Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program (SMP)
- 1 Summary
- 2 History
- 3 Planning Process
- 4 Implementation
- 5 Location
- 6 Resources at stake
- 7 Stakeholders
- 8 Laws, policies, & regulations
- 9 Science
- 10 Tools
- 11 Future research
- 12 Links
- 13 References
- 14 Disclaimer
The Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program (SMP) is a Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) project, designed to establish uniform standards for maintenance, specifically vegetation and sediment management, along the Salinas River. The goals of the project are to improve flood protection, limit damage to surrounding property, while avoiding harm to beneficial riparian habitats .
Throughout the 20th Century the Salinas Valley experienced a number of floods that greatly impacted the surrounding towns and agricultural lands. From 1995 through 2008 the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) obtained a master permit allowing landowners and growers to perform maintenance work along the Salinas River to reduce the risks associated with flooding. However, in 2008, the permitting changed and the MCWRA was required to develop a new program and obtain new permits, including a US Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permit, a Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board 401 Permit, and a California Department of Fish and Wildlife 1600 permit, as well as complete the CEQA review processes . The Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program was developed to allow regular maintenance activities along the Salinas River. As of April 2014, the goals of the program are to establish a regular and uniform set of maintenance activities to improve flood protection and minimize flood damages. To accomplish these goals the plan calls for a short term phase and a long term program.
Short term implementation
The short term phase (5-10 years) would focus on channel alterations that would mitigate up to 10 year flood events. Flood damage mitigation would be accomplished by increasing the channel capacity and flow capacity of the Salinas River. The Program would establish guidelines and procedures for participants to routinely and voluntarily implement maintenance activities along the river, such as native and non-native vegetation management and sediment management . Common practices in this stage of implementation will include bulldozing to remove sediment buildup and mowing and herbicide application to remove vegetation buildup .
Long term implementation
The long term aspect of the program is referred to as a "holistic river system focus". The goal is for the program to improve native species habitat and water quality. In addition the program would attempt to help deal with sea water intrusion and investigate the effects of the Salinas River on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The long term aspect of the program is still conceptual, lacking proper funding, objectives, and facilitation between stakeholders.
The Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program would allow volunteers to clear the stream banks of non-native vegetation, as well as dredge the channel to remove sediment. The dredging of the channel would create a larger channel to accommodate higher flows and reduce the risk of flooding. Currently, the riverbed and bank conditions encourage vegetation growth, primarily non-native vegetation, which reduces the capacity of the channel to hold water and divert flow.
As of April 2014, potential participants would have to submit annual applications to MCWRA in order to participate in channel maintenance. The MCWRA would be responsible for establishing guidelines for approved maintenance each year, and providing that information to applicants. The majority of the maintenance would be vegetation and sediment removal. Beyond the removal of material, maintenance also includes depositing removed material within the watershed and constructing roads to access maintenance areas. Participants will be responsible for the implementation, oversight, and workforce for proposed maintenance projects.
While the final EIR was published in September of 2013, many stakeholders opposed the Program as they did not feel that it provided adequate flood protection . As a result, the MCWRA held four meetings in the beginning of 2014 to work with interested groups in understanding their concerns and incorporating new process in the Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program. Controversy arose surrounding the Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program from many organizations, particularly those representing landowners and growers, who were further frustrated by the amount of time it took to allow for channel maintenance. In contrast, many environmental groups were concerned with the impacts of vegetation removal and dredging to special status species. Of particular concern is potential impacts on steelhead trout migration routes, which was not addressed for in the final EIR.. Volume 2 of the Final EIR was released in June 2014, which addressed public comments related to these issues . After public comments had been addressed, the SMP was approved by Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Supervisors in July 2014, with final authorization of the SMP being granted on October 7, 2014 .
Phase I of implementation began work on the Chular and Gonzalez RMUs on October 10, 2014 and ended November 15, 2014 . Maintenance activities included trimming native vegetation, smoothing sediment piles, and removing dead Arundo cane plants, an invasive species. Arundo was also removed from secondary channels as a mitigation activity, using multiple types of heavy equipment including rotary and front loaded mowers, tractors, bulldozers, and backhoes . Arundo plants were not treated with herbicide due to dry conditions likely limiting the success of such treatments . Mitigation and maintenance activities did not impact water quality or erosion in either RMU, as there were no measurable runoff or flow events while activities were carried out .
The Salinas River is the largest river in California's Central Coast Region. The Salinas River is 170 miles long and drains an area of approximately 4,200 square miles. The headwaters of the Salinas river are in the La Panza Range in San Luis Obispo County. The Salinas River flows northwest through the Salinas Valley in Monterey County. The river drains to both the Salinas River Lagoon and the Moss Landing Harbor through the Old Salinas River Channel. Both the Salinas River Lagoon and Moss Landing Harbor empty into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
The Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program focuses on the Salinas River from river mile 2 (where the river crosses under the Highway 1 Bridge) to river mile 94. In addition to the mainstem Salinas River, the Program also includes three tributaries: San Lorenzo Creek, Bryant Canyon Channel, and Gonzales Slough.
