Creative Collaboration for Multiple Benefits

SERCAL 2016 Technical Session, Tahoe

Chair: Will Spangler, H. T. Harvey & Associates

Lead presenters in alpha order

In the field of habitat restoration we almost never work alone. Like ecology itself, our work is often connected to many variables and niches, to many skills and disciplines. We not only build on knowledge accumulated over time, but we build better project outcomes when we actively work together. The Collaboration for Multiple Benefits technical session will explore how we work together across many so-called boundaries to restore landscapes through collective conservation. We will discuss collaboration across scientific disciplines, public/private partnerships, community and student involvement, agency teamwork, and new permitting approaches in order to identify opportunities to use a range of resources to meet our goals.

What Happens When Private Redevelopment Spurs Watershed-scale Restoration in Tahoe

Jason Drew

NCE, 155 Hwy 50, Suite 204, Stateline, NV 89449; jdrew@ncenet.com

As funding becomes more scarce and competitive across California, the restoration community is actively looking for new funding sources and creative partnerships. This is the case in the Lake Tahoe Basin where the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) is emphasizing public–private partnerships to achieve environmental thresholds. The work happening on the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course is an excellent example of this partnership where significant environmental benefit is being achieved through private investment. The site is located at the bottom of the approximately 4,000-acre Edgewood Creek Watershed and home to Edgewood Creek, Golf Course Creek, and numerous wetlands and ponds. The Edgewood Creek Watershed Assessment and TRPA Environmental Improvement Program note a variety of restoration opportunities at the site including water quality, riparian habitat, stream and wetland restoration, fish passage, spawning habitat, and others. As part of the one of the most significant redevelopment projects to ever occur in the Basin, heavy emphasis was placed on restoration. Through a series of very large Threshold Improvement Projects, many acres of stream and wetland will be restored, some in response to permit conditions, and most voluntary investments in onsite resources. This presentation will highlight the importance of private investment in restoration, present the restoration projects, and discuss lessons learned from attempting such large-scale restoration on private land with private funds.

 

Tamalpais Lands Collaborative — One Mountain, One Vision

Sharon Farrell

Associate Vice President, Conservation Stewardship; Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy; 415.561.3065; 415.710.0557 (c); sfarrell@parksconservancy.org 

Faced with challenges of fiscal sustainability, the California conservation community is embracing new, creative, and deliberate approaches to land protection and stewardship. One approach includes establishing strategic partnerships that extend well beyond short-term exchanges and project or transaction-based collaboration, and are instead founded in long-term, vision-based collaboration and collective impact. The recently formed Tamalpais Lands Collaborative (TLC) brings together the four agencies (National Park Service, California State Parks, Marin Municipal Water District, and Marin County Parks) and a conservation nonprofit (Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy) responsible for the management of Mt. Tamalpais — the highest peak in Marin County’s coast range —  to ensure the long-term health of the expansive 46,000-acre region. The TLC partner agencies have committed to deeper involvement through establishing a joint vision for the stewardship of Mt. Tam. With shared vision and plan in hand, the TLC partners have set the stage for a new, collective identity, while still differentiating their larger agency roles. This presentation examines the key steps and issues addressed during formation, including  governance structure, purpose, mission and goals, partner roles, geographical focus, funding, and resource allocation. It also outlines the collective impact approach of the TLC for establishing mountain-wide conservation management and stewardship programs — including early detection, wildlife picture index, and volunteer-based programs — and restoration projects. The presentation will also highlight ongoing research about the anticipated values and benefits of this partnership, and metrics for evaluating outcomes that can be applied to broader land management collaboratives.

