California Coastal Salmon
and Watersheds Program
1. PROGRAM SCOPE
There will come a day when Californias salmon and steelhead will run in the hundreds of thousands moving freely up Californias rivers and streams, providing a base for commercial and recreational fishing alike; and through their presence will indicate a new lease on life for Californias rivers and watersheds. Californians will look forward to passing on these restored watersheds to future generations with pride.
|Goal:||Recover harvestable salmon and steelhead populations,
restore watersheds, and so contribute
to building healthy communities
The range of coastal salmon and steelhead listed by National Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act, from the Oregon border to Malibu Creek in Los Angeles County.
This program was drafted by the Resources Agency in consultation with state agencies, federal agencies, county and stakeholder interests, but is not officially endorsed by those agencies/interests. The program represents the current thinking and direction of the Resources Agency.
The program will evolve over time in response to needs identified by landowners, counties, environmental and fisheries interests, etc. in accordance with the attached program principles. As advised by numerous stakeholders, the Administration will not convene a large planning effort, but rather will focus on a few specific activities that can produce results quickly. Initially, the program will consist of an eight point plan and a commitment to seek and administer additional funding for restoration projects.
Based on discussions with interested parties, the Administration will use the following principles to further guide the program:
Science as a guide: In order for a salmon and steelhead recovery effort to be successful, science must be an integral part of the efforts through several means including: identification of limiting factors for salmon and steelhead, selection of projects based on scientifically derived priorities, review of key issues by an interdisciplinary science panel, periodic evaluation of progress though scientific conferences, design and implementation of a scientifically credible monitoring framework.
Stakeholder input: Stakeholders must be included in all levels of decision-making and watershed management including: designing and implementing a strategic approach for salmon recovery, setting priorities for protection/restoration, evaluating success of efforts, representing private landowners interests, monitoring and outreach, etc.
Interagency approach: All state and federal agencies with significant authorities and programs should be included in a salmon and steelhead recovery effort, including selection of projects for funding and guiding use of existing authorities and programs to accomplish specific on-the-ground results. The Department of Fish and Game will play a lead role in providing the scientific guidance for salmon recovery.
Incentive programs and enforcement of existing laws: A successful approach should be built on collaborative, incentive-based approaches coupled with implementation of existing authorities and programs. State and Federal entities should coordinate and integrate programs where desirable and provide opportunities for one-stop-shopping so that well-designed plans can meet multiple laws.
Support for local watershed solutions: Watershed protection and restoration is the underlying principle that will be used to guide implementation. There are many multi-stakeholder watershed efforts within the range of the coastal salmon and steelhead which can be supported and improved upon. Successful watershed efforts must include all major stakeholders and must incorporate five major components: assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring and education/outreach. Watershed efforts may be led by Resource Conservation Districts or non-governmental local groups - no one model will be prescribed.
Support for on-going regional efforts: Regional county efforts are ongoing and provide a good basis for broader regional planning efforts. Counties have important authorities and provide local leadership needed for a successful approach. Other existing regional efforts, such as FFFC and Northwest Forest Plan PACs may also provide a basis for regional, rather than state level, planning. Solutions must span the entire coastal range of salmon and steelhead.
Reporting and accountability: To be credible, the strategy must include performance measures and assure progress is monitored. Regular reports will track successes and challenges.
The Problem: Continued Salmon Declines
Salmon and steelhead populations have declined throughout Californias Coastal region due to many factors including: off-shore fishing policies, habitat modifications such as dams and diversions, intensive forestry and agricultural practices, and urbanization. Current and proposed listings under the Endangered Species Act affect a large number Californias watersheds from the Oregon border to Southern California. Many of these waters are also listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act due, in part, to the decline of fish populations and related physical habitat modifications.
While there are many successful local watersheds efforts aimed at restoring these fisheries, California does not have a focused strategic plan to restore coastal salmon, nor the institutional alignment of programs to ensure that local efforts are successful. Regulatory complexities have increased with overlapping federal and state authorities and programs, many of which are under-funded. While there are several sources of funding for local projects, these funding sources are not coordinated, and often contain restrictions which limit their effectiveness. Many watershed efforts are successful but suffer from lack of stable funding and consistent support from federal and state agencies. Other watersheds which are important biologically may receive no support because of lack of local leadership or historic adversarial relations between key stakeholders.
