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Conservation Quarterly

Volume 12 Issue 3 Fall 2009

Cooperator of the Year: YCFCWCD

Partners in conservation n June, the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (YCFCWCD) was named the Cooperator of the Year at the Yolo RCDs Annual Dinner. The Yolo RCD recognized the organization for its efforts in habitat conservation and innovative water management. In recent years, the YCFCWCD has partnered with the Yolo RCD on several projects related to watershed health, water quality, and habitat.

recharge, prepare for flood and drought events, and manage and maintain the irrigation delivery system for area farmers. Additionally, they are committed to exploring the use of native habitat along canal banks to decrease maintenance costs and improve wildlife habitat. The YCFCWCD is also taking a leadership role in a pilot program (Flood SAFE Yolo) to minimize the risk from flooding in western Yolo County. The program considers community values while enhancing water supply, ecosystem integrity, and recreational opportunities. In addition to working on flood management solutions, a priority of the jointly-funded $600,000 effort is to develop a sustainable funding mechanism to continue collaborative efforts for flood management after the 2-year pilot program ends.

A brief water history In 1951, nearly a century after local farming pioneers began managing surface water, the State Legislature established the YCFCWCD. The District service area covers 196,000 acres of ag land in the County. Originally, Clear Lake supplied most of the Districts water, but drought years during the 1960s and 1970s interrupted that supply, causing farmers to rely more heavily on groundwater. In The District is also very response, the YCFCWCD aware of the balance beHonorees (left to right) Tim OHalloran, Erik Vink, Jim Mayer, YCFCWCD accept constructed the Indian tween surface water and Cooperator Award from Dan Efseaff and Yolo RCD. Valley Dam and Reservoir ground water. Surface wain 1975, to provide another ter and ground water are water source for irrigation, and reduce the potential overconnected natural systems with complex relationships. Redraft to the regions groundwater reserves. charge results from surface water (from irrigation, rainfall, rivers, and ponds) seeping into the aquifer. During a typiA balancing act cal irrigation season, the water released from Clear Lake The YCFCWCD balances the needs of Yolo Countys agriand Indian Valley Reservoir provides an estimated 50% of culture and urban residents, with environmental stewardthe countys groundwater recharge as it travels through ship. The Districts interests touch on a variety of waternatural waterways and the Districts earth-lined canals. related issues; they monitor water quality and groundwater

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Yolo County

In This Issue
Cooperator of the Year: YCFCWCD Executive Directors Message Fire and Grassland Ecology: Fanning the Flames for Conservation $5 Million in Conservation Funding for Yolo Ag Producers New Partnerships for Conservation Education Benefit Capay Valley Students Also included: Annual Workshop Flyer! See page 4 1


Yolo County

Fall 2009

Dans Message: Back to Work

n my Spring message, I noted the grim effect that the State of Californias financial crisis was having on the Yolo County Resource Conservation District. Many of our bond-funded projects were suspended, and the State had not paid us for invoices almost a year old. Our cash reserves were so depleted that we could not pay our patient contractors and there was a real danger of having to close our doors. Now fast forward to Fall 2009. Our staff are scrambling to gear up for a busy planting season before the rains set in on a slew of new projects. The Yolo RCD has developed new partnerships and several new exciting projects. Although the State still owes us a considerable amount of money, they have now paid many of the outstanding invoices, and we have been able to reimburse our partners and slowly restart many of our bond-funded projects. Although we all remain cautious about Californias financial situation, the Yolo RCD is gearing up for a reinvigorated organization in 2010. On June 10th, we hosted our annual dinner. Even with the down economy, the dinner was our most successful ever, and I have been heartened by the response of the community to our call for help. Approximately 140 people attended and enjoyed local wine, food, music, and art. The evening grossed about $5,000 in silent auction donations, food, and wine. We were able to provide scholarships for two local high school students to attend summer Range Camp. The evening brought out the dignitaries as we had representatives from all levels of local government present, and a surprise appearance by the current Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan that was arranged by long-time conservation cooperator Richard Rominger. The support demonstrated by the many growers and partner organizations that night provided a longlasting boost to our staffs morale that continued to sustain us throughout the summer. In this issue, we highlight our Cooperator of the Year, the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (YCFCWCD). Typically, we honor the conservation efforts of individual landowners, but this year is the first that we honor an organization. We provide a glimpse into some of their conservation efforts in this issue. Finally, I wanted to point out the debut of the Yolo RCDs new logo in this newsletter. While it still has a familiar feel of the old logo, its been updated and captures a slice of Yolo County in the background.

