2015 Project Approvals

In 2015 the State Coastal Conservancy supported 91 projects along California’s coast and around San Francisco Bay with awards totaling almost $38 million. The Conservancy’s support for these projects is leveraging more than $63 million from the federal and local governments and private organizations. The funds are being used to protect natural lands, improve wildlife habitat, support local economies, and help people enjoy the coast and the Bay Area. The majority of the Conservancy’s funding came from resources bond acts approved by the State’s voters.

To accomplish its goals the Conservancy relies on partnerships with local communities and more than 100 nonprofit organizations based in all parts of the coast and around San Francisco Bay. This network ensures that local residents inform the Conservancy about coastal needs and opportunities and are actively involved in the Conservancy’s work.

For Public Recreation along the length of the coast the Conservancy

  • approved funding for projects to extend and improve the California Coastal Trail in San Diego, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Humboldt counties —information about these projects is provided in the county listings that follow. The Coastal Trail will one day run the entire length of the coast, linking the urban, rural, and wilderness areas that together make up California’s world-renowned coastline. About two-thirds of the trail is now in place, with new segments and support facilities, such as parking areas and restrooms, being added every year.

For Climate Change throughout the coast the Conservancy

  • awarded more than $4.2 million to 22 local public agencies and nonprofit organizations to help communities reduce and respond to risks from a warming climate, changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, and extreme weather. The Climate Ready Program funded projects from Orange to Humboldt counties to help communities identify and plan and prepare for areas vulnerable to flooding, erosion, increased fire risk, and reduced water availability. Information about each of these projects is provided in the county listings that follow. (January and June)

SOUTH COAST

For the length of the South Coast the Conservancy

  • awarded $200,000 to the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project for the Climate-Smart Adaptive Strategies for Wetlands Recovery in Coastal Southern California Project. The project is developing adaptation strategies for sea level rise and a tool to support restoration and management of tidal wetlands from the Mexican border to Point Conception. More than half of the funding is available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (January)
  • provided $300,000 to the Aquatic Science Center to assist with updating of the Regional Strategy for the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project. Since the Regional Strategy was written in 2001, a vast amount of information has become available on the extent and condition of wetlands and how they may be affected by climate change. An updated Regional Strategy will help WRP members and local partners set priorities and make decisions about wetlands restoration. The WRP is a group of 18 federal, state, and local government agencies and private conservation organizations working to protect, restore, and improve Southern California’s coastal wetlands. (June)

For San Diego County the Conservancy

  • awarded $3.9 million to the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy for the final engineering and construction documents for restoration of San Elijo Lagoon in Encinitas. The work will lead to improved water circulation and wildlife habitats and a program for the lagoon’s long-term maintenance and management. Although severely degraded, the lagoon is a valuable component of the network of habitats for birds and fish along the South Coast. The grant adds to more than $4 million awarded by the Conservancy since 2008, with most of the funding coming from the San Diego Association of Governments via Caltrans. Funding for construction of the restoration is expected to be available through the I-5 corridor widening project. (December)
  • provided $300,000 to the Maritime Museum Association of San Diego, and forgave a repayment requirement of $500,000, for construction of a replica of the historic ship San Salvador for use as a waterfront attraction, historical museum, and sailing classroom. The San Salvador was the flagship for the expedition of Juan Cabrillo in 1542 and the first European ship to explore and survey the California coastline. The Conservancy had earlier provided $1.5 million in grants plus a loan for the ship’s construction. (March)
  • awarded $800,000 to the City of San Diego for trail construction and repair, restoration of native plant communities, and control of water runoff that is severely eroding bluff terraces on the 50-acre Hillside Park section of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. The City will construct or improve about two miles of trails, including a portion of the California Coastal Trail, and build four observation points that will offer panoramic views of the ocean and the park’s dramatic cliffs. The award follows $380,000 provided by the Conservancy in 2008 for the project’s design and permitting. (December)
  • provided $300,000 to San Diego Canyonlands to complete the planning and design of public trails and environmental conservation in 12 City of San Diego urban canyons. The trail planning has included community workshops to design routes that best provide recreational and commuting opportunities for pedestrians and bicyclists while maximizing safety. The environmental planning aims to restore native wildlife habitats and manage stormwater flows to reduce pollution and erosion. (October)
  • awarded $270,000 to the San Diego River Conservancy for two projects to highlight the history and cultural significance of the San Diego River and improve the experience of visitors. One project will benefit the Junípero Serra Museum through support for programming and educational content focusing on the river’s role in the foundation of the City of San Diego and the State. The other project will support the City of Santee’s San Diego River Trail Mural Project, through which public art murals will be painted on utility boxes and bridge overpass support structures. (January)
  • provided $150,000 to the City of Encinitas to design a “living shoreline” approach to protecting a portion of Cardiff State Beach and the adjacent Pacific Coast Highway from sea level rise. The City will study different ways to build dunes on the site using materials dredged from the nearby San Elijo Lagoon. The dunes will help protect the beach and highway by providing a buffer to rising tides and high waves from extreme storms. Results of this project are expected to be useful to other areas of the coast threatened by rising seas. (March)

