ponds, springs, vernal pools, marshes and wet meadows. The existence of possible other wet areas shall be identified by the responsible department using normal soils investigation criteria. These criteria indicate the presence of any of the following: standing water, evidencing a natural pond or poor drainage conditions, wetland soils, or hydrophytic vegetation (e.g., swamp grass).

61.1.7.6.5“Wetlands” – as defined in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual in the identification and classification of wetlands which considers wetlands as those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.

61.1.7.6.6Development standards for wetlands shall be consistent with the standards for streamside management areas, as applicable except that the widths of the SMA for wetlands are as follows:

Seasonal wetlands = fifty (50) feet;

Perennial wetlands = one hundred fifty (150) feet;

and the setback begins at the edge of the delineated wetland. Buffers may be reduced based on site-specific information and consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. No buffer shall be required for manmade wetlands except wetlands created for mitigation purposes.

61.1.8 Administration and Enforcement. The regulations of this section are to be administered and enforced by the respective administrative or enforcement official designated by the code for each section cited in Section 314-61.1.4 and hereinafter referred to as “responsible department.” In case of disagreement in the application of the regulations, the Director of the Planning and Building Department shall decide, subject to appeal to the Board of Supervisors pursuant to Section 312-13.

61.1.9 Development Allowed.

61.1.9.1Development within stream channels is limited to the following projects:

61.1.9.1.1Fishery, wildlife, and aquaculture enhancement and restoration projects.

61.1.9.1.2Road crossings consistent with subsection 61.1.10 of this section.

61.1.9.1.3Flood control and drainage channels, levees, dikes and floodgates.

61.1.9.1.4Mineral extraction consistent with other County regulations.

61.1.9.1.5Small-scale hydroelectric power plants in compliance with applicable County regulations and those of other agencies.

61.1.9.1.6Wells and spring boxes, and agricultural diversions.

61.1.9.1.7New fencing, so long as it would not impede the natural drainage or wildlife movement and would not adversely affect the stream environment or wildlife.

61.1.9.1.8Bank protection, provided it is the least environmentally damaging alternative.

61.1.9.1.9Other essential public projects, including municipal groundwater pumping stations, provided they are the least environmentally damaging alternative, or necessary for the protection of the public’s health and safety.

61.1.9.1.10Improvements to nonconforming uses and structures when consistent with Sections 314-131 through 314-132 and these regulations.

61.1.9.2Development within streamside management areas shall be limited to the following:

61.1.9.2.1Development permitted within stream channels.

61.1.9.2.2Timber management and harvests activities under a timber harvesting plan or nonindustrial timber management plan, or activities exempt from local regulation as per California Public Resources Code Section 4516.5(d) as well as noncommercial cutting of firewood and clearing for pasturage, provided:

61.1.9.2.2.1Cottonwoods are retained.

61.1.9.2.2.2Remaining willows and alders, as well as other unmerchantable hardwoods or shrubs, are to be protected from unreasonable damage.

61.1.9.2.3Road and bridge replacement or construction, where the length of the road within the SMA shall be minimized, and when it can be demonstrated that it would not degrade fish and wildlife resources or water quality, and that vegetative clearing is kept to a minimum.

61.1.9.2.4Removal of vegetation for disease control or public safety purposes.

61.1.9.2.5Normal and usual agricultural and surface mining practices and uses which are principally permitted within the SMA shall not be considered development for the purposes of this standard.

61.1.9.3 Bank Protection.

61.1.9.3.1Protection measures for County river and stream banks may be permitted for the following purposes:

61.1.9.3.1.1Maintenance, replacement, or construction of necessary public or private roads;

61.1.9.3.1.2Maintenance, replacement, or construction of levees and dikes;

61.1.9.3.1.3Protection of principal structures in danger due to erosion;

61.1.9.3.1.4Protection of lands zoned AE, Agricultural Exclusive, from erosion.

61.1.9.3.2The bank protection measures which may be permitted are listed below in order of preference. The measures chosen for any bank protection project shall employ the highest ranking protection measure wherever feasible. The preference ranking for permitted protection measures shall be as follows:

(1)Piling fence;

(2)Rock hard points;

(3)Continuous revetment.

61.1.10 Mitigation Measures.

61.1.10.1Mitigation measures for development within streamside management areas shall, at a minimum, include:

61.1.10.1.1Retaining snags unless felling is required by CAL-OSHA, or by California Department of Forestry forest and fire protection regulations, or for public health and safety reasons, approved by the Planning and Building Director. Felled snags shall be left on the ground if consistent with fire protection regulations and the required treatment of slash or fuels.