Resources at stake
Potential impacts of channel alterations
- Damage to the environment.
- Negatively effect the aesthetics of the river.
- Removal of riparian vegetation and increased water flow could increase erosion potential.
The EIR claims that the only unavoidable impact from this proposed program is the degradation of the aesthetics of the river.
Potential impacts of continued inaction
- Damage to agricultural crops
- A $4 billion dollar annual industry.
- Food Safety risks.
- Flood waters can transport pathogens to crops.
- Vegetation growing near agricultural lands is a potential threat to food safety because it creates habitat for wildlife.
- Damage to infrastructure
- Transportation (roads, highways,bridges), communication, power.
- Damage and breach of wastewater treatment facilities - public health risk.
- Damage to city Infrastructure - city buildings and services including access to clean water.
- Loss of Jobs.
- loss of life - human and animal.
- Salinas River Task Force
- Farmers/Land owners
- Monterey Coastkeeper
- The Nature Conservancy
- Resource Conservation District of Monterey County
- City Land Managers
- General Public
- UC extension scientist
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
- Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA)
- Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS)
- NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
Laws, policies, & regulations
(Information is current as of April, 2014)
The MCWRA is responsible for the following:
- 404 Permit
- 401 Permit from the Regional Water Quality Control Board in the Central Coast,
- A water quality certification necessary for the 404 permit.
- An Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 and Biological Opinion
- A Mitigated Negative Declaration was created for the initial study through the CEQA process in 2009.
- Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was created through the CEQA process (Final Draft: September, 2013).
Required permits and applications for potential participants:
- Permit for Streambed Alteration under Section 1600-1616 through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- An outline and description for a permit from MCWRA for a 5 year project.
- Annual Applications to MCWRA
Bills proposed to address the conflicts associated with the Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program:
- SB 1398 was introduced by Senator Anthony Cannella in February 2014. SB 1398 would prevent lawsuits against farmers and landowners clearing vegetation unless it threatens safety. This bill would act as a loophole to CEQA and allow farmer's to clear the banks without the CEQA permits.
- AB 155 was introduced by [Assembly member http://asmdc.org/members/a30/ Luis Alejo] in January 2013. AB 155 would require MCWRA to develop a "consensus-based comprehensive Salinas River Management Program".
- Transects will be conducted in areas of proposed maintenance to evaluate the amount of vegetation and to analyze the changes from sediment removal.
- Aerial photography may also be used to analyze sites proposed for maintenance.
- Wildlife surveys were conducted to determine the species present in proposed maintenance areas.
- Special Status Species surveys were conducted along the Salinas River to determine the presence of these species.
There will be a site screening processes to determine the best sites for maintenance. Within this screening process HEC-RAS was used along transects of the river to determine the flow capacity at particular sites.
There are a number of potential research opportunities related to the Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program:
- Using Hydrologic modeling to determine the current capacity of the Salinas River and compare this with predictions of the capacity of the river with the proposed maintenance.
- Monitor the effects of channel maintenance on special status species.
- Study the impact of the Salinas River on The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
- Model changes in flood potential with climate change trends
A potential AMWS thesis topic:
- Using Aerial photography to analyze the historic changes to the Salinas River. This would include analyzing the changes in vegetation and channel migration before maintenance efforts began in 1995, throughout the time of maintenance (1995-2008), and since maintenance halted after 2008.
- Salinas River
- Steelhead Management in the Salinas Watershed
- Special Status Species of the Central Coast
- Monterey County Farm Bureau
- CEQA projects on the Central Coast
- Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program
- Cal Fish and Wildlife Lake and Streambed Alteration Program
- CEQAnet Project Description SCH Number 2011041066
- Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program Guidelines
- Salinas River Historical and Current Briefings
- SRSMP Draft Permitting Flowchart
- MCWRA Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program
- Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program Final EIR
- MCWRA Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program Update, March 2014
- Salinas River maintenance program hits a setback
- Monterey Farm Bureau Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program
- The Californian River Wrangles Unresolved Dec. 2012
- Comments on the Draft EIR, Flood Damage Statistics, Letters, Responses to Comments on the Draft EIR
- Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program Annual Report – 2014 Season
- Natural Resource Conservation Practices
- EPA Clean Water Act 404 Permitting
- State Water Resources Control Board 401 Permit
- SRCMP Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration
- A DFW Streambed Alteration Program
- Salinas River Short Term Sustainability Proposal
- Monterey County Weekly Cannella's proposed SB 1398
- Alejo's proposed AB 155
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