California Coastal Conservancy

The California Coastal Conservancy is a state agency in California established in 1976 to enhance coastal resources and access.


The agency's official goals are to:
*Protect and improve coastal wetlands, streams and watersheds
*Help people get to coasts and shores by building trails and stairways and creating low cost accommodation including campgrounds and hostels
*Work with local communities to revitalize urban watersheds
*Help solve complex land-use problems
*Purchase and hold environmentally valuable coastal and bay lands
*Protect Agricultural lands and support coastal agriculture
*Accept donations and dedication of land and easements for public access, wildlife habitat, agriculture and open spaces

It works in partnership with other public agencies, nonprofit organizations and private landowners, employing 70 people and overseeing a current annual budget of 53 million dollars Official web site] . Since its conception, the conservancy has spent over 1.4 billion dollars on projects it has completed. The conservancy was created by the legislature as a unique entity with flexible powers to serve as an intermediary among government, citizens, and the private sector in recognition that creative approaches would be needed to preserve California’s coast line.


Since its establishment, the conservancy has completed more than 1,000 projects along the California coast line and in the San Francisco bay. These projects have included preserving almost convert|20000|acre|km2 of wetlands, dunes, wildlife habitat, recreation lands, farmland, and scenic open space, building hundreds of mile of access ways and trails along the coast line, and assisting in the completion of more than 100 urban waterfront projects.

Program areas

The conservancy has six main program areas :

Public Access

Provides capital funds and technical assistance for the construction of public access stairs; trails, limited-mobility-access projects, hostels, interpretive signs and other facilities that serve state and regional coastal access needs.

Resource Enhancement

Provides capital funds and technical assistance for the preservation, enhancement and restoration of wetlands, watersheds, riparian corridors, and other wildlife habitat lands.

Agricultural Preservation

Provides capital funds and technical assistance to prevent the loss of coastal agricultural lands to other uses by acquiring interests in such lands, installing agricultural improvements and protective measures.

ite Reservation

Provides capital funds and technical assistance to safeguard significant coastal resource sites and responds to opportunities to acquire such sites when other agencies are unable to do so.

Urban waterfronts

Provides capital funds and technical assistance to protect, restore and expand coastal-dependent recreation, commercial and industrial facilities and to expand opportunities for public access and use of urban waterfronts in conjunction with new development.

Non-profit assistance

Provides capital funds and assistance to nonprofit land conservation organizations to aid them in implementing conservancy projects and in developing cost-effective local management of resource land and public access facilities.

Current Projects

The Conservancy is currently involved in over three hundred projects in the San Francisco Bay and up and down the California coast, including:

California Coastal Trail

The California Coastal Trail, once completed, will run convert|1200|mi|km from Oregon to Mexico. However, the trail has a long history; the conservancy did not get involved until 2001 when the state legislature, by the way of SB 908, directed the conservancy to determine what needed to be done to complete the trail. The conservancy first came up with a definition of what they wanted the trail to be; “a continuous public right-of-way along the California coastline; a trail designed to foster appreciation and stewardship of the scenic and natural resources of the coast through hiking and other complementary modes of non-motorized transportation”. SB 908 set a target date for the completion of the trail in 2008. To determine how much of the trail was already completed, the conservancy interviewed public officials, communities, counties, and National Parks, as well as knowledgeable individuals and members of the coast walk. During this process, segments of the trail were graded as adequate (or better) or in need of substantial improvement (or worse).

After conducting the research, the conservancy concluded that, out of the convert|1200|mi|km length of the trail, about 40% was adequate and 40% inadequate, but ran on public land or along public highway corridors. For the remaining 20% of the trail length, acquisition of land has had to be planned. The conservancies final estimate was that it would cost 668,350,000 dollars to finish all convert|1200|mi|km of the California Coastal Trail. Currently more than half of the trail is completed.

Napa Sonoma Marsh Restoration Project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the conservancy, and the California Department of Fish and Game are conducting a feasibility study and preparing an Environmental Impact Report / Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), which involves the technical analysis of alternatives for the restoration of convert|10000|acre|km2 of wetlands and associated habitats within the former Cargill salt pond complex in the North Bay [ Napa-Sonoma Marsh Restoration Project (accessed April 2008)] .

The goals of this project are to restore large patches of tidal marsh that support a wide variety of fish, wildlife and plants, including special status mammals and water birds - specifically the salt marsh harvest mouse, California Clapper Rail, and Black Rail, endangered fish - specifically the Delta smelt, Sacramento splittail, steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, and aquatic animals. They will also be managing water depth to maximize wildlife habitat diversity, with shallow-water areas for migratory and resident shore birds and deep-water areas for diving ducks.

