Chapter 17.58
Wetland Protection and Restoration


17.58.010    Purpose

17.58.020    Applicability

17.58.025    Wetland Determination

17.58.030    Compliance with Federal Requirements

17.58.040    Mitigation Requirements

17.58.050    Permit and Application Requirements

17.58.060    Prerequisites for Building or Grading Permit Issuance

17.58.010 - Purpose

This Chapter provides procedures and standards for identifying and protecting wetland resources, and for permitting wetland restoration, enhancement, and mitigation projects.

17.58.020 - Applicability

The standards of this Chapter apply to all lands within the City that support wetlands as identified through site- and project-specific environmental documents. The standards of this Chapter are part of the standard of review for all applicable planning permits, including coastal development permits. This Chapter supplements the procedures and standards of Section 17.50.050.

17.58.025 - Wetland Determination

A.    Wetlands are defined as lands which may be covered periodically or permanently with shallow water and include saltwater marshes, freshwater marshes, open or closed brackish water marshes, swamps, mudflats, and fens.

B.    Wetland delineations shall be conducted according to the definitions of wetland boundaries contained in Section 13577(b) of the California Code of Regulations. A preponderance of hydric soils or a preponderance of wetland indicator species shall be considered presumptive evidence of wetland conditions. The delineation report will include at a minimum a (1) a map at a scale of 1":200’ or larger with polygons delineating all wetland areas, polygons delineating all areas of vegetation with a preponderance of wetland indicator species, and the location of sampling points, and (2) a description of the surface indicators used for delineating the wetland polygons. Paired sample points shall be placed inside and outside of vegetation polygons and wetland polygons identified by the biologist doing the delineation.

17.58.030 - Compliance with Federal Requirements

A.    A project proposed on a site with wetland resources shall comply with all applicable requirements of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including but not limited to the preparation and filing with the Corps of any required Wetlands Management Plan B. The delineation of wetland resources in compliance with Federal requirements shall occur prior to the filing of a land use, building, or grading permit application with the City. The wetlands delineation shall be used by the City in the environmental review of the proposed project in compliance with CEQA.

B.    The review authority shall require “no net loss” for wetland areas regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Department of Fish and Game. Coordination with these agencies at all levels of project review shall occur to ensure that appropriate mitigation measures are adequately addressed.

17.58.040 - Mitigation Requirements

A.    Functional capacity. Permissible diking, filling, or dredging within wetlands shall maintain or enhance the functional capacity of the resource area. Functional capacity means the ability of the wetland or estuary to be self sustaining and to maintain natural species diversity. In order to establish that permissible diking, dredging, or filling is maintaining the functional capacity of the resource area, the applicant shall demonstrate and the review authority shall find that:

1.    Presently occurring plant and animal populations in the ecosystem will not be altered in a manner that would impair the long term stability of the ecosystem; i.e., natural species diversity, abundance and composition are essentially unchanged as a result of the project; and

2.    Consumptive (e.g., fishing, aquaculture and hunting) or nonconsumptive (e.g., water quality and research opportunity) values of the wetland or estuarine ecosystem will not be significantly reduced.

B.    Mitigation. Any development that includes diking, filling, or dredging in wetlands for a use permitted by Section 17.58.040(A), shall include mitigation for unavoidable impacts to wetland habitat. Wetland mitigation shall include, at a minimum, creation or substantial restoration of wetlands of the same type as the affected wetland or similar type and shall be determined based on the following criteria:

1.    Off-Site Mitigation Ratios: In the event a wetland is degraded during the course of a development, a wetland mitigation ratio in excess of one to one (i.e., one wetland acre must be restored or created for each acre lost through development). A mitigation ratio of four-to-one to compensate for wetland acreage and functional capacity lost during the re-establishment and maturation of the mitigation area may be considered. In some cases, larger mitigation ratios are required to ensure that at least some compensation occurs in the event the mitigation project is only partially successful. Enhancement of degraded habitat may be included as a component of a mitigation plan if the total package results in an acceptable mitigation ratio.

