SERCAL 2016 Poster Presentations

SERCAL 2016 Technical Session, Tahoe

Chair: Gavin Archhbald, H. T. Harvey & Associates

Lead presenters in alpha order

Coastal Dune Mining Site Revegetation and Stabilization Methods

Kayti Christianson*1, Thor Anderson1, and Leslie Allen2

1Burleson Consulting Inc., 3180 Imjin Road, Suite 104, Marina, CA 93933; 831.298.7633 (o); 360.319.3844 (c) and; 831.901.9394 (c) and 2ICF International, 620 Folsom Street, Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94107; 415.677.7143 (o); 415.259.9920 (c);

Burleson Consulting Inc. has recently teamed with ICF International to continue revegetation of sand mining activities in Marina, California. Beginning in 1990, two separate areas of the Lapis Sand Plant, referred to as the South and North Pit, have been the focus of revegetation of coastal dune habitat. Our project objective is to continue these efforts with the goal of 25% native vegetation cover with six native species present in compliance with the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975. Since 2002, the South Pit has needed little revegetation assistance aside from maintenance of invasive iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis). However, due to a historic access road and mining impact, the North Pit has been subject to high wind exposure causing challenges for the reestablishment of native vegetation. Burleson developed a strategy to stabilize dunes by assessing wind erosional features during multiple site visits, reviewing past erosion control efforts, comparing to Google Earth imagery, and monitoring vegetation in 2015. Our stabilization and revegetation efforts include placement of erosion control fabric, reconstruction of historic sand berms, installation of strategic wind breaks, dispersal of native seed, and planting of native vegetation. Our poster illustrates the current methods, successes, challenges, and future plans.


Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project Provides Unique Restoration Opportunity

Lisa Cutting

Mono Lake Committee, P.O. Box 29, Lee Vining, CA 93541;

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project began May 2015 and construction is scheduled to be completed in Fall 2016. The project will improve motorist safety by reducing rockfall incidents along a one-mile stretch of Highway 395 adjacent to Mono Lake. Six slopes were identified as problematic and prone to having rocks fall onto the highway. The Mono Lake Committee (MLC) immediately saw this project as an opportunity to not only secure the slopes for safety, but to incorporate long-term revegetation to restore and stabilize the slopes naturally and to heal the visual scars left by the 1930s road cuts. Due to steep slopes and unique ancient lakebed soils, a standard revegetation approach was not likely to succeed. MLC worked closely with Caltrans to tailor the project to meet the rockfall safety criteria and offer the best solution for revegetating the slopes. The revegetation component has two key elements: 1) a five-year comprehensive evaluation period including specific adaptive management flexibility should the vegetation recovery not proceed as planned and 2) the Lee Vining Test Plot project was completed prior to breaking ground on the Rockfall Safety project, and has been instrumental in informing specifics related to soil amendments and plant species composition. In the past, MLC and Caltrans have had seemingly at-odds priorities for highway projects in the Mono Basin, but this is an example of a creative and cooperative solution that is working to achieve multiple benefits.


Community-supported Steelhead Recovery Efforts in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties

Mauricio Gomez*1 and Erin Brown2

1Director; South Coast Habitat Restoration, P.O. Box 335, Carpinteria, CA 93014; 805.729.8787; 2Creeks Restoration Planner; City of Santa Barbara, 620 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; 805.560.7549;

Recovery efforts of the federally endangered steelhead trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss) in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties face many challenges. Some of the challenges they encounter include barriers to migration, lack of streamflow/drought conditions and landowner support. Over the past eight years, we have helped improve conditions for steelhead by securing landowner support in multiple watersheds, removing multiple barriers to migration and opening up miles of stream habitat. These efforts have been supported by our partnerships with diverse stakeholders including agricultural landowners, public agencies, local non-profit organizations and interested community members. These partnerships have allowed our efforts to continue making an impact on steelhead recovery in the region.


Accelerate Your Restoration Project Using Programmatic Permits!