For San Bernardino County the Conservancy

  • awarded $3.4 million to the County to construct a 3.8-mile segment of the Santa Ana River Parkway Trail between Waterman Avenue in the City of San Bernardino and California Street in Redlands. The trail segment will consist of a paved portion for use by bicyclists, wheelchair riders, and skaters and adjacent soft-surface shoulders designed for pedestrians and equestrians. It will include a 100-foot bridge over Mission-Zanja Creek, access ramps from surface streets, and many safety features. At 110 miles the Santa Ana River Parkway will be one of the longest river parkways in the United States, connecting 14 cities in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties and linking the San Bernardino National Forest and other wilderness areas to the California Coastal Trail near Huntington Beach. (January)

For Orange County the Conservancy

  • awarded $1 million to the County to construct a visitor center at the entryway to the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park in Laguna Niguel. The center will provide displays to educate and orient visitors to the park, rooms for volunteer meetings and training, and office space for park administration. The park features some of the County’s most valuable wildlife habitat along with 30 miles of trails that attracted about 188,000 visitors in 2014. (October)
  • provided a Climate Ready grant of $250,000 to Orange County Coastkeeper  to restore native Olympia oyster beds and eelgrass habitats in Newport Bay that will demonstrate how living shorelines might be used to protect shoreline areas from sea level rise and storm surges resulting from climate change. This will be the first use in Southern California of this technique, which has shown promising results in San Francisco Bay. In addition to shoreline protection, living shorelines provide valuable habitats for fish, birds, and other wildlife. (June)

For Los Angeles County the Conservancy

  • provided $1 million to the California Department of Transportation for research and design of a wildlife crossing near the interchange of U.S. 101 and Liberty Canyon Road in the City of Agoura Hills. The crossing will restore safe travel for wildlife along a corridor between the inland Sierra Madre Mountains and the coastal Santa Monica Mountains. The project’s primary beneficiary will be the Santa Monica Mountains mountain lion population, which is experiencing increased mortality, inbreeding, and declining health as a result of being hemmed in by the Highway 101 freeway. (January)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $206,000 to the nonprofit organization From Lot to Spot to restore an area along one-half mile of Dominguez Creek in Hawthorne. The restoration will include plantings of 60 trees and more than 1,500 native plants plus renovation of an existing bike path that is expected to draw more than 12,500 annual users. Students at Environmental Charter High School in nearby Lawndale will help design and maintain the project and enlist community support for its construction. In 2012 From Lot to Spot restored another area along the creek south of Rosecrans Avenue, and the current project is modeled on the success of that earlier restoration. (January)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $200,000 to the Trust for Public Land to transform an underutilized alley at 51st Street and Avalon Boulevard in South Los Angeles into a “green alley” that will be integrated with the life of the community. The alley’s existing black asphalt will be replaced with a cooler, light-colored permeable surface that will capture stormwater and allow for its storage underground. Local volunteers will join in planting fruit trees and climbing vines and making the alley a fitting place for outdoor recreation and social gatherings. Along with its neighborhood benefits, the alley will reduce flows of polluted and trash-laden stormwater to Compton Creek, the Los Angeles River, and, ultimately, the ocean. (January)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $100,000 to the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation for its transformation of the popular Eugene A. Obregon Park in East Los Angeles into a model “green park” that will help the community adapt to climate-change effects that include reduced rainfall and rising temperatures. The revamped park will feature drought-tolerant trees, plants, and grasses to reduce water use plus basins and swales to collect stormwater and allow it to percolate into the ground. The County will use the Conservancy’s funds to replace 30,000 square feet of dark asphalt with light-colored porous pavement that will enable underground capture of rainwater while cooling the pavement surface and surrounding air. (January)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $69,000 to The Bay Foundation to study how kelp forests off the Palos Verdes Peninsula may dampen wave energy and influence current flow, thereby providing protection to shorelines from sea level rise and extreme storms resulting from climate change. The Bay Foundation will conduct the study in conjunction with its restoration of kelp forests, which are valuable habitat for a wide variety of fish. Kelp forests have been devastated in southern California and in many areas replaced by “urchin barrens,” where purple urchins dominate rocky reefs and prevent kelp from re-establishing. (June)

For Ventura County the Conservancy

  • awarded $400,000 to The Nature Conservancy to restore 238 acres near Santa Paula that are part of the Santa Clara River Parkway. The project will restore native wildlife habitat by removing stands of giant reed and other invasive vegetation and replacing it with native plants. The work will occur on the Hanson property, which TNC purchased with Coastal Conservancy funding in 2004 for addition to the parkway. The goals of the parkway project are to conserve and restore wildlife habitats in the river and on neighboring lands, improve flood protection, and increase recreational and educational opportunities along the river. (June)

CENTRAL COAST

For the length of the Central Coast the Conservancy

  • awarded grants totaling $118,000 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of California, Davis, for projects to aid the recovery of the southern sea otter. USFWS will apply the funding to its “Be Otter Savvy” program, which encourages responsible viewing of sea otters to reduce otter stress caused by human disturbance. UC-Davis will research methods for detecting a potent toxin from algae that is a common cause of sea otter mortality. The Conservancy’s funding is available from the California Sea Otter Fund, an income tax check-off program that allows taxpayers to dedicate funds for sea otter recovery. (December)

