FRC hosted Senators Tom Harman, Bob Huff and legislative staffer Kevin Eastman (Senator LaMalfa) for a conservation tour of the Fall River. The tour focused on key issues threatening the future health of the Fall River, which include the excessive sedimentation blanketing the bottom of the Fall River and the Eurasian watermilfoil outbreak.
FRC also introduced the Senators to one of the major challenges preventing active restoration of the Fall River: Fish and Game Code 5515 “Fully Protected Secies.”
Fish and Game Code 5515 (Fully Protected Species Status) is a legal protective designation administered by the California Department of Fish and Game. The classification “Fully Protected” was the State’s initial effort in the 1960s to provide protection to those species that faced possible extinction. This law predated California’s Endangered Species Act (ESA). Unlike the ESA, no permitting process exists to authorize construction work that would impact a “Fully Protected Species” in any way, even when a project is intended to restore habitat conditions for that protected species.
In the Fall River, for example, conservation groups have been advocating to dredge sediment from the river for years. But because a “Fully Protected Species” exists in the river (rough sculpin), the Department of Fish and Game cannot issue the necessary permits to carry out the project. In contrast, the ESA has provisions built in for mitigation options in the event of unavoidable impact of such projects: often referred to as “Take.”
As a result of the conservation tour, Senator Harman has agreed to assess the potential for sponsoring legislation that could amend the Fully Protected Species law.