Westside Creeks On-Farm Multi-Benefit Program

Project Lead: Audubon California

Potential Project Partners:
West Stanislaus Resource Conservation District, irrigation districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, California Wildlife Conservation Board

Short Project Description:
West Stanislaus Resource Conservation District, irrigation districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, California Wildlife Conservation Board

Long Project Description:
This project would involve Audubon California reaching out to farmers and coordinating multi-benefit flood protection projects throughout entire watersheds on Del Puerto, Ingram-Hospital, and Orestimba Creeks. By addressing an entire watershed, as opposed to supporting piecemeal restoration projects, this project’s efforts will match the scale of the solution to the scale of the problem. A three-year program is envisioned that reduces flood risk, prevents erosion, improves water quality, and enhances wildlife habitat and pollinator services on 20 miles or more of creek.

This program proposes supporting project development (landowner outreach, grant writing, permitting, and planning). Various entities will be engaged that could include the West Stanislaus Resource Conservation District , a Conservation Corps (either the California Conservation Corps or the San Joaquin County Regional Conservation Corps), or a local Audubon Society chapter, as well as the landowner, in the on-the-ground implementation, including site preparation, plant installation, and maintenance for two to three years. Typical maintenance tasks include drip irrigation, weed control, and possibly replanting in the case of plant failure.

Prior to establishing a combination of native trees, shrubs, forbs, grasses and sedges, the project will likely involve the landowners and NRCD engineers to reduce, or lay back, the bank slope to facilitate plant establishment. This practice has the benefit of increasing channel capacity in the upper portion, thereby reducing flood risk. We then stabilize the new slope by plugging sedges and rushes, which both stabilize the slope, through their root action, and filter water going into the creek.

Unique Project Characteristics:
The project lead, Audubon California, has a proven track record of working with farmers to enhance the wildlife value of farms. Over the past 15 years, Audubon staff has worked with over 100 landowners throughout the Sacramento Valley. The Audubon approach is to use their expertise to reach out to farmers, help identify multiple funders, seek permits, and plan restoration projects. They work closely with the farmer, Resource Conservation Districts, and Conservation Corps to implement the projects.

Project Status This project is in the concept phase, but since the project lead is currently conducting very similar work in the Sacramento Valley; thus, work could begin very quickly if funding were allocated.
Project Cost $75,000
Project Timeframe 3 years
Cost-sharing The project lead, Audubon California, has been very successful in attracting partners for on-farm habitat restoration. We regularly work with NRCS, USFWS Partners of Fish and Wildlife Program, and the Wildlife Conservation Board. The project lead has also been able to leverage this funding to attract considerable foundation support. During the past two years, the project lead has brought in over $1,000,000 from state, federal, and private sources to support ten projects. The project lead anticipates that this project will also be funded by multiple sources.

NRCS’s Bay Delta Initiative is funding $6,000,000 over five years of water-quality projects on Ingram-Hospital Creek, and this project would incorporate water-quality benefits, so we may be able to use those funds as a cost share. NRCS’ EQIP program could also potentially be tapped for wildlife benefits.

The Partners of Fish and Wildlife Program office for the area is potentially interested in contributing $75,000 over three years to these multi-benefit projects. Further, they think there may be potential funding from the regional office for a large-scale program.

Multi-benefit Project Yes
Types of benefits The project is anticipated to improve flood risk management; operations and maintenance; and institutional support.
Source of Project Through the project lead’s relationship with the West Stanislaus RCD, they have met several landowners in these watersheds who have asked Audubon California for help implementing this kind of project.

 

Background Information:
Audubon California has been planning and implanting on-farm habitat restoration projects for 15 years. This work in Yolo County began by the invitation of local farmers. Since that time, Audubon has sought to increase the pace, scope, and scale of our work by expanding into Solano, Colusa, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced Counties. One of the primary practices is to vegetate waterways that carry agricultural drainage water, as these channels often have available moisture in the summer, which enhances the success of plant installation. When this is done, the channel is widened, and the slope reduced, as it provides space for the vegetation we establish, and reduces erosion.

Audubon California collaborates with The Nature Conservancy and Point Blue Conservation Science in the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership, where each organization lends its strength to the larger effort of enhancing migratory bird populations in the Central Valley. One of Audubon California’s roles in the partnership is reaching out to farmers and providing technical assistance on farm edge plantings, and ensuring that the projects we develop provide food, shelter, and nest sites for migratory and resident birds.

In the last few years, several landowners on Del Puerto Creek have asked Audubon California for help with identifying funding opportunities and grant writing, permitting, and planning multi-benefit flood control projects. Audubon’s interest is in establishing demonstration projects on working farms that benefit birds and other wildlife, and will lead to large-scale adoption of these practices.

Audubon has observed that many growers are farming to the edge of Del Puerto Creek, and the banks are steep and failing in many places. According to anecdotal evidence, the channel capacity is inadequate in places to carry flood flows during the significant rain events which occur every two to three years. Audubon’s typical farm edge planting practice is to reduce the bank slope to facilitate plant establishment. This practice has the added benefit of increasing channel capacity, thereby reducing flood risk.