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Posts Tagged ‘Habitat Restoration’

While I worked at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (Delta Conservancy) I managed a grant funded by Proposition 1 that sent money for improvements to the water management system of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. The organization managing the project was a nonprofit called Ducks Unlimited, and they worked with the wildlife area staff, several other funding agencies, and other nonprofit organizations to make these improvements happen.

Image showing a small drainage pipe that existed before this Ducks Unlimited project was undertaken. The pipe is small and easily choked with vegetation and debris. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

The improvements that were needed all focused on allowing the wildlife area staff to be able to move water on and off the wildlife area when they needed to. To manage a site like the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, a lot of water needs to be brought onto and off of different sections of land at different times of year so that the different areas can be flooded to different depths for different amounts of time and in different seasons. All those differences mean that to move water around a lot of canals are needed that trace their way across the wildlife area, and a lot of pumps are needed that are scattered along those canals.

The particular issues that this project set out to fix were two points along some of the larger canals in the wildlife area were water flow was limited because of small pipes and shallow canals. These pipes were taken out and replaced by wider bridges and the canals dredged deeper. Further issues that this project addressed were the moving of one pump and the installation of a new one.

All this work took on the order of $5 million and about five years, but it is now complete! In early December of 2021, I joined a group of people including Ducks Unlimited staff, funders, other agency staff, elected officials, other nonprofit staff, etc. to take a tour around the wildlife area to see the improvements that were built! It was pretty great to see the completed project and think back on all the effort that went in to bringing the project to a successful close. To learn more about the project with really nice visuals that allow you to really get a sense of the work that was done, check out this YouTube video that Ducks Unlimited created.

Image showing a bridge that was built as part of this Ducks Unlimited project. The bridge is wide enough to allow for higher water flow to occur uninhibited by vegetation or debris. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

This project is a great example of how changes to an area can sometimes be very important, yet not very exciting or dramatic to look at. These improvements are not as beautiful as planting oak trees along a stream, nor are they as interesting to look at as installing boulders in a river to create more habitat diversity, yet without improvements like this thousands of acres of land would not be providing the food, shelter, and other resources that are needed by thousands of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, etc!

So, congratulations to Ducks Unlimited and all the other organizations and agencies that were involved in this project for getting a lot of hard and complex work done and allowing this wildlife area to continue to be the amazing resource for wildlife that it is!

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I have a new job! After over five years working for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy as an Environmental Scientist, I have accepted a promotion and changed agencies. I am now a Senior Environmental Scientist (Specialist) managing the Stream Flow Enhancement Program at the Wildlife Conservation Board.

Wildlife Conservation Board - Home | Facebook

The mission statement of the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) is: The Wildlife Conservation Board protects, restores and enhances California’s spectacular natural resources for wildlife and for the public’s use and enjoyment in partnership with conservation groups, government agencies and the people of California. The WCB was founded in 1947. The Board itself is comprised of seven members including: the President of the Fish and Game Commission, the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Director of the Department of Finance, and four public members, two appointed by the legislature and two by the Governor. The primary roles of the WCB are to select, authorize and allocate funds for the purchase of land and waters suitable for recreation purposes and the preservation, protection and restoration of wildlife habitat. To these ends, WCB has numerous grant programs that focus on various different aspects of California’s landscape and the needs of the people and other species who call this state home.

Central Valley Tributaries Program

The Stream Flow Enhancement Program (SFEP) is one of those grant programs. It is funded through Proposition 1 (under which I was also working at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy and have written about before) which was a water bond passed in 2014. Proposition 1 allocated $200 million to WCB to fund projects that result in enhanced stream flows (i.e., a change in the amount, timing, and/or quality of water flowing down a stream, or a portion of a stream, to benefit fish and wildlife). Basically, these Proposition 1 dollars are to be spent to make the streams and rivers across the state of California better for fish and wildlife.

I am really excited about this new position. The opportunity to work on projects that range throughout the entire state, the larger pool of funding that I will be overseeing, and the new set of challenges associated with protecting the waters of the state are all components of this new job that very much excite me. Some aspects will be hard. I am certainly going to learn a lot. And I think I am up to the challenge! I will keep you posted on how the job develops, what I learn and experience, the state of the streams and rivers of California, and how the many interacting forces at work impact the status of these vital ecosystems.