2.    Location: Locate wetland creation projects adjacent to existing wetland habitat whenever possible, to increase the probability for success. Wetland creation projects should replace the same habitat type, preferably in the same watershed or area. However, if a regional management plan has been prepared for the area that demonstrates the need for a specific habitat type, the City may consider replacement with the identified critical habitat, provided that this replacement is endorsed by the appropriate fish and wildlife management agencies.

3.    Use Existing Vegetation and Soil: Mitigation projects should strive to salvage the wetland vegetation and topsoil removed during construction for use in the mitigation area. Additional plant material should be drawn from local sources so that local gene pools are maintained. Non-native wetland plants or plants and soils from different regions should not be used at the restoration site.

4.    Revegetation: Enhance the success of revegetation by planting species at their elevation of greatest natural abundance and in soils with a salinity no higher than those found in the native habitat. In addition, transplanted vegetation may require additional maintenance, such as watering or enclosures to prevent grazing, until it becomes established.

5.    Consider Elevation and Topography: The elevation and topography of wetland areas are critical to determining the hydrologic regime and the resulting habitats. Elevation changes on the order of centimeters can have dramatic effects on the wetland ecosystem. Not only must the elevations be determined accurately, there must be sufficient detail so that an overall understanding of the landscape topography is clear. For example, intertidal habitat should slope towards the channel at an even grade of one to two percent to reduce ponding and maximize the intertidal area.

6.    Consider Hydrology: For wetlands connected to the ocean, the tidal prism must be sufficient to provide adequate exchange of saltwater over the tidal cycle. This is especially important in lagoons where closure of the lagoon mouth may or may not be a natural phenomenon.

    Designs for new wetlands must incorporate protection from the direct force of waves and tidal currents. Fresh water sources must also be accounted for in the mitigation design. Freshwater supply can vary dramatically throughout the year in many parts of California. The mitigation design should also consider the beneficial flood control function of a wetland.

7.    Minimize Sedimentation: If excessive sedimentation is a potential problem, then the mitigation plan shall include sediment basins and/or maintenance dredging programs to control the build-up of sediments. The plan shall encourage controls, including prohibition of grading during the rainy season, stabilization of slopes prior to the rainy season, and protection of native vegetation on steep slopes and stream banks.

8.    Construction Timing: Mitigation projects shall avoid active periods of reproduction, growth, or migration of wetland species, in order to minimize the disturbance to existing wetland habitat.

9.    Timing of wetland restoration or creation. The restoration or creation of wetlands required as a condition of development approval shall be undertaken prior to completion of the development unless a security agreement to the satisfaction of the City Attorney is provided prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy or acceptance of improvements that will ensure wetland restoration and monitoring of the effort.

17.58.050 - Permit and Application Requirements

A.    Permit requirement. Use Permit approval is required for any wetland fill, dredging, or diking, or other project requiring wetland mitigation, and for all wetland restoration, enhancement and/or mitigation projects, in addition to a coastal development permit and any other approval required by this Development Code.

B.    Application requirements - Wetland Management Plan. The Use Permit and coastal development permit application shall include a wetland delineation, and a Wetlands Management Plan prepared by a qualified wetlands expert. The Wetlands Management Plan shall include all of the following, and any additional information deemed necessary by the review authority.

1.    Goals and objectives. These shall include a description of the functional relationship of the existing and proposed wetland areas, such as habitat area, type, topography and soil characteristics, water flow patterns and water levels, and upland buffers. The stated goals and objectives should also be consistent with established regional habitat goals where possible. These regional goals must identify functions and/or habitats most in need of replacement or restoration and must be as specific as possible. A schedule to complete the restoration program shall be included.

