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The Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed (STRAW) Project

Project URL link
Sponsoring Agency PRBO Conservation Science
Subregions ('North Bay', 'East Bay', 'West Bay')
Counties Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco
Watershed Tributary San Rafael Creek, Walker Creek, Tomales Bay, Stemple Creek, Estero Americano, San Antonio Creek, Novato Creek, Miller Creek, Richardson Bay, Petaluma River, Tolay Creek, San Pablo Bay, Napa River, Blue Rock Springs Creek
Public or private land? ('Public', 'Private')
Location (lat/lon)
Start Date 04/01/2013
End Date 03/31/2017
Location Description The STRAW Project implements habitat restoration in riparian corridors and wetland to upland transition zones of most watersheds within the North Bay BAIRWMP region including the counties of Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano and supports teachers and classes to conduct project-based environmental education curriculum in San Francisco's North Bay, East Bay and West Bay BAIRWMP regions.

The STRAW Project coordinates and sustains a network of committed teachers, students, restoration specialists, landowners and managers, and other community members to implement a minimum of 40 planting days annually on “shovel-ready” habitat restoration projects in most watersheds within the North Bay BAIRWMP region. STRAW supports teachers from the North Bay, East Bay and West Bay BAIRWMP regions in conducting project-based environmental education curriculum. STRAW features professionally designed and implemented habitat restoration projects integrated with an innovative and time-tested education program that provides water quality benefits, habitat improvement and positive impacts on economic, social and environmental sustainability.

The STRAW Project coordinates and sustains a network of committed teachers, students, restoration specialists, landowners and managers, and other community members to implement a minimum of 40 planting days annually on “shovel-ready” habitat restoration projects in most watersheds within the North Bay BAIRWMP region.  STRAW supports teachers from the North Bay, East Bay and West Bay BAIRWMP regions in conducting project-based environmental education curriculum. STRAW features professionally designed and implemented habitat restoration projects integrated with an innovative and time-tested education program that provides water quality benefits, habitat improvement and positive impacts on economic, social and environmental sustainability.  Our annual season engages approximately 3500 community volunteers, over half of which qualify as disadvantaged communities using the standard of Title I schools in the California State school system, and results in a minimum of 30,000 linear feet of newly-created habitat in riparian corridors and wetland to upland transition zones.

 

 

This is an ongoing program with continued commitment from partners and volunteers
Drinking Water Supply
Water Quality Improvement
Water Reuse/Recycling
Stormwater Improvements
Groundwater Benefits
Infiltration
Habitat Protection and Restoration
Flood Protection
Water Quality Improvement: Healthy, functioning riparian areas improve water quality by removing nutrients, improving dissolved oxygen, storing sediment and regulating temperatures among other benefits in urban and agricultural landscapes. Water Reuse/Recycling: A subset of projects utilize reclaimed water as an irrigation source. Stormwater Improvements: Healthy, functioning riparian areas improve water quality by removing nutrients, improving dissolved oxygen, storing sediment and regulating temperatures among other benefits in urban and agricultural landscapes. Infiltration: