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North Coast Rangeland Owners Benefit from Water Quality Planning Courses & Applied Research

The Issue

Improving North Coast water quality requires accelerated efforts to create phased-TMDL's (total maximum daily loads) for more than 18 watersheds. Most of these watersheds are listed as impaired for the beneficial use of habitat for Coho salmon and steelhead trout. Causes of the impairment are sediment, temperature or both.

What Has ANR Done?

During the past seven years a concentrated effort was made to assist rangeland owners to understand and deal with water quality issues on their property. Water quality planning short courses provided 22 hours of instruction on clean water laws, sources of non-point pollution, management to mitigate problems, fish habitat improvement and monitoring programs for both sediment and temperature. In completing the short course, landowners prepared individual plans that identified and prioritized water quality problems on their property. In addition, watershed groups were formed to work collectively on water quality problems. Local applied research by UC specialists and UCCE advisors John Harper and David Lewis assessed sediment, temperature and riparian health. A long term study of eight paired watersheds was established at the Hopland Research and Extension Center to test grazing and fire as management practices to improve water quality. A cattle grazing behavior study at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center will help develop new management practices to protect riparian areas without costly fencing.

The Payoff

Landowners complete plans and implement practices

In Mendocino County more than 150 landowners have prepared plans, inventoried sediment sources and begun mitigation. Management practices include exclusionary fencing, revegetation of riparian corridors and repair or modification of range and forest roads. Twenty landowners in the county now routinely monitor temperature in the Eel and Russian River watersheds. Watershed groups have been formed in the Garcia, Russian, Eel, Noyo, Navarro, Albion, Gualala, Big River, Little River, and 10-Mile watersheds. Most of the chairs or co-chairs of these watershed groups have taken the UC short course at least twice.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted two resolutions: (1) that UCCE rangeland water quality plans developed during the short course meet the TMDL requirement of a site-specific sediment reduction plan and (2) that the UCCE sediment inventory method, developed to help landowners quickly and cost- effectively identify and prioritize natural and man-caused sediment sources, is an acceptable method for meeting TMDL requirements. A survey of ranches in Mendocino County using this UCCE sediment inventory method determined that ranch roads are a significant contributor of sediment.

Clientele Testimonial

A consultant: "Using traditional methods to inventory ranch and forest roads normally costs $6 per mile. With the UCCE method, the cost would only be $0.06 per mile."


Supporting Unit: Mendocino County

John M. Harper, UCCE county director, Mendocino County, 579 Low Gap Road, Ukiah, CA 95482-3734
(707) 463-4495 jmharper@ucdavis.edu