2.    Site plan. A site plan of the restoration or mitigation area shall identify the location and size of wetland areas to be preserved, restored, or created, and shall include the following.

a.    Grading plan. Topography at one-foot intervals, along with any grading, excavation and/or fill plan. Submit footprints of all improvements indicating heights of all structures as well as access routes for maintenance and monitoring and all uses/structures within 200 feet of the property.

b.    Drainage plan. Water flow and drainage patterns along with any estimated volume exchange rates.

c.    Planting plan. The location of flora and fauna habitat areas and types, and any planting plans.

3.    Proposed techniques and standards. The application shall include, as applicable, the following wetland preservation, restoration, and creation techniques and standards, indicating processes, practices and criteria used in identifying the wetlands and the adjoining upland buffers. Watershed area and hydrology, water sources, water depths, water-control structures, water-quality watershed area and hydrology parameters, including treatment of urban runoff and water-level maintenance practices needed to achieve the necessary ambient water conditions and characteristics along with a stormwater management plan which identifies potential pollutants and ensures that runoff is substantially free of debris, pollutants and silt. Stormwater runoff management systems may include treatment swales, retention ponds, and other natural treatment systems. Treatment wetlands shall not be considered as habitat mitigation, but may address water quality functions of the impacted wetlands.

a.    Planting plans which identify target wildlife species and specify plant species, quantities, locations, size, space, or density; source of plant materials or seeds; timing, season, water, and nutrient requirements for planting; and, plant protection measures.

b.    Site preparation grading elevations and specifications for, if needed, soil amendments, removal of unsuitable fill, and weed control.

c.    Measures for minimizing impacts to the wetland during grading and construction, and for minimizing disturbances to wildlife habitat.

d.    Vector management, demonstrating ecological vector control.

e.    Identification of disposal area for any excavated or dredged material.

4.    Implementation and monitoring plan. The Wetland Management Plan shall include an implementation and monitoring plan, which shall provide:

a.    Specific criteria and identification of process and responsibility for evaluating whether or not the goals of the Wetland Management Plan are being achieved at various stages in the development. Specifications for irrigation as needed, removal of exotic and nuisance vegetation, and maintenance;

b.    Responsibility schedule and reporting requirements for monitoring the hydrology, vegetation, and wildlife of the wetland with a specified monitoring time frame (five years minimum for brackish or tidal marshes, and 10 years for freshwater and seasonal wetlands);

c.    Procedures for the correction of deficiencies or problems in the Plan discovered after implementation, such as any needed plant substitutions, or modifications to site hydrology;

d.    Identification of methods to ensure that the wetland will be protected in perpetuity; and

e.    A schedule for grading, planting, and long-term maintenance.

5.    Cost estimate. A cost estimate for implementing, monitoring, and maintaining the wetland. Performance security may be required to ensure proper installation, monitoring, and maintenance of the wetland.

6.    Management plan. A management plan that addresses the long term fiscal, administrative, and technical requirements to successfully execute and maintain the wetland restoration and enhancement project. The plan shall identify the project funding source and assign responsibilities for the long-term maintenance of the wetland, and the management of the necessary ongoing activities.

C.    Application Requirements - Mitigation Monitoring Program. When wetlands cannot be avoided and there is a potential loss of existing wetland habitat or value, a Mitigation Monitoring Program must be submitted with the Use Permit and coastal development permit application that, when implemented, will result in the replacement of all lost wetland functions and habitat, where feasible. A mitigation plan can take several forms, although restoration is the most common form submitted to the City. The City shall administer the Mitigation Monitoring Program; preparation and administration of the plan shall be paid for by the project applicant. A bond or other method acceptable to the City shall be established to guarantee successful completion of the mitigation project. The Mitigation Monitoring Program shall, at a minimum:

1.    Establish clearly stated goals and objectives that provide for the establishment of functions and values at least equal to those occurring at the impact site. The stated goals and objectives should also be consistent with established regional habitat goals where possible. These regional goals must identify functions and/or habitats most in need of replacement or restoration and must be as specific as possible. A schedule to complete the restoration program shall be included.

