Today, the California State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) awarded a $1.1 million grant to the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCDSCC) to support integrated watershed restoration program (IWRP) activities in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Mateo Counties.
Growing out of plans and studies in the late 1990s and early 2000s, IWRP brings together federal, state and local resource and funding agencies to identify and oversee the design and implementation of high priority projects to restore watersheds and improve water quality. In 2003, staff from the Coastal Conservancy, the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, the City and County of Santa Cruz, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Coastal Watershed Council recognized the need for a coordinated, countywide process for identifying, funding, and developing key projects to improve fish and wildlife habitat.
Since 2003, over 150 projects have been implemented through IWRP, and some of the successes of IWRP in Santa Cruz County include:
- Removal or modification of all of the man-made fish passage barriers on Corralitos Creek, the West Branch of Soquel Creek, and both the mainstem of Aptos Creek and its tributary Valencia Creek
- Restoration of breeding ponds and movement corridors for California Red Legged Frog in the Watsonville Sloughs
- Development and launch of a recovery program for Santa Cruz Long Toed Salamander, California Red Legged Frog and the California Tiger Salamander
- Restoration and acquisition of hundreds of acres of wetlands and uplands along the Middle Watsonville Sloughs via the Watsonville Sloughs Farm, the Bryant-Habert Wetland Restoration, Manabe Wetlands, and other wetlands projects
- Assessment of over 121 miles of roads with implementation of 38 projects designed reduce erosion and the resulting impacts on streams
- Creation of the first countywide permit coordination program to facilitation implementation of certain types of restoration projects to using a streamlined process, saving money and time
IWRP projects usually have multiple benefits including species recovery, water quality, groundwater recharge, and recreation, among others. In addition to the environmental benefits provided through IWRP, a recent study entitled, “Nature’s Value in Santa Cruz County” found that projects funded through IWRP created approximately 140 jobs and generated a total economic output of $38 - $43 million to the local Santa Cruz economy.
Steve Palmisano, Public Works Director for the City of Watsonville, had the following to say about IWRP, “The City's participation in the IWRP process has brought tremendous value to the Watsonville community. It has allowed us to restore and preserve 25 acres of wetlands, create public access and educational opportunities, and to develop stronger partnerships with other agencies. None of this would have been possible for our economically disadvantaged community; we simply did not have the resources to implement these projects. I highly recommend additional funding support for the IWRP; this funding will be leveraged multiple times by the efforts of the partners in this process."
The current award builds on this success to address resource concerns that have become ever more urgent in the current drought. This grant award was supported by the National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, Watsonville Wetlands Watch, Cal Poly / Swanton Ranch, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Cities of Watsonville and Santa Cruz.
Resource Conservation Districts are special districts that operate pursuant to the Resource Conservation District Act. RCDs are public resource agencies but have no regulatory or enforcement functions. The mission of the RCDSCC is to help people protect, conserve, and restore natural resources through information, education, and technical assistance programs. The RCD has ongoing projects that promote natural resource conservation in relation to farming and ranching operations and watershed-based habitat restoration
Chris Coburn, Executive Director, RCDSCC
Kellyx Nelson, Executive Director SMCRD
Paul Robins, Executive Director, RCDMC
Phone: 731.424.1036 X124