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Evaluating Aggregate Terrestrial Impacts of Road Construction Projects for Advanced Regional Mitigation

  • Author(s): Thorne, James H.
  • Girvetz, Evan H.
  • McCoy, Michael C.
  • et al.
Abstract

This study presents a GIS-based database framework used to assess aggregate terrestrial habitat impacts from multiple highway construction projects in California, USA. Transportation planners need such impact assessment tools to effectively address additive biological mitigation obligations. Such assessments can reduce costly delays due to protracted environmental review. This project incorporated the best available statewide natural resource data into early project planning and preliminary environmental assessments for single and multiple highway construction projects, and provides an assessment of the 10-year state-wide mitigation obligations for the California Department of Transportation. Incorporation of these assessments will facilitate early and more strategic identification of mitigation opportunities, for single-project and regional mitigation efforts. The data architecture format uses eight spatial scales: six nested watersheds, counties, and transportation planning districts, which were intersected. This resulted in 8058 map planning units statewide, which were used to summarize all subsequent analyses. Range maps and georeferenced locations of federally and state-listed plants and animals and a 55-class landcover map were spatially intersected with the planning units and the buffered spatial footprint of 967 funded projects. Projected impacts were summarized and output to the database. Queries written in the database can sum expected impacts and provide summaries by individual construction project, or by watershed, county, transportation district or highway. The data architecture allows easy incorporation of new information and results in a tool usable without GIS by a wide variety of agency biologists and planners. The data architecture format would be useful for other types of regional planning.

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