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Early Mitigation Partnership

Early Mitigation Partnership

The Early Mitigation Partnership (“EMP”) is an effort to bring transportation planners together with resource agencies to select, plan, and construct mitigation projects for transportation improvements in an earlier, more streamlined, and more cost-effective manner.

In 2018, the RCD, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, and 11 other transportation and natural resource regulatory agencies entered into the Santa Cruz Early Mitigation Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (EMP MOU). The EMP MOU fosters early and collaborative engagement among transportation and natural resource regulatory agencies to improve predictability and effectiveness of transportation project mitigation to meet regional conservation priorities. Signatories to the EMP MOU include the California Coastal Commission (Commission), California State Coastal Conservancy (Conservancy), CDFW, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CCRWQCB), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), RCD, Santa Cruz County Planning Department, RTC, San Francisco District of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and Region 9 of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Why Do We Need EMP?

  • Fosters coordination among and between public trust resource agencies and transportation agencies and builds a common foundation for collaborative project development.
  • Early engagement leads to better transportation projects, which maximize multiple benefits and minimize negative impacts to natural resources.
  • Leads to increased stakeholder and public confidence in more predictable outcomes for infrastructure and natural resources.
  • Expedites project delivery because negative impacts have been minimized and mitigation has been secured in advance of construction work.
  • Reduces burden on public funds, increasing cost-effectiveness for transportation projects through more efficient planning and project delivery.
  • More effective conservation because mitigation projects are developed to address known, critical, local and regional conservation priorities.

History of the EMP

A successful effort to develop an EMP process within the Elkhorn Slough Watershed inspired Santa Cruz County to use this as a model for its transportation projects. In 2009, the Elkhorn Slough Early Mitigation Partnership (ESEMP) signed an MOU with 11 stakeholders (government and nonprofit) to develop and implement early mitigation planning. The ESEMP has successfully developed specific criteria for advanced mitigation, created a GIS tool for early evaluation of transportation project impacts, identified specific mitigation and conservation areas, and developed a wetland/conservation bank for the Elkhorn Slough Watershed.

In 2009, the Santa Cruz Integrated Watershed Restoration Program (IWRP) partners were invited to meet with the ESEMP team and discuss the potential for developing the first county-wide EMP based on the IWRP's success in implementing collaborative conservation in Santa Cruz County. This first meeting led to a series of meetings between interested regulatory agencies, CalTrans, and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). The partners agreed to move forward and use the Elkhorn MOU as a model. A pilot project using IWRP to identify and implement a mitigation project for the Soquel-Morrissey Highway 1 widening project was completed in 2012. The partner agencies signed the Early Mitigation Partnership MOU for Santa Cruz County in 2018, and meet regularly to coordinate efforts to implement the MOU, for example through the development of a Regional Conservation Investment Strategy.

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Conservation benefit: Wise investment of transportation project mitigation dollars for greatest benefits to species, habitats, and watersheds.

California Coastal Commission
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
California State Coastal Conservancy
Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
County of Santa Cruz
National Marine Fisheries Service
Regional Transportation Commission
Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

RCD Contact: Lisa Lurie

Regional Collaboration Tag, wildlife, water

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Community Water Dialogue

Community Water Dialogue

Recognizing the severity of the groundwater overdraft problem in the Pajaro Valley and the need for locally-driven solutions, landowners, producers, community members, agencies and research partners came together in 2010 to form the Community Water Dialogue. This community-driven forum seeks to advance individual and collective action to bring the aquifer into balance.

Community Water Dialogue members share a commitment to protect the Pajaro Valley as an important agricultural resource, and a willingness to pursue diverse strategies which entail costs and sacrifices in order to bring our aquifer into balance. All of our members agree to the fundamental principles of this effort:

1) A commitment to protect the Pajaro Valley as an important agricultural resource

2) A willingness to pursue diverse strategies which entail costs and sacrifices in order to bring our aquifer into balance

To learn more about the Community Water Dialogue visit their website below.


