Wildfires in Carmel Valley? *New article*

We recently discussed the potential for wildfires in the Carmel Valley. Check it out this informative article from Scientific American “Wildfires are Inevitable — Fatalities and Home Losses Are Not” about how climate change affects wildfire occurrence, the importance of active forest management, and policy suggestions for proper community development.

 An informational sign about forest management and prescribed burns in the Plumas-Eureka State Park. Photo by Lorin Letendre

An informational sign about forest management and prescribed burns in the Plumas-Eureka State Park. Photo by Lorin Letendre

Wildfires in Carmel Valley?

CRWC continues to coordinate with the community for the prevention of dangerous wildfires

 The aftermath of the Soberanes Fire shows scorched hills above the Los Padres Dam

The aftermath of the Soberanes Fire shows scorched hills above the Los Padres Dam

In the summer of 2016 the Soberanes Fire burned almost 30 percent of the Carmel River Watershed, and approached Carmel Valley before finally being contained just a few miles away.  Many Valley residents watched with trepidation as the fire burned along the ridges south of the Santa Lucia Preserve.  This scare prompted CRWC to help form a volunteer coalition of non-profits and property owner associations to address how to prevent future wildfires from entering Carmel Valley and nearby communities.  The coalition met many times and participated in community forums sponsored by local fire agencies.  We also submitted four grant proposals aimed at maintaining existing fuel breaks and applying prescribed burns to areas that had not yet experienced major fires.

We also advocated for a new “fire mitigation coordinator” role with  the County’s Resource Management Agency (RMA), which was submitted to the County Board of Supervisors and supported by a majority of the supervisors.  This role would coordinate the implementation of the Community Wildfire Prevention Plan (CWPP) that was promulgated by a host of local and state agencies but only partially implemented thus far.  The position would also secure grants and arrange for actual work to begin to map the key fuel breaks, and coordinate the actual maintenance of those fuel breaks, and the application of prescribed burns to reduce fuel loads.  This work would be part of a “pre-attack plan” that hopefully will prevent the future spread of wildfires into our watershed.

Above photo from LATimes

Watch for New Interpretive Signs!

Watch for New Interpretive Signs!

The Conservancy previously installed 22 interpretive signs in the watershed, which had been permitted by the County.  However, in talks with members of the Carmel Valley Roads Committee and the Land Use Advisory Committee (LUAC), we became aware that our signs did not adhere to the guidelines in the Carmel Valley Master Plan.  Those guidelines provided for signage that used colors such as brown and beige, so we redesigned our signs and have begun to install them and to replace our previous versions with the new version pictured above.  The purpose of these signs is to raise awareness of the need to protect our threatened species that include South Central Coast Steelhead and the California Red-Legged Frogs.  This is one of the “best practices” of watershed management, and includes signs that alert visitors that they are entering the watershed.

San Clemente Dam Site Tours Fully Subscribed

A Successful Second Season of San Clemente Dam Tours 

 Tour docents and subject experts out in the field 

Tour docents and subject experts out in the field 

CRWC with a grant from American Water launched a series of tours of the former San Clemente Dam site in 2017 to inform participants of all aspects of the San Clemente Dam Reroute and Removal Project that was completed in 2016.  At the time, it was the largest dam removal project in California.  We co-hosted these tours with the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (MPRPD), with that District’s Environmental Education Director Jackie Nelson as one of our docents and a driver as well.  We hosted eight tours in the summer of 2017 and six this summer, with the final one scheduled for September 13th.  All were fully subscribed! The tour dates are listed annually in the MPRPD Let’s Go Outdoors Catalog, so if you are interested in joining a future tour, watch for the listing in the spring LGO Catalog.  Our docents deserve special commendation for volunteering to become experts on the SC Dam project and conducting all of these site tours.  They are Kit Armstrong, Jay Spingarn, Paola Berthoin, Jackie Nelson, Marie Butcher, and Lorin Letendre.  Special thanks go to Evan Oakes of Ag Land Tours who drove many of these tours.

