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D5: Ecological Data Collection and Analysis*

About This Project

This project continues to build and update watershed data to track stream ecosystem conditions, helping Valley Water and other county agencies and organizations make informed watershed, asset management and natural resource decisions. The new and updated information will be used to develop or modernize integrated watershed plans (such as watershed profiles, One Water Plan and Stream Corridor Priority Plans) that identify potential projects, support grant applications, environmental analyses and permits, and are shared with land use agencies, environmental groups, and the public to make efficient and coordinated environmental decisions throughout the county. These data and plans will help integrate and enhance Valley Water’s programs, projects, maintenance and stewardship actions through standardized, repeatable and defensible measurements that guide, organize and integrate information on stream and habitat conditions.

Measuring changes in ecological conditions through time allows Valley Water, resource agencies, land managers and the public to understand and respond to climate change effects and evolving creek and habitat conditions.

 

*This project was voter approved as part of the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.

VW biologists conduct CRAM survey on SCC creek
VW biologists conduct CRAM survey on SCC creek
Datapoints
Status
Active
Location
Countywide
Schedule
Start FY 2022 / Finish FY 2036
Funding
Safe, Clean Water Fund ($7.6 million); Watershed Stream Stewardship Fund
News and UpdatesNews and Updates
Reports and DocumentsReports and Documents
Environmental and Community BenefitsEnvironmental and Community Benefits
History and BackgroundHistory and Background
News & Updates

KPI #1: Reassess and track stream ecological conditions and habitats in each of the county’s five (5) watersheds every 15 years.

Field surveys for the Guadalupe River watershed reassessment were completed in 2022. Crews collected data at 75 sites in the watershed. These data are available on EcoAtlas. A reassessment report, including the results of the reassessment and a comparison with the 2012 assessment, will be completed and available in late 2024.  Assessment reports for other Santa Clara County watersheds can be found under Reports & Documents.

Valley Water uses the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) to assess the ecological condition of creeks in Santa Clara County’s five major watersheds and document changes over time. You can learn more about the methodology at cramwetlands.org.  The CRAM scores that form the basis of the watershed assessments, and for numerous County creeks, lakes, and wetlands, can be accessed on EcoAtlas.

Project D5 continues to help maintain and update the Coyote Creek Native Ecosystem Enhancement Tool (CCNEET), an online decision-support tool to identify and coordinate habitat actions to improve ecological conditions along Coyote Creek, from Anderson Dam to Montague Expressway. Inspired by the need for a watershed approach to environmental resource management, project planning, and permitting, an overarching goal of CCNEET is to help coordinate habitat conservation and enhancement so that multiple projects and limited funding can result in meaningful ecological improvement of the creek. You can learn more about CCNEET here and request access from the contact below.

Recording CRAM survey data at a Guadalupe River watershed site.

 

CRAM survey crew at work on a Guadalupe Creek tributary.

 

KPI #2: Provide up to $500,000 per 15-year period toward the development and updates of five (5) watershed plans that include identifying priority habitat enhancement opportunities in Santa Clara County.

  • Valley Water recently finalized One Water watershed plans for the Upper Pajaro River Watershed and the Guadalupe River Watershed.
  • Portions of the Upper Pajaro River Watershed are being evaluated as to which would benefit most from more detailed habitat enhancement action and opportunity area assessment and mapping. This additional detail will be captured through the Upper Pajaro Native Ecosystem Enhancement Tool (UPNEET), a data and mapping tool that will be developed in phases. Phase 1 is expected to start in FY25, using stakeholders and preliminary data sources identified in FY24.
  • For both Upper Pajaro River and Guadalupe River Watersheds, Valley Water worked with San Francisco Estuary Institute/Aquatic Science Center to use existing vegetation maps, CRAM data, and other information sources to produce maps for the One Water plans that can inform where and what enhancement actions could be undertaken.

 

April 2024

For more information:

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Ecological condition of creeks in Santa Clara County’s five major watersheds using the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) (“SCC 5 Watersheds” is all of the watersheds combined)

 

 

Ecological condition of creeks in Santa Clara County’s five major watersheds combined, using the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM), compared with those in the San Francisco Bay Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta ecoregion and California statewide

Click here for an enlarged version of the above chart.

