OCTA’s role in preserving the quality of life in Orange County goes beyond delivering a variety of multimodal transportation options to residents of the third-most populous county in California. That’s one of the lessons learned by members of OCTA’s Teen Council earlier this year during a presentation about OCTA’s Environmental Mitigation Program.
OCTA’s innovative Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program (EMP) offsets impacts to animal and plant species for 13 freeway projects through the purchase of open space lands and habitat restoration. The EMP is funded through OC Go (also known as Measure M), Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements.
According to presenter Lesley Hill, Project Manager, Environmental Mitigation Program, California is one of the world’s most biologically diverse places with a unique habitat and many plants and animals that exist here and nowhere else. Unfortunately, at least 75 percent of the original habitat has been lost.
To help protect Orange County habitat, OCTA has acquired 1,300 acres that will be forever preserved for the people of Orange County. Streamlined permitting for this acreage, organized into seven preserves, was made possible by partnering with state and federal agencies.
As part of the EMP, OCTA continues to monitor freeway project compliance; manage the preserves by removing invasive weeds, monitoring species such as bob cats, mule deer, and mountain lions, and overseeing restoration projects; and offering free hikes and equestrian rides to the public.
The Teen Council offers high school students an opportunity to learn about transportation-related topics while providing OCTA staff with valuable feedback on a wide range of projects.