Californias program builds on the successful, well-established salmon restoration programs in Oregon and Washington where problems of salmon decline were recognized and addressed earlier. These programs are founded on watershed protection efforts, interdepartmental collaboration, use of science and monitoring, and directed restoration projects. California has not had a program due to lack of attention of previous administrations. We can now draw upon these successful models to the north in developing a program for California.
Opportunities to Protect and Restore Coastal Salmon and their Watersheds:
There are several key opportunities which make the time right to develop a focused Coastal salmon restoration effort:
The Administration has identified the following new program activities for priority implementation this year.
1. Conduct a wide variety of science-based watershed assessments.
One area in which State government can make a solid, logical contribution is that of gathering, organizing and interpreting watershed information to make sure the variety of watershed management activities forestry, fish habitat restoration, county road maintenance, local waters supply has available to it the right information to assure that streams and soils are getting the right amount of protection necessary to promote salmon protection and restoration, and that limited restoration dollars will be targeted to projects that will be most successful. While there is broad support for the concept of tailoring management and restoration based on the science of each individual watershed, there has been only limited commitment to develop this scientific information.
A number of state agencies gather watershed information now based on different priority watersheds, on different time schedules and to serve different program needs. Even so, there are critical gaps in the type of data that is collected and mapped namely preparation of soil and slope stability maps and sediment budgets and fish habitat stream typing. In addition, the federal government continues to disinvest in gathering vital stream flow information. The Administration proposes to coordinate what, how, where and when information is collected by state agencies including: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, California Department of Fish and Game, Department of Conservation/Division of Mines and Geology, Department of Water Resources, and North Coast Regional Water Board.
Through the coordination of the Resources Agency, the departments are proposing to conduct coordinated watershed assessments on specific North Coast rivers, with input of local landowners and watershed groups and in concert with development of the KRIS system (see below), starting with the Noyo watershed this year. The priority order of watersheds for assessment will be selected based on the need to "get out ahead" of the Water Boards TMDL schedule, provide technical assistance to nonindustrial timber lands, and to fill key assessment gaps identified by fisheries agencies (DFG and NMFS).
(Lead State Agencies: Resources Agency, CDF, DFG, NCRWB, DOC, DWR. Federal partners: NMFS, EPA, USFS; Timeframe: Noyo assessment pilot to be completed this year)
2. Assist landowner, fisheries organizations, and local watershed protection and restoration efforts through making salmon and watershed information available.
In a related effort, the Administration is taking concrete steps to assure that existing and newly gathered watershed information water quality data, geology and vegetation maps, fish surveys, research reports, etc. is and will be assembled in a logical way that is accessible to landowners and watershed community groups. Little of the existing data, it seems, has been interpreted so that the broad community of Californians interested in salmon watersheds can understand easily what it means for the present and future condition of our salmon.
The previous State administration made a good start on organizing a wide variety of resource information and making it available on the Internet - the California Environmental Resources Evaluation System, or CERES. CERES provides good regional overviews of resource conditions, but not the sort of localized information one needs to help select a habitat restoration project for a particular stream, say, or to guide a road project away from a problem slope. As the Agency was developing CERES, a more fine-grained watershed information integration computer tool, the Klamath Resource Information System, or KRIS, was taking shape to support State-federal water quality and fish habitat restoration efforts in the Klamath and Trinity basins.
In 1997, the research arm of California's commercial salmon fisheries, the Institute for Fisheries Resources [IFR], began to adapt the KRIS program to a number of watersheds in southern Humboldt County, including the Eel and Mattole rivers. In 1998 IFR produced KRIS/Coho. The IFR project included a number of public trainings in how KRIS/Coho may be used to interpret and manage watershed information. More than 500 people along the coast participated in the trainings and 1,000 CD - compact disk - copies of the program were distributed to agencies and the interested public. KRIS/Coho struck many as an easy-to-use tool that packed a whale of a lot of watershed information - numerical data, charts, graphs, maps, photographs, aerial photos, reports, how-to manuals. KRIS/Coho's data interpretations were peer-reviewed by a team of top-flight scientists.
