Coastal Post Online


January, 2003

What is a Stream Conservation Area?
By Elena Belksy

A Steam Conservation Area is a buffer zone between creeks, wetlands, and woodlands and human development impacts. Protection and preservation of these riparian areas are critical to our endangered species in Marin County. State and Federal Endangered Species and Clean Water laws apply to these areas, as well as Marin's Countywide Plan's environmental protection elements. Marin's Stream Conservation Area

From Marin Countywide Plan, Environmental Quality Element

Adopted in 1982 and amended in 1994:

"Policy EQ-2.3 - Definition of Stream Conservation Areas.

A Stream Conservation Area (SCA) should be designated along all natural watercourses shown as a solid or dashed blue line on the most recent appropriate USGS quad sheet, or along all watercourses supporting riparian vegetation for a length of 100 feet or more.

"The zones consist of the watercourse itself between the tops of the banks and a strip of land extending laterally outward from the top of both banks, to a width of 100 feet on each side in the Coastal Recreation and Inland Rural Corridors and to a width of 50 feet on each side in the City-Centered Corridor on smaller infill lots. Where large tracts of land in the City-Centered Corridor are proposed for development, the 100-foot buffer should be applied, where consistent with legal requirements, and other planning and environmental goals. In the Coastal Recreation and Inland Rural Corridors, the zone should be extended if necessary to include an area 50 feet landward from the edge of riparian vegetation.

"Program EQ-2.3a - Protection of Stream Conservation Area.

The County shall implement the policies for Stream Conservation Areas through its established permit review processes and/or through adoption of specific new ordinances. When a development permit is applied for, staff will determine whether the proposed development falls within the zone, generally 100 feet from the banks of streams (50 feet from the banks of streams in the City-Centered Corridor). If the project is in this zone, staff will determine whether the proposed use is permitted by right under the Stream Conservation policies, as well as by the underlying zoning.

"If the proposed use is not a permitted use in Policy EQ-2.4 and it is not a prohibited use in Policy EQ-2.5 of Stream Conservation policies, but it is allowed under the zoning, the applicant may apply for a development permit. In order for such a permit to be issued for an existing parcel, it should be determined that the parcel either:

"1) Falls entirely within the Stream Conservation Area; or

"2) Development on any other portion of the parcel (outside the SCZ) would have greater impacts on water quality.

"If the proposal involves the creation of a new parcel, any needed modifications should be made to assure that no development occurs within the Conservation Area to the extent possible.

"Applicants shall be required to submit adequate information to determine whether the Stream Conservation Area policies are being met. All development permit applications shall be reviewed for conformity with these policies, and in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act. Proposals which do not conform to Stream Conservation policies, and which cannot be modified or mitigated so that they do conform, shall be denied. Information on 100-year floodplains should be made available for public and staff reference and shall be incorporated into all planning reviews.


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