Latest Report on Carmel River and Fish!

CARMEL RIVER FISHERY REPORT FOR JULY 2018
Prepared By: Beverly Chaney
AQUATIC HABITAT AND FLOW CONDITIONS:
Releases from Los Padres Reservoir were reduced again in July from 11.5 to 8.3 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) to maintain storage as the inflow continued to drop to summer levels. Portions of the lower river, between Meadows Road and the middle of the Rancho Cañada reach, began to dry this month, while additional sections below Schulte bridge became transitional. Fish rescues that were started in late June were continued this month (see details below) as rearing conditions for juvenile steelhead dropped to “poor” below the narrows.  All lower valley tributaries are dry at the confluence.

Mean daily streamflow at the Sleepy Hollow Weir dropped from 13 to 7.2 cfs (monthly mean 9.49 cfs) resulting in 584 acre-feet (AF) of runoff, while mean daily streamflow at the Highway 1 gage dropped from 2.1 to 0.30 cfs (monthly mean 0.73 cfs), resulting in 45 AF of runoff.

There were 0.00 inches of rainfall in July as recorded at Cal-Am’s San Clemente gauge. The rainfall total for WY 2018 (which started on October 1, 2017) is 13.52 inches, or 64% of the long-term year-to-date average of 21.08 inches.

CARMEL RIVER LAGOON: 
The lagoon mouth is now closed for the summer and the water surface level steadily dropped from ~10.2 to 6.9 feet above mean-sea-level (see graph below).   Water quality depth-profiles were conducted at five sites on July 12 while the lagoon was closed and the river inflow was only 0.73 cfs. Steelhead rearing conditions at all sites were generally “fair to poor” with salinity increasing below two meters (0.8-21 ppt), temperature ranging from 67-73 degrees F, and dissolved oxygen (DO) levels of 0.3-6 mg/l.

LIFE CYCLE MONITORING:
Tributary Steelhead Rescues – Staff conducted 14 rescue operations in five Carmel River tributaries between May 2 and June 22, 2018. A total of 2,164 fish were rescued and released back into the river, including 1,856 YOY, 295 1+, with 13 mortalities (0.6%). Additionally, 152 fish were tagged and there were 21 recaptures (in Potrero Cr.).
Mainstem Carmel River Steelhead Rescues - Staff began mainstem rescues on June 25th at the Highway 1 Bridge. In July, Staff completed 18 days of rescues up to the Meadows Road reach.
As of July 31, 1,633 fish have been rescued, including 652 YOY, 973 1+, 7 mortalities (0.4%), 1,542 fish were tagged, and there were 7 recaptures of previously tagged fish.
Tagging – Rescued fish larger than 65 mm are now being tagged with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags. District staff is currently operating four PIT tag arrays on the Carmel River in a partnership between the District and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Data is being collected for future analysis and reporting.

SLEEPY HOLLOW STEELHEAD REARING FACILITY: General contractor Mercer-Fraser Company of Eureka, CA, has been hired for the Intake Upgrade Project and is scheduled to start construction later this fall on the $2 million project. The main features of the project include installing a new intake structure that can withstand flood and drought conditions as well as the increased bedload from the San Clemente Dam removal project two years ago, and a new Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) that can be operated in times of poor river water quality to keep the fish healthy.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: California Wildlife Day!

We are proud to announce a successful inaugural California Wildlife Day at Garland Ranch Park on March 24th, 2018! Thanks to our wonderful group of presenters and exhibitioners, and a hearty congratulations to all student art and science submitters. 

