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Report Details Promise of Storage Ponds for Endangered Fish, Central Coast Farms

Sustainable Conservation's Ponds project originated in 2002 when participants at the San Mateo County Land Stewardship Conference discussed the long-term economic health of coastal agriculture - especially within the context of increasing natural resource conflicts and complex regulations. Sustainable Conservation's recently released report details the benefits of new or modified off-stream water storage ponds to boost declining fish populations - including endangered coho and steelhead salmon - while increasing the certainty of irrigation supplies for farmers within coastal watersheds. Our study focused on the coastal areas of San Mateo and northern Santa Cruz counties, but has potential applications statewide.

The release of our report is especially timely given the State Water Resources Control Board is holding hearings and soliciting comments on their newly proposed stream-flow requirements for watersheds on the northern California coast.

Through a partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Resource Conservation Districts, landowners and non-governmental organizations, Sustainable Conservation sought to develop a permitting and funding framework to facilitate the building or retrofitting of off-stream ponds so high wintertime flows in streams could be captured and stored for use as irrigation water during the hot and dry summer. These practices would reduce the need for farmers to divert water directly from streams during summer, when fish need ample supplies of cool water.

While the concept is relatively simple and widely supported, our final report identifies an array of complex regulatory and economic barriers that must be overcome if we are to realize the benefits of this innovative approach to natural resource management. We view the report as the completion of our first phase of work on this complicated problem, and are currently seeking funding to advance the methodology toward implementation.

Read the report.