For Santa Barbara County the Conservancy

  • contributed $500,000 to the Trust for Public Land’s purchase of a 15-acre property along Arroyo Burro Creek in the City of Santa Barbara for conservation and public recreation. The property contains a variety of wildlife habitats and offers opportunities to establish trails that would connect to the neighboring Elings Park and the nearby Douglas Family Preserve. The property had been proposed for residential development for many years. TPL plans to convey the property to the City soon after the purchase. (June)
  • awarded $300,000 to the University of California to construct an education and research center at Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve on the West Campus of UC-Santa Barbara. The University will renovate a building adjacent to the reserve that will serve as the new headquarters for the reserve’s ongoing education, scientific research, and environmental stewardship programs. (January)
  • granted $75,000 to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County to prepare a county-wide conservation plan in cooperation with other conservation organizations and interested entities. The Santa Barbara County Conservation Blueprint will identify and prioritize land conservation values and opportunities and provide a vision and strategy to ensure the wise investment of limited conservation dollars. (June)

For San Luis Obispo County the Conservancy

  • provided $647,000 to the Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District to acquire and prepare a restoration plan for the 82-acre Morrissey Ranch on lower Los Osos Creek about one mile east of Morro Bay. The currently unoccupied property consists mostly of wetlands and contains existing and potential habitats for steelhead trout, tidewater goby, and other threatened, endangered, and rare animals and plants. Its restoration will help protect the environment of the neighboring Morro Bay National Estuary. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing $510,000 of the Conservancy’s award and the current owner of the property will contribute 10% of the purchase price toward its restoration. (January)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $308,000 to the Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District to demonstrate on-farm practices that will help ranchers adapt to drought, extreme storms, and other effects of a changing climate. Rangeland operations throughout the State are suffering from decreased productivity from drought that reduces forage production and water availability for livestock. At the same time, they are threatened with more extreme storms and flooding that can wash away soils. Management practices, however, can help soils retain rainwater and minimize erosion while improving wildlife habitats and increasing the capture of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. The demonstration site is located at the base of Hollister Peak near Morro Bay and will be open to presentations and field tours. (January)

For Monterey County the Conservancy

  • made $2.2 million of new funding available for the removal of San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River—the largest and most innovative dam removal project ever in California. Until its removal in late summer of 2015, the obsolete dam posed a significant threat to downstream lives and property and was a barrier to the migration of steelhead trout. The Conservancy has worked for the dam’s removal since 2000 with several government agencies, conservation organizations, and California American Water, which owned the dam and is contributing $49 million to the $83 million project. (June)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $276,000 to the Nature Conservancy to demonstrate how climate-resilient agriculture can benefit farmers and the natural environment in the Salinas Valley. The project will develop strategies for cooperative management of water supplies and floodplain uses along the Salinas River to reduce flood risk, recharge groundwater, lessen regulatory burdens on farmers, and improve wildlife habitats. The work will expand a recently established model that covers 10 miles of the river and involves local growers, government agencies, and the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California. (June)
  • provided $1 million to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation to restore 61 acres of tidal wetlands on Elkhorn Slough and begin the restoration of 35 acres of neighboring grasslands. The restoration will improve water quality and wildlife habitat, reduce soil erosion, and increase the area’s resilience to sea level rise. It will benefit several threatened and endangered animals, including the California sea otter. The slough is the largest estuary of Monterey Bay and one of the most ecologically rich environments in California, but about half of its original wetlands have been lost. The funding was available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (December)
  • awarded $360,000 to the Carmel River Steelhead Association to install large woody debris and boulder structures in the Carmel River Lagoon to enhance rearing habitat for steelhead trout. The structures will increase the quality, extent, and stability of the lagoon’s rearing areas for steelhead at all stages of their lives. The river’s steelhead run has been identified as the highest priority for recovery in the region but has been near extinction in recent years. (June)
  • provided $250,000 to the City of Pacific Grove  to construct one segment of the California Coastal Trail and to design and obtain permits for another segment along the tip of Point Pinos. The section to be constructed will extend the existing Coastal Trail northward by about 800 feet from Asilomar State Beach along the Great Tide Pool. The segment being designed will continue north from there and then west for about a mile to the existing end of the trail at Esplanade Street. The new segments will fill a gap in the Coastal Trail and result in a 10-mile unbroken length of the trail through Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove, and Monterey. (December)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $15,500 to Coastal Conservation and Research, Inc. and the Central Coast Wetlands Group to design the restoration of sand dunes at Salinas River State Park. The targeted dunes are a natural barrier to ocean waters that could flood thousands of acres of low-lying farmland and wetlands but are highly vulnerable to erosion from sea level rise and extreme storms resulting from climate change. The design will identify how to make the dunes more resilient to erosion while improving their value as wildlife habitat. (June)

For Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo counties the Conservancy

  • awarded $1.1 million to the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County to provide design and permitting assistance for watershed restoration projects through the Integrated Watershed Restoration Program. The IWRP is a voluntary, non-regulatory approach to watershed restoration that coordinates the actions of federal, State, and local resource and permitting agencies and assists landowners in the design and permitting of restoration projects. Since 2003 the Conservancy has provided IWRP with $8.2 million, which has leveraged an additional $21 million for more than 110 restoration projects in the three counties. (June)

