Looking Back at Early Restoration Projects: How have they fared the test of time?

SERCAL 2017 Technical Session, Davis

Chair: Ross Taylor, Ross Taylor & Associates

Lead presenters in alpha order

Establishing Wildlife Habitat Across the Sacramento Valley’s Agricultural Landscape: Lessons learned from Yolo, Colusa, and Solano County projects
Miles DaPrato
Habitat Restoration Project Manager, Solano Resource Conservation District, 1170 N. Lincoln Street, Suite #110, Dixon, 95620, miles.daprato@solanorcd.org, 707.474.2248 cell
Integrating functional habitat into the working agricultural landscape has been a 13-year journey that has taken me through multiple counties within the Sacramento valley watershed. Working with over 100 conservation-minded farmers and ranchers over the years has continued to inspire me and shape the design of the habitat projects I have worked on. I will discuss some of those lessons learned about working on private lands, and the evolution of the techniques and designs that have led to the current habitat “recipes” that I follow in my current work in Solano County. Project types discussed will include oak woodland, native perennial grassland, riparian, and on farm habitat features such as tail water ponds, vegetated ditches, and native plant hedgerows.

Long-term Monitoring of Ecosystem Restoration on Santa Rosa Island, California
Brett D. Hartman*1 and Cause Hanna2
1Environmental Science and Resource Management Program, CSU Channel Islands, Camarillo 93012, brett.hartman@csuci.edu; 2Santa Rosa Island Research Station, CSU Channel Islands, Camarillo 93012
Santa Rosa Island, the second largest island (215.3 km2) in the Channel Islands National Park, offers a unique opportunity for large-scale ecosystem restoration. The island has a history of intensive ranching dating back to 1843. Grazing pressure led to a shift from scrub, island chaparral, and woodland vegetation types to European annual grassland and bare ground, widespread gully erosion and landslides, and a progressive loss of pine and oak stands on ridges. The first phase of ecosystem restoration consisted of passive restoration following non-native grazer removal. Sheep had been removed by the early 1900s, feral pigs were removed by 1992, cattle were removed by 1998, and introduced mule deer and Roosevelt elk were removed by 2010. Based on a time series of classified Landsat TM5 satellite images, from 1989 to 2011 scrub cover increased 39%, island chaparral increased 46%, and woodland cover increased 160%. In contrast, valley and foothill grassland cover decreased by 38% and bare ground by 57%. Analysis of historical photographs dating back to 1929 and field sampling of stand demography indicates that rare, endemic and ecologically important species such as Quercus tomentella (island oak) and Pinus torreyana ssp. insularis (Torrey pine) are recovering. Historic aerial photographs are also being used to evaluate potential soil stabilization and vegetation recovery on highland ridges. Finally, long-term vegetation monitoring data reveal community level changes such as increased cover of native grasses and forbs in grassland transects. Restoration efforts are now transitioning to more active restoration on denuded ridges, including establishing check dams, wattles, and leaf litter traps to build soil resources, installing fog capture fences to increase water inputs, and active planting. These research results can help guide restoration efforts into the future.

Challenges of an Urban Restoration Site: Cannon Road West wetland mitigation
Sherri Howard
Associate Engineer, City of Carlsbad Public Works Department, 1635 Faraday Avenue, Carlsbad 92008, 760.602.2756, Sherri.Howard@carlsbadca.gov
The Cannon Road West project restored or created 8.4 acres of wetland habitat. This was accomplished over four creation sites and through restoration of the impact area below a set of bridges. The 1.75-acre restoration site below two 454-foot bridges, proved challenging and therefore the most interesting of the five sites. In development for nearly fifteen years, the Cannon Road West project constructed two miles of new roadway. Construction was initiated in 1997 and completed in 2000. Restoration of the temporary impact area was completed in 2001 by a landscape subcontractor to the roadway/bridge contractor. The landscape contractor had little experience with native habitats at that time. Significant oversight by the Landscape Architect and City Inspector was required. City staff, the maintenance contractor and monitoring biologist sought creative techniques for dealing with impacts from human, pest and non-native plant impacts throughout the 8.4-acre, we encountered the majority of the challenges in the 1.75-acre restoration site. Impacts were rapidly addressed, often during the bird-breeding season. Human-related challenges included controlling/eliminating bicycle and motorcycle use, homeless encampments, graffiti, general vandalism, and trash dumping including dropping safes off the bridge onto the site. Pest management had to contend with rodents, oyster-shell scale, molds, powdery mildew and non-native weed populations including pampas grass, tamarix, wild fennel, bristly ox-tongue and perennial pepperweed. Efforts to control human, pest, and non-native weed populations have been successful. Today the site supports coastal native plant, bird and animal populations.

