Photo by Brad Branan: Osprey nest in the Natomas Basin
May 1, 2023 — By Brad Branan, ECOS Board member, representative of Sierra Club Sacramento
ECOS members are leading efforts to protect the Natomas Basin from several large-scale developments proposed for the environmentally sensitive area.
Developers are proposing three major projects in the basin, including the Airport South Industrial Project (ASIP) on 450 acres of farmland outside the city of Sacramento and the County’s Urban Services Boundary line. Together the projects total 8,191 acres, larger than the entire North Natomas area.
The basin is subject to environmental protection through the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (NBHCP), which was a federal and state requirement in 1997 to mitigate planned development in the City. The NBHCP was later approved by a federal court. The basin, which includes 54,000 acres in Sacramento and Sutter County, from the Garden Highway to the Cross Canal in Sutter County, provides habitat for the protected Swainson’s Hawk and Giant Garter Snake, among other animals.
The developers of the ASIP need approval from the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) so the land can become part of the City of Sacramento.
Habitat 2020, an ECOS committee, opposed the first step taken by the City and LAFCo staff in that process – to make the city and the commission co-lead agencies on the environmental review of the annexation and the project. A law firm hired by Habitat 2020 and Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk sent the commission a letter saying that having co-lead agencies is a violation of state environmental law. They are waiting for a response.
ECOS member and former Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, along with the ECOS Climate Committee’s Natomas Team, has been meeting with officials to explain why environmentalists oppose the project. Fargo and other project opponents are meeting with LAFCo members and Sacramento council members and are asking that the proposed annexation be brought to the Council for a public hearing and decision by the city council.