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I have been working at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (Delta Conservancy) for about five years, now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help form the competitive process by which organizations can apply for this funding, and then to manage the grants that fund the selected projects.

One such project is the Dutch Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration Project. This is a project being organized by a team including staff from the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the local reclamation district (RD 2137), and several consulting firms.

This project is a huge one! About 1,160 acres in size, this project represents one of the larger habitat restoration projects occurring in the Delta. And it is restoring extensive amounts of tidal habitat, which makes it an even bigger deal since tidal restoration is difficult from both technical and political standpoints. These difficulties help to explain why it has taken about 15 years for this project to go from concept to implementation. Since it is so large, funding has come from several different sources with funds from the Delta Conservancy awarded to cover the costs of the revegetation phase.

Partly as a result of how high profile a project this is, DWR has created some great materials for telling people about the project. One of the best is a short video about what the project is, how it came to be, and what the hopes for the project’s future include. I highly recommend giving this video a watch. Another amazing way to explore the project is their YouTube channel. This channel has dozens of videos. They are drone flights over the project taken over the past three years. Going and watching some of the earlier videos and comparing those with more recent videos is pretty breathtaking. These before and after videos provide a wonderful example of how dramatically, and relatively quickly, habitat restoration projects can change a landscape and create habitat.

I hope you enjoy the virtual exploration. The project will have trails that are open to the public when it is completed (likely next year), and I encourage you to head out to the site in person when that happens.

Image taken from one of the drone flight videos from 2020

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A view of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has produced a video called Restoring California’s Great Estuary that explains the EcoRestore initiative which is one of the big, state-wide efforts that is aiming at restoring some fairly significant amounts of habitat to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Being that I work for a State agency called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, this is something that I pay a lot of attention to. But there are a lot of reasons that everyone who lives in California, and many people who live outside the state, should also be interested in this video. A large portion of the people, farms, ranches, and industries in California rely, at least in part, on water from the Delta. That fact alone should make efforts like

Also, I work with many of the people featured in this video including my boss, Campbell Ingram. Seeing talented people that I know talking about an issue that I care about makes this video that much more appealing to me, but that probably won’t have much impact on you.

Enjoy!

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A study was published earlier this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on the effects that invasive species have on other species around the globe. The study is by Tim M. Blackburn, Celine Bellard, and Anthony Ricciardi, and it can be found here.

The main thrust of the paper is that invasive species of plants and animals have been found to have a significant impact on the extinction of other plants and animals all around the world. Specifically, 25% of the plant species that have gone extinct in recent years have been the result, at least in part, of invasive species. Additionally, 33% of the animal species that have gone extinct in recent years have been the result, at least in part, of invasive species.

These numbers are pretty compelling components to the story of just how damaging invasive species can be. It is part of the reason I find working on invasive species control in California to be rewarding.

I am currently working on the control of Arundo (which is a large invasive reed), water primrose (an invasive aquatic plant), Phragmites (which is another invasive reed that is a bit smaller than Arundo), and Nutria (which is a 20 pound semi-aquatic rodent). Each of these species pose unique threats to the native species of California and to many other aspects of the ecosystem as well.

Hopefully, protocols can be developed to stop invasive species before they contribute even more extinctions!

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Delta Conservancy Logo 3I have been working at the Delta Conservancy for about a year and half, now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help our Program Manager and higher ranking staff to form the competitive process by which organizations can submit proposals for projects, the process of reviewing and ranking those proposals to determine which will be funded, and then the management of the specific grant awards to successful projects.

In 2015, just before I began working here, the Delta Conservancy received its first round of project proposals, and in the fall of 2016 we received our second round of proposals   (there will be subsequent rounds in the fall of 2017, 2018, and 2019). I was very involved in reviewing those proposals and scoring them to determine which would go on to be awarded funding. We have now gone through the entire process of reviewing the proposals, recommending the most qualified proposals to our board of directors for approval, and then writing the actual grant agreements, twice. This is the exciting part because it now means we are able to move forward with giving funds to get projects accomplished.