Conservation benefit: Community driven diverse strategies that bring our aquifer into balance.

All stakeholder in the Pajaro Valley

RCD Contact: Erin McCarthy

Regional Collaboration Tag, Stewardship In Ag Tag, water

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Stormwater and Erosion Management

Stormwater and Erosion Management

In developed areas, roofs, roads, culverts, pavement, and other impervious surfaces gather and redirect stormwater, preventing it from soaking into the ground. Concentrated runoff can quickly create localized erosion problems and cause creeks to rapidly rise. Unable to handle the increased water volume and flow, the creeks can experience collapsed banks, deepened channels, loss of habitat and aquatic life, and increased flooding and property damage. Stormwater can also carry a broad mix of potentially toxic chemicals, bacteria, sediments, fertilizers, oil and grease to nearby waterways. Large volumes of runoff can also impact hillsides causing gullying and even landslides.

How we can help. The RCD offers County residents confidential, no-cost drainage and erosion consultations along with cost-share incentives (dependent on available funding) for making improvements that reduce runoff and erosion. We promote what are known as low impact stormwater management techniques that mimic the natural water cycle to reduce erosion, keep harmful pollutants out of our creeks, improve habitat that also protecting your property. The types of practices we recommend include:

  • Ground Covers. Keeping soil covered with mulch or vegetation slows down water and allows for greater infiltration. It also protects soil from raindrop impact that induces erosion.
  • Water Catchment (Rain Barrels and Cisterns): Rainwater collection is an excellent opportunity to slow water down by temporarily storing it. Captured water can be reused for irrigation, fire protection or other non-potable options or metered off slowly after storm events to allow for infiltration and reduced flooding.
  • Rain Gardens: Rain gardens are vegetated basins installed at homes to capture and detain runoff, facilitate water infiltration and groundwater recharge while providing an aesthetic landscaping benefit to landowners.
  • Swales: Swales are shallow channels designed to convey, filter, and infiltrate stormwater runoff. They can be designed to be a meandering or almost straight depending on the amount land available on the site and be finished with vegetation and/or rocks bottoms.
  • Pervious surfaces: There are many new types of pervious materials that allow runoff to pass through and sink back into the soil. Some popular choices are paver stones, turf block and permeable asphalts and pavements.

We have also created a full color guide for homeowners titled Slow it, Spread it, Sink it! that provides an array of information for those interested in using these techniques at home. It is available in our resource library along with an array of other useful tools.

If you are looking for drainage and erosion control assistance for a private road, please visit our the Rural Road Program page.

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We have long been interested in harvesting rainwater and protecting the watersheds in the Santa Cruz mountains. Trying to gather ideas from various publications and the internet was daunting. The RCD helped us obtain the resources both for the tanks themselves and the expert people to install the systems. We feel that our new tanks that can harvest up to 7000 gallons of rainwater from our roof will help us through the drought years and for many years in the future! Thank you RCD. - Larry Bidinian and Joan Teitler, Felton

Conservation benefit: Reduce soil loss, protect water quality, and increase groundwater infiltration by using stormwater management techniques that mimic natural processes.

County of Santa Cruz
Natural Resource Conservation Service
Regional Water Management Foundation

Funders (curent and past):
County of Santa Cruz
Regional Water Quality Control Board
State Water Resources Control Board
United State Environmental Protection Agency

Stormwater Resource Library

RCD Contact: Angie Gruys

Watershed Restoration Tag, soil, water

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Livestock and Land

Livestock and Land

Nutrients, pathogens and sediments from livestock facilities are pollutants of concern in watersheds throughout California. This pollution critically impacts our drinking water, recreation areas, fisheries health and flora and fauna habitat. Better management of manure and drainage on properties that house livestock can lessen these pollutants.

