Board to consider biological resources

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

After months of revisions and debate, Tuolumne County policymakers will consider updates to a tool for developers to navigate regulations.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider on Tuesday afternoon a laundry list of changes to the county's Biological Resources Review Guide that are supposed to make the document easier to use.

An update to the county's wildlife handbook, the guide details regulations related to protected plant and animal species and informs builders how they can navigate myriad local, state and federal guidelines. It also includes guidelines of how to avoid disturbing those species and their habitats, and covers mitigation measures if some disturbances do take place.

The guide is optional for any project, and developers can hire their own consultants to carry out a similar review.

A special committee of supervisors and community members met and debated for months last year to update the guide, which developers have complained is confusing, onerous and difficult to use. The goal was to simplify it and remove unnecessary regulations to encourage development.

Comments on the updated 43-page guide, and its almost 200-page appendix, show the debate over the resources guide will continue. Sixteen businesses, agencies and individuals weighed in earlier this year, with a number of them saying the newest draft has complicated the process even more.

"It should be discarded, as it complicates, rather than simplifies, the environmental review process," Blue Mountain Minerals biologist Diane Moore writes in a letter that was included in the county's official comments.

"With the evolution and expansion of environmental laws, processes and regulations over the past 25 years, the BRRG is now duplicative of environmental laws," Moore later writes.

Others - including conservation groups like the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, Tuolumne Heritage Committee and Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center - call for more protection for some special species that the latest guide does not provide.

"It is unfortunate that county staff has not stood up for the positive programs and protections contained in the original Wildlife Handbook," Rebecca Cremeen and John Buckley state in a jointly signed letter from CSERC.

The updated guide is available for view on the county website, by clicking on the Hot Topics link. The guide is scheduled to be discussed by the Board of Supervisors at 2 p.m.

Also on Tuesday's agenda:

• A proposal to approve 2.64 percent rate increases to solid waste collection in most of the county.

• Discussion of the Board of Supervisors' budget policies.

• A plan for recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters in the county.

• A vote on a countywide plan to prevent, prepare and deal with major hazards.

The Union Democrat
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