I thought it might be interesting to introduce you to those projects as they get underway. I am going to be the grant manager for two of the projects from our 2015 batch of proposals and three from the 2016 batch. The first to begin was the Lower Marsh and Sand Creek Watershed Riparian Restoration Planning Project that I wrote about here. The most recent grant funded project to be signed is one called the Three Creeks Parkway Restoration Project, and it will restore about a mile of creek bank from the dry, open, barren ground that it is now to a healthy, vibrant, shaded native riparian corridor. It is the one I will focus on in this post.

The Three Creeks Parkway Restoration Project was proposed by a non-profit organization called American Rivers. The site of the project is an area in the city of Brentwood in eastern Contra Costa County where Marsh Creek is joined by Sand Creek and Deer Creek (the three creeks referenced in the project name). This stretch of Marsh Creek runs through a pretty urban environment, and at the moment, there is very little growing there.

Prop 1-Y1-2015-019_Photo

Confluence of Marsh, Deer, and Sand Creeks in Brentwood, Contra Costa County. Photo courtesy of American Rivers.

The project will dig out the steep banks of the creek on both sides and reshape them into more gentle slopes with small floodplains on either side. This will help reduce the risk of flooding and also create a bunch of floodplain habitat that is a rare thing in the Delta. After reshaping the banks, the new contoured will be planted with hundreds of native trees, hundreds of native shrubs, and thousands of native understory plants. As these plants all grow, they will create habitat for birds and other wildlife, shade the water in the creek keeping it cooler and more hospitable for native fish, and create a lovely trail for people to use. This stretch of restored creek will also connect other parts of the creek that have already been restored and so make it easier for animals and plants to disperse up and down stream.

Over the next three years that the Delta Conservancy will be funding this project for, it will be amazing to see this habitat come into being.

PrintThis project has a budget of $836,409 awarded from the Proposition 1 Grant Fund by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy.

As of this writing, we are getting ready to open our third round of proposals which will then require review and scoring. I am looking forward to seeing what projects are proposed and which are successful and will be funded by the Delta Conservancy.

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The American Carbon Registry (ARC) is part of Winrock International, a philanthropic, nonprofit organization that works to empower disadvantaged communities, increase economic opportunities, and sustain natural resources.

ARC logoSpecifically, the ARC was founded in 1996 as the first voluntary greenhouse gas registry in the world. It utilizes market forces to make it economically advantageous to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This week, the ARC presented a number of leading individuals and organizations with awards to recognize their important contributions to curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and so work to limit the impacts of global warming.

Delta Conservancy Logo 3One of the awards presented was the Innovation Award that recognizes efforts that are based on ACR’s guiding principles of innovation, quality and excellence. This year, the Innovation Award went to a group of organizations that helped to create a carbon registry methodology for the restoration of California deltaic and coastal wetlands. The lead agency among those organizations was the Sacramento-San-Joaquin Delta Conservancy!

Here is an excerpt from the ARC’s award announcement. The full announcement can be found here.

“The Innovation award was presented to the developers of two landmark methodologies, one for California wetland restoration and the other for the transition to low global warming potential foams.

ACR honored the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy as the lead agency, HydroFocus as the lead author and both U.C. Berkeley and Tierra Resources for technical support for the development of the methodology for the Restoration of California Deltaic and Coastal Wetlands. Funding for the methodology was provided by the California Coastal Conservancy, Department of Water Resources, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Metropolitan Water District and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).

In the San Francisco Bay Area, more than 90 percent of historic tidal wetlands disappeared in the last 150 years. Over 2.5 billion cubic meters of organic soils have disappeared since delta islands were first diked and drained for agriculture in the late 1800s, resulting in land subsidence up to 25 feet below sea level. Drained and cultivated organic soils in the delta continue to oxidize, subside and emit an estimated one to two million metric tons of CO2-equivalent annually — equal to annual emissions from over 300,000 passenger vehicles.

We have been pleased to work with ACR and other partners on this methodology and appreciate the recognition,” said Steve Deverel, president of HydroFocus. “Restoration activities that rebuild subsided lands are critical to long-term ecosystem sustainability, are important to reducing the risk of levy failure and sea level rise, and are a significant source of GHG emissions reductions.