Looking Back: 35 Years of restoration in the Mattole Watershed
Cassie Pinnell
Mattole Restoration Council, cassie@mattole.org
The Mattole River watershed, located along California’s northern Lost Coast, is the home of one of the earliest, grassroots watershed restoration efforts. Over the last 35 years, what started as a handful of visionaries and community volunteers has grown into a strategic, highly organized approach that involves multiple non-profits, technical advisory committees, scientists, and community members. This collaborative effort now secures $2-3 million annually, implements coordinated restoration projects throughout the watershed, and has built a restoration economy that employs nearly 100 residents in some capacity each year. Over this time, we have experienced many challenges including effective collaboration between local groups, prioritizing projects and target areas, and our ability to retain a qualified workforce. Also, we have faced difficulties organizing decades of data and results into a usable format that allows us to assess effectiveness of restoration efforts, and apply an adaptive management strategy to projects. Throughout this talk, I will look back at some of the most important challenges in our local restoration history, and share the lessons learned and strategies that we’ve used to address these challenges.

The Cosumnes River Preserve: 30 years of floodplain and riparian restoration
Ramona Swenson*1, Sara Sweet2, and Jaymee Marty3
Environmental Science Associates, 2600 Capital Ave, Suite 100, Sacramento 95816, rswenson@esassoc.com; 2The Nature Conservancy, Cosumnes River Preserve, 13501 Franklin Blvd., Galt CA, 95632. ssweet@tnc.org; 3Marty Ecological Consulting, Sacramento CA, martyjt@yahoo.com
The Cosumnes River Preserve (established 1987) protects over 50,000 acres of habitat and agricultural lands through a cooperative partnership of agencies and nonprofits. Since 1990, the Preserve partners have restored farmlands to riparian forest. Early efforts focused on hand-planting valley oak and willows, with varying success. Historical analysis inspired a shift to process-based restoration. The Cosumnes River has a fairly natural flow regime because it lacks major dams. In 1995, The Nature Conservancy breached a levee to restore flooding to 130 acres. In 1997, another 96 acres was flooded by storms. Large floods transported and scoured sediment, creating complex topography and stimulating plant recruitment. Smaller floods transported nutrients, stimulated pulses in aquatic productivity, and provided connectivity to the floodplain for fish such as juvenile salmon. Plant monitoring since 2000 has tracked recruitment and succession. Over 100 plant species (64 native, 42 non-native) have colonized the floodplain as of 2010. Natural recruitment of valley oak was slow. The plant community was more complex than on planted sites, due to topographic heterogeneity. The restored floodplain is a diverse mosaic of early successional forest, herbaceous vegetation, and seasonal marsh. While process-based restoration worked well here, successful application elsewhere depends on local site characteristics (elevation, soils), hydrology (magnitude and timing of flooding, groundwater), and climate (precipitation). We discuss vegetation patterns and trends at planted and natural-process restoration sites, challenges with invasive species, lessons learned for land managers, and next phases of restoration on the lower Cosumnes River. 

Seascape Uplands HCP: Two decades later
Joe Rigney
Ecological Concerns Incorporated, 309 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz 95062, jrigney@ecologicalconcerns.com, 831.325.5754
In 1997, the USFWS issued an incidental take permit for the federally endangered Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum). This was one of the first such permits issued in California. The associated Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) included several elements designed to benefit the species, including road underpasses, native shrub planting to create movement corridors, and the building of additional breeding ponds on the project site. We look at the successes and failures of this HCP, both in terms of the stated goals of the plan, and as an overall project. Population data for the species is presented, and the current status of landscape features created for this project are discussed. Recommendations for the success of this and future projects are provided.

