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Yesterday, the Wildlife Conservation Board awarded a $465,000 grant to the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD) for a cooperative project a local private landowner, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC), and National Marine Fisheries Service to restore riparian habitat in areas critical to special status amphibian and fish species, located on two coastal watersheds in Santa Cruz County. Additional in-kind engineering and design services were provided by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The two restoration projects funded by this grant have been identified by the Santa Cruz County Integrated Watershed Restoration Program (IWRP) as high priorities for conserving wetland dependent species in the county. IWRP, established in 2003 by staff from the RCD, SCC, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Coastal Watershed Council, and the City and County of Santa Cruz, is an innovative program that has been critical to increasing the pace and scale of restoration in Santa Cruz County.

One of the projects will improve approximately 1300 feet of riparian habitat along Soquel Creek for steelhead and foothill yellow legged frogs, two endemic threatened species. The project will focus on reducing stream temperatures, critical for riparian species survival. The problem can be exacerbated during times of drought when low stream flows can lead to higher water temperatures. Large rock, originally installed for bank protection will be removed and the banks replanted with riparian vegetation to provide shade along the stream. Downstream spawning areas will be improved by addressing fine sediment from an eroding landslide and the addition of large wood and other features will increase refuge for steelhead.

The second project is located adjacent to San Vicente Creek in northern Santa Cruz County. It will restore critical areas for endangered Coho salmon, Steelhead, and California Red Legged Frogs by improving degraded habitat to provide refuge for the species during high stream flows.

Established in 1942, the RCD is a locally-governed special district and one of the oldest environmental organizations in the County. Originally tasked with helping farmers reduce erosion, the RCD has evolved alongside a changing community and now acts as a hub for conservation working with landowners in a non-regulatory manner. These projects are excellent examples of how RCDs help people help their land.

“A lot of work went in to making this project a reality” said Chris Coburn, Executive Director of the RCD. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with a willing landowner to voluntarily improve his property for the benefit of the environment, the IWRP program for facilitating the process, and of course for the funding from the Coastal Conservancy, the WCB and contributions from the landowner to make it happen”.

In 2012, the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCDSCC) received funding from the California Department of Water Resources through an Integrated Regional Watershed Management (“IRWM”) grant to conduct the College Lake Multi Objective Management Project, which consists primarily of this study (“Study”) of College Lake to evaluate management alternatives for the lake that serve multiple objectives. The RCDSCC, in combination with a consultant team lead by cbec Inc., and Steering Committee members including the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency and the County of Santa Cruz collaborated to review existing studies, prepare new topographic maps, conduct hydrologic modeling, develop water budgets, and solicit expert, stakeholder and community input.   This work was facilitated by the engagement of a Technical Advisory Committee (“TAC”), including Federal, State, and local natural resource agencies, local farmers and landowners, and biological experts.   The Steering Committee and the TAC considered the goals of the Pajaro Integrated Regional Watershed Management Plan (“IRWMP”) as well as many important factors and stakeholders of particular concern in and around College Lake. This resulting Study evaluates multiple alternatives for lake management and provides recommendations for future study and analysis.



The Study is available pdfhere.

2013 Annual Report final 141014-hr Cover

The RCD pdf2013 Annual Report is now available. This report provides an overview of our work last year including the pdfSalmonid Recovery Plan for San Vicente Watershed, Pacheco Reservoir Hydrologic Study, native amphibian recovery in Larkin Valley, Caltrans mitigation funding for Manabe wetlands restoration, a dam removal on Branciforte Creek, Performance Based Incentives for Conservation in Agriculture (PICA), pdfWatsonville Sloughs Hydrologic Study and more. You can contact us to request a print copy of the Annual Report or to inquire about any of our projects.


On August 6, National Geographic's News Watch published a feature on the Pajaro Community Water Dialogue, a public-private partnership formed by key partners RCD Santa Cruz and Driscoll's Berry Associates.  The article tells the story of how the Community Water Dialogue has been working since 2010 to find innovative solutions to water shortages in a collaborative process. 


Read the article here:

Growing a Solution to California's Groundwater Crisis


Since its formation, the Community Water Dialogue has changed the tone of the discussion around water in the Pajaro Valley from adversarial to solutions-oriented. We have held regular meetings and events to improve our collective understanding of groundwater overdraft in the Pajaro Valley, and to mobilize individual and collective action to address it. The Dialogue has advanced valley wide projects like the Wireless Irrigation Network which helps growers access technology to better understand how much water their plants need through real-time soil moisture tension data. Participating growers report up to 30% water savings. The Community Water Dialogue is also advancing managed aquifer recharge projects to increase water going back into the basin. The group has also provided important technical and community input for the development of the Pajaro Valley Basin Management Plan Update. These projects demonstrate the broad community support and leadership in addressing aquifer overdraft.

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