The Livestock and Land program strives to teach Best Management Practices (BMPs) to area livestock and equine owners by providing educational publications, workshops and hands-on trainings. The program helps landowners wanting to construct conservation projects on their properties. Additional services, made available through the RCD partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), include free on-site consultations and technical assistance. The NRCS has been a key partner in the delivery and development of this program.

Last year we were fortunate to attend a Livestock and Land workshop that helped us understand different concepts for better managing our land. With both financial and technical assistance from the Resource Conservation District and our local USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service office we were able to put into place a plan to benefit our cattle, improve the efficiency of our operation, and protect the environment. - Tashana Burke, Burke Ranch

The RCD can provide services related to the following practices:

  • Composting
  • Drainage
  • Mud and manure management
  • Pasture management

The benefits to your property or ranch by incorporating BMPS include:

  • Enrich animal health
  • Ease operations
  • Enhance land aesthetics
  • Improve safety
  • Reduce flies
  • May increase property value
  • Improve local air and water quality
  • Boost neighborhood relationships

More information on these practices can be found at livestockandland.org

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Conservation benefit: Immediate and lasting water quality and watershed improvements by helping livestock owners to implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) on their properties.

County of Santa Cruz
Ecology Action
Multiple Resource Conservation Districts
Natural Resource Conservation Service

Funders (current & past):
County of Santa Cruz
Natural Resource Conservation Service
Regional Water Quality Control Board
US Environmental Protection Agency

Livestock and Land Resources

RCD Contact: Angie Gruys

Watershed Restoration Tag, Stewardship In Ag Tag, soil, water

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Soil Health

Soil Health

Soil is the foundation of agricultural production and land-based food systems. It is a living ecosystem that provides a wide array of essential services for plants, animals, and humans, including nutrient and carbon cycling, water storage, climate regulation, “waste” assimilation and transformation, information networking, and food provision for the vast majority of organisms living on land. Soil health is broadly defined by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans. Therefore, a mindful and proactive stewardship of soil health in agricultural lands is of paramount importance. 

Managing for soil health (maintaining and improving soil ecosystem function) is mostly a matter of protecting its physical and chemical integrity and maintaining suitable habitat for the myriad of microscopic creatures that comprise the soil food web. NRCS identifies four principles for an adequate stewardship of soil health: 

  • Maintain soil cover throughout the year
  • Minimize soil disturbance
  • Maintain living roots throughout the year
  • Support diversity of the soil’s microbial and vegetation community
And there is a complementary fifth principle within the framework of Regenerative Agriculture.
  • Incorporate grazing animals (whenever possible)
The RCD focuses on farm management practices that support optimal soil organic matter, soil structure, soil depth, and water and nutrient holding capacity. We provide direct assistance to growers including:
  • Technical and financial assistance to implement best management practices such as cover crops, compost, mulch, reduced till and more
  • Soil health assessments and monitoring
  • Field trials evaluating the impacts of various soil amendments and management practices on soil condition and crop yields
  • Identification of site-specific opportunities and practices to improve soil management 

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Soil works for you if you work for the soil by using management practices that improve soil health and increase productivity and profitability immediately and into the future. - USDA NRCS

Conservation benefit: Restore and augment soil organic matter and biodiversity to improve carbon drawdown, water and nutrient cycling and fertility to support agricultural production

Agriculture Land-Based Training Association
California Association of Resource Conservation Districts
California FarmLink
California State University Monterey Bay
Kitchen Table Advisors
Local Farmers and Ranchers
Loma Prieta Resource Conservation District
Natural Resource Conservation Service
Resource Conservation District of Monterey County
San Benito Resource Conservation District
San Mateo Resource Conservation District
University of California Cooperative Extension
USDA – Agricultural Research Service

California Department of Food and Agriculture
Natural Resource Conservation Service
USDA Conservation Innovation Grants Program

Ag Resources Library

RCD Contact: Sacha Lozano

Stewardship In Ag Tag, soil, water, climate

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    Capitola, California 95010
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