The Community Water Dialogue and the RCDSCC are highlighted in a recently released white paper on stakeholder engagement for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Implementation. This new report out from the Community Water Center, Clean Water Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists highlights opportunities and strategies for engaging diverse stakeholders in California’s new system of groundwater management. “Collaborating For Success” draws on a wealth of research demonstrating the critical role of stakeholder engagement in achieving successful shared resource management. View the full report here.

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
831.464.2950 X17


Kellyx Nelson, Executive Director SMCRD
Phone: 415.317.7399


Paul Robins, Executive Director, RCDMC
Phone: 731.424.1036 X124

Yesterday, the Wildlife Conservation Board awarded a $465,000 grant to the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD) for a cooperative project a local private landowner, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC), and National Marine Fisheries Service to restore riparian habitat in areas critical to special status amphibian and fish species, located on two coastal watersheds in Santa Cruz County. Additional in-kind engineering and design services were provided by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The two restoration projects funded by this grant have been identified by the Santa Cruz County Integrated Watershed Restoration Program (IWRP) as high priorities for conserving wetland dependent species in the county. IWRP, established in 2003 by staff from the RCD, SCC, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Coastal Watershed Council, and the City and County of Santa Cruz, is an innovative program that has been critical to increasing the pace and scale of restoration in Santa Cruz County.

One of the projects will improve approximately 1300 feet of riparian habitat along Soquel Creek for steelhead and foothill yellow legged frogs, two endemic threatened species. The project will focus on reducing stream temperatures, critical for riparian species survival. The problem can be exacerbated during times of drought when low stream flows can lead to higher water temperatures. Large rock, originally installed for bank protection will be removed and the banks replanted with riparian vegetation to provide shade along the stream. Downstream spawning areas will be improved by addressing fine sediment from an eroding landslide and the addition of large wood and other features will increase refuge for steelhead.

The second project is located adjacent to San Vicente Creek in northern Santa Cruz County. It will restore critical areas for endangered Coho salmon, Steelhead, and California Red Legged Frogs by improving degraded habitat to provide refuge for the species during high stream flows.

Established in 1942, the RCD is a locally-governed special district and one of the oldest environmental organizations in the County. Originally tasked with helping farmers reduce erosion, the RCD has evolved alongside a changing community and now acts as a hub for conservation working with landowners in a non-regulatory manner. These projects are excellent examples of how RCDs help people help their land.

“A lot of work went in to making this project a reality” said Chris Coburn, Executive Director of the RCD. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with a willing landowner to voluntarily improve his property for the benefit of the environment, the IWRP program for facilitating the process, and of course for the funding from the Coastal Conservancy, the WCB and contributions from the landowner to make it happen”.

In 2012, the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCDSCC) received funding from the California Department of Water Resources through an Integrated Regional Watershed Management (“IRWM”) grant to conduct the College Lake Multi Objective Management Project, which consists primarily of this study (“Study”) of College Lake to evaluate management alternatives for the lake that serve multiple objectives. The RCDSCC, in combination with a consultant team lead by cbec Inc., and Steering Committee members including the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency and the County of Santa Cruz collaborated to review existing studies, prepare new topographic maps, conduct hydrologic modeling, develop water budgets, and solicit expert, stakeholder and community input.   This work was facilitated by the engagement of a Technical Advisory Committee (“TAC”), including Federal, State, and local natural resource agencies, local farmers and landowners, and biological experts.   The Steering Committee and the TAC considered the goals of the Pajaro Integrated Regional Watershed Management Plan (“IRWMP”) as well as many important factors and stakeholders of particular concern in and around College Lake. This resulting Study evaluates multiple alternatives for lake management and provides recommendations for future study and analysis.



The Study is available pdfhere.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

RCD Annual Report now available online

2013 Annual Report final 141014-hr Cover

The RCD pdf2013 Annual Report is now available. This report provides an overview of our work last year including the pdfSalmonid Recovery Plan for San Vicente Watershed, Pacheco Reservoir Hydrologic Study, native amphibian recovery in Larkin Valley, Caltrans mitigation funding for Manabe wetlands restoration, a dam removal on Branciforte Creek, Performance Based Incentives for Conservation in Agriculture (PICA), pdfWatsonville Sloughs Hydrologic Study and more. You can contact us to request a print copy of the Annual Report or to inquire about any of our projects.


On August 6, National Geographic's News Watch published a feature on the Pajaro Community Water Dialogue, a public-private partnership formed by key partners RCD Santa Cruz and Driscoll's Berry Associates.  The article tells the story of how the Community Water Dialogue has been working since 2010 to find innovative solutions to water shortages in a collaborative process. 


Read the article here:

Growing a Solution to California's Groundwater Crisis


Since its formation, the Community Water Dialogue has changed the tone of the discussion around water in the Pajaro Valley from adversarial to solutions-oriented. We have held regular meetings and events to improve our collective understanding of groundwater overdraft in the Pajaro Valley, and to mobilize individual and collective action to address it. The Dialogue has advanced valley wide projects like the Wireless Irrigation Network which helps growers access technology to better understand how much water their plants need through real-time soil moisture tension data. Participating growers report up to 30% water savings. The Community Water Dialogue is also advancing managed aquifer recharge projects to increase water going back into the basin. The group has also provided important technical and community input for the development of the Pajaro Valley Basin Management Plan Update. These projects demonstrate the broad community support and leadership in addressing aquifer overdraft.

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