2.    Provide adequate baseline data regarding the biological, physical, and chemical criteria for the restoration area. For a restoration plan to be deemed acceptable, it must include evidence or other conclusive information that:

a.    The site can be purchased prior to commencement of the development project and dedicated to a public agency or otherwise permanently restricted in use to “open space.”

b.    The site is located in an area no longer functioning in a manner beneficial to wetland species, such as a formerly productive wetland or estuary that is now biologically unproductive dry land.

c.    The site can be restored to “equal or greater biological productivity” (Coastal Act Section 30607.1) than the area lost, with the same type and variety of plant and animal species. That is, the mitigation wetland would replace the functions and values existing at the impacted wetland.

d.    The site is located in the same region e.g., preferably within the same water body or watershed as the wetland impacted through development.

3.    Provide documentation that the project will continue to function as a viable restored wetland site over the long-term.

4.    Provide sufficient technical detail on the restoration design. This should include, at a minimum, an engineered grading plan and water control structures, methods for conserving or stockpiling topsoil, a planting program including removal of exotic species, a list of all species to be planted, sources of seeds and/or plants, timing of planting, plant locations and elevations on the restoration base map, and maintenance techniques.

5.    Require independent monitoring of the site at least five years after completion of the mitigation project. The intent is to continue monitoring until the project has successfully met the stated goals and objectives, therefore the monitoring plan should specifically monitor the measurable success features of the project and adaptive management, approved by the City, should be employed in the event that success features are not achieved. A brief report with photographic evidence of the site should be submitted to the department on an annual basis. For larger projects where new wetlands are created, extended monitoring will be required.

6.    Require annual survey for plants and animals of special concern throughout the various habitats of the mitigation area. The surveys should permit a determination of species composition and abundance for species of special concern and indicator species for each major ecological strata. The presence/absence of terrestrial and aquatic organisms (especially aquatic insects) that are not species of special concern should be identified, as appropriate. Timing of the surveys should be considered, since the abundance of many plant and animal species often varies with season. Surveys sufficient to characterize the mitigation site should also be completed prior to any enhancement or restoration activities.

7.    Monitor hydrology. For tidal wetlands include mapping, photographing, and/or measuring areas and associated depths of the areas inundated at high and low tide, tidal prism, and water velocity. For non-tidal wetlands, include mapping, photographing, and/or measuring areas and associated depths of the areas of permanent and seasonal saturation, inundation, and flowing waters.

8.    Monitor water quality. Carry out repetitive sampling, as appropriate, of various chemical and physical constituents such as salinity, pH, nutrient concentration, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and turbidity throughout the year. The sampling pattern may vary throughout the year and may include more intensive sampling over several tidal cycles to determine short-term salinity patterns.

9.    Monitor for evidence of tidal wetland inundation to determine if the depth or area of the tideland area changes in response to tidal influx/retreat.

10.    Utilize Adaptive Management for the ongoing identification and correction of problems as they arise. With city Approval, the project proponent, qualified biologist or other monitor should adopt an Adaptive Management corrective approach to problems that arise as conditions warrant.

11.    Provide timely analysis and production of annual reports. These reports will be distributed to the City, the California Coastal Commission and other interested parties. The final monitoring report, submitted upon completion of the monitoring program, should analyze all monitoring data and present different management options.

17.58.060 - Prerequisites for Building or Grading Permit Issuance

Prior to issuance of a Building or Grading Permit for work in or near a wetland, the applicant shall provide the City Engineer with the following:

A.    Verification of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delineation of wetland boundaries; and/or a Section 404 or Section 10 permit (or its equivalent successor) from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;

B.    A Waiver or Certificate of Conformance with Water Quality Standards issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, if applicable;

C.    A consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California State Department of Fish and Game, regardless of whether any special status species or associated habitat are present.

D.    Evidence that a coastal development permit has been obtained from either the City or the California Coastal Commission or evidence that no permit is legally required