61.1.10.1.2Retain live trees with visible evidence of current or historical use as nesting sites by hawks, owls, eagles, osprey, herons, kites or egrets.

61.1.10.1.3Replanting of disturbed areas with riparian vegetation (including such species as alders, cottonwoods, willows, sitka spruce, etc.) shall be required unless natural regeneration does not occur within two (2) years of the completion of the development project. The mitigation and monitoring report adopted as a part of project approval shall include an alternative regeneration plan in case natural regeneration is not successful.

61.1.10.1.4Revegetation along channelized streams and other wet areas shall be required where the habitat has been converted to other uses. For development allowed within streamside management or other wet areas where the riparian habitat has been converted to other uses, the project shall be conditioned to require the development of new riparian or wetland habitat of an area equal to the area in which the development is to occur, or the area of an existing or proposed easement or right-of-way, whichever is larger.

61.1.10.1.5 Erosion Control Measures. As found within the Building Regulations, Section 331-14, Grading, Excavating, Erosion, and Sedimentation Control, and the following:

61.1.10.1.5.1During construction, land clearing and vegetation removal will be minimized, following the provisions of the Water Resources Element and the standards listed here;

61.1.10.1.5.2Construction sites with at least one hundred (100) square feet of exposed soil will be planted or seeded as appropriate per mitigations as recommended in writing by the lead agency with native or noninvasive vegetation and mulched with natural or chemical stabilizers to aid in erosion control and ensure revegetation;

61.1.10.1.5.3Long slopes will be minimized to increase infiltration and reduce water velocities down cut slopes by such techniques as soil roughing, serrated cuts, selective grading, shaping, benching, and berm construction.

61.1.10.1.6Concentrated runoff will be controlled by the construction and continued maintenance of culverts, conduits, nonerodible channels, diversion dikes, interceptor ditches, slope drains, or appropriate mechanisms. Concentrated runoff will be carried to the nearest drainage course. Energy dissipaters may be installed to prevent erosion at the point of discharge, where discharge is to natural ground or channels.

61.1.10.1.7Runoff shall be controlled to prevent erosion by on-site or off-site methods. On-site methods include, but are not limited to, the use of infiltration basins, percolation pits, or trenches. On-site methods are not suitable where high groundwater or slope stability problems would inhibit or be aggravated by on-site retention or where retention will provide no benefits for groundwater recharge or erosion control. Off-site methods include detention or dispersal of runoff over nonerodible vegetated surfaces where it would not contribute to downstream erosion or flooding.

61.1.10.1.8Disposal of silt, organic, and earthen material from sediment basins and excess material from construction will be disposed of out of the streamside management area to comply with California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board requirements.

61.1.10.1.9Winter operations (generally October 15th through April 15th) shall employ the following special considerations:

(1)Slopes will be temporarily stabilized by stage seeding and/or planting of fast germinating seeds, such as barley or rye grass, and mulched with protective coverings such as natural or chemical stabilizations; and

(2)Runoff from the site will be temporarily detained or filtered by berms, vegetated filter strips, and/or catch basins to prevent the escape of sediment from the site. Drainage controls are to be maintained as long as necessary to prevent erosion throughout construction.

61.1.11 Prohibited Activities.

61.1.11.1The following prohibitions pertain to all development and related activities within streamside management areas, wetlands and or other wet areas within the County:

61.1.11.1.1The discharge of soil, vegetation, or other organic or inorganic material from any development activity, except those authorized pursuant to the County’s Streamside Management Area Ordinance, on site or off site, into any streamside management or other wet area in quantities deleterious to fish, wildlife, or other beneficial uses is prohibited.

61.1.11.1.2The placement of soil, vegetation, or other organic or inorganic material from any development activity, except those authorized pursuant to the County’s Streamside Management Area Ordinance, on site or off site, where such material could pass into any streamside management or other wet area in quantities which could be deleterious to fish, wildlife, or other beneficial uses.

61.1.12 Confirmation of Development within SMAs and Wetlands. As a part of a development application review, the responsible department shall check USGS maps, or other information available to the department, to determine if grading, construction, or other activity is proposed to be located within a SMA or other wet area.

A preliminary on-site inspection shall be performed prior to any grading, construction, or other development permit issuance to determine if the project area contains SMAs or other wet areas.

Where there is disputed evidence or controversy regarding the confirmation of development within SMAs or other wet areas, the Administrative Official shall issue a written report containing the evidence, or referencing the evidence, upon which the confirmation is made.

Copies of the report shall be sent to CDFW and to any person or group requesting such report in writing.

61.1.13 Biological Report Required. An application proposing development activities within a SMA or Other Wet Area shall include a site-specific biological report prepared consistent with these regulations.