 Defenders of Wildlife Exhibiters 

Defenders of Wildlife Exhibiters 

 Antonio Belestreri with a Great-Horned Owl

Antonio Belestreri with a Great-Horned Owl

Update on Lower Carmel River Project

  Flooding in the Crossroads area in 1995

Flooding in the Crossroads area in 1995

The Resource Management Agency (RMA) of Monterey County held a public meeting on March 26th to share progress and next steps with the environmental impact reports being prepared in support of the Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement (CR FREE) Project.  The Project has two components: a Floodplain Restoration component removing levees and restoring the site’s ecological function as a floodplain, and a Causeway component to replace 360 feet of Highway One roadway with a new causeway that will allow the river to flow under Highway One into the south arm of the Carmel River Lagoon.
There are multiple benefits to be derived: reducing the threat of flooding  in the Mission Fields and Crossroads areas, taking pressure off the northern channel of the river, improving water quality in the Lagoon, restoring fish habitat, reducing costs for levee work, increasing public access to the Lagoon and beach, and preparing for the effects of climate change.
The RMA will serve as the lead agency for the California environmental report with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency taking the federal lead.  The current estimate of the total cost for this project is $29 million, with $14 million secured as of now.  The environmental reports are scheduled for the end of this year, with construction slated for the 2020-22 time period.

NEW ZEALAND MUDSNAIL: A Clear and Present Threat to Our River

The New Zealand Mud snail (NZMS) (Potamopyrus antipdarum) is a small (<5mm) invertebrate that is currently threatening fragile stream and river ecosystems in the Western United States. The NZMS) is an invasive species that is able to survive in a wide variety of habitats. It reproduces asexually, and a single snail has the potential to yield 40 million snails in one year, making this species essentially impossible to eradicate once colonization has occurred. Currently, the NZMS has been reported in several locations along the Carmel River (see https://nas.er.usgs.gov/viewer/omap.aspx?SpeciesID=1008). As is explained in a 2016 Report from the California Fish and Wildlife, the NZMS is able to out-compete local invertebrate species, which leads to a disruption in the aquatic ecosystem.

What you can do to prevent the spread of the NZMS:

The small size and “cryptic coloration” (Oregon State University report, 2010) of the NZMS makes it ideal for inadvertent transport through shoes, ropes, waders, nets and boats. In order to protect the Carmel River Watershed ecosystem, it is essential that the public take measures to prevent the spread of this invasive species.

The spread of NZMS can be prevented through chemical and physical decontamination methods. The follow is a brief summary of such methods.

Chemical Decontamination methods include household cleaners such as bleach and 409 (for methods see http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu/sgpubs/onlinepubs.html).

While chemical decontamination methods are in some cases less time consuming, physical decontamination methods are preferred to reduce potential chemical contamination of the environment. Equipment that comes in contact with the water can be decontaminated by drying (in sunlight) for 48 hours. Additional methods include freezing the gear (-37.4°C) for at least 4 hours, or heating the gear in water at least 120°F for a minimum of 5 minutes. It’s a hassle, but well worth it to prevent further spread!

California Wildlife Day Launched in Carmel Valley!

The inaugural California Wildlife Day (CWD) was joyously celebrated on March 24th with 450 guests in attendance at Garland Ranch Park in Carmel Valley.  It was hosted by the Conservancy and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (MPRPD), and featured a Native American blessing by Rumsien Linda Yamane, talks by CWD’s creator Beverly Eyre, Senator Bill Monning, Assemblyman Mark Stone, Supervisor Mary Adams, and MPRPD Bard Chair Kelly Sorenson about the importance of honoring and preserving our rich and diverse wildlife.  The program featured wildlife demonstrations including the fastest bird in nature—a peregrine falcon—which can travel at 300 mph, a great horned owl, bats, and a red-tailed hawk!  Both kids and adults in the audience loved these demonstrations!  Also in the program were children’s wildlife art creation, a flora and fauna walk, environmental exhibits by 20 organizations and agencies; student presentations and exhibitions of their poems, artwork, and wildlife projects; smoothies by the Bike Guy; observations of river invertebrates; lively music by a local band; and complimentary snacks, lunch, and libations for all!  California Wildlife Day will be celebrated annually on or near the Spring Equinox in Carmel Valley.

 Antonio Balestreri with Lex, a Peregrine Falcon

Antonio Balestreri with Lex, a Peregrine Falcon