Methods to Describe and Delineate Episodic Stream Processes on Arid Landscapes for Permitting Utility-Scale Solar Power Plants, With the MESA Field Guide - Final Project Report

Cover of report

Publication Number: CEC-500-2014-013
Report Date: February 2014



Methods to Describe and Delineate Episodic Stream Processes on Arid Landscapes for Permitting Utility-Scale Solar Power Plants, With the MESA Field Guide
Final Project Report. (PDF file, 174 pages, 17 megabytes).


Appendices
 


Abstract

Utility-scale, renewable energy projects are being planned and developed in dryland regions of California, mostly on public lands where episodic streams – streams having only periodic flow – are dominant. Developing these facilities can radically and detrimentally alter the landscape, drainage patterns, and natural habitat dependent on these streams. Even though episodic streams can be dry throughout most of the year, they have high biodiversity. Habitat values are protected by existing environmental laws, and must be managed and protected whenever possible. To comply with the California Fish and Game Code, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife must be notified and consulted with when there is a potential for project-related impacts to streams. The notification requires an accurate description of the natural streams at the site, which implicitly includes an assessment of the type and recency of stream-related processes. However, such analysis and reporting has been problematic because no consistent protocol or guidance exists for project developers to use in place of methods and tools developed for other purposes. Consequently, many projects under-report the numbers of streams present. This has caused long and expensive delays in the permitting process; infrastructure has been damaged by flooding; and habitat that could have been conserved has been detrimentally impacted or destroyed.

To rectify this, the California Energy Commission contracted the authors to produce a scientifically based, geomorphic and ecological stream delineation method that project developers can use to inform the design and development of sustainable, low-impact projects in dryland environments. The Mapping Episodic Stream Activity (MESA) protocols described herein facilitate project permitting by providing a uniform delineation protocol; helps oversight agencies evaluate a project’s potential impacts; and provides a formal method with broad application for developing land use and resource management plans, and evaluating land use and resource management practices.