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Monday, 09 August 2010

Santa Cruz County Planning Commission Unanimously Approved

On July 29th, 2010, the Santa Cruz County Planning Commission unanimously approved the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD) request to renew the "Partners in Restoration Permit Coordination Program" (Program), this Program, which since its inception in 2005, has helped implement more than 50 environmentally beneficial projects and prevented over 200,000 tons of sediment from entering our waterways and fish habitat. Based on a successful program in the neighboring Elkhorn Slough Watershed, the RCD, the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and environmental non-profit partner Sustainable Conservation started the first countywide program to help implement environmentally beneficial projects on private lands in Santa Cruz County. The Program allows farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners in the county to more easily manage the often cumbersome and complicated permitting process associated with voluntary conservation projects. In partnership with the California Department of Fish and Game, Regional Water Quality Control Board, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Coastal Commission, and the County of Santa Cruz, the Program provides a one-stop permitting solution.

The links between streambank erosion, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat in Santa Cruz County watersheds are a concern for private landowners, agricultural, conservation, and regulatory interests. In particular, creeks and streams in Santa Cruz County provide critical habitat for the federally protected steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus) and coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Riparian vegetation along many of these streams also serves as important migration corridors and habitat for other state and federally protected species such as the California reg-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii). The quality of these habitats has been degraded largely through alterations in streambed morphology associated with implementation of flood control measures, removal of riparian vegetation, and in some cases upslope vegetation, and subsequent accelerated erosion and sedimentation that further degrade these sensitive habitats.

In California, 50% of all land is privately owned. Without participation from private landowners, we the RCD would be unable to meet our conservation goals. We are fortunate to have so many County residents interested in implementing projects on their land. The ultimate goal of the Program is to break down permitting barriers so that landowners can voluntarily implement restoration practices projects. What is most exciting about the Program is helping landowners realize that things which are good for their properties, such as improved roads, decreased flooding potential, and reduced erosion, can also be good for the environment when done right.

Attached is a sample scan of the 2009 Annual Report of Sustainable Conservation showing the Partners in Restoration Permit Coordination Program in action.

pdfPartners in Restoration Permit Coordination Program

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