 

Collaboration for Ecosystem and Community Benefits on Markleeville Creek, CA

Sarah Green*1 and Virginia Mahacek*2

1Executive Director; Alpine Watershed Group; awg.sarah@gmail.com 2Senior Geomorphologist; Cardno Entrix; virginia.mahacek@cardno.com

The Markleeville Creek Floodplain Restoration Project will re-establish the form and function of the creek and floodplain at the site of the former U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Guard Station in downtown Markleeville, California. Flood walls constructed in the 1930s confine high flows and eliminate normal floodplain functions, but continue to allow damaging effects from large floods (e.g., 25-year or larger). Markleeville Creek is a tributary to the East Carson River supporting agriculture, recreation, downstream communities, and ecosystem benefits. The long history of flooding prompted the USFS to relocate their facilities in 2010. Flooding still continues to threaten the integrity of the community’s sewer system and pose a water quality risk as four unsealed sewer manholes and a lift station lie within the 25-year floodplain. Restoration planning and design over the past ten years has featured contributions from a wide range of partners and leveraged different technical, financial, and political backing as the phases continue. Watershed-scale reports and regional plans identify the importance of the project to support a variety of goals. A technical advisory committee has directed the process since 2005, setting priorities and encouraging community involvement. The final project design will not only restore a natural stream channel and floodplain and protect water quality, but also provide benefits for residents and tourists. These outcomes are of substantial long-term importance for this rural community and the Carson River watershed. Collaborative efforts to secure construction funding for the sewer system improvements, ecological reconstruction, recreation, and interpretive elements are ongoing.

 

Beyond Zone A: Hydraulic Models to Evaluate Multiple Restoration Objectives

Peter Kulchawik*1 and David Shaw2

Balance Hydrologics, 12020 Donner Pass Rd, Ste B1, Truckee, CA 96161; 530.550.9776; 1pkulchawik@balancehydro.com 2dshaw@balancehydro.com

Restoration projects almost never have a single objective, so they are typically approached with a well-rounded, interdisciplinary team of professionals. Each individual comes equipped with a problem-solving toolbox based on their respective background, and in order to fully meet stakeholder and ecological objectives, team members must collectively decide what tools are best suited to address which components of the restoration design. Here, the “Village Reach” of Squaw Creek in Olympic Valley, California, is used as a backdrop to highlight how a collaborative approach can mold the restoration design, and even the project objectives. A 2D hydraulic model developed for the project is used as an example of how a single tool can be extrapolated for use by multiple disciplines, including engineers, geomorphologists, biologists, landscape architects, and permitting specialists. This general strategy of identifying overlap in what one practitioner’s tool can do for others is significant to becoming more effective and efficient in designing restoration projects.

 

Collaborative Partnerships Create Opportunities for Restoration Using Salvaged Soil and Specimen Plants

Megan Lulow*1, Jutta Burger1, Milan Mitrovitch2, Zach Principe3, Riley Pratt1, Matt Major1 

1Irvine Ranch Conservancy, 4727 Portola Parkway, Irvine, CA 92620; 714.508.4766; mlulow@irconservancy.org 2Natural Communities Coalition, 15600 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine, CA 92618. 3The Nature Conservancy, 402 West Broadway, Suite 1350, San Diego, CA 92101

Open space preserves in Orange County exist within a matrix of land-use types. Managing for ecosystem health can be challenging in these landscapes due to fragmentation and edge effects, yet working partnerships can allow for opportunities that might be less feasible in more isolated restoration sites. Prompted by two planned residential developments in 2014 and 2015, conservation organizations, public landowners and managers, and a private developer orchestrated the movement of 4,000 cubic yards of top soil, 150 specimen cactus, and over 1,500 cactus pads to six degraded receiver sites. The salvaged plant community was coastal sage scrub, which includes a sub-association with cactus as a dominant structural component. Cactus scrub is critical nesting habitat for the threatened Coastal Cactus Wren, Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus, which require prickly pear cactus (Opuntia littoralis) or coastal cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera) over one meter tall for nesting. Salvaged topsoil and tall cacti provide benefits of immediate nesting habitat, in additional to a native soil microbial community, a diverse native seed bank, and the potential to bury the weed seed bank at the receiver site. Initiation of approved developments are market-driven, resulting in time frames of as little as two to three months for salvage planning to completion. Success of the operation depended on established relationships among partners, efficient and frequent communication, flexibility in staff time, and funding earmarked to take advantage of such opportunities. Additional factors that facilitated completing the operation in a timely manner included pre-determined priority receiver sites and trusted contractors.

