Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program (SMP)

From CCoWS Wiki
Revision as of 11:18, 2 April 2015 by Patm (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search

A watershed-related issue examined by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.


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 [1].


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.[2] However, in 2008, the permitting changed and the MCWRA was required to develop a new program and obtain new permits, including the CEQA review processes. Since 2008, there has been no maintenance to the Salinas River. 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.

Planning Process

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.[3] 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 [4].

Long term implementation

The long term aspect of the program is referred to as a "holistic river system focus".[5] 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 banks are overgrown with vegetation, primarily non-native vegetation, which is also reducing the capacity of the channel to hold water and diverting the 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 [6]. 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.[5] 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.[7] 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.[8]. Volume 2 of the Final EIR was released in June 2014, which addressed public comments related to these issues [9]. 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 [10].


Phase I of implementation began work on the Chular and Gonzalez RMUs on October 10, 2014 and ended November 15, 2014 [10]. 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. Arundo plants were not treated with herbicide due to dry conditions likely limiting the success of such treatments [10]. 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 [10].


Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program Area

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.[4] 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[5]

Potential impacts of channel alterations

The EIR claims that the only unavoidable impact from this proposed program is the degradation of the aesthetics of the river.[4]

Potential impacts of continued inaction

  • Damage to agricultural crops
    • A $4 billion dollar annual industry.[5]
  • 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.[11]
  • 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.


Key Stakeholders

Other Stakeholders

Laws, policies, & regulations

(Information is current as of April, 2014)

The MCWRA is responsible for the following:

Required permits and applications for potential participants:

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.[17]
  • AB 155 was introduced by [Assembly member Luis Alejo] in January 2013. AB 155 would require MCWRA to develop a "consensus-based comprehensive Salinas River Management Program".[18]


  • Transects will be conducted in areas of proposed maintenance to evaluate the amount of vegetation and to analyze the changes from sediment removal.[14]
  • Aerial photography may also be used to analyze sites proposed for maintenance.[14]
  • Wildlife surveys were conducted to determine the species present in proposed maintenance areas.[14]
  • Special Status Species surveys were conducted along the Salinas River to determine the presence of these species.[14]


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.[14]

Future research

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.



  1. Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program Guidelines
  2. Salinas River Historical and Current Briefings
  3. MCWRA Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program Final EIR
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 MCWRA Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program Update, March 2014
  6. Salinas River maintenance program hits a setback
  7. Monterey Farm Bureau Salinas River Channel Maintenance Program
  8. The Californian River Wrangles Unresolved Dec. 2012
  9. Comments on the Draft EIR, Flood Damage Statistics, Letters, Responses to Comments on the Draft EIR
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program Annual Report – 2014 Season
  11. Natural Resource Conservation Practices
  12. EPA Clean Water Act 404 Permitting
  13. State Water Resources Control Board 401 Permit
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 SRCMP Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration
  15. A DFW Streambed Alteration Program
  16. Salinas River Short Term Sustainability Proposal
  17. Monterey County Weekly Cannella's proposed SB 1398
  18. Alejo's proposed AB 155


This page may contain student work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessary reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.