MISSION The Yolo County Resource Conservation District (Yolo RCD) commits to protect, improve, and sustain the natural resources of Yolo County. FUNCTION Resource Conservations Districts were first created as a result of the Dust Bowl crisis. Originally focusing on soil and water issues, the mission has broadened to include fish and wildlife habitat restoration, farmland preservation, and control of invasive plant and animal species. The Yolo RCD provides technical guidance, education, and on-site expertise for private landowners and growers, cities, schools, agencies, businesses, and research institutions. CONSERVATION QUARTERLY The Conservation Quarterly is a publication of the Yolo County Resource Conservation District, a governmental subdivision of the State of California organized under Public Resources Code Division 9. BOARD OF DIRECTORS Blair Voelz (Chairman), Garth Williams (Vice-Chairman) David Gilmer, Ali Pahlavanian, Bob Milbrodt, John Reyes, Gio Ferrendelli ASSOCIATE DIRECTORS Jim Mayer, Rudy Lucero, Rachael Long, Greg Giguiere YOLO RCD STAFF Dan Efseaff, Executive Director Jeanette Wrysinski, Senior Program Manager Sue McCloud, Financial Manager Sheila Pratt, Administrative Assistant John Reynolds, Revegetation Specialist Tanya Meyer, Vegetation Management Specialist Diane Crumley, Education Coordinator Heather Nichols-Crowell, Watershed Coordinator Chris Robbins, Watershed Coordinator Our projects reflect a cooperative effort with out partner agency, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS STAFF Phil Hogan, District Conservationist Wendy Rash, Soil Conservationist Ha Truong, Agricultural Engineer Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist CONTACT US Yolo County Resource Conservation District 221 West Court Street, Suite 1 Woodland, CA 95695 Phone (530) 662-2037 ext.5 Fax (530) 662-4876
Cover photo of Fall-ripening grapes by Phil Hogan.

Daniel Efseaff Executive Director

Conservation Quarterly Fall 2009

Fire and Grassland Ecology: Fanning the Flames for Conservation

non-native grasses and other weeds take hold again, we will be working with the County to plant native grasses and woody plants, and will continue to monitor the new plants during the following couple of years until they become established. The long-term goal is to develop native plants on the site to improve species diversity and habitat for wild bird, mammal, and insect species.

nother long, dry wildfire season in California fuels headlines about the dangers of wildfires to people and property. However, the headlines often overlook the ecological benefits of fire. California Indians used fires for thousands of years to shape the landscape and favor certain plants and game animals. Today, conservationists also use fire as an important tool that can tip the scales in favor of native plants. Many of our native plant species are well-adapted to fire, and some even depend on it as part of their life cycle. Controlled, well-timed prescribed burns can mimic natural fire cycles, reduce fuel loads, and enhance the growth and abundance of native plants. Recently, the Yolo RCD partnered with the Willow Oak Fire District to conduct a training burn on County land northwest of Woodland. The training burn provided an excellent opportunity for firefighters to sharpen their wildland fire-fighting skills while in a realistic setting. The training burn also benefited the ongoing habitat restoration efforts initiated by Yolo County Parks and Resources (YCPR). YCPR is transforming this former gravel-mining site into improved wildlife habitat. We expect the fire to temporarily reduce weed pressure, open up the ground cover to light, and release nutrients into the soil. Before the

Firefighters from Willow Oak Fire District hone their skills using a hose during the controlled burn northwest of Woodland.