“State and federal funding remains insufficient to address land subsidence that threatens the California water system, and carbon market revenues could help fill the funding gap,” added Campbell Ingram, executive officer of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy. ”The new ACR methodology provides an incentive to landowners in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Suisun Marsh and other historically natural wetland areas in California to convert their most subsided and marginal agricultural lands to wetlands, or to produce wetlands crops such as rice, which will stop land subsidence and reverse it over time.” 

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Delta Conservancy Logo 3I have been working at the Delta Conservancy for a little over a year, now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help our Program Manager and higher ranking staff to form the competitive process by which organizations could submit proposals for projects, the process of reviewing and ranking those proposals to determine which will be funded, and then the management of the specific grant awards to successful projects.

In 2015, just before I began working here, the Delta Conservancy received its first round of project proposals (there will be subsequent rounds in the fall of 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019). I was very involved in reviewing those proposals and scoring them to determine which would go on to be awarded funding. We have now gone through the entire process of reviewing the proposals, recommending the most qualified proposals to our board of directors for approval, and then writing the actual grant agreements which is pretty exciting because it now means we are able to move forward with giving funds to get projects accomplished.

I thought it might be interesting to introduce you to those projects as they get underway. I am going to be the grant manager for four of the projects from our 2015 batch of proposals. The first to begin was the Lower Marsh and Sand Creek Watershed Riparian Restoration Planning Project that I wrote about here. Our second grant funded project was just signed, and it will help create a fish friendly farming certification program for growers in the Delta, and it is the one I will focus on in this post.

Fish Friendly Farming (FFF) the title given to a whole process by which growers in a region can agree to use techniques called Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) when growing their crops. By voluntarily conforming to these BMPs, growers are using land and water resources that minimize harmful effects on fish and wildlife, and maximize conservation strategies.

Different BMPs need to be created for different geographic regions because those different regions have a huge range of factors, many or most of which may vary. What types of crops are grown in a region? What types of soils are those crops growing in? How much water is available, and of what type (groundwater versus surface water, for example)? What species of fish and wildlife are found in a region? What types of habitats occur in a region? All of these and more mean that BMPs need to be very carefully applied so that they remain consistent and useful. This link contains information and a video on the Fish Friendly Farming program that has been developed for the wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties in California.

chinook 01

Fall-run Chinook Salmon

One area in which BMPs have not been well developed is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and developing this BMPs is exactly what the first goal of this project will be. A second will be to publish and distribute the Delta specific BMPs in a handbook that can be used by growers. A third goal will be to enroll Delta growers in the voluntary process so that they can become certified Fish Friendly Farms. This project will be conducted by a non-profit organization called the California Land Stewardship Institute (CLSI). The CLSI will work with growers, other agricultural specialists, ecologists, and conservation biologists to create BMPs for the major crop types in commonly grown in the Delta. This project has a budget of $89,450 awarded from the Proposition 1 Grant Fund by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy.

In the three years that this certification development project will take, it is going to be very interesting to see what practices are identified as the most effective at protecting wildlife while still maintaining the economic output of the agricultural products. I will keep you posted on these developments and also on the other grants I will be managing as they come online.

As of this writing, we are about to receive our second round of full proposals which will then require review and scoring. I am looking forward to seeing what projects are proposed and which are successful and will be funded by the Delta Conservancy.

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Delta Conservancy Logo 3I have been working at the Delta Conservancy for just over a year now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help our Program Manager and higher ranking staff to form the competitive process by which organizations could submit proposals for projects, the process of reviewing and ranking those proposals to determine which will be funded, and then the management of the specific grant awards to successful projects.

In 2015, just before I began working here, the Delta Conservancy received its first round of project proposals (there will be subsequent rounds in the fall of 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019). I was very involved in reviewing those proposals and scoring them to determine which would go on to be awarded funding. We have now gone through the entire process of reviewing the proposals, recommending the most qualified proposals to our board of directors for approval, and then writing the actual grant agreements which is pretty exciting because it now means we are able to move forward with giving funds to get projects accomplished.

