Lower Pajaro River Enhancement PlanExecutive SummaryFinal Report December 2002
FALL CREEK ENGINEERING, INC.
ES 1. I
The Pajaro River Watershed is one of the largest riverine systems entering the Monterey Bay anddrains an area of approximately 1,300 square miles of land in Central California.Historical and current land use practices continue to impact water quality in the main areas of thewatershed. The predominant land use practices in the Lower Pajaro River and its tributaries includeirrigated croplands, rangelands, urbanization and rural residential development. Each of these landuse practices can potentially contribute a variety of pollutants such as sediments, nutrients, pesticides, pathogens, oil and grease to waterways in the watershed.Physical habitat quality assessments completed by the California Department of Fish and Game(CDFG) in 1998 indicate that sediment deposition is a significant water quality problem in thePajaro River watershed. This is exemplified in the lower Pajaro River where high accumulation of sediment has covered larger gravel bottom substrates, which are important for salmonid (steelhead)spawning and rearing habitat. Additional studies conducted by the CDFG have detected elevatedlevels of DDT and other residual persistent pesticides that continue to enter the Pajaro River fromeroding soils from adjacent lands. The levels of residual pesticides detected at times, typicallyduring storm events, can exceed water quality objectives to protect aquatic life. The Pajaro River and several tributary streams are considered, by both state and federal agencies, to be water qualityimpaired due to sedimentation.Excessive erosion and sedimentation is also resulting in loss of agricultural soils, roads, riparian andstream habitat. Many natural and human induced factors contribute to, or exacerbate erosion andsedimentation problems in the lower Pajaro River watershed. Natural and generally uncontrollableand significant sediment sources include landslides and slumps, which are common along the SanAndreas Fault Zone in the upper watershed lands in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Increased runoff from recently converted croplands from orchards and rangeland directed to aged, failing and poorlymaintained infrastructure (drainage ditches, culverts and roads) is causing severe erosion problemsin many locations throughout the watershed. Stream bank instability due to removal and/or loss of riparian vegetation in the low watershed areas is also resulting in acute erosion and sedimentation problems in the watershed.The Santa Cruz County Resource Conservation District (SCCRCD) has undertaken thisenhancement planning study to assess erosion and sedimentation problems in several tributarywatersheds in the Lower Pajaro River watershed. The tributary streams studied are characteristic of Central Californian coastal streams located in agricultural valleys. The development of theenhancement plan is being supported by a grant jointly funded by the California CoastalConservancy and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.A key goal of this enhancement plan is to work in cooperation with landowners, land managers, andagency staff to assess historical and existing conditions in order to determine principal physicalfactors causing significant erosion and sedimentation problems in the areas studied. Once a baseline study is completed, enhancement strategies can be developed to address and reducedrainage and erosion problems in the study area.