The Metropolitan Bakersfield Habitat Conservation Plan (MBHCP) is one of the longest running plans of its kind in California. The purpose of the Plan is to acquire, preserve, and enhance native habitats for species while allowing urban development. Development in the City of Bakersfield that causes permanent ground disturbance is required to pay a fee, which is used to purchase habitat in natural areas of Kern County. Through permits and agreements with State and federal wildlife agencies, the MBHCP is designed to offset impacts resulting from the loss of habitat because of development activities.
The current MBHCP expires on February 28, 2022. To ensure take of covered species does not occur after the expiration date, fees must be paid no later than August 31, 2021 and all covered activities must be completed by the MBHCP expiration date of February 28, 2022. Early payment or pre-payment of MBHCP fees shall not be allowed.
Compliance and Plan Review Process
To comply with the MBHCP, any ground-disturbance activities (generally grading activities) require a developer to: 1) perform a Biological Clearance Survey by a Qualified Biologist no more than 30 days prior to disturbance and 2) pay a Habitat Mitigation Fee (if the disturbance is not exempt). Even if disturbance activities are exempt from the fee, the survey still must be performed to ensure that the disturbance will not impact species.
A grading permit or other approval that requires ground disturbance will not be issued until compliance with the MBHCP occurs. Once compliance occurs to the satisfaction of City Planning, then an MBHCP hold is lifted and the grading permit or other approval can be issued.
Steps to Compliance
Compliance with the MBHCP is summarized in the following steps:
1. If grading permit or other approval that requires ground disturbance is required, then the developer must comply with the MBHCP.
2. Provide grading plan or other ground-disturbance plan (Plan) to the City for review. Once a Plan is acceptable by Building and Public Works, the developer provides the most current version of the Plan to the Qualified Biologist (see Exhibit A of the linked Compliance Form). At a minimum, the developer will include the permanent disturbance area (e.g., graded and then developed with buildings, hardscapes, landscape, etc.) and the acreage of the permanent disturbance area on the Plan.
3. Qualified Biologist uses most current Plan to develop a Survey Area that includes:
- All areas to be permanently disturbed;
- Any temporary disturbance areas (e.g., staging areas, utility undergrounding footprints, etc.); and
- 50-foot buffer of both the permanent and temporary disturbance area.
The Qualified Biologist maps the Survey Area onto the grading plan or other ground-disturbance plan, and includes it in the Biological Clearance Survey Report.
4. Qualified Biologist performs Biological Clearance Survey of the Survey Area within 30 days of disturbance activities.
- If survey finds Covered Species (see Exhibit B of the linked Compliance Form) within the Survey Area, then a Notice of Grading Start (see Exhibit C of the linked Compliance Form) is required at least five business days prior to disturbance and after minimization measures (see Exhibit D of the linked Compliance Form) are implemented.
- If survey does not find Covered Species, then a Notice of Grading Start and five-day notice is not required.
5. Qualified Biologist emails Biological Clearance Survey Report to the proper agencies (see page 1 of the linked Compliance Form). The Biological Clearance Survey Report to include:
1) Survey Area Map and
2) Signed Biological Clearance Statement. See page 2 of the linked Compliance Form.
6. Determine if ground-disturbance activity is exempt from Habitat Mitigation Fee (the current cost is $2,145.00 per gross acre):
- If yes, then do not pay Habitat Mitigation Fee.
- If no, then pay the Habitat Mitigation Fee.
7. Come to City Planning counter on the first floor at 1715 Chester Avenue with:
1) Completed MBHCP Ground-Disturbance Compliance Form;
2) Habitat Mitigation Fee payment (if not exempt) or completed Habitat Mitigation Fee Exemption (if exempt) (see Exhibit E of the linked Compliance Form);
3) Hardcopy of Biological Clearance Survey Report; and
4) Hardcopy of the email to the MBHCPSurvey and wildlife agencies.
8. MBHCP hold released and grading permit or other ground-disturbance approval granted.
9. Disturbance activities can commence if biological survey occurred within 30 days prior to disturbance.
10. Implement Species Protection Measures (see Exhibit F of the linked Compliance Form) during construction.
11. If disturbance: 1) ceases for over 30 days or 2) has occurred for more than one year and the month is January, then go back to Steps 4, 5, and 10.
Note: Please include the grading plan number (or project or map number) and assigned project address on all documents and communications.
It is a violation of the MBHCP if a developer begins grading or ground-disturbance activities without following the above “Steps to Compliance.” A common violation is not resurveying the Survey Area after disturbance activities have ceased for more than 30 days. The City has the authority to immediately stop any activity that does not comply with the MBHCP, impose penalties, and require additional measures to avoid the unauthorized take of Covered Species.