 

Chollas Creek Watershed Benefits: Collaborative Creek Restoration and Mosquito Abatement

Christina Schaefer*1, Leslie Reynolds2, Tory Walker3, and Teresa Wikinson4

1Schaefer Ecological Solutions, 815 Madison Ave., San Diego, CA 92116; 619.991.8968; schaeferecology@cox.net 2Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek, 5106 Federal Blvd. #203, San Diego, CA 92105; 619.543.0430; leslie-reynolds@att.net 3Tory R. Walker Engineering, 122 Civic Center Dr. #206, Vista, CA 92084; 760.414.9212; tory@trwengineering.com 4TTG Environmental & Associates, 7922 Mission Manzana Pl., San Diego, CA 92120; 619.200.1577; ttgenvironmental@gmail.com

The Pueblo Watershed with Chollas Creek and its tributaries features unique and sensitive habitats surrounded by dense, underprivileged, residential communities. The City of San Diego has identified numerous habitat restoration opportunities to improve conditions of the impaired creek, but lack of funding has prevented implementation. As the steward of the watershed, Groundwork San Diego is spearheading collaborate efforts at volunteer-driven habitat restoration and education projects, including a Regional Park Designation to solicit comprehensive funding for habitat restoration and recreational opportunities. We explore the opportunities and constraints of collaborative habitat restoration efforts by way of the Lenox Drive Vector Habitat Remediation Project. This project showcases an example of multiple stakeholders collaboration to restore a portion of Chollas Creek for multiple benefits, including water quality improvements, stormwater retention, mosquito abatement, sensitive habitat enhancement, environmental clean-up, and trail construction as part the Safe Route to School Program.

 

Improved Permitting (and Funding) for Voluntary Restoration Projects — Know the Opportunities

Erik Schmidt

Senior Conservation Strategist; Sustainable Conservation, San Francisco, CA; 415.977.0380 x334; eschmidt@suscon.org 

Expedited regulatory approval through “programmatic” permits and authorizations can help accelerate voluntary restoration on public and private lands in California. These broad approvals, now provided by many federal and state agencies on a statewide or regional basis, can reduce the permitting timeline for restoration proponents by several months, and cut project costs through reduced fees and staff time. For agencies, programmatic approvals reduce staff workload and help meet key environmental goals through increased and speedier restoration of habitat benefiting listed species, water quality and other resources. Restoration funders, too, can show improved grant-delivery results through more efficient permitting of their awardees’ projects. With significant new restoration funding available through Proposition 1, land managers and their partners have improved opportunities to plan and design restoration projects. However, funders seek evidence that project applicants can obtain all the necessary regulatory approvals and implement their projects in a timely manner. Plans to utilize expedited permitting processes can make applications more complete and competitive. Restoration proponents seeking faster regulatory approval for environmentally beneficial projects must understand the detailed requirements and limitations of these front‐loaded permits. Applicants must be willing to communicate early with regulatory agencies in a collaborative partnership, and recognize that trust is key to effectively using programmatic approvals. The first step is to know the tools that are available and how to effectively use them.

 

Donner Basin Assessment: Approaching Watershed Restoration Across Disciplines and Missions

Jai Singh*1, Chris Bowles1, Patrick Stone2, Michele Prestowitz3, and Lisa Wallace3

1cbec eco engineering, 2544 Industrial Blvd., West Sacramento, CA 95691; 916.231.6052; c.bowles@cbecoeng.com  2H. T. Harvey & Associates. 3Truckee River Watershed Council 