Understanding the Importance of Native Perennial Grasses

The large-scale loss of native perennial grasslands to nonnative, highly invasive annual species has a number of negative consequences. Shallow-rooted annual invaders sprout early in the season, devoting most of their energy toward above-ground plant parts, that die soon, leaving a landscape covered with dry stems and husks (fire fuel). In contrast, the slower-growing, native grasses expend energy in developing deep root systems to ensure a supply of moisture throughout the summer, and contribute to reduced risk of wildfires, runoff, erosion, and weed invasion.
Illustration from Range Management: Principles and Practices by Arthur W. Sampson, 1952.

Yolo County Resource Conservation District

2010 Conservation Workshop Series

Introduction to Conservation Easements
February 17, 2010 Wed. 6pm-7:15pm Dunnigan Firehouse 29145 Main Street Dunnigan

Do you want to protect your farm or rangelands natural and agricultural resources from development? Judy Boshoven, from the Yolo Land Trust, will answer your questions and discuss the process of placing property into a conservation easement agreement. Don Rust, County Planner, will discuss the agricultural mitigation ordinance. Held in cooperation with the Dunnigan Citizen Advisory Committee Do you want to improve the efficiency of your irrigation system? Would you like to reduce your systems energy costs or incorporate renewable energy sources? Discuss the latest technologies and programs for installing efficient irrigation systems, monitoring devices, pumps, and solar power systems. Site tour of Dixon Ridge Farms innovative irrigation system to follow workshop. Dawn Calciano, Water Conservation Coordinator for the City of Woodland, will join RCD staff for an informational workshop on water saving practices, with emphasis on native and drought-tolerant plantings for home and gardens. (Free water-saving devices offered to Woodland residents). Discuss the challenges and successes of establishing native perennial grasses, trees, shrubs and forbs on a working cattle ranch. Workshop participants will view rangeland restoration project sites on the Bobcat Ranch. Organized by the Audubon California Landowner Stewardship Program. Do you want to deal with the weeds in your creek? Discuss and observe the results of integrated riparian weed management methods with emphasis on controlling Tamarisk and Arundo and other riparian weeds using herbicides and other methods. Held in cooperation with the Cache Creek Conservancy. For more information, please call Sheila Pratt at 530-662-2037, ext. 117

Irrigation Water Management

March 4, 2010 Wed. 9am-11:30am Norton Hall 70 Cottonwood Street Woodland Site Tour 1-3pm

Landscaping for Water Conservation

March 31, 2010 Wed. 9am-11am Woodland Community Center 2001 East Street Woodland

Rangeland Restoration Tour

April 7, 2010 Wed. 9am-12pm Bobcat Ranch (west of) Winters

Riparian Weed Control Methods

April 21, 2010 Wed. 8:30am-12pm Cache Creek Nature Preserve Woodland


Yolo County

Meetings partially supported by Audubons Landowner Stewardship Program, Cache Creek Conservancy, CA Wildlife Conservation Board, CA Department of Conservation, CA Deparment of Water Resources, USDA NRCS, and the Yolo Land Trust.

Conservation Quarterly Fall 2009

Aquifers are very efficient at water storage. Groundwater is not subject to water loss from evaporation as surface bodies are. For example, relatively shallow Clear Lake can lose nearly half of its water to evaporation each year. In addition, researchers estimate that the storage capacity of the local aquifer is over 13 million acre-feet, which is over 10 times the size of Clear Lake. Because aquifers are not visible, it is easy to overlook this valuable resource, but maintaining the size and stability of the aquifer is crucial to both the agricultural economy and urban communities within our county. Maintaining canals and wildlife habitat In a typical year, the combined water storage in Clear Lake and Indian Valley Reservoir allow for sustained releases throughout the year that provide water for agriculture and sustain the riparian and aquatic habitat along Cache Creek above Capay Dam. While the sustained flow is quite different from the flashier hydrology of the natural system, YCFCWCDs 160 miles of canals, creeks and sloughs provide critical wildlife corridors between the Coast Range and the valley floor, and contribute to the regions plant and wildlife diversity. The sustained flow also provides safe haven for weeds, and typical maintenance of the canals and berms involves a cycle of spraying, sometimes up to five times a year. The District is exploring the use of native plants along the canals to stabilize banks and also filter nutrients and sediment. Once established, native plantings will outcompete weeds (reducing herbicide use and labor costs), and reduce erosion (potentially reducing costs associated with cleaning out canals and rebuilding banks). Revitalizing the University Canal A recent example of collaboration between the YCFCWCD and the Yolo RCD, involves a one-mile stretch of the University Canal, east of County Road 95, near Glide
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Newly planted sedge line the water edge of the gradually sloping University Canal.