 

Reports & Documents

The best of Santa Clara County's native vegetation!

Valley Water completed a detailed documentation of the composition and conditions of Santa Clara County’s most pristine native plant communities. The study included numerous regionally native vegetation communities, with an emphasis on wetland and riparian habitats. At over 300 sample plots, the Vegetation Rapid Assessment method (modified from California Native Plant Society 2018 online at https://www.cnps.org/plant-science/field-protocols-guidelines) was used to document plant species, percent cover, and key physical conditions, and vegetation classified under the Manual of California Vegetation (Sawyer et al. 2009 online at https://vegetation.cnps.org/). This understanding improves restoration and mitigation project designs and success, helps standardize permit conditions, and increases climate resiliency of projects. While the study method details, data analyses, and results are still being prepared, we are excited to share the study’s raw data here. Please direct any questions to the project contact listed on this page, and stay tuned for the accompanying report.

Baseline Assessments

The first, or baseline, assessments of stream ecological condition in each of Santa Clara County’s five major watersheds are available:

Synthesis report of stream ecological condition in all five of Santa Clara County’s major watersheds (2020), with comparisons between the watersheds and with statewide and San Francisco Bay Delta ecoregion. Examples applying CRAM to project and mitigation performance, and a watershed approach are also provided.

The reassessment of stream ecological condition in the Coyote Creek watershed (2020), which includes a comparison with the 2010 results, is now available.

2015 State of the Estuary overview poster: Stream health of the Coyote Creek and Guadalupe River watersheds using California's Wetland and Riparian Area Monitoring Plan (WRAMP).

2017 presentation: Using the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) to Quantify Riverine Riparian Condition in Santa Clara County Watersheds.

Related Information:

Environmental & Community Benefits

Key Performance Indicators (FY22–36)

  1. Reassess and track stream ecological conditions and habitats in each of the county’s five (5) watersheds every 15 years.

  2. Provide up to $500,000 per 15-year period toward the development and updates of five (5) watershed plans that include identifying priority habitat enhancement opportunities in Santa Clara County.

Benefits

  • Improves natural resource, watershed and asset management decisions

  • Provides a systematic, scientific guide for decisions and actions to improve stream conditions

  • Supports effective and environmentally sound design options

  • Provides reliable data on countywide stream conditions and basis for measuring the success of past mitigation and environmental stewardship project projects

  • Facilitates a watershed approach to resource management, permitting and restoration planning

  • Addresses climate change

Geographic Area of Benefit

Countywide

History & Background

About the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program

In November 2020, voters in Santa Clara County overwhelmingly approved Measure S, a renewal of Valley Water’s Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.

The program was first passed by voters in 2000 as the Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan, then again in 2012 as the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program. The renewal of the Safe, Clean Water Program will continue to provide approximately $47 million annually for local projects that deliver safe, clean water, natural flood protection, and environmental stewardship to all the communities we serve in Santa Clara County.

While evaluating ways to improve the 2012 program, Valley Water gathered feedback from more than 21,000 community members. That helped Valley Water create the six priorities for the renewed Safe, Clean Water Program, which are:

Priority A: Ensure a Safe, Reliable Water Supply

Priority B: Reduce Toxins, Hazards and Contaminants in our Waterways

Priority C: Protect our Water Supply and Dams from Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters

Priority D: Restore Wildlife Habitat and Provide Open Space

Priority E: Provide Flood Protection to Homes, Businesses, Schools, Streets and Highways

Priority F: Support Public Health and Public Safety for Our Community

Each year, Valley Water prepares a report providing a progress update for each of these program priorities, along with fiscal year accomplishments.

To ensure transparency and accountability to the voters, the ballot measure also created an Independent Monitoring Committee, appointed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors. The Independent Monitoring Committee annually reviews the program’s progress to ensure the outcomes are achieved in a cost-efficient manner and reports its findings to the Board. Additionally, the IMC also reviews each proposed 5-year implementation plan prior to its submittal for Board approval.

In addition, the program requires three independent audits.

View the Safe, Clean Water Program’s annual reports, annual IMC audit reports, and independent audits, including a staff response, on the Valley Water website.