For Santa Cruz County the Conservancy

  • provided $1 million to the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission for planning and design of two segments of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, a portion of the California Coastal Trail. The two planned segments total seven miles and are located within and north of the City of Santa Cruz. The primary alignment of the Scenic Trail follows 32 miles of the former Union-Pacific railroad right-of-way and will connect to an additional 18 miles of spur trails leading to shoreline beaches, parks, and attractions. (June)
  • awarded $200,000 to the County to build pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists at Twin Lakes State Beach in the Live Oak neighborhood of Santa Cruz. More than 500,000 annual beachgoers currently share the adjacent East Cliff Drive with vehicles that park on the road shoulder and sandy beach. The new pathways are part of a larger project to move part of East Cliff Drive inland, protect infrastructure, construct parking facilities, and improve traffic circulation. The pathways will become part of the California Coastal Trail and the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Trail. The funding follows $250,000 awarded by the Conservancy for the project in 2014. (October)
  • provided $200,000 to the Sempervirens Fund to develop a reuse plan that will explore opportunities to convert the closed CEMEX cement plant on the north side of Davenport into a hub for public recreation and economic activity. Potential uses of the property include overnight accommodations, a retreat, a community center, restaurants, galleries, and recreation facilities. The plant property contains 185 acres adjacent to Wilder Ranch State Park and the Coast Dairies lands owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management. (January)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $200,000 to the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County to help Pajaro Valley farmers adapt to the effects of climate change. The project will help area farmers adopt practices to reduce use of irrigation water, limit soil erosion, and improve soil health and resiliency to extreme weather. The Pajaro Valley, located in southern Santa Cruz and northern Monterey counties, has the highest per-acre farm production value in California. It supports an $895-million agricultural industry that is threatened by droughts that reduce water availability, extreme storms that cause flooding and topsoil erosion, and sea level rise that exacerbates saltwater intrusion into underground freshwater aquifers. (January)

SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA

For the Greater San Francisco Bay Area the Conservancy

  • made $1.58 million available for the Invasive Spartina Project, established to eradicate non-native varieties of cordgrass that threaten native wildlife habitats in and around San Francisco Bay. The Conservancy has worked since 1999 to eradicate the noxious weeds and the effort has succeeded in reducing the range of the infestation from a high of 800 acres to fewer than 30 acres by 2015. Current project work includes continued eradication efforts along with re-establishment of native habitats. (March)
  • authorized use of $775,000 for Phase Two of the San Francisco Bay Living Shorelines Project, which is testing ways to improve habitats for fish and wildlife using techniques that could help shoreline communities adapt to climate change. In the project’s first phase, native oyster and eelgrass beds were successfully established offshore of San Rafael and shown to stabilize underwater soils, buffer wave energy that can erode shorelines, and increase the abundance of wildlife. Moderate success in similar efforts has occurred at a second site, Eden Landing in Hayward. The project’s second phase will incorporate the same type of work along with restoration of wetlands at one of seven sites being considered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided $475,000 of the Conservancy’s funding. The Conservancy also made $250,000 available for an additional year of monitoring at the San Rafael and Eden Landing sites. (March and December)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $236,000 to the Trust for Conservation Innovation to establish demonstration grassland restoration plots on grazing land at three Bay Area locations: TomKat Ranch in San Mateo County, Rush Ranch in Solano County, and Sears Point in Sonoma County. The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition will conduct the work, which will include plantings of native perennial grasses, management and monitoring of the plantings, and sharing of results with land managers and ranchers throughout the State. The project is expected to demonstrate how native grasses can be used to make rangelands more resilient to effects of climate change—longer dry spells, reduced rainfall, and higher temperatures—while improving habitats for wildlife. (January)
  • provided $765,000 to the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council to plan for future Bay Area Ridge Trail projects within the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. The Council is working toward creation of a 550-mile multi-use trail that will ring San Francisco Bay high on the ridgeline. More than 360 miles of the trail are currently open to the public, many constructed with financial assistance from the Conservancy. The Conservancy also provided funding for the design of a new segment of the trail in Solano County—information about that project is provided in the county listings that follow. (December)
  • adopted a plan to make San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail sites more accessible to persons with disabilities. The Conservancy and the Association of Bay Area Governments led the plan’s development over several years with considerable input from an advisory committee and the general public. The plan provides design guidelines and recommendations that will help site owners and Water Trail advocates make launching and landing sites more accessible to all users. The plan is expected to become a model for water trails throughout the country. (January)
  • continued its longstanding support for the San Francisco Bay Trail by providing funds for construction of a new segment of the trail in Contra Costa County—information about that project is provided in the county listings that follow. The Bay Trail will one day encircle San Francisco and San Pablo bays with a continuous 500-mile network of bicycling and hiking trails along or near the shoreline. More than 340 miles of the trail—about two-thirds of its ultimate length—have been completed.
  • provided $50,000 to the Association of Bay Area Governments to organize and present the twelfth State of the Estuary Conference in the fall of 2015. The biennial conference brings together scientists, managers, interest groups, and the public to address the protection and restoration of the Bay-Delta Estuary. (January)

For San Francisco the Conservancy

  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $135,000 to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to plan for climate-change adaptations to Crissy Field. The work will include an assessment of the park’s vulnerability to sea level rise and associated storm surges and the development of adaptation strategies. It will be conducted as part of a greater effort to preserve and enhance the popular site and ensure that it is prepared to optimally serve the community in the coming decades. (June)