I thought it might be interesting to introduce you to those projects as they get underway. I am going to be the grant manager for four of the projects from our 2015 batch of proposals, and so will focus on those projects because they are the ones I am most intimately involved with.

Of the grants I will be managing, one has gone through the complete process and has a signed and executed grant agreement with the Delta Conservancy, and that is the one I am going to introduce here.

prop-1-y1-2015-019_photo

The confluence of Marsh Creek (entering from the left) and Sand Creek (entering from the right) in Brentwood, CA (Photo by American Rivers).

The project is called the Lower Marsh and Sand Creek Watershed Riparian Restoration Planning Project. It was proposed by a non-profit organization named American Rivers with two major goals: 1) to develop a plan to select and organize restoration projects along the portions of Marsh Creek and Sand Creek where they flow through the cities of Brentwood, Oakley and Antioch, CA, and 2) to create and distribute guidelines for how to incorporate stormwater runoff into land use designs. This project has a budget of $73,493 to be spent over the course of three years.

The area where both goals of this project will focus is an area of heavy urban and suburban development. Of all the regions in the Delta, the cities listed above encompass the largest, and fastest growing, human population. The creeks in this area flow down canals that have very little vegetation along their banks and so provide almost no habitat for native birds, mammals, insects, fish, etc. The first goal of this planning project will help American Rivers and their partners to move quickly to acquire properties along the creeks as they become available, and also to design habitat restoration projects on those properties.

When heavy rains fall on the region, that water must go somewhere, and go there quickly. This stromwater runoff is a pulse of water that hits the system suddenly and washes debris, litter, and other pollutants into the creeks. This creates the need for dealing with these stromwater runoff flows in such a way as to minimize the negative impacts to the creeks. The second goal of this project will be the development of techniques for how property owners along the creeks can manage stromwater runoff. These techniques may include stormwater drains that have screens for catching trash that can then be easily disposed of, the formation on drainage ditches that will let stormwater runoff pool and then flow more slowly into the creek and so reduce erosion and limit the release of large amounts of pollution, and other practices that will benefit the creeks of the region. These guidelines will be incorporated into the property development handbook that they cities use and that property developers must follow.

In the three years that this planing project will take, it is going to be very interesting to see what restoration projects come to the surface and what stormwater guidelines are developed. I will keep you posted on these developments and also on the other grants I will be managing as they come online.

Now that it is fall of 2016, our second round of proposals are in the midst of being reviewed and scored. I am looking forward to seeing what projects are proposed and which are successful and will be funded by the Delta Conservancy.

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The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (where I know work) was allotted $50,000,000 from the voter approved Proposition 1 for projects that will enhance habitat, improve water quality, and/or increase sustainable agriculture in the Delta. These funds are to be given out over the course of five years, starting with the first solicitation in fall of 2015. The Delta Conservancy created a competitive grant program where applicants can send in proposals and Delta Conservancy staff, with the input from other experts, determine which proposals have the best chance of success and will enact the most valuable projects. This first round of projects could be planing projects of up to $100,000 or implementation projects of up to $2,000,000. A major component of my work has been to help administer this grant process and evaluate the proposals that have applied for the Delta Conservancy’s Prop 1 money in this first year. We, the staff, shepherded projects through the process and made recommendations to our governing board, who voted to approve or reject the various projects that were submitted. Going forward, I will continue to be highly involved in the next 4 years of funding cycles.

Swainson's Hawk - Jabari Bellamy

Adult Swainson’s Hawk hunting over a California grassland (Photo compliments of Jabari Bellamy)

One of the projects that applied for the Delta Conservancy money was submitted by the Environmental Defense Fund to convert approximately 300 acres of private agricultural working land currently used for growing various row crops into pastureland bordered by hedgerows of native vegetation. This crop conversion will encourage Swainson’s Hawk prey species and so make this land high quality foraging habitat for Swainson’s Hawks. This project scored in our competitive process and was approved by our board (pending a some final administrative paperwork). To read more about the project, and find out more about the work that the Environmental Defense Fund is doing, check out this link to their write up of the project.

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