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Chico's Bidwell Ranch Could See New Stewardship After Council Decision

The situation at Bidwell Ranch won’t change soon. That’s the short version of more than an hour of discussion at the Chico City Council meeting Tuesday night where the 756-acre parcel was front and center.

The council voted to give a new public agency a crack at lining up the money to buy the property and essentially run it as a preserve. The parcel, adjacent to Upper Bidwell Park, is home to several endangered species including Butte County Meadowfoam and fairy shrimp.

If all goes according to plan, the area would be preserved and managed in perpetuity by a joint powers authority that would pay the City of Chico between $3 million and $6 million for the privilege.

Dubbed a ‘mitigation bank,’ the concept is somewhat similar to carbon offset credits. Currently, those wishing to build on critical habitat must replace that habitat elsewhere, often at a high cost.

Officials say that if approved and successful, it will benefit both the environment and commerce. Endangered species would gain a larger contiguous habitat, giving them a better shot at survival. Developers would see fewer hurdles in the environmental process and enjoy more predictable and likely lower pricing for required mitigations than generally available from private parties.   

Officials expect it will be another year before that new authority — the Butte Regional Conservation Plan — could be established. It could take as much as another decade after that before the land is transferred.

The council may opt to revisit the issue and shift directions next year.

In other council business, more details were sought about a request by the Town of Paradise to connect its commercial districts to Chico’s waste treatment plant. Paradise Vice Mayor Jody Jones said aging and failing septic systems are causing serious issues. Most commercial lots are too small to accommodate modern tanks and leach fields. 

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