Ranch and the UC Davis Putah Creek Reserve. As part of a CALFED Ecological Restoration Program grant, the project widened the channel and opened up the slope of the banks, increasing the water flow capacity and bank stability. Yolo RCD crews planted sedges and rushes at the waterline, which reduce water turbulence, erosion potential, and improve the water flow. Other species were planted along the gradually sloped channel. The wider, more natural channel shape allows for better conveyance during winter storm events, and the native shrubs and grasses provide important wildlife cover and nesting sites. The YCFCWCD also continues to be an active partner in our regional collaborative efforts with the tri-county Cache Creek Watershed Forum and assists each year with our youth education outreach event, Cache Creek Discovery Day. Water conservation and management continue to be a topic of concern and lively debate in our region and state. Yolo County residents are fortunate to have a water district that consistently provides innovative and competent leadership in response to ever-changing challenges.

$5 Million in Conservation Funding for Yolo Ag Producers

his July, the USDA announced the release of $58 million to fund the new Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), established by the 2008 Farm Bill. The Yolo RCD submitted a proposal on behalf of area landonwers this Spring, and the requested $5 million in AWEP cost-share funding was awarded for water improvement projects for Yolo Countys agricultural producers over the next 5 years. The programs goals include: increasing water conservation through improved irrigation system efficiency; decreasing runoff, sediment, and flooding at agriculture-urban interfaces; and improving surface and groundwater quality through reducing sediment and chemical loads leaving irrigated lands. Practices such as vegetated drainage systems, filter strips and sediment basins are conservation methods that can improve water quality, and are covered under AWEP. Applications from individual producers must meet EQIP requirements, but do not need to have existing EQIP contracts. Producers whose applications are selected enter into individual contracts with NRCS. For more information about the AWEP program, contact the NRCS Woodland Field Office located at 221 West Court Street Suite 1, Woodland, CA 95695 at (530) 662-2037 ext. 3.

he suspension of State bond-funded projects in December 2008 created many challenges, but also provided opportunities for creative new partnerships from within our local community. The Yolo RCD and Center for Land-Based Learnings SLEWS (Student & Landowner Education & Watershed Stewardship) program was forced to cancel field trips for Esparto students earlier this school year due to State program suspensions. When local Tribal members of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation heard about this, they provided assistance. This spring, Yocha Dehe Academy students joined with Esparto High School students to plant native trees, shrubs, and grasses to restore riparian habitat around the Yocha Dehe Golf Course. Tribal Chairman Marshall McKay commented, Learning is so important and we recognize that many of the best lessons are taught away from the classroom..were happy we could find a way to preserve this hands-on experience for these students. A further example of the Tribes support for outdoor education came this summer when they provided additional funding for the Yolo RCDs watershed education program. Yolo RCD and SLEWS staff developed a twoweek curriculum specifically designed for the Yocha Dehe Wintun Academy students. We used the schools

Conservation Quarterly Fall 2009 New Partnerships for Conservation Education Benefit Capay Valley Students
classroom garden, nearby orchards, ranches, and Cache Creek riparian corridor to provide hands-on lessons and art activities. We focused on native birds, pollinators, local wildlife, native plants, sustainable agriculture and recycling. The programs initial success provides a good foundation for developing new partnerships and opportunities for local students to learn science concepts and participate in local stewardship efforts.

Students from Esparto High School and Yocha Dehe Wintun Academy planted native trees as part of the Yolo RCD/SLEWS habitat restoration field day this spring in Capay Valley.

Find project progress reports, events, links, and updated conservation articles on the Yolo RCD website at If you would like to receive this newsletter electronically instead of by mail, please notify Sheila Pratt at

Yolo County RCD/NRCS Field Office 221 W. Court Street, Suite 1 Woodland, CA 95695

Nonprofit U.S. Postage Paid Woodland, CA 95695 Permit No. 31 Woodland, CA