Integrated Regional Water Management Arundo Mapping and Planning Project (2020 – ongoing)
This project develops a comprehensive process to prioritize removal and management of giant reed (Arundo donax) in the Santa Clara River (SCR) watershed and consists of three stages: 1) process and analyze existing remote sensing Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) data to map current vegetation status, prioritize locations for weed management, and characterize distribution of non-native (and native) vegetation and physical traits in the SCR floodplain, with site surveys to validate vegetation classification for distinct polygons; 2) create a tool to guide site prioritization for giant reed removal; and 3) implement giant reed removal on the resulting high-prioritized site locations of at least 10 acres (eventual acreage is contingent on pending funding requests). Remote sensing can identify the location and extent of giant reed infestation and determine soil, vegetation, and moisture conditions that influence restoration success. The project is in partnership with the City of Santa Clarita, University of California Santa Barbara, and Stillwater Sciences.
Sespe Cienaga Restoration and Public Access Planning Project (2020 – ongoing)
Historically, artesian flows along the Santa Clara River near the City of Fillmore supported one of the most extensive freshwater wetland complexes in the lower watershed referred to as the “Cienega”, or “Sespe Cienega”. By 2005, the majority of the wetland area had been converted to farmland. Since 2017, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has owned a majority of the Sespe Cienega, consisting of the California Watercress property and the Fillmore Fish Hatchery. The goal of this planning effort is to develop working plans to restore riparian and wetland habitats and natural river function to this property under permanent protection by CDFW, and to provide public access to the river for the communities of Fillmore, Santa Paula, and Piru. Restoration of riparian habitat at the project site will include removal of invasive giant reed (Arundo donax), and replacement with willow, cottonwood, and other riparian and wetland vegetation that have largely been lost on the property. The restoration will benefit wildlife, including federally-listed species such as least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis), and other sensitive species such as white-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus), northern harrier (Circus hudsonius), southwestern pond turtle (Actinemys pallida), two-striped garter snake (Thamnophis hammondii), and southern black walnut (Juglans californica). In addition, the federally-listed Southern California steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) should benefit from the removal of invasive species on the property, including giant reed. The 2012 Southern California Steelhead Recovery Plan identifies the Santa Clara River watershed as a Core I or highest priority watershed for recovery of the steelhead population.
Aerial photo of the Sespe Cienaga, including the complicated network of historic watercress beds, agricultural fields, riparian and wetland areas, and the main channel of the Santa Clara River.
Several products are being developed as part of the intial and finalized design process, including:
- A comprehensive literature review (2020) of Sespe Cienaga ecology, land management history, and surrounding communities.
- A preliminary conceptual design (2020) to outline priority ecological functions, restoration priorities, and public access initiatives.
- A 65% completed technical plan (2021) report and comprehensive maps, finalizing the hydrology, vegetation communities, access trails, and overall layout of the completed wetland, riparian, and upland systems.
Department of Conservation – Land Trust Capacity and Project Development Grant (2020)
Under the planning grant, SCRC will develop a draft agricultural lands conservation strategic plan for consideration by SCRC’s Board of Directors. Plan development would include review of existing agricultural land conservation studies and plans for the Santa Clara River watershed and identification and outreach to agricultural land stakeholders, including the Department of Conservation, State Coastal Conservancy, the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, local farmers and agricultural interests, the Nature Conservancy, Resource Conservation Districts, Friends of the Santa Clara River (holder of the Hedrick Ranch Natura Area) and community representatives, including from the disadvantaged communities of Santa Paula, Fillmore, Piru and on the Oxnard plain. This effort will identify the general needs and opportunities in the watershed for conducting agricultural conservation work, and develop a strategic plan for SCRC to address these needs and opportunities, such as research, organizational, outreach and development goals and objectives to achieve increased agricultural land conservation in collaboration with management partners such as DOC, the Coastal Conservancy, Farm Bureau, TNC, and the counties of Los Angeles and Ventura.