For San Mateo County the Conservancy

  • authorized use of $500,000, including a $220,000 grant to the County, to complete a sea level rise vulnerability assessment for the entire bay shoreline and ocean coastline from Half Moon Bay north. The assessment will help the County prepare for sea level rise and plan for the protection of buildings, infrastructure, and recreational and natural lands. (January)
  • made $100,000 available for a phase of the South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study that is researching options for flood protection, habitat restoration, and public recreation improvements in the Alviso area. Completion of the Study will enable federal funding that becomes available through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be used for construction of the improvements. The Conservancy has been working with the Corps and the Santa Clara Valley Water District on the Study’s development since 2004. The next phase of the Study will focus on Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale. (March)
  • contributed $450,000 to the Peninsula Open Space Trust’s purchase of the 21-acre Thompson property on Pillar Point Bluff just north of Half Moon Bay. The vacant property lies between two parcels of County-owned parkland and offers spectacular views of Maverick’s wave break and the reefs of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Its purchase will protect wildlife habitat and allow extension of the California Coastal Trail. With the Conservancy’s assistance, POST began purchasing properties on the bluff in 2004 and has conveyed them to the County at no cost. (January)
  • awarded $75,000 to the City of Pacifica to prepare final design plans, permit applications, and environmental documents for a new segment of the California Coastal Trail along a two-acre bluff-top property adjacent to Esplanade Drive in northern Pacifica. The property is the most visible and accessible public bluff-top in the immediate area and offers panoramic ocean views. In 2005, the Conservancy provided $250,000 to the City for the property’s purchase. (December)
  • authorized transfer to the County of a 98-acre property owned by the Conservancy at Pedro Point Headlands in the City of Pacifica for addition to Devil’s Slide County Park. With the planned transfer of an adjacent 157-acre property from the City to the County, the headlands will become available for a new section of the California Coastal Trail that will link existing lengths of the trail at Devil’s Slide and in Pacifica. The headlands offer spectacular ocean views and contain rare plant and wildlife habitats. The Conservancy has been working with the local community to open and protect the headlands since 1989. (March)
  • contributed $60,000 to the City of Brisbane’s purchase of a one-acre parcel on the upper slopes of San Bruno Mountain. The property is home to endangered butterflies and is adjacent to San Bruno Mountain State and County Park. The Conservancy has worked with the City to protect undeveloped lots on the mountain since 2001. (October)

For Santa Clara County the Conservancy

  • provided $323,000 to the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose to create an outdoor, nature-based play space next to the Guadalupe River. The play space will feature structures, natural materials, planting beds, and educational facilities to enable children and their families to connect with nature through play and hands-on learning. It will be named “Bill’s Backyard” to honor Bill Sullivan, the museum’s past president and largest single donor. (December)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $150,000 to the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory to restore 12 acres of wildlife habitat that is part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project site. The targeted area includes high marshes and neighboring uplands that will help wildlife adapt to rising sea levels. The work will include mapping, seed collection, ground preparation, and planting of native vegetation. (June)

For Alameda County the Conservancy

  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $250,000 to the Alameda County Resource Conservation District to install, improve, and repair livestock watering facilities on 6,260 acres of the Sunol Regional Wilderness. The watering facilities include developed springs, stock ponds, troughs, pumps, pipelines and storage tanks that date back to the 1950s and are well beyond their expected useful life. The new and refurbished facilities will allow grazing practices that are adaptable to drought and other effects of climate change while protecting wetlands and other sensitive wildlife habitats. Lessons from and results of the project will be shared with land managers and ranchers throughout California through workshops and other outreach efforts. (January)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $126,000 to Save the Bay to restore 1.75 acres of wildlife habitat on the upper edge of San Francisco Bay marshes—the “transition zone” between tidal wetlands and uplands. Healthy transition zones can respond quickly to rising sea levels by migrating inland, ensuring that valuable marsh habitats are maintained while providing flood protection to shoreline communities. The restoration area is within the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Hayward adjacent to a 2.5-acre site whose restoration is already underway. About 1,000 volunteers are expected to assist in the restoration work, which will include replacement of invasive vegetation with plants native to the bay. (January)

For Contra Costa County the Conservancy

  • provided $5 million to Reclamation District 2137 to begin construction of the Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project, the largest tidal wetland restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Project goals include increasing native fish populations in the San Francisco Bay/Delta region, restoring wildlife habitats for several threatened and endangered animals, and providing recreational opportunities for people. The Conservancy has been working with several partners since 2002 on acquiring property and planning for the restoration. The current Conservancy grant includes $2,280,000 obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (March)
  • contributed $263,000 to the Muir Heritage Land Trust’s purchase of the 44-acre West Hills Farm property adjacent to the John Muir National Historic Site near Martinez. The purchase will protect scenic wildlife habitat and offer an opportunity to extend trails from the historic site. The property was once owned by John Muir’s brother-in-law and has been proposed for residential development. Pending Congressional approval, the land trust expects to transfer the property to the National Park Service for expansion of the historic site. (January)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $202,000 to the Watershed Project to improve the water quality of Baxter Creek by building two bioswales—vegetated, shallow ditches that collect and filter stormwater—in the parking lot of Booker T. Anderson, Jr. Park in Richmond. The section of Baxter Creek that runs through the park was restored in 2001, but runoff from the parking lot continues to pollute the creek. The project will benefit shoreline habitats of San Francisco Bay, less than a mile downstream, and will add to almost twenty years of restoration efforts along different sections of the creek. It will also make the park more resilient to aggravated flooding expected from climate change and will serve as a model for restoring the creek in other areas. (January)
  • provided $165,000 to the Contra Costa Resource Conservation District to remove a barrier to the migration of steelhead trout on Pinole Creek at Interstate 80 in the City of Pinole. The project will open almost seven miles of upstream spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead, which migrate between freshwater and saltwater and once thrived in the creek. The project site is about half way between the creek’s headwaters and its mouth on San Francisco Bay. (March)
  • awarded $145,000 to Urban Tilth to plan for the restoration of fish and wildlife habitat on about six miles of Wildcat and San Pablo creeks west of Interstate 80 in the City of San Pablo and the community of North Richmond. The project aims to improve water quality in the creeks and San Pablo Bay wetlands while providing opportunities for community involvement, employment, and more attractive streets and creek-side trails. (June)
  • authorized the Association of Bay Area Governments to provide $50,000 of Conservancy funds to the East Bay Regional Park District to construct a half-mile segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail between Pinole Shores and Bayfront Park at the edge of San Pablo Bay in the City of Pinole. The new segment will connect two developed sections of the Bay Trail and include a bridge over Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Its construction is one of the final steps in creating a continuous length of the trail connecting Pinole, Hercules, and Rodeo. (October)

