The Coachella Valley Conservation Commission (CVCC) is being honored with the "Hard-Won Victories Award of Excellence" from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association. The prestigious award recognizes the completion of the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (CVMSHCP) Major Amendment.
 
The Major Amendment brought the City of Desert Hot Springs and the Mission Springs Water District into the Plan and lowered the fee for all participants. The Major Amendment was finalized in August 2016, almost eight years after the CVCC got the permit for the CVMSHCP. 

The City had been involved in the early stages of shaping the CVMSHCP, but a past city council ultimately opted not to join. In recent years, the CVCC worked collaboratively with the City and the Mission Springs Water District to conduct the environmental studies necessary to amend the Plan.
 
"The CVCC greatly appreciates that the American Planning Association has recognized our years-long effort to include the entire Coachella Valley in the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan," said Indio Mayor Pro Tem Michael Wilson, who is Chairman of the CVCC. "The Major Amendment was a collaborative effort, and it wouldn't have been possible without our partners at the City of Desert Hot Springs, Mission Springs Water District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife."


The CVMSHCP ensures a balance between growth and conservation.
The CVCC -- a sister agency to the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) -- celebrated the final approval of the CVMSHCP in October 2008. The visionary 75-year plan outlines a path to conserve nearly 240,000 acres of land valley-wide and protect 27 plants and animals, including Peninsular bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard.
 
The Coachella Valley milkvetch is a protected species.
In exchange for guaranteeing habitat conservation, developers benefit from a streamlined environmental permit process and critical freeway projects and interchanges can get built without delays.
 
Both the Plan and the Major Amendment bring together a diverse group of government agencies, building leaders, and environmental groups for a common vision. One of the many reasons that both the Plan and the Major Amendment are remarkable achievements is because many of these groups, on the surface, may seem to have conflicting missions. But they worked through their differences and came together to make this plan work.
 
Since 1996, more than 90,000 acres - representing 40 percent of the Plan's total requirement - have been acquired and more land is added each year.
 
The CVCC submitted the Major Amendment for a statewide award after the CVCC received the same honor by the Inland Empire chapter. The local chapter also recognized the CV Link Conceptual Master Plan as a transportation planning achievement.  
 
The state's APA award will be presented later this month during the APA's conference in Sacramento.

With the cut of a ribbon, CVAG joined officials from across Riverside County in celebrating the completion of the Coachella Valley Interstate 10 Corridor Improvement Plan.
 
The sixth project in the plan was the Jefferson Street interchange, which is now fully operational. The new project replaces an interchange that was originally constructed in 1960 and updated in 1972.
 
"The grand opening of the Jefferson Street interchange is an important milestone, and a reflection of the promises kept in the I-10 Coachella Valley Corridor Improvement Project," said Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, who is chairman of the CVAG Executive Committee. 

"We've worked for years to improve the way traffic moves along Interstate 10, and we are now better poised to handle the residential and commercial growth that is coming to the eastern Coachella Valley. This couldn't have happened without the tireless work from all of the project's stakeholders."
 
Overhauling the Jefferson Street interchange was a regional priority for years. Drivers will find navigating the interchange easier, as the former Jefferson Street bridge and northbound Indio Boulevard overcrossing have been replaced with a six-lane bridge.
 
The new bridge has dedicated turning lanes, shoulders wide enough to accommodate bicycles and a sidewalk on the northbound side of Jefferson Street. It also incorporates desert oasis aesthetic features and landscaping.
 
"The City of Indio is excited to be celebrating the completion of the Jefferson Street interchange," Indio Mayor Elaine Holmes said. "This project creates a new gateway to Indio, opening up economic opportunities in the northern part of the City and ensuring that our residents and visitors can access the city safely and efficiently."

CVAG continues to lead regional efforts to address homelessness.
 
After ramping up services over the summer, the West Valley Housing Navigation Program is now offering a full array of services that follow the "housing first" model.

Through a contract with Path of Life Ministries, a Riverside-based nonprofit, programs are being offered that focus on rapid rehousing opportunities, emergency rental assistance, crisis stabilization options and other supportive services.
 
The program was launched in the western Coachella Valley due to transition of services at Roy's Desert Resource Center, which is becoming a much-needed behavioral health care facility.
The program's launch has been widely supported by cities across the Coachella Valley and by Riverside County. 

In addition, the Desert Healthcare District has presented an unprecedented opportunity to leverage funds by offering a dollar-for-dollar match when a city contributes at least $103,000.
 
Those in need of services are encouraged to call (760) 601-5424.
Construction continues on the first part of CV Link, which extends more than 2 miles from Vista Chino Road in Palm Springs to Ramon Road in Cathedral City along the west side levee of the Whitewater Channel.
 
As CVAG continues to finalize plans for other parts of the route, some member cities have asked questions about whether building a valleywide, multi-modal trail would result in increased legal liability. CVAG reached out to the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (JPIA) - which also represents a number of local cities - to ask them their opinion about the liabilities of participating in CV Link or not participating in the pathway.  
 
The California JPIA reiterated and elaborated on their earlier position that CV Link would not result in an increased insurance premium. They stated that "in general, there is less liability exposure for CVAG and its member agencies with bicyclists travelling on
a reasonably designed, multi-modal pathway, and using that pathway with due care in a reasonably
foreseeable manner, than on a roadway shared with motor vehicles."

When asked a hypothetical question about the liabilities a city could face from someone who argued they were prohibited access to CV Link, California JPIA said it "is unknown whether a CVAG member agency's decision to not participate in CV link will create additional liability exposure."
 
The letter is being provided to all CVAG member agencies for their information.
CVAG is a busy agency, helping coordinate the region's transportation plans, green energy programs, conservation efforts and social services. Be sure to follow our progress by liking us on Facebook and following @CVAGnews on Twitter.