The area in and around the Sanctuary features diverse marine and terrestrial environments, rural and urban areas, and multiple land uses. In these surroundings water quality is a unifying element: healthy watersheds are important not only to the Sanctuary but to the long-term viability of the cornerstones of our local economy &endash; agriculture and tourism.
To maintain the health of our watersheds, the Sanctuary's Water Quality Protection Program (WQPP) has worked with many government agencies, public and private groups to develop nonpoint source pollution plans for urban runoff, marinas and boating, and agriculture. For agriculture, WQPP members, working with the California Farm Bureau Federation and Farm Bureau representatives from six counties surrounding the Sanctuary, have completed a draft plan to be presented at final public workshops this summer. The plan is linked to the state Farm Bureau's new Nonpoint Source Initiative, which intends to involve the Bureau's extensive membership and other agricultural groups directly in addressing nonpoint source pollution.
"Many local growers, ranchers, and forest landowners already engage in various practices for addressing agricultural nonpoint source pollution," says WQPP Director Dr. Holly Price. "The strategies presented in this draft plan offer concrete steps the agricultural community and technical assistance agencies can take to build on the good work they are already doing."
Proposals in the draft plan address the aspects of agriculture that potentially impact water quality, such as erosion and sedimentation, offsite transport of chemical fertilizers, and old-generation pesticides which &endash; although no longer in use &endash; remain stuck to soil particles. Although individual farms and ranches may contribute only a very small amount of pollutants, the cumulative effects throughout the watershed can be potentially damaging. To mitigate this, the Farm Bureau and the WQPP participating agencies hope to involve as many individual growers and ranchers as possible.
The twenty-three strategies recommended in the draft plan are designed to help increase voluntary implementation of a variety of conservation practices. The following categories, with sample strategies, are presented in the draft plan:
Education and Public Relations:
Public Lands and Rural Roads:
As the plan nears completion, the WQPP is looking ahead at ways to carry out the strategies through various funding initiatives and joint efforts among participants. The Farm Bureaus are beginning work on their portion of the plan by establishing pilot projects with their members this year in the Salinas, Pajaro, and Pescadero watersheds. The Sanctuary greatly appreciates the many hours that agencies and agricultural and public representatives have contributed to developing the plan. We look forward to continuing our work together to protect water quality by ensuring that the plan gets implemented.
The volunteers are organizing! A new "network" of volunteer watershed monitoring groups is helping improve the effectiveness of water quality monitoring around the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Independent volunteer watershed monitoring groups have gathered data on the health of the region's rivers, streams, and watersheds for several years. While this work has been valuable, a lack of coordination among the groups has meant that their efforts were not being used to their full potential. To address this situation, the Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) and the Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) received a Regional Water Quality Control Board grant to facilitate the creation of the "Monterey Bay Sanctuary Citizen Watershed Monitoring Network," to pull these individual programs together into a cohesive regional program.
"Our long-term goal is to create a well-trained citizenry that is involved in monitoring Sanctuary watersheds and works hand-in-hand with local and regional agencies," says Linda Sheehan, Pollution Programs Manager for CMC. Sheehan organized a survey of volunteer groups in the region. "The idea was to find out who is out there and what they're monitoring," she explains. The survey served two purposes: it gathered information on the twenty existing volunteer groups and let them know about the Network.
The Network held two workshops recently. The first brought volunteer groups together and focused on how to design a good monitoring program. "We walked them through design questions about their program, such as: What are you going to do with your data? What kinds of data should you collect? What questions are you trying to answer with your data?" explains CWC's Donna Meyers. The workshop also featured presentations on matching resource management goals to the type of monitoring a group does, how to ensure quality data, and what to do with the data once they have been gathered. "We had almost fifty attendees from around the Sanctuary, from San Mateo down to San Luis Obispo counties," says Meyers.
The second workshop concentrated on the management agencies that may use the Network's data. Prior to the workshop, the Sanctuary conducted a survey of twenty such agencies. "We asked them how much volunteer data they use, if they had an interest in using it, and what their concerns were," explains Susan Pufahl, Water Quality Specialist for the Sanctuary. Survey results show that although few agencies currently do, almost all will consider using volunteer data as part of their resource management process if they can be sure of quality control, adequately-trained volunteers, and uniformity and clarity of data.
The Sanctuary's role in this process is to help bridge the gap between volunteer monitoring groups and agencies. "The agencies can use more water quality information to support their resource management decisions; if we can bring them together with the volunteers, the ultimate winners are the Sanctuary and its watersheds," says Dr. Holly Price, Director of the Sanctuary's Water Quality Protection Program.
Government funding for monitoring programs has decreased significantly in recent years, making volunteer participation more and more important. Even the Network's current funding only lasts for eighteen months. The program must secure a longer-term, more stable source of funding to ensure its future. Achievement of the Network's objectives will help ensure cleaner water in Central California in the future.
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Last modified on: August 6,