NEWS WORTH NOTING: Natural Resources Agency announces awards for the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Grant Program; Threatened green sturgeon rescued from Fremont Weir; Final sign-up deadline set for East Porterville homeowners

Natural Resources Agency Announces Awards for the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Grant Program

From the California Natural Resources Agency:

The California Natural Resources Agency today announced $6.7 million in funding for 15 Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation (EEM) projects statewide. EEM provides grants to local, state and federal governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations for projects to mitigate environmental impacts caused by new or modified state transportation facilities.

“It is imperative that California invest in projects that will help the state preserve and protect natural resources while mitigating the negative impacts of vital transportation infrastructure,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird.  “This year’s funded projects reflect an impressive level of hard work and commitment by many people.”

For fiscal year 2015-16, the Natural Resources Agency evaluated 44 applications and recommended funding for 15 projects identified below. Specifically, the Agency recommends funding 5 projects in the northern part of the state for a total of over $2.55 million and 10 projects in the southern portion of the state totaling over $4.15 million. Money for the grants comes from fuel taxes distributed to the Natural Resources Agency by the California Department of Transportation.

Grant awardees include:

  • Amigos de los Rios: $400,000 – Peck Road Water Conservation Park Urban Greening Project
  • Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy: $450,000 – Cottonwood Canyon Acquisition Project
  • Buena Vista Audubon Society: $700,000 – Acquisition of the Cheatham Property
  • City of Carpinteria: $450,000 – Carpinteria Bluffs III Acquisition Project
  • City of Visalia: $237,309 – City of Visalia Urban Forest Expansion Project
  • Hollywood Beautification Team: $415,211 – Creating Healthy Play Yards for Children
  • Humboldt County Department of Public Works: $500,000 – McKay Community Forest Phase II
  • Koreatown Youth and Community Center, Inc.: $195,000 – Greening Industrial Downtown

Los Angeles

  • Mojave Desert Land Trust: $510,000 – Juniper Canyon Acquisition Project
  • Northcoast Regional Land Trust: $397,500 – Panther Creek Conservation Easement
  • Pacific Forest Trust: $500,000 – McCloud Soda Springs Working Forest Conservation Easement
  • San Mateo County Parks Department: $450,000 – Coyote Point Eastern Promenade Rejuvenation Project
  • The Chaparral Lands Conservancy: $444,980 – Otay Mesa Habitat Restoration Project
  • The Nature Conservancy: $700,000 – Reef to Ridge Coastal Protection: Ten Mile River Watershed Acquisition
  • The Regents of the University of California Santa Barbara: $350,000 – North Campus Open Space Coastal Habitat Enhancement Project

The Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program encourages projects that produce multiple benefits which reduce greenhouse gas emissions and risks associated with climate change, and demonstrate collaboration with local, state and community entities to protect and conserve natural resources.

Threatened Green Sturgeon Rescued from Fremont Weir, Returned to Sacramento River

From the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently saved a Sacramento River green sturgeon trapped in the Fremont Weir. The five-and-a-half-foot long fish was stranded in the nearly two-mile-long concrete weir when Sacramento River floodwaters receded. Sturgeon in this area are migrating up the Sacramento River to spawn above Red Bluff.

Sacramento River green sturgeon were listed as threatened by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the Endangered Species Act in 2006.

“Rescuing adult fish is always important, but because this year’s high flow conditions are optimal for sturgeon, every sturgeon saved is in a good position to spawn,” said CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief Kevin Shaffer. “Every rescue contributes to a brighter future for the species.”

Captured on March 15, the sturgeon was estimated at more than125 pounds and over 50 years of age. Its large size required biologists to encircle it with a net rigged to poles. It was caught by slipping a hoop net over its head and unraveling a sock-like netting down the length of its body to subdue it. The fish was then placed in a specially-designed cradle for transport back to the main channel of the Sacramento River. Biologists took DNA samples, surgically implanted a sonic tracking tag and measured it prior to releasing it.

