The Santa Cruz Countywide Partners in Restoration Permit Coordination Program was finalized in 2005. Two projects were implemented in the Soquel Creek Watershed with permitting assistance from the program in 2005. The projects involved restoration of the riparian corridor through the removal of Arundo donax and English ivy. Since 2005, Arundo donax has successfully been removed from five additional sites along Soquel Creek over the last two years and more removal is scheduled at two new sites on Soquel Creek. Removal of English and Cape ivy (among other non-native invasive plants) and habitat restoration is ongoing on three sites along Soquel Creek, totaling about eight acres. In 2006, there were three road drainage improvement projects implemented, four invasive plant removal and habitat restoration projects completed, and one sediment basin installed. Eighteen more projects are slated for implementation in 2007.
Standard permitting processes could have taken up to three years for some of these projects. With the permit coordination program, the permitting took less than one year and these projects were able to move forward with the landowner’s support and available funding.
What are the successes of the Permit Coordination Program in Santa Cruz County?
• More projects were done. While the program was expected to have broad appeal, many believed that we would not exceed the five projects per year which were projected. Landowners who normally would put off conservation work or refuse to become involved in stream enhancement projects decided to participate. They eagerly responded to the ease with which the program allowed them to deal with erosion, flooding, and degradation on their land.
• A broader range of projects was implemented. Some landowners and farmers previously had been reluctant to pursue the necessary permits for work in riparian areas on their own, directing most of their effort towards on-farm projects that have fewer regulatory restraints. With the permit coordination program in place, these farmers initiated projects to reduce severe stream bank erosion and to enhance the natural functioning of riparian corridors and wetlands.
• The quality of projects improved. The conditions approved by the public agencies under the permits sometimes made the work more complicated to implement, but ultimately improved the quality of the projects. The landowners and managers were willing to do the work to the “higher” standards in exchange for the streamlined permitting process that allowed them to deal with their resource problems efficiently.