Urban Development Shapes One of Orange County’s Most Endangered Species
Corey Stafford
Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center, 34558 Scenic Dr., Dana Point 92629, DPNaturalResources@danapoint.org, 949.939.1004
Orange County, California, has been a prized location for coastal development over the last 50 years. However, the presence of North America’s smallest rodent resulted in a tiny gem hidden amongst urban development in Dana Point, CA, at the Headlands Conservation Area (HCA). At the HCA, active monitoring of the Pacific pocket mouse (Perognathus longimembris pacificus, PPM), and educational opportunities for the community has created a place where both the public and our natural inhabitants coexist. The HCA is jointly managed by the City of Dana Point (City) and the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM). These entities work together to preserve and maintain the land for not only recreation, but the important flora and fauna that live among the 60 acres of environmentally sensitive habitat. The HCA was acquired to protect Orange County’s endangered species: the PPM, the Coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), and at least 15 rare plants that have been documented onsite. PPM were thought to be extinct for more than 20 years, until they were rediscovered and emergency-listed as endangered in 1994 on what is now the CNLM Preserve. Nearly 25 years after their rediscovery, CNLM and the City are studying PPM by using track tube monitoring, as well as live trapping on the CNLM Preserve to better understand their distribution and abundance. Furthermore, the City is promoting volunteer and community-based restoration programs to increase the public’s knowledge on the importance of open space and how this species is shaped by urban development.

Morrison Gulch Culvert Replacement: Sixteen years of post-project monitoring
Ross N. Taylor, M.S
Ross Taylor and Associates, McKinleyville, rossntaylor@sbcglobal.net, 707.839.5022
Morrison Gulch is a small tributary of Jacoby Creek that flows into Humboldt Bay. Near the mouth of Morrison Gulch, the Quarry Road culvert was surveyed in 1998 during a fish passage inventory of county-maintained stream crossings. The five-foot diameter culvert was assessed as a complete barrier to all age classes of salmonids, due to the five-foot drop at the culvert outlet, which completely blocked access to 3,400 feet of spawning and rearing habitat. Numerous observations of failed leap attempts by migrating coho salmon were made at the culvert outlet during three consecutive winters between 1998 and 2001. The site was initially ranked #11 in the Humboldt County inventory, but was raised to the top-priority treatment site based on the assumption that immediate recolonization would occur due to the consistent presence of fish attempting to migrate upstream. Humboldt County Public Works replaced the culvert during the summer of 2001. The new crossing consisted of a 10-foot diameter culvert with 6” x 2” corrugations set at a zero-percent slope with a series of six boulder weirs — three downstream weirs to raise the water surface elevation to promote swim-through conditions, and three upstream weirs to provide grade-control to minimize channel incision. Post-project monitoring has included resurveying channel longitudinal profiles, assessing passage conditions through the new culvert with FishXing, and conducting annual spawner surveys. Elevations of the downstream weirs were also resurveyed to assess long-term stability. Annual surveys have confirmed coho salmon successfully spawning upstream of Quarry Road for 16 consecutive winters, with a long-term average of 60 adult coho salmon and 33 redds.

Long-term Success of Restored Vernal Pools Along the Fringe of San Francisco Bay
Jason D. Yakich*1, Philip Greer1, and Ivette Loredo2
1WRA, Inc. ,San Rafael, yakich@wra-ca.com, greer@wra-ca.com; 2U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fremont, ivette_loredo@fws.gov
Vernal pool habitat around the fringe of San Francisco Bay is a unique and imperiled habitat type. The Pacific Commons Preserve is a 444-acre vernal pool and grassland preserve created as mitigation for a nearby development in Fremont, California. The construction of vernal pools and other wetlands within the Preserve was initiated in 1998, and continued in phases through 2002 (173 features in total). The Preserve was incorporated into the Warm Springs Unit of Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge in 2012 and has been subsequently managed by the USFWS. Created pools were inoculated with site-collected cysts of the federally listed vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) following construction, and continue to support a robust population of shrimp that substantially exceeds the original mitigation requirements. The monitoring of randomly-selected pools in 2008 found shrimp present in 96% of pools designed for shrimp occupancy, as well as in 56% of other pools not constructed for this purpose. Vegetation monitoring of created pools from 2012 to 2016 indicates that absolute cover of both native and vernal pool obligate plant species increased by factors of approximately 2.4 and 3.1, respectively. Additionally, the average number of native species in the created pools increased from 8 to 17 species. Grazing is the primary site management technique, and weed control was also important during the performance monitoring period. Overall, the case study of the Pacific Commons Preserve demonstrates the success of large scale, onsite, and in-kind mitigation in an urban area.