As one element of the Administration's salmon recovery effort we have asked the fishermen - IFR - to extend KRIS further along "coho country". Specifically, we have asked them to tackle three key watersheds in Mendocino County - the Noyo, Big, and Ten Mile rivers. We believe at this point that some combination of KRIS' fine-grained, watershed-by-watershed coverage and CERES' ability to share vast amounts of information with an army of potential users can help us all get the information we need, when we need it, to promote the protection and restoration of our salmon watersheds.
More information about KRIS/Mendocino will be available when the fishermen convene a briefing for the public at Eagle's Hall in Fort Bragg, on Thursday evening, November 4th - two weeks from now - beginning at 7 p.m.
(Lead Partner: Institute for Fisheries Research; State Agency: CDF; Timeframe: KRIS/Mendocino informational meeting November 4th)
3. Expand partnerships with counties on salmon recovery efforts
Californias Coastal Counties have demonstrated leadership by forming two multi-county efforts to restore salmon and steelhead: the Five Northern County Effort and FishNet4C. Through these efforts, the counties are reviewing their ordinances and improving their road maintenance activities. Funds in this years budget will augment these successful efforts by funding additional activities including a scientific conference and work on incentive programs. The Resources Agency is committed to working with southern coastal counties within the range of the endangered steelhead to form a similar effort.
(Lead Partners: Coastal Counties; Agencies: Resources Agency, National Marine Fisheries Service; Timeframe: ongoing)
4. Continue to build scientific framework for recovery through monitoring salmon and steelhead populations and hatchery operations
Undertaking a serious recovery program requires investment in understanding the salmon and steelhead populations at risk. The Department of Fish and Game and National Marine Fisheries Service are working together to ensure that scientific information on the fish populations is being collected and reviewed by the best agency scientists. DFG recently created and is beginning to implement a $1.2 million monitoring program for North Coast steelhead. The Department is also reviewing its eight salmon and steelhead hatcheries to ensure that hatchery operations are beneficial and that potentially harmful interactions between hatchery and naturally producing fish are minimized and to develop hatchery strategies that complement and strengthen natural stocks. In addition, the Department is committed to continuing its successful Watershed Academy to provide training for private citizens, industry personnel, and agency staffs in skills necessary to assess and protect watersheds and salmon and steelhead populations.
(Lead State Agency: DFG; Timeframe: Ongoing)
5. Develop recommendations for improving landowner incentive programs for habitat protection
Landowners repeatedly ask the State to create incentives to protect valuable habitat on private timber and range lands in addition to providing protection through regulation. Regulations provide a legal baseline for what must be protected, but often private landowners face choices to utilize or protect habitat over and above what is required by our laws. The laws may actually create disincentives for restoring lands and streams due to uncertainty about what legal standards a landowner may be held to in the future. Small landowners, especially, may not have the economic means to leave trees standing or forego harvesting in important salmon habitat stream zones beyond the minimum required by law. Increasing costs of preparing timber harvest plans and other legally required landowner plans exacerbate incentives to cut trees to cover rising costs.
A growing coalition of landowner and environmental interests support the notion that regulations should be balanced by incentive programs, i.e. easements, tax incentives, etc. in order to effectively protect and restore salmon and steelhead populations. The State Legislature has introduced legislation on incentives (AB1254 Strom-Martin). A recent report prepared for Humboldt County summarized the myriad of state and federal landowner incentive programs available and makes preliminary recommendations on how to improve these programs in Humboldt County. The report makes a compelling case that although there are many programs on the books, many are under-funded and under-staffed, making their effectiveness limited. Some also contain constraints that make them unattractive to landowners, with the result that they are not used.