Carmel River Reroute and San Clemente Dam Removal Project

The project involves the conservancy, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Conservation League Foundation and the Californian American Water company (CalAm). These agencies are all working together to remove the San Clemente Dam which was constructed in 1921. Since the dams construction, the Carmel River has suffered from accelerated erosion, and the once vibrant steelhead trout run has dramatically decreased Appendix B, US Army Crops of Engineers, Notice of Intent Carmel River Reroute and San Clemente Dam Removal Project] . The benefits of the dam removal include recovery of central coast steelhead trout (a threatened species) by proving unimpaired access to over convert|25|mi|km of spawning and rearing habitat, expansion of public recreation by preserving over convert|900|acre|km2 of coastal watershed lands, restoration of a natural sediment regime improving the habitat for steelhead trout, reducing beach erosion that now contributes to destabilization of homes, roads and infrastructure, and improvement of habitat for the threatened California Red-legged Frog.

The total project cost for the project is currently estimated at $83 million. According to the implementation agreement, CalAm will pay an amount equivalent to the estimated cost of buttressing the dam, or approximately $49 million. The conservancy, with assistance from the NMFS, will secure the additional $34 million from state, federal, and private foundation sources. Construction of the project is expected to take three years - activities will be restricted to approximately April to November to avoid the rainy season and impact to migrating steelhead. During years two and three of construction, the Carmel River and San Clemente Creek will be diverted around the reservoir and dam site, and the reservoir will be emptied.

Integrated Watershed Restoration Program (IWPR)

The Integrated Watershed Restoration Program (IWPR) for Santa Cruz County was formed in 2002 as a county wide effort to restore the watershed. The IWRP’s objectives are to:

* Coordinate agencies on the identification, funding and implementation of watershed restoration projects
* Target proposals to critical projects supported by the resource agencies
* Facilitate higher quality designs at lower costs
* Simplify the permit process for water shed restoration
* Effect institutional change to improve water shed restoration efforts
* Develop a countywide outreach and education program
* Develop a monitoring program geared toward future project identification needs
* Develop additional assessments and plans
* Serve as a water restoration information hub for Santa Cruz county.

Recognizing the value of the IWRP, the conservancy awarded 4.5 million to the SCCRCD in June 2003 to initiate Phase 1 of the IWRP Integrated Watershed Restoration Program for Santa Cruz County (accessed April 2008)] . Phase 1 is focused on pre-implementation activities so most of the funding will go towards designs and permits for nearly 100 critical watershed restoration projects in Santa Cruz County. Some of these projects include expansion of rural roads, technical assistance programs, comparative lagoon ecological assessment projects, countywide outreach and education program development, watershed education activity and resource guides, and coordination of resources: annual watershed partner forum, IWRP reporting , IWRP website, technical assistance.

South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project

The project is being headed by the state of California and the federal government to restore convert|15100|acre|km2 of Cargill’s former salt ponds in San Francisco Bay South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project (accessed April 2008)] . In October 2000, Cargill proposed to consolidate its operations and sell lands and salt production rights on 61 percent of its South Bay Operation area. Negotiations were headed by Senator Dianne Feinstein and a framework agreement was signed in May of 2002 by the conservancy, the California Resources Agency, the Wildlife Conservation Board, the California Department of Fish and Game, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Cargill and Senator Dianne Feinstein. California approved purchase of the property on February 11, 2003. The land is currently managed and owned by the US Fish and Wildlife Services and the Department of Fish and Game.

The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is integrating restoration with flood management, while also providing for public access and wildlife-oriented recreation and education opportunities. Restored tidal marshes will provide critical habitat for the endangered California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. Large marsh areas will also provide extensive channel systems which will provide habitat for aquatic life and harbor seals. Flood management will also be integrated to protect local communities. Restoration will also offer many opportunities for public use including trails for hiking and biking, hunting, bird watching, environmental education and other recreational opportunities.

Invasive Spartina Project

The Invasive Spartina Project is a coordinated regional effort among local, state and federal organizations dedicated to preserving California's extraordinary coastal biological resources through the elimination of introduced species of Spartina San Francisco Estuary Invasive Spartina Project (accessed April 2008)] . Cordgrasses are highly aggressive invaders that significantly alter both the physical structure and biological composition of our tidal marshes, mudflats and creeks. The control program is the “action arm” of the San Francisco Estuary Invasive Spartina Project, a project of the conservancy. The program uses an Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) approach to prioritize and implement control efforts.

Applying this approach, the control program uses all available scientific information regarding the San Francisco Estuary, the invasive cordgrasses, and the likely economic, sociological, and ecological consequences of both the invasion and the treatment program, to develop a management strategy that is effective, economical, and protective of public and environmental health.

To implement the site-specific management strategies, the program relies heavily on partnerships developed with the landowners and managers around the Bay that have non-native Spartina growing on their lands. The conservancy provides treatment and eradication grants to these partners, who subsequently select an appropriate aquatic vegetation control contractor through a competitive bid process, or utilize their own equipment and crews in the case of flood control and mosquito abatement districts. These partners are ultimately responsible for the success of the project through the long-term commitment to monitor and maintain the eradication efforts, and ensure that Spartina is not reintroduced to the system.


* [ Hikers Guide, California Coastal Trail info, Coast Walk, 2003]
* The conservation Fund, A Review and Analysis of Existing Conservation Plans
* Los Angeles River Wetlands in the City of Long Beach: A Feasibility Study, City of Long Beach Department of Parks Recreation and Marine May 2002

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