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Protected beetle creates Ripon bike path snafu
Elderberry Longhorn Beetle

The Lower Stanislaus River Multi-Use Trail Project calls for the construction of 1.8 miles of Class I trail to replace the existing dirt path.

That part of the project, once completed, would close the trail gaps while removing active transportation barriers in order to interconnect the trail system within the City of Ripon along with the regional trails.

Numerous elderberry shrubs, however, currently border that path. As the host plant to the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle  – a federally threatened species – these same shrubs are environmentally protected.

The Ripon City Council  has agreed to bring on BaseCamp Environmental, Inc. to provide additional services to document elderberry shrubs, as required by San Joaquin Council of Government, specifically for the project. Cost is to not exceed $9,100 as funded by Measure K.

No further discussion was necessary.

BaseCamp specializes in the preparation of environmental impact assessment documents under the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, offering planning and problem-solving needed to successfully complete the environmental review process.

The Lower Stanislaus River Multi-Use Trail Project – in 2018, the City was awarded $498,528 by various funding sources, including Measure K Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Safe Routes to School Competitive Program, and the Smart Growth Incentive Program, for this part of plan – will participate in the San Joaquin County Habitat Conservation Plan, calling for either 20-foot setbacks from the elderberry shrubs or project-specific for a reduced setback also known as “buffer reduction.”

According to the staff report prepared by Engineering Supervisor Elizabeth Quilici, this project will request a “buffer reduction” in order to allow development of the proposed Multi-Use Trail, which also involves SJCOG consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Services and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“It is unclear if the elderberry shrubs are an obstacle that cannot be overcome, and it was decided by SJCOG that an expanded pre-CEQA biology phase of the work is warranted to better access project feasibility,” Quilici said.

Staff discussions with BaseCamp may call for defining the project feasibility requiring additional work such as a field survey, development of a technical presentation to the SJCOG Habitat Technical Advisory Committee, and submittal of a buffer reduction request. If that’s the case, more funding may be required from the just-approved agreement.