SBVWCD Wash Plan Wins Government, Planning Association Awards

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San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District project receives prestigious Southern California Association of Governments, Inland Empire Section of American Planning Association Awards

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San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District

"This accomplishment reflects our region’s unique spirit of pulling together and doing what’s right for the greater good,” said SBVWCD Board President Richard Corneille.

The San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District has been honored with two prestigious government and planning awards for its role in a collaborative strategy to manage water, environmental, economic, and community interests in the Upper Santa Ana River Wash.

The Southern California Association of Governments last week awarded the District and its Upper Santa Ana River Wash Habitat Conservation Plan with the organization’s Green Region Initiative Award for Resource Conservation and Climate Action.

On Thursday, the Inland Empire Section of the American Planning Association will present the Wash Plan with its “Hard Won Victories” award, recognizing the dedication that went into more than 20 years of negotiations to get the plan approved.

“The Wash Plan is the culmination of years of planning and effort to establish the right land for the right uses,” explained SBVWCD General Manager Daniel Cozad. “It could not have been done without the hard work of everyone who came to the table, and we are extremely grateful for the thought and perseverance put in by so many to make this happen.”

The Upper Santa Ana River Wash Habitat Conservation Plan:

  • Establishes a new “Wash Plan Preserve” with 1,557 acres of native natural habitat to protect threatened and endangered species. The preserve will be funded and managed in perpetuity.
  • Allows for enhanced capture and storage of water in rivers and streams to replenish local groundwater supplies.
  • Designates disturbed land areas in the Wash for mining operations that support more than $36 million in construction-related payroll annually to the region.
  • Creates a system of public trails within the Wash to promote environmental education and appreciation of the value of this natural resource.

The 4,800-acre Wash Plan began as a vision in the early 1990s and was developed by a local task force established by the SBVWCD in 2000 with the cities of Highland and Redlands; East Valley Water District, and San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District; CEMEX, Robertson’s Ready Mix; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Fish and Game, Inland Valley Development Agency and the Endangered Habitats League as members.

“I think this accomplishment reflects our region’s unique spirit of pulling together and doing what’s right for the greater good,” said SBVWCD Board President Richard Corneille.

The final land-use strategy included an exchange of property between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District. U.S. Representatives Colonel Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) and Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) introduced the bipartisan Santa Ana River Wash Plan Land Exchange Act, and it was consolidated into a larger Land and Natural Resources bill that included more than 100 other pieces of legislation signed into law in 2019.

Rep. Cook called the Wash Plan passage a win for the economy and a win for the environment. “This plan identifies already disturbed land in the Wash for aggregate mining, while expanding on habitat conservation areas for our native, threatened, and endangered species,” he said.

Cozad said the plan represented collaboration at its best. “The Wash Plan not only reflects consensus among diverse interests within the community, it led to a bipartisan bill that was widely supported by both parties,” he said. “A lot of work went into getting the details right on this project, and everyone who was involved in the process deserves credit for that.”

About the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District: For more than a century, the SBVWCD has stewarded the local Bunker Hill groundwater basin, capturing and storing water for the community while also protecting the native species of the wash. Its work assures high-quality local water storage for people and the environment in the San Bernardino Valley. Visit http://www.sbvwcd.org or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

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Kimberli Munkres

Daniel Cozad
San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District
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