To respond to these concerns, the Administration will convene an informal, limited term Task Force to review the findings of the report and to develop a package of specific administrative and/or legislative changes which are needed to improve the current programs. The Task Force will include program administrators, landowner consultants, and other interests and will meet on an ad hoc basis (preliminary estimate of three meetings) to make recommendations to the State. Federal representatives will be invited to attend and participate.
(Lead State Agency: Resources, CDF, Coastal Conservancy; Timeframe: November March 99/00)
6. Coordinate Fish Passage activities and investigate Washington State program model
Culverts, small bridges, and small dams create barriers to fish passage and are one major factor limiting fish production in many coastal streams. Many of these barriers are cost-effective to replace or retrofit, and will open miles of important upstream habitat for rearing and spawning. In summary, replacement of culverts may be the most cost-effective short-term approach to stream restoration and salmon recovery. These fish passage issues were identified decades ago. However, for a variety of reasons, there has not been a concerted effort to systematically evaluate, retrofit or replace culverts. New software developed by HSU and USFS Redwood Sciences lab provides an important tool for building a program. This tool is being used by the states Washington, Oregon and investigated by Alaska. California does not have a coordinated fish passage program, but does have a number of disparate efforts. The 5 Northern Counties are inventorying county road culverts, using a version of the HSU software and using funding from DFG 271 grants. The Resources Agency received a formal request by Coastal PAC to convene a scoping meeting on Current Fish Passage Activities and investigate whether additional program work, modeled on Washington States program is desired.
(Lead State Agencies: Resources, DFG, Caltrans; Lead partners: NMFS, 5 Northern Counties, Humboldt State University, Redwood Sciences Lab; Timeframe: Scoping meeting Fall 99)
7. Filling gaps and ensuring consistency in enforcing the rules
The Administration is committed to enforcing existing forest practice rules through increased field presence in all departments responsible for timber harvest review, implementation and enforcement. Implementation and enforcement were seriously under-funded in the previous Administration. The Governors budget passed in July contained 6.8 million dollars to increase field staff in CDF, DFG, DOC/Division Mines and Geology and North Coast Water Board. These departments have hired 28 new positions since July. With increased staff the "review team" agencies (DFG, DOC and Water Board) will be able to review 25% of all timber harvest plans filed, up from a mere 2% in some cases.
Also this year, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed SB621 (Sher) which creates a civil and administrative penalty code for Forest Practice Rules for the first time. Previously, the rules could only be enforced through an outdated and inadequate criminal code. The new law provides the Department of Forestry and Fire with the authority to issue infractions and seek fines through their own authority or through referral to the Attorney General when Forest Practice Rules are violated. Fines will be increased from $1000 per violation under the old code to $10,000 per violation. The Department will begin using this authority immediately and will track and report on enforcement actions.
(Lead agency: CDF, DFG, DOC, NCRWB)
8. Demonstration watershed restoration efforts to be used as laboratories for scientific practices and local collaboration
Through the various Departments authorities and grant programs, the state is engaged in restoration activities in many specific watersheds throughout the coastal salmon and steelhead range in partnership with local communities, Resource Conservation Districts, and landowners. These activities are diverse, reflecting the diverse needs of watershed restoration efforts and the varying state of organized activity in each watershed.
In addition to continuing to support these diverse efforts, the State will take a leadership role, where requested, in a few specific watersheds where restoration potential is high but additional direction and coordination are needed.
The State anticipates receiving a request in the near future from the Coastal Provincial Advisory Committee of the Northwest Forest Plan to take a leadership role in restoring Redwood Creek through coordinating agency actions, establishing partnerships with the National Park Service, the County and landowners, targeting additional technical and financial resources, and developing a long-term plan for restoration of the estuary. The Department of Fish and Game and National Marine Fisheries Service have also identified Redwood Creek as a high priority for restoration.
The State considers Redwood to be a good candidate for additional restoration efforts due to the strong base of collaborative actions by landowners, the relatively small number of landowners, pressing need and opportunities for restoration in the lower estuary including current development of an EIR by the County, the availability of excellent watershed assessments, road inventories, etc. and a history of successful demonstration projects.