The written report prepared by a qualified biologist shall be referred to CDFG for review and comment. If no reply is received from CDFG within ten (10) working days of the date of the referral, it shall be assumed that the report satisfies CDFG requirements.

61.1.14 Incorporation of Recommendations as Conditions. The recommendations contained within the written report shall be incorporated into any development permit as conditions of approval by the Responsible Department.

61.1.15 Project Monitoring, Security, and Certificate of Completion. The monitoring of mitigation measures and reporting of monitoring activities made as conditions to any permit issued pursuant to this section shall be performed as specified in the project’s adopted mitigation and monitoring plan.

No development permit final acceptance, certificate of compliance or certificate of occupancy, nor any further development permits shall be issued unless and until all initial mitigation measures are completed and accepted by the County.

Where a project is phased or where mitigation measures are to be monitored beyond an initial building, grading, or construction period, or where mitigation measures are required beyond this initial period, as described within the development permit, the permittee shall post a bond or equal security with the Responsible Department prior to commencing any grading or construction activities. The amount of the bond or security is to be based upon the cost of performing the required mitigation measures, the related monitoring and report activities, and the County’s administrative and processing costs.

Following a written notice to the permittee of a failure to complete or fully implement mitigation or monitoring measures within the time period specified within the permit conditions, the bond or other security may be forfeited and applied to the incomplete mitigation or monitoring measures at the discretion of the Responsible Department.

61.1.16 Waiver of Procedures for Emergencies. The provisions of Section 312-15, Subsections 1-5, of the County Zoning regulations shall be followed in cases of emergencies. Following the issuance of an emergency development permit or variance, application shall be made and processed for the required development permit or variance in accordance with the applicable provisions of the County Code.

61.1.17 Biological Report. Where a Biological Report is required by these regulations, the report shall be prepared by a qualified professional educated, trained, and experienced in the subject matter, and the report shall contain the following:

Section I Summary of Findings and Conclusions

Section II Introduction, Background, and Project Understanding

Section III Methods

A. Field Observation and Studies

B. Trustee and Other Agency Consultation

C. Document and Report Review

D. Cumulative Biological and Watershed Effects

Section IV Results and Discussion

A. Existing Site Conditions

1. Terrestrial

2. Hydrologic and Aquatic

3. Sensitive Species or Habitats

B. Offsite Conditions

1. Terrestrial

2. Hydrologic and Aquatic

3. Sensitive Species or Habitats

C. Development Effects

1. Direct

2. Indirect

3. Cumulative

D. Recommended Mitigation and Monitoring Measures

Section V References

A. Plant Species Observed

B. Other Species Observed directly or indirectly (e.g., nests, scats, tracks, etc.)

C. Sensitive Species or Habitats in the Project Vicinity (listing)

61.1.18 Mitigation and Monitoring Plan.

61.1.18.1When a mitigation or monitoring plan is required, information sufficient to answer all of the following is required:

61.1.18.1.1Statement of project/mitigation goals – what do you want to create?

61.1.18.1.1.1Map and/or description of existing site conditions.

61.1.18.1.2Schedule for implementation, inspection, and maintenance.

61.1.18.1.3Description of site preparation; i.e., excavation, grading, stockpile of topsoil, etc.

61.1.18.1.4Identify the planting material; i.e., cuttings, seedlings, seed, plugs, container size (source if not obtained from commercial nursery).

61.1.18.1.4.1Use of mulch and/or fertilizers.

61.1.18.1.4.2Description of plant preparation, if necessary; i.e., how cuttings were obtained, size, treatment with rooting hormone.

61.1.18.1.4.3Necessity for irrigation and/or fencing.

61.1.18.1.5Performance Standards – how to measure success through defined criteria; i.e., number of viable species, cover values, height, growth, etc. For example:

61.1.18.1.5.1Year one – 80% tree species viable and achieving at least 4 inches of growth from initiation of planting.

61.1.18.1.5.2Year three – plugs of silverweed shall cover at least 30% of project site.

61.1.18.1.6Monitoring Requirements – (standard is five years of monitoring).

61.1.18.1.6.1Conduct during June each year; however, may be modified if specific species are involved (i.e., annual that blooms in April).

61.1.18.1.6.2Photos.

61.1.18.1.7Reporting – listing of appropriate agencies to receive copies of monitoring report.

61.1.18.1.8Remedial Measures – plan shall include measures for mitigation not achieving specified performance criteria; i.e., replanting, irrigation, fencing, etc. (Ord. 2275, Sec. D, 5/28/2002; Ord. 2629, § 9, 6/11/2019)