Today, the Wildlife Conservation Board awarded a $211,372 grant to the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD) for a cooperative effort with Trout Unlimited, local private landowners and water users in the Soquel Creek Watershed to identify and develop high‐priority, technically and socially‐feasible projects that yield water supply benefits for people and fisheries.
Funding will be used to increase streamflow that will benefit endangered steelhead and Coho salmon while working with landowners to increase water supply reliability. The project will include a scientific analysis that will determine where the greatest benefit can be achieved, establish a path forward through the regulatory process, and build collaborative relationships with landowners interested in participating.
“Water is the key to recovering steelhead and Coho on Soquel Creek,” explains Tim Frahm, Central Coast Steelhead Coordinator of Trout Unlimited. “We believe that by using sound science and working voluntarily with landowners, we can find practical solutions that work for people, farms and fish. That’s what this project is all about.”
There are many challenges facing water management in California. The California Water Action Plan (CWAP), developed as a framework for sustainable water management, shows that decreases in water supplies, reduced water quality, degradation of native fish and wildlife habitat, coupled with population growth and climate change highlight the need for collaborative, complex and resilient management practices to ensure long term sustainability. The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 authorized the Legislature to appropriate $200 million to the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) to address some of these challenges as they specifically relate to stream flow. A total of $38.4 million was allocated to WCB for FY 2015/16 for the California Stream Flow Enhancement Program (CSFEP) to distribute through a competitive grant process for which the Resource Conservation District is a recipient. Requirements to receive funding were guided by the CWAP, and are focused on projects aimed at the direct and measurable enhancement to the amount, timing and/or quality of water to improve habitat for anadromous fish. The Soquel Creek Watershed Enhancement Plan, Soquel Creek Salmonid Assessment and Enhancement Plan, and the Coho Recovery Plan all point to low summer and early fall stream flow as a key limiting factor in the effectiveness of recovery efforts.
“We are grateful for this funding,” says Chris Coburn, Executive Director of the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, “and excited for the opportunity to develop voluntary win-win solutions that will improve water supply reliability for local landowners as we improve stream habitat for endangered species.”