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Our featured project from the 2013 construction season is a dam removal on Branicforte Creek, check out the time lapse video below. Originally constructed in 1931, the initial purpose of the dam appears to have been water supply, recreation and fire protection, though it was no longer being used for these purposes. Local, State, and Federal resource agencies have been working for more than a decade to address and eliminate instream barriers to salmonid migration, such as this type of dam.

slough-pic-hydro-studyThe Watsonville Sloughs are a highly valued and unique freshwater wetland resource on the Central Coast. The Slough wetland complex has been modified significantly over the last 100 years, both in size and function. Agriculture and urban uses have encroached on wetland boundaries, portions of the system have been drained to allow farming, and urban development encircles the upper watersheds of three principal sloughs in the six slough system. There are significant draws of deep groundwater to support these activities and there are subsurface drainage structures that discharge shallow groundwater back to the sloughs.

karen-christensenKaren came to the RCD in 1995 as a volunteer, and over the following 19 years, she has built the organization into a groundbreaking, critical hub for land stewardship and conservation in Santa Cruz County and throughout California. Karen stepped down from her post as Executive Director this week to focus on her health. She will remain as a strategic advisor to the organization. As her role changes, we’d like to share a little about what Karen has done for the RCD and for the community.

When you ask any environmental professional in Santa Cruz County about Karen Christensen, you are bound to hear the same responses over and over: Collaborator, Leader, Visionary, Innovator. Through these traits and her consistent themes of partnership and trust, Karen has accomplished innumerable successes in improving water quality, creating new approaches to water supply issues, preserving and restoring habitat, conserving resources, and creating new ways of achieving conservation goals. She has led her organization, her community, and beyond by bringing new models of cooperation instead of regulation to solve complex local, regional, and statewide issues.

karen-christensenIn Santa Cruz County, evidence of California’s water crisis can be seen in dwindling groundwater supplies, suffering salmon populations and polluted creeks. And as threats to the water supply have increased, so have state and local regulations, raising tensions among landowners, environmentalists and government officials.

For the past 17 years, Karen Christensen, executive director of the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, has drawn unlikely allies together to protect local water quality and supply. And in doing so, she has demonstrated that organizations like hers, while little known, are a highly effective tool for creating cooperative partnerships to resolve disputes over natural resources.

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