In watersheds featuring complex environmental processes, extensive impacts, and diverse interests, it is essential to employ an interdisciplinary approach to achieve effective restoration results. The Donner Basin is a 29.5 square-mile sub-watershed within the Truckee River drainage located just east of the Sierra Nevada crest. As a major transportation corridor, recreation destination, water supply source, and population center, the Donner Basin experienced significant environmental degradation over the past 150 years. To assess the watershed’s health and to develop a restoration strategy, a multidisciplinary project team integrated numerous fields including geomorphology, water quality, ecology, and archaeology. For example, an Erosion Hazard Analysis characterized upland sediment loading patterns due to geology, transportation development, and historic logging, while an Engineering and Land Use Pressure Index provided an understanding of development impacts to physical processes and riverine habitat. These and other assessment tools enabled us to understand the interplay of numerous factors from the basin’s mountainous rim to its outlet at the Truckee River. Leveraging these findings, an opportunities assessment was conducted to identify and prioritize restoration projects and management actions. Engaging a diverse group of stakeholders throughout the project further developed opportunities in light of interests ranging from habitat restoration, conservation, and water quality, to water supply, recreation, local business, and K-12 education. By working across disciplines and missions through an iterative process, the project team developed a creative restoration strategy that will not only rehabilitate upland, lacustrine, and riverine habitat but also create outdoor classrooms, reduce flood risks, and enhance recreation.

 

Creek Restoration Benefits Local Ecology and School Curriculum

Geoff Smick*1 and Tanner Harris*2

WRA, Inc., 2169-G East Francisco Blvd. San Rafael, CA 94901 1President; 415.524.7535; smick@wra-ca.com 2Associate Plant Biologist; 415.524.7296; harris@wra-ca.com

Marin Country Day School, a K-8 school in Marin Co., California, recently completed a major overhaul of their lower school campus, including the restoration of a degraded ephemeral creek at the edge of campus. In addition to providing enhanced ecological values, various aspects of restoration were incorporated into the school curriculum. The multi-faceted team included architects, landscape designers, restoration ecologists, and engineers. Working in collaboration with school staff, the team designed a restored system with outdoor learning areas where students can interface with the creek. The restoration included removing invasive plant species, laying back incised creek banks, using bioengineered solutions to stabilize banks in critical areas, planting wetland species along the margins of the channel, and planting native riparian trees and shrubs above the top of bank to provide a structurally complex riparian community. The restoration was incorporated into the 8th grade science curriculum, providing learning opportunities such as “adopting” native plants used in the restoration to learn about during the year. The students assisted with vegetation monitoring that was required by the agencies and assisted with maintaining the restored creek by implementing weed management and trash cleanup. After 5 years of monitoring, the restoration was deemed a success in large part due to the involvement of the school and students. The school will soon embark on Phase II of the project, which involves updating the upper campus and restoring the upper reach of the same creek.

 

The Restoration of an Urban Creek: Long-term Success through Collaboration

Terri Thomas*1, Jonathan Young (Presidio Trust), Dennis Jongsmomijit, (Point Blue Conservation Science), Diana Humple (Point Blue Conservation Science), Dr. Matthew Kondolf (UC Berkeley), Doug Kern (Mendocino Land Trust), Angela Pincetich (National Park Service), Rune Storesund (Storesund Consulting), Igor Lacan (UC Berkeley), Joe McBride (UC Berkeley), Thomas Gardali (Point Blue Conservation Science)

1Presidio Trust; 415.561.4481; tthomas@presidiotrust.gov

In 2005, the daylighting of a 150-meter reach of Tennessee Hollow creek brought together UC Berkeley, Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now Point Blue Conservation Science), The Urban Watershed Project, the Presidio Trust, the National Park Service, and Storesund Consulting to develop a channel and riparian Monitoring Plan for Thompson’s Reach in the Presidio of San Francisco. Ten years later, the results of the monitoring show the success of this restoration. Native plant cover increased from 0% to 94%. The Shannon Diversity Index for all Avian Species was significantly and positively related to the proportion of shrub cover. The abundance and richness of individual focal species also increased as did the aquatic invertebrate richness. Channel monitoring showed only slight migration. Water quality trends were identified monthly. The partnerships built credibility, instilled a sense of success in the community, brought natural values to the forefront of discussion, and acted as a pilot project to gather funding for the remaining restoration projects in the Tennessee Hollow watershed. With the global increase of urban creek daylighting this project serves as a model of how collaborative efforts promote holistic restoration success.