Updates on the Collaborative Watershed Management Presentations

On May 25th the Upper Sacramento River Regional Water Action Group (USR RWAG) presented information on the benefits of collaborative watershed management in our local communities. The next day was followed by a groundwater monitoring demonstration and forest field trip. The presentation and field trip were facilitated by Ecology Center staff, Angelina Cook and Phoenix Lawhon Isler.

This was the second in a series of outreach events to share the group’s work. USR RWAG members have been coordinating efforts to obtain state funding to implement projects that improve the “green” and “grey” aspects of water systems in the region. “Green” refers to natural infrastructure (i.e. forests, rivers, aquifers), and “grey” refers to built infrastructure (i.e. pipes, pumps, treatment facilities).

The presentations featured the Pacific Forest Trust’s McCloud Dogwood Butte Working Forest Conservation Easement and Trout Unlimited’s Groundwater Elevation Monitoring projects. We also heard from Mark Miyoshi of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe about the tribe’s participation in RWAG, and their perspectives of water as alive and sacred. Mark explained that Winnemem Wintu means “middle water people” and refers to the McCloud River, which runs in between the Upper Sacramento and Pit Rivers.

The McCloud Dogwood Butte project aims to protect source waters by conserving timberland and improving forest management practices on 12,646 acres of private timberland. The Dogwood Butte property contains dozens of cold-water springs flowing from within the vast volcanic formations of Mount Shasta into the McCloud River and eventually into Shasta Lake Reservoir.

The Groundwater Elevation Monitoring project engages local citizens in hands-on monitoring to understand how groundwater is flowing through volcanic aquifers around Mount Shasta, helping fill in data gaps to inform future protection and groundwater management efforts.

During the field trip, Raven Stevens and Mark Miyoshi explained how the groundwater elevation data is gathered and recorded, and how the project aims to establish baseline data to inform water and land-use planning.  Pacific Forest Trust staff, Connie Best and Ed Stanton, and timber managers from Hancock Forest Management explained how working forest conservation easements “buy time” for the forest by managing it for older trees and heterogeneity. The field trip was a great opportunity to see a working forest conservation easement in action and visit the some of the special habitat zones on the property; including an oak woodland, perennial springs, and limestone cliffs on the border of the Klamath and Cascade bioregions.

RWAG brings together local municipalities, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), and tribes to work together on water issues and apply for competitive grant funding from the State of California through the Integrated Regional Water Management Program. RWAG developed an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP) in 2013. The Plan is a comprehensive, non-regulatory planning document that identifies critical issues and needs, as well as broadly supported objectives pertaining to management of water resources.

In addition to the citizen science groundwater monitoring and working forest conservation easement projects, the group also secured funding for two municipal infrastructure projects during the last Prop 84-funded grant round. After four years of collaboration, two years of successful grant proposals has attracted a total of $7.7 million in funding for water system improvements in the area.

“The Upper Sacramento IRWMP is unique in California because it was initiated by NGOs who continue to maintain an active role in the watershed planning and fundraising effort. While successful grants have mostly funded municipal infrastructure projects, collaboration is a proactive opportunity to propel projects that improve the green and grey infrastructure of our region, as well as assert public interests in natural resource management,” stated Angelina Cook.

For those who would like to learn more about the USR RWAG, a video and website upgrade are currently under production. The video will be available at the website www.uppersacirwm.org by July 2017.