SAMPs are region-based permits from the Corps allowing the applicant to complete a variety of projects within a specific geographic area. Because of the Otay River SAMP for example, San Diego County and the other applicants will be able to complete development projects, flood control maintenance, recreational trails, and other work with minimal permit processing, essentially an Individual Permit approval for the effort level required for a Nationwide Permit. SAMPs work because the likely projects and impact levels are identified ahead of time, the affected resources are relatively well-defined, and the mitigation is identified, although not implemented, up front. Zentner Planning and Ecology is leading San Diego County’s effort to complete its first SAMP, for the Otay River watershed. Draft permits have been completed and now await Corps review and approval.
Green Valley Creek is located in the City of Fairfield in southern Solano County. The Creek, which was home to a dwindling number of salmon, was being choked by heavy sediment runoff from neighboring tributaries. The increased sediment loads also raised the creek bed, causing increased local flooding. Working with the City and a hydrologist from MacKay and Somps, we designed an overflow terrace to carry flood flows through existing and restored riparian woodlands and native grasslands. Permitting included a Corps individual permit, consultations with USFWS and NOAA fisheries, the RWQCB and the CDFG. Construction was completed just in time to meet some of the worst storms in California in three decades. However, the creek performed as designed and anadromous fish runs have increased, while flood protection has been assured for adjacent homes.
Today, Laguna Creek is a complex, diverse riparian landscape with thriving neighborhoods on either side. Twenty years ago, it was a farm ditch with a number of small vernal pools scattered in the heavily grazed adjacent fields. Working for the City of Sacramento, we mapped the wetland boundaries in these fields, using high-resolution, infrared aerial photography and a variety of other techniques to define wetland boundaries that had been complicated by years of farming. The Corps approved our final map and then our redesign of the creek system, which broadened and deepened the Creek to provide local flood protection while also allowing us to restore vernal pools and riparian woodlands to the landscape.