News Release Manager


Published May 6, 2016

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District issued a permit on May 5 to the California Department of Transportation authorizing construction activities in waters of the United States and navigable waters associated with constructing the first phase of the I-5 North Coast Corridor Project in San Diego County. Over the next 20 years, the project will add two high-occupancy vehicle lanes in both directions to approximately 27 miles of the I-5 freeway from La Jolla Village Drive in San Diego northward to Harbor Drive/Vandegrift Boulevard in Oceanside.

Caltrans plans to discharge fill material and to complete other work in six coastal lagoons, the San Luis Rey River and several smaller streams and other aquatic features in the North Coast Corridor area during construction. Several bridges will be replaced or widened. The federal Clean Water Act requires authorization by the Corps of Engineers of such discharges into U.S. waters.

Adverse impacts to the aquatic environment resulting from construction of the project are offset by compensatory mitigation requirements, which may include restoring, enhancing, establishing and preserving aquatic functions and services. Federal regulations on compensatory mitigation circulated in 2008 significantly raised standards and requirements of mitigation efforts.

"We work with permit applicants to avoid impacts to lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and coastal waters, where possible; then we try to minimize impacts. Following those efforts, if any impacts remain, we then focus on developing compensatory mitigation plans to offset those permitted impacts,” said David Castanon, chief of the District’s Regulatory Division. “Our mission is to protect Southern California and Arizona aquatic resources, while allowing for reasonable development and public infrastructure needs through fair, flexible and timely permit decisions."

The Corps worked with interested agencies and other parties during the last several years to develop a comprehensive Resource Enhancement and Mitigation Program. This coordination identified mitigation projects with a regional and watershed perspective that will compensate for unavoidable losses of natural resources associated with constructing the I-5 North Coast Corridor project and other transportation-related projects in the NCC area. A significant portion of the mitigation will occur in advance of the impacts resulting from constructing these projects.

“Implementing mitigation in advance of unavoidable aquatic resource impacts allows for functional gains to be realized before functional losses occur in affected ecosystems and regions,” said Dr. Spencer MacNeil, chief of the Regulatory Division’s Transportation and Special Projects Branch. “This minimizes or eliminates temporal resource losses in these areas and reduces the mitigation required to offset those impacts.”

During the permit process, the Corps sought and considered the views of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, local agencies, interest groups and the general public.

The Corps Regulatory Program evaluates permit applications for most construction activities that occur in the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans, including wetlands. Federal regulations for issuing a CWA permit require the applicant to pursue the least environmentally damaging practical alternative, "which would have less adverse impacts on the aquatic ecosystem, so long as the alternative does not have other significant adverse environmental consequences," according to Castanon.  Similarly, work or structures in, over, or under navigable waters, such as the Pacific Ocean and other tidally influenced waters, require Corps Regulatory Program authorization pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act.


Regulatory Program Goals:

·       To provide strong protection of the nation's aquatic environment, including wetlands.

·       To ensure that the Corps provides the regulated public with fair and reasonable decisions.

·       To enhance the efficiency of the Corps’ administration of its regulatory program.

Spencer MacNeil

Release no. 16-013