Green Diamond Resource Company recently applied for a Master Agreement for Timber Operations and programmatic Road Management Waste Discharge Requirements  from the Department of Fish and Game and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. At present, the Department of Fish and Game has prepared a draft Mitigated Negative Declaration regarding this project. The Department of Fish and Game is acting as the lead agency with the Regional Water Board playing the role of a responsible agency. The MATO is designed to create a programmatic basin-level approach to road maintenance, construction, and decommissioning. The project primarily will provide programmatic coverage under Section 1600 of the California Fish and Game Code pertaining to streambed alteration.
However, the MATO has further reaching implications than simply construction, decommissioning, and maintaining roads and stream crossings. The MATO also provides ‘coverage’ along with programmatic mutually agreed mitigations for biological resources. For example, the MATO contains a programmatic consultation for Osprey that may be impacted via operations on roads and associated with road facilities. Furthermore, the MATO also contains a programmatic agreement for the treatment of threatened and endangered or at risk species that may be encountered or impacted in the course of road or road facilities maintenance, construction, and mitigation.
The RMWDR’s would provide programmatic WDR’s for operations associated with roads and road facilities in order to protect the quality and beneficial uses of water. As part of this process, GDR and the RWQCB will agree on programmatic mitigations, covered activities and prohibitions. The preparation of a Mitigated Negative Declaration by DFG signals that the Department does not believe that significant impacts will occur provided that the restrictions and mitigations are followed. This virtually precludes the possibility of preparing an Environmental Impact Document under CEQA.
For the moment, it appears that the MATO and RMWDR will allow GDR to streamline both its road and road facilities construction, decommissioning, maintenance, and mitigation. However there is a danger here that public review on a THP basis could be hindered.
The general purpose of these agreements is two-fold. First, it will allow GDR to perform under its AHCP obligations and the obligations of the Road Maintenance and Inspection Program while providing established standards and mitigations. Secondly, it will allow GDR to perform road and road facilities maintenance on a programmatic, basin-wide level as opposed to filing for individual Section 1600 permits and WDR’s through the individual THP process. Unfortunately, there do not appear to be any provision to include the specifics of each programmatic operations in THP’s.