The Conservancy at 40: The Carmel River

Carmel River Lagoon WetlandsThe demolition of San Clemente Dam continues in Carmel Valley, Calif. on August 3, 2015.  Carmel Valley is a city in Monterey County, California.
In 1999 the Carmel River was listed as one of North American’s ten most endangered rivers, but many organizations and individuals have been working together to reverse this and make the Carmel River watershed once again healthy and vibrant. Over the years, a concentration of conservation efforts has begun the transformation; this has included land acquisitions, river restoration, and the initiation of a river parkway that will eventually provide a connection for people between the coast and the river’s headwaters in the Los Padres National Forest.

One of the Conservancy’s proudest accomplishments has been the removal of San Clemente Dam, the largest dam removal in California to date. This innovative project restored fish passage to 25 miles of high quality spawning and rearing habitat and allows sediment to once again travel down the river to replenish the sand at Carmel River State Beach. Removal of the seismically unsafe dam also protected downstream residential and commercial properties. The 920-acre project site will be donated to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and opened to the public for hiking and other recreation.

In 2004, The Nature Conservancy and Big Sur Land Trust (BSLT) led the effort to acquire the 10,000-acre Palo Corona Ranch, which linked together more than ten conserved properties. The Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, Wildlife Conservation Board, and California State Parks joined with the Conservancy to provide the $37 million needed to acquire the property. This property dominates the landscape along the lower river and forms the gateway to the Big Sur coast.

Currently the Conservancy is supporting the County of Monterey and BSLT on implementation of the Carmel River FREE (Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement) project, which will restore habitat along the lower river while also dramatically reducing flooding impacts to the local community.

We look forward to the day when the Carmel River is deemed one of the ten most restored rivers in the country!