The following six point plan was developed by a subcommittee of the Coastal PAC and will serve as an initial basis for discussion.
Elements for a Redwood Creek Recovery Program:
1) Area upstream of Redwood National Park and BLM lands.
a) Implement TMDL's
b) Improve California Forest Practice Rules per scientific recommendations to adequately protect salmonid habitat.
c) Implement watershed restoration measures - improve or remove roads, contain excess sediment, protect water (particularly seeps and springs) from the effects of grazing.
d) Evaluate the effect of summer dams.
e) Consider artificial introduction of large woody debris in certain instances. A majority of the land upstream of the Federal land in the watershed is owned by a few owners.
2) Monitor recovery and habitat on National and State Park and BLM lands. Measure the efficacy of State and Federal efforts to protect and recover habitat.
3) Monitor control programs for and continuing erosion from the 101 bypass east of Prairie Creek State Park. Correct culvert problems along Highway 101 between Redwood Creek and Prairie Creek State Park.
4) Establish an adequate trend monitoring program for salmonids in the basin.
5) Recover the estuary downstream of Orick. Cooperate with the Corps of Engineers to move the levees so as to protect Orick and Highway 101 yet allow for estuary and slough restoration and revegetation the riparian areas. This is a very important limiting factor for Redwood Creek and a high priority. The importance of this limiting factor has been recognized for some time but very little has been accomplished to rectify the problem.
(Lead State Agency: Resources, DFG, Coastal Conservancy; Lead partners: National Park Service, Humboldt County, Private landowners, Fishery and Environmental interests; Timeframe: November-December: receive feedback on plan above, hold scoping meetings with department technical staff, landowners, etc.).
4. CALIFORNIA COASTAL SALMON CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION FUND
California has committed at least $13 million in the current budget year to Coastal Salmon restoration (see attached state spending summary). The largest account is the DFG "271 Program" Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Account. Through this program, funds are allocated through a competitive process to public agencies, nonprofit groups, tribes and individuals to implement habitat restoration projects for salmon and steelhead. The Department awarded 2.6 million dollars for 104 projects in 97/98 and 5.5 million for 106 projects in 98/99.
There is wide recognition that significant additional funds are needed for collaborative restoration projects to be implemented at the local level. The following funding proposal will be used to guide use of new federal or state funds in the absence of State legislation.
Local Watershed Projects:
The fund shall be used for local watershed projects including all phases of scientifically sound projects: assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, education and outreach. The majority of the funds will be used for on-the-ground projects.
During the first year, projects which have clear benefits to fish, have already been screened by other processes and are ready to be implemented will be funded.
Local and Regional Involvement:
Local governments and stakeholders including fisheries, timber, agriculture, and environmental interests will be involved in selecting projects and guiding the process. The Agency would like to see balanced regional advisory groups that are built on existing processes aid in the selection of projects.
Balance needs-driven and proposal-driven process: A proposal driven solicitation process creates a competitive atmosphere where the best written most cost-effective proposal receives funding. A needs driven proposal process identifies the highest priority biological needs first, then allows staff to work with potential applicants to develop proposals in those areas without competition. A balanced process will yield the highest quality projects in the most cost-effective manner.
Interagency technical evaluation: Interagency technical teams will help to guide the process including representatives from the Department of Fish and Game, State Water Resources Control Board, California Coastal Conservancy, and Department of Conservation, US National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Environmental Protection Agency.
Minimize Administrative Costs:
Administrative costs will be the minimum needed to effectively deliver the program on the ground.
The following categories of projects will be eligible for funding:
Examples of projects that are eligible for funding include: riparian vegetation and stream bank stabilization, upslope management practices, removing barriers to fish migration, conservation easements on stream buffers not mandated by law, fish screens and fencing, road storm proofing, training and funding for locally hired watershed coordinators, technical assistance and implementation of ranch plans, local plans designed to meet both the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.
The following draft criteria are recommended for project selection.
(Lead State Agency: Resources, DFG, Coastal Conservancy)