Rescuing breeding adults is vitally important to the future of the green sturgeon population. This individual’s opportunity to spawn in the future supports the genetic diversity and integrity of the population. Over the last few years, a number of green sturgeon have been acoustically tagged in the greater Sacramento-San Joaquin River system and are being tracked to better estimate population size, distribution and migration patterns.

Recent efforts to assist green sturgeon appear to be helping, according to NOAA green sturgeon recovery coordinator Joe Heubleib. He recently stated that he is “cautiously optimistic” that production may start to increase with improvements to spawning habitat accessibility.

Under Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s “California Eco Restore” initiative, a $4.5 million construction project to improve Fremont Weir is slated to start this summer. The changes will improve fish passage back to the Sacramento River as bypass flows recede, reducing the risk of stranding for endangered and threatened salmon and sturgeon.

Recent rescue efforts have saved green and white sturgeon, young fall-, winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon, young and adult steelhead, a lamprey, two species of bass and a host of other native fish.

Final Sign-Up Deadline Set for East Porterville Homeowners Who Want a Permanent Water Connection

City of Porterville Will Host March 31 Event

From the Department of Water Resources, State Water Board, and Cal OES:

East Porterville homeowners eligible for a cost-free connection to a new sustainable water supply must sign up for the service by March 31, 2017 or miss this final opportunity to do so. After this date, no additional sign-ups will be accepted for the project. This final sign-up to meet the deadline will be hosted by City of Porterville Community Development Manager Julie Phillips from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Drought Resource Center, 185 South Leggett Street in East Porterville. All eligible home owners are urged to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Hundreds of homeowners whose wells went dry during California’s five-year drought are eligible for the project, which is financed by the State of California to end East Porterville’s drought emergency. By completing a three-step sign-up process, homeowners can avoid a connection cost of up to $10,000 or more.

To be connected to the City of Porterville’s water distribution system, property owners must sign a consent form and a contract called an extraterritorial service agreement (ESA) and must open a utility account with the City of Porterville. The actual timing to connect to the system will depend on the schedule to lay new distribution lines and complete additional infrastructure. The project’s first connection to an East Porterville home with existing water lines was made on August 19, 2016.

Department of Water Resources (DWR) Project Manager Steve Doe said approximately 300 East Porterville properties are eligible for Phase 1 of the project, which began last summer. Of that number, 290 have been connected to the distribution system. Those remaining in Phase 1 should be connected by the end of this month.

An additional 765 homes are eligible to be connected to new distribution lines during Phase 2. Of that number, about 290 homeowners have not signed up for Phase 2 and have until March 31, 2017 to do so. Of the eligible residents, 67 have said they do not wish to participate in the program. Home connections for Phase 2 are scheduled to begin in June 2017.

The East Porterville Water Supply Project is a joint effort by three State agencies – DWR, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services – and the governments of Tulare County and the City of Porterville. Non-profit organizations participating on the project are the Community Water Center, Self Help Enterprises, Community Services Employment Training and the Porterville Area Coordinating Council.

Residents of East Porterville, an unincorporated area in Tulare County, have been relying on deliveries of bottled water and non-potable water to large temporary tanks installed on their properties. This unsustainable enterprise has been funded by the State at a monthly cost of more than $650,000.

DWR and SWRCB are jointly leading the effort to connect East Porterville residents with the City of Porterville’s municipal water supply as a long-term solution to the current drought emergency in East Porterville (see Feasibility Study linked below from the project’s website). SWRCB worked with local organizations and a community group, East Porterville for Water Justice, on a series of meetings to inform the community and get feedback about the project.

Eligible East Porterville residents who participate in the project by agreeing to have their property eventually annexed to the City of Porterville will bear none of the connection costs. Once connected, the residents’ State-funded water deliveries will end, the temporary water tanks will be removed from their properties and their water wells will be capped. Property owners will receive a monthly bill for their City of Porterville water service.

Additional information can be found at DWR’s web page devoted to the project.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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