Katie Haldeman*, Erik Schmidt,* and Erika Lovejoy*

Sustainable Conservation; 415.977.0380;

Expedited regulatory approval through “programmatic” permits and authorizations can help accelerate 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 or more, 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 for listed species, water quality and other beneficial uses. Restoration funders, too, can show improved grant-delivery results through more efficient permitting of their awardees. However, 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.


Laguna Canyon Road: Impacts of a Changing Climate on Wetland and Riparian Creation

Anisha Malik

Michael Baker International, 14725 Alton Parkway, Irvine, CA 92618; 949.855.3674;

The widening and realignment of Laguna Canyon Road in Orange County, California, brought about mitigation for creating additional wetland and riparian systems within the existing Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. With multiple habitats to be restored and created, including alkali marsh, freshwater marsh, willow scrub, mulefat scrub, and coastal sage scrub, came the opportunity to design the site to improve hydrology and reconnect two lake systems historically linked that separated and degraded over time. With an intricate grading and planting plan in place, the only variable deterrent to the successful development of the site has been changing climate patterns. The site has endured significant stress since its implementation seven years ago, including increased inundation during its first few years of establishment to the opposite side of the spectrum in its later years, trying to sustain during drought conditions. Because of these factors, the mitigation sites have not met certain performance standards distinguished at the beginning of the project. The question arises, with the continuation of the drought in California and the infrequent rain events, how creation and restoration of habitats will progress with a lack of consistent hydrology. The approach of these projects will need to adapt, and the collaboration between multiple sectors is key in order to restore the various ecosystems within the Arid West.


Livestock Grazing for Landscape Diversity in California Vernal Pools — Student Poster Contest Winner

Julia Michaels

Graduate Student; U.C. Davis Graduate Group in Ecology;

California vernal pools are seasonal wetlands that are disappearing at an alarming rate to development. The remaining pools are located on private rangeland or on easements, where grazing is used as a tool to combat the encroachment of exotic grasses. This points to a potential win-win solution for ranchers and restoration. However, no studies have looked at the effects of grazing on between-pool (beta) diversity, which is the most prevalent form of diversity in these systems. Local disturbances and selective grazing in some upland ecosystems have been shown to enhance diversity at local sites, while homogenizing diversity between these sites. To address this question, I have compared species assemblages in vernal pools that have been grazed continuously and in pools that have been fenced off from livestock at a site in Sacramento County for over 30 years. I paired 15 grazed and 15 ungrazed pools, and sampled richness, cover and abundance. I am currently using PermANOVA and PermDISP statistical software to compare beta diversity between the grazed and ungrazed pools.


Eradicating Weeds in Sierra Meadows for Climate Change Resilience. 

Elizabeth Brusati, Doug Johnson, and Dana Morawitz*

Cal-IPC, Berkeley, CA;

Sierra Nevada meadows are important for wildlife, water storage, and carbon sequestration. These functions will become even more critical as California’s climate changes. In 2014-15, Cal-IPC worked with Sierra Nevada organizations to eradicate invasive plants in and around Sierra meadows. Species included Scotch thistle, Canada thistle, spotted knapweed, rush skeletonweed, perennial pepperweed, and yellow starthistle. Sites included Bear Valley (PG&E, treatment by the Placer County Agriculture Dept.), the Truckee River (treatment by private contractor through TRWC); Smithneck State Wildlife Area (treatment by the California Conservation Corps); the Tahoe Basin and Hope Valley (treatment by the El Dorado/Alpine Counties Dept. of Agriculture). Eighty-seven populations of 11 invasive plant species were removed, with eventual eradication from these sites as the goal. New populations were also located. For each site, weed locations were uploaded to Calflora, work was documented with photos, and a long-term eradication workplan will be put in place. We also developed two reports with actions that land managers can take to improve climate resilience in montane meadows.


Effects of Temperature on Soil Erosion Rates in the Lake Tahoe Basin

Kimberly Oyervides

BS Candidate; Environmental Sciences, Sierra Nevada College

Increasing temperatures are a global concern. In the Sierra Nevada, rising temperatures have the potential to affect a range of physical, chemical and biological processes that rely on predictable freezing and warming cycles. Soils are the largest carbon sink, foster nutrient cycling, store water for vegetation and provide structural support. This study focuses on erosion rates of Incline Village Watershed and the potential effects increased temperature may have on moisture holding capacity and erosion rates. Five different soils types with in the Incline Village Watershed were selected based on accessibility and relative proportion of the total watershed. At each location, six soil core samples (three replicates and three controls) were randomly sampled and brought back to the lab at Sierra Nevada Campus. Once in lab, samples for each soil type were run through a series of wet and dry oscillation treatments to assess changes in holding capacity. Although results showed no significant difference in holding capacity (one-way anova, p-value 0.33) across and within all soil types within the temperature ranges of 80⁰F, 90⁰F, and 100⁰F, a noticeable difference occurred at the 100⁰F treatment. Additionally, erosion rate factors (using the Universal Soil Erosion Equation (A=KR(LS)) using the new holding capacity values did not show significant differences for all temperature and soil types except for noticeably higher rates at the 100⁰F treatment. As climate change impacts become increasingly prevalent, potential changes in soil holding capacity and increases in erosion rates could cause severe degradation to hillsides and waterways.   


Battling Plant Pathogens: The Hidden Threat to Native Nurseries and Our Retaliation

Phillip Reyes*1, Nick Jew2, Kayti Christianson3, and Thor Anderson4

Burleson Consulting Inc., 3180 Imjin Rd, Suite 104, Marina, CA 93933; 831.292.7633 (o). 1831.718.7466 (c);

Recently an alarm has sounded at California native plant nurseries that a new plant pathogen, Phytophthora tentaculata, has been detected. Phytophthora species present a pertinent and vicious danger to a variety of California native plants and ecosystems. If restoration nurseries are not managed responsibly, they could do more harm than good by serving as a vector for introducing plant pathogens to restoration sites. In light of this threat, native plant nurseries are reassessing and implementing new BMPs as to minimize the impact of harmful pathogens. Working closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and Monterey County Agricultural Commission, Burleson’s native plant nursery has taken a proactive approach in preventing the introduction and spread of plant pathogens. This has largely been credited to implementing recommended BMPs at our nursery and diligently observing and modifying them as we identify weaknesses. Our display highlights the nursery BMPs we have implemented including sanitation practices, soil transportation and storage, proximity of plants to the ground and to one another, as well as quarantine and treatment of questionable plants. We are encouraging other native plant growers to share their experiences and insights on the matter and to start conversations about how to combat pathogens within the nursery community. Through collaborative efforts, our goal is to develop an improved protocol to effectively limit the presence of Phytophthora and other plant pathogens.


Fuels Treatment Effectiveness Project in Woods Creek, Lake Tahoe Basin

Logan Rooney

Interdisciplinary Studies: Outdoor Adventure Leadership and Environmental Studies; Sierra Nevada College

Since 1995, The North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District has managed wildfire risk for the 1,700 acres of land surrounding Crystal Bay and Incline Village Communities. The 2016 Fuels Treatment Effectiveness Project served the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District and their ongoing fire protection action plan in Incline Village including enhanced documentation of past and future prescribed burns in Wood Creek. This map of Wood Creek serves to provide better record of current initiative of fuels treatment of East Wood creek as well as organize existing records of fuels treatment of previous prescribed burns of West Wood creek. This project mapped wildfire fuels hazards in Wood Creek in one of many locations within the planning areas (Incline Village, NV land sub-divisions) of North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District and the Fuels Management division with the intention of facilitating a larger discussion of managing fuel hazards and protecting communities from wildfire risks.   


Breuner Marsh, Resilient Restoration Design in the Face of Sea Level Rise

George Salvaggio1, Geoff Smick*2, and Chris Zumwalt*3

WRA, Inc., 2169-G East Francisco Blvd. San Rafael, CA 94901. 1Principal Restoration Designer; 415.524.7489; 2President; 415.524.7535; 3GIS Analyst; 415.524.7550;

The East Bay Regional Park District’s Breuner Marsh project restores 40 acres of tidal and seasonal wetlands in Richmond, California. The project also enhances habitat for endangered and threatened species while improving public access. Breuner Marsh is one of the first restoration projects in the San Francisco Bay Area that anticipates and accommodates rising sea levels due to climate change. Using rigorous data and spatial modeling, the design permits tidal marsh to migrate incrementally to higher elevations over the next 50 to 100 years. The analysis also helped to identify the location of the 1.5-mile segment of the Bay Trail to protect park facilities following sea level rise. Preservation of Breuner Marsh is the culmination of planning led by the District following decades of community-led activism. Since the 1950s, residents of this historically underserved community lobbied to keep Breuner Marsh as public open space and saved the site from multiple development proposals. A key part of the planning process, public workshops were held to confirm goals, priorities, and bolster public support. Surface models and three-dimensional renderings were created for the community meetings. These illustrations played a significant role in conflict resolution and consensus building. The team also worked in concert with regulatory agencies to integrate public access without adversely affecting endangered species. The cooperative effort resulted in meeting project goals including balancing ecological sustainability while benefiting the local community with access to expanded open space. The habitat restoration was constructed in 2014 while the public access components anticipated in 2016/17.


Riparian Habitat Restoration on Rock Stabilized Levee Repair Sites

George Strnad, RLA, RA*1 and Chris Hargreaves2

AECOM, 2020 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95811; 916.414.5839. 1Senior Landscape Architect; 2Environmental Scientist

After Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans in 2005, California’s levee system in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta was closely scrutinized by DWR for potential weaknesses. The key obstacle that prevented an immediate engineered repair of many eroded levees was the presence of valuable natural resources. Because of the high cost of mitigation, land acquisition, and habitat creation, it was determined that repaired levee sites would be ecologically restored in place and in kind with similar habitats. This created an enormous challenge for the ecologists — a viable, riparian ecosystem sustained by a high water table had to be to be re-created to accommodate phraetophytic vegetation on top of massive piles of large crushed rock. In response to this challenge, AECOM designers developed an innovative soil-filled rock slope protection technique that guaranteed survival of riparian plants on heavily armored levee banks by providing capillary fringe via loamy soil fill. URS ecologists also eliminated a non-permeable geotextile from the design and replaced it with a well-graded, gravel filter to prevent piping of the erodible substrate (sugar sand), while maintaining an elevated water table. Restoration plans were developed for 15 Delta levee repair sites on the banks of Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, and on Steamboat, Sutter, and Cache Sloughs. AECOM worked closely with DWR experts and resource agencies to meet the demanding SAM riparian restoration criteria. The key ecological goal to fully restore the sites was deemed successful by the regulatory and permitting agencies two years after the planting was completed.


Managing Coyote Brush to Protect Sensitive Plant Habitats

Don Thomas

Natural Resources and Lands Management Division,San Francisco Public Utilities Commission;

The Peninsula Watershed of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) encompasses a variety of sensitive plant habitats. These include serpentine grassland, valley grassland, basking habitat of the San Francisco garter snake and serpentine seep habitat of fountain thistle (Cirsium fontinale var. fontinale). In addition to fountain thistle, other federally protected plants in the Watershed include Eriophyllum latilobum, Pentachaeta bellidiflora and Hesperolinon congestum. With the end of grazing and with fire suppression, it has been observed that there has been an extensive spread of coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis) within the grassland–scrub matrix in the Watershed and elsewhere on the San Francisco Peninsula. Coyote brush is encroaching into serpentine seep and grassland habitat of fountain thistle and is converting grassland into coyote brush monocultures. When coyote brush is removed, with the root system left in place, it resprouts vigorously. SFPUC has investigated both chemical and non-chemical methods of controlling resprouting. This study reports the results of a test of the efficacy of different herbicide treatments in preventing the resprouting of coyote brush. Three different methods of application were tested: foliar spray, cut-stump and basal bark. Also a number of different herbicides were evaluated including glyphosate, imazapyr, aminopyralid and triclopyr. It was found that all of the herbicides suppressed resprouting in cut-stump applications. Foliar sprays of glyphosate and triclopyr were effective in killing the foliage, but some resprouting was observed after triclopyr treatment. Basal bark application of triclopyr was effective at preventing resprouting of smaller plants but not of larger plants.

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