Standing along a bluff above Scott Creek overlooking the coast, Lisa Lurie, Executive Director of the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD) explained to the group, “Today, in real time, we can look at the influences of climate change on this watershed. From the effects of catastrophic wildfire resulting in increased sediment loading, to projected impacts of sea level rise. Where will the lagoon, river, and beach to go? We can see climate change impacting not only natural resources, but also the integrity of critical transportation infrastructure.”
Scott Creek is a small coastal watershed north of the unincorporated town of Davenport along Highway 1 in northern Santa Cruz County, CA. It is among the most biologically significant watersheds in the Central Coast region and in all of California and has been a focal point of research on natural resource management, hydrology, and fisheries for decades. The natural function of the watershed has been degraded due to historic land use changes, most notably from the construction of the Highway 1 bridge over Scott Creek. This has resulted in extensive filling of the historic estuary and significant alterations to the breaching dynamics of the lagoon. Additionally, the bridge is past its useful life span and the highway corridor is precariously positioned in relation to projected impacts from sea level rise and coastal erosion.
In 2013 a group of unlikely partners, the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 5 and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, the County, and Cal Poly Swanton Pacific Ranch came together and signed a memorandum to jointly plan, design, fund and ultimately replace the aging bridge. They quickly engaged local, state and federal agencies, non-profits, elected officials and funding agencies to create a first-of-its kind transportation planning effort. The hope is to build a model for how we can collaboratively plan for an achieve coastal resiliency in a way that can be transferred up and down the coast in areas that face similar issues.
To-date, nearly 1.5 million dollars in funding for technical studies, planning, and designs has been secured from a broad range of state, federal, and local partners including: State Coastal Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Board, Caltrans, NOAA Fisheries, US Fish and Wild-life Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission.
To address the impacts of climate change across the needs of various interests we need to come together and start with our shared goals and go from there. We need to think outside the box and move the needle toward a model that adapts to our changing environment.
Click HERE more information on the Scott Creek Coastal resiliency Project.