For Solano County the Conservancy

  • granted $25,000 to the City of Fairfield to complete design of a section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail at the intersection of Green Valley Road and Westlake Drive. An existing length of the trail extends to this intersection from Rockville Hills Regional Park, but safety concerns due to high traffic volumes have kept the intersection itself from being designated as part of the trail. The new section of the trail will greatly improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. (December)

For Napa County the Conservancy

  • provided $400,000 to the County to replace a deteriorating road crossing/culvert with a bridge and restore fish passage on the Napa River at Greenwood Avenue just north of Calistoga. The existing crossing contributes to local flooding and blocks the passage of fish, including steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, at low and medium flows. The project will greatly improve fish access to three miles of upstream spawning and rearing habitat. (January)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $90,000 to the Napa County Resource Conservation District to plant 5,000 seeds from five species of oak trees in the Napa River watershed over a three-year period. The project will expand the distribution of oaks, provide important wildlife habitat, increase the sequestration of carbon dioxide, and improve the watershed’s water-holding capacity. Elementary students will be engaged in planting and monitoring activities in conjunction with science education classes. (June)

For Sonoma County the Conservancy

  • contributed $1 million to The Wildlands Conservancy’s purchase of the 547-acre Estero Ranch on Bodega Bay at the mouth of the Estero Americano. The purchase protects wildlife habitats while providing for expansion of recreational opportunities, including a southward extension of the California Coastal Trail. The property offers expansive views of the ocean and Estero and an opportunity to create a new, much-needed landing site for Estero kayakers. (October)
  • contributed $500,000 to the Trust for Public Land’s purchase of the 688-acre Richardson-Kashia property on the northern border of Salt Point State Park south of Stewart’s Point. TPL will transfer the property to the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of Stevens Point Rancheria, the historical inhabitants of the area. The purchase protects the property’s forested habitats and cultural sites while allowing a one-mile extension of the California Coastal Trail from the state park. It also provides the Kashia, for the first time in 150 years, with a coastal property they can devote to their cultural, traditional, spiritual, and ceremonial practices. (June)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $218,000 to the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District to construct a 1.4-million-gallon pond and rainwater catchment system that will enable a dairy to stop diverting water during the summer from Salmon Creek. The creek contains historic habitat for coho salmon and steelhead trout, whose survival is threatened by reduced rainfall resulting from climate change. The project will allow the Westview Jerseys Organic Dairy to capture rainwater from a barn roof and store it for use in the summer, when reduced stream flows are particularly damaging to the fish. The project, designed in part through a 2014 Climate Ready grant, will eliminate one of the largest summer diversions of water from the creek. (January)
  • provided $215,000 to the Sonoma Resource Conservation District to construct a two-acre vineyard irrigation pond to improve dry-season flows of Grape Creek, which contains prime spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead trout. The pond will be filled from wells near the creek that will operate only in the winter, thereby improving stream-flow conditions for the creek’s fish during the critical summer months. Grape Creek is a key tributary of Dry Creek, which flows to the Russian River, in an area where a broad coalition of public and private groups has been working to improve fisheries habitats since 2001. (June)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $200,000 to the National Audubon Society to improve water drainage and wildlife habitat in marshlands along Sonoma Creek south of Highway 37. Abandoned levees in the marsh—a former hayfield—cause water to pond for long periods, leading to high populations of mosquitoes and degraded habitat for wildlife. California Audubon will excavate drainage channels, build refuge areas for wildlife, and, using excavated materials, construct a 10-acre, gradually sloping transition zone on the marsh’s edge that will provide flood protection for neighboring lands. The work will help the area adapt to effects of climate change including sea level rise, extreme storm events, and warming temperatures. (January)
  • provided $150,000 to the City of Healdsburg to plan for new and improved trails and related recreational facilities on 198 acres of Fitch Mountain, including its peak. Although officially closed, the wooded mountain’s three miles of dirt roads have long been accessed by hikers. The plan will examine how best to improve the existing roads, expand the trail system, and protect the natural environment. (March)
  • granted $37,000 to the Sonoma Resource Conservation District to prepare county-wide environmental documentation that will streamline its LandSmart conservation program. Through the program, the RCD works with landowners on management plans to improve water quality, reduce soil loss, and protect fish and wildlife habitat on farms and ranchlands. The documentation will supplant the current need to prepare environmental documents for individual sites—a time-consuming process that requires multiple filing fees. (March)

