At its April 24 meeting at Dana Point in Orange County, the Conservancy approved projects designed to extend the Santa Clara River Parkway, improve water quality in the Malibu Creek watershed, explore new approaches to water conservation in watersheds throughout the state, install trail improvements, and accomplish a variety of other conservation and public access goals.
Santa Clara River Parkway
The 100-mile-long Santa Clara River is southern California’s largest river and one of the last in the region to survive in a relatively natural state. It flows from National Forest lands on the northern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County through Ventura County and into the ocean at McGrath State Beach, halfway between the cities of Ventura and Oxnard. Most of the main river corridor is privately owned and not protected.
In 2000, after discussions with landowners and with support of adjoining cities, state and local political representatives, and environmental groups, the Conservancy proposed the creation of the Santa Clara River Parkway, a continuous estuarine and riverine corridor along the lower 23 miles of the river, from the Sespe Creek confluence to the estuary. Land would be acquired and managed to allow for habitat restoration, public enjoyment, environmental education, and flood protection. The river’s natural processes are to be restored as much as possible to prevent continued flooding and damage to habitat, farmland, and public facilities. A continuous public riverside trail is envisioned, linked to adjacent public lands.
In 2001, the Lesislature appropriated $9.2 million to the Coastal Conservancy for the parkway. Since then the Conservancy has been working in partnership with the Nature Conservancy and Friends of the Santa Clara River to purchase the needed properties from willing sellers. Thus far, 17 properties comprising 2,700 acres have been acquired, protecting 12 miles of river. In April, the Conservancy approved funding to the Nature Conservancy for two more acquisitions, comprising a total of 228 acres along 1.1 miles of the river. Of the $5.25 million approved to the Nature Conservancy for these purchases, $4.5 million are Conservancy funds, and $750,000 come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conservancy consultants have advised that the removal of levees along these and nearby properties would lower flood elevations by several feet. Reconnecting the lower river to its floodplain will also reverse the manmade process of incision and streambed degradation that is impeding the revival of endangered species that depend on the estuary.