For Marin County the Conservancy

  • made $800,000 available for planning to restore the Bel Marin Keys Unit V component of the Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project. The first phase of the project resulted in the recently completed restoration of 648 acres of San Francisco Bay wetlands at the former Hamilton Army Airfield. The project’s second phase aims at restoring an adjacent 1,900 acres of State-owned land on the edge of the City of Novato. (June)
  • contributed $475,000 to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust’s purchase of a conservation easement over the 330-acre Gallagher Ranch near Point Reyes Station. The property is used for grazing and silage production and borders two miles of Lagunitas Creek, which contains spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead trout. The easement will prevent the property’s subdivision and development and ensure its continued use for farming. (June)
  • contributed $400,000 to the Marin Audubon Society’s purchase of a five-acre property for future addition to the Corte Madera Marsh Ecological Reserve. The property, which consists of filled wetlands bounded on three sides by reserve lands, had been the target of development proposals for decades while conservationists fought for its protection. It offers excellent opportunities for restoration of wildlife habitat. (June)
  • contributed $300,000 to the Marin County Open Space District’s purchase of the 16-acre Sky Ranch in the hills of Fairfax and San Anselmo. The property contains scenic woodlands and grasslands adjacent to the Bald Hill Open Space Preserve and Marin Municipal Water District land. The purchase will allow hiking, biking, and equestrian trails to be constructed on the property that link to existing trails on the preserve and water district lands. (June)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $250,000 to the Marin County Community Development Agency to assess the vulnerability of the Marin County shoreline to sea level rise and coordinate strategies for the protection of developed and natural areas. The project will engage local communities, public and private organizations, and individuals in a comprehensive effort to understand the risks of sea level rise and identify means to reduce or avoid those risks. It will build on multi-jurisdictional frameworks already established in the County and similar vulnerability assessments conducted in other parts of the State. (June)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $165,000 to the Marin County Open Space District to develop a plan for adaption to sea level rise at the north end of Bolinas Lagoon. The plan will incorporate restoration of wetlands and creeks to improve wildlife habitat while addressing flooding that has occurred at the intersection of Olema-Bolinas Road, Highway One, and Bolinas-Fairfax Road. The planning will be conducted in partnership with the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Point Reyes National Seashore. (June)

San Francisco Bay Area and North Coast

  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $325,000 to the Marin Resource Conservation District to identify and develop farm management practices that can significantly decrease atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and methane, both potent greenhouse gases. The practices will improve the capture and sequestration of carbon in vegetation and soils while improving soil health and farm productivity. The program builds on work successfully conducted by the RCD and expands it to rangelands, vineyards, orchards, other croplands, forestlands, and horse facilities in Napa, Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. (June)

NORTH COAST

For Mendocino County the Conservancy

  • contributed $960,000 to The Nature Conservancy’s purchase of a working forest easement over 2,554 acres of the Parker Ranch on the Ten Mile River northeast of MacKerricher State Park. The mostly forested, highly scenic property contains old-growth redwoods and habitats for a wide variety of wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. The easement will allow sustainable timber harvesting while preventing the property’s subdivision and development and providing opportunities to improve spawning habitats for salmon and trout. The Conservancy’s funding was made available by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (January)
  • provided $600,000 to Jug Handle Creek Farm and Nature Center to construct educational and lodging facilities at its center in the community of Caspar, south of Fort Bragg. The Center provides environmental education programs for young people, affordable lodging and camping for tourists and environmental groups, and a greenhouse and nursery where students, youth groups, and others can learn about and participate in native plant restoration projects. The funding follows $262,000 provided by the Conservancy in 2007 and 2010 for planning and design of the facilities. (October)

For Humboldt County the Conservancy

  • awarded $1.45 million to the Humboldt County Resource Conservation District for the restoration of 40 acres of wetlands along White Slough in the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In the first phase of the restoration, conducted in the fall of 2015, a subsided portion of marshlands was filled with soil to create a “living shoreline” that will help protect Highway 101 near Tompkins Hill Road from flooding. Future work will provide additional improvements to wildlife habitat and protection for the highway, which is threatened by sea level rise. $950,000 of the awarded funds came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (March)
  • provided $295,000 to the U.S. Geological Survey, $54,000 to the University of California at Los Angeles, and $8,000 to the University of California Sea Grant to research sediment dynamics in Humboldt Bay. The research will provide information needed to sustain and restore the bay’s tidal wetlands. Those wetlands are extremely valuable habitat for a wide variety of fish and wildlife and can provide protection for shoreline areas in the face of sea level rise driven by climate change. The funding was available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (October)
  • awarded $522,000 to the Northcoast Regional Land Trust to restore wetlands along Wood Creek, construct a nature trail, and rehabilitate a historic dairy barn and native plant nursery and garden in the Freshwater Farms Reserve just north of Eureka. The area contains important habitat for songbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds, along with critical spawning, rearing, and migration habitat for coho salmon and steelhead trout. The Freshwater Nature Trail will include an informational kiosk, a canoe and kayak launch, and a boardwalk that will offer up-close observation of restored wetlands. The barn will be available for educational programs and the nursery/garden will produce native plants for environmental restoration projects in the Humboldt Bay/Eel River region. The Conservancy obtained most of the funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (March and December)
  • provided $200,000 to the Humboldt County Resource Conservation District for continued work on restoration of the lower Salt River near Ferndale. The 2015 phase of the restoration focused on dredging and channel construction along Port Kenyon Road that will relieve threats of flooding to the community. Earlier work included habitat restoration on the 440-acre Riverside Ranch in the river’s estuary, which in only two years has resulted in increased populations of coho salmon and other wildlife. Future work will continue upstream until 7.5 miles of the river have been restored for wildlife habitat, farmland conservation, and flood protection. (June)
  • awarded $175,000 to California Trout, Inc. for continued design and permitting of tidal marsh restoration at the Eel River Estuary and Centerville Slough complex west of Ferndale. The new designs will build on planning funded by the Conservancy in 2013 and add 600 acres to the earlier 12,500-acre planning area. The project’s goals include providing flood protection and improving salmon and waterfowl habitats while maintaining water flows that are essential to the area’s agricultural productivity. (December)
  • provided $300,000 to the Save-the-Redwoods League to prepare plans for wildlife habitat restoration and a trail network at the Orick Mill Site just north of Orick. The site is located at the confluence of Prairie and Redwood creeks, whose fisheries habitats have degraded to the point that their salmon and steelhead trout populations are in danger of extinction. The trail network would connect to neighboring Redwood National and State Parks and fill a gap in the California Coastal Trail. (June)
  • awarded $200,000 to California Trout, Inc., to design floodplain and public trail improvements and conduct a pilot wastewater discharge project along the lower reach of the Mad River. As part of the project, CalTrout will prepare plans for removing a levee and wastewater infrastructure to improve habitat for juvenile salmon and other wildlife. It will also plan for trail extensions and a parking area to help people get to and enjoy the river’s estuary. Working closely with the owner of the project site, the McKinleyville Community Services District, CalTrout will set up test plots to study how forested areas might improve the efficiency of wastewater discharge that currently occurs on pastureland. (March)
  • awarded a Climate Ready grant of $249,000 to Friends of the Dunes to assess and prepare for the vulnerability of 32 miles of the Humboldt County coastline to sea level rise and other effects of climate change. The planning area includes four major barrier spits that protect the Humboldt Bay and Eel River estuaries and contain coastal dune wildlife habitats, archeological sites, and water delivery and wastewater treatment facilities. The project will include establishment of demonstration sites to show how vegetation management and other techniques can be used to maintain the integrity and resilience of the dune system. (June)
  • granted $25,000 to the Friends of the Dunes (FOD) and $47,000 to the Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) to restore native plant communities on dunes and marshlands along Humboldt Bay. FOD is targeting about 70 acres of sand dunes on the bay’s north spit that are infested with a variety of non-native plants, and RCAA is working on 30 acres of marshland north of Highway 101 on the eastern edge of Eureka that are infested with non-native cordgrass. The non-native plants crowd out native vegetation and degrade habitats for wildlife. Community volunteers will assist with both restorations. The funding was available from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. (March)

For Humboldt and Del Norte Counties the Conservancy

  • provided $22,000 to the Redwood Parks Association to purchase six beach wheelchairs and storage sheds for use at Redwood National and State Parks. The wheelchairs, which feature large balloon tires to travel over sand, will enable visitors to experience miles of open beaches, trails through the redwoods, and the beauty of the Smith River. Two beach wheelchairs have been available for use over the last 15 years, but new wheelchairs are needed to meet an increasing demand. The new wheelchairs will be available at Stone Lagoon Visitor Center, Prairie Creek Visitor Center, Gold Bluffs Beach Ranger Station, Enderts Beach, Mill Creek, and the Crescent City Visitor Center. (October)

For Del Norte County the Conservancy

  • awarded $326,000 to the Smith River Alliance to remove a barrier to fish migration where Picnic Road crosses Hamilton Creek, a tributary to Mill Creek in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. The barrier is a deteriorated culvert that has kept coho salmon from reaching about two-thirds mile of historic spawning and rearing habitat on the creek. The funding will also be used to purchase a modular bridge that can be installed over the creek as needed. (March)

For Trinity County the Conservancy

  • provided $50,000 to the Northwest California Resource Conservation and Development Council for removal of a barrier to fish passage on Sidney Gulch at Weaver Bally Loop Road near Weaverville. A degraded culvert prevents coho salmon, steelhead trout, and other fish from reaching 1.2 miles of spawning and rearing habitats upstream. It will be replaced with a larger structure designed to accommodate fish migration and high storm flows. Sidney Gulch bisects Weaverville and flows to Weaver Creek, a tributary of the Trinity River. The project is part of the Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program, established in 1997 to conserve and restore populations of salmon and trout. (June)

For the Klamath River Watershed the Conservancy

  • awarded $400,000 to the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust to construct small water-treatment marshes designed to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from waters in the Upper Klamath Basin in Oregon. The chemicals contribute to algal blooms that pollute downstream flows of the river, resulting in reduced populations of salmon and other fish. The marshes are part of a research study to determine how a similar large-scale approach could be used to improve the river’s water quality. The State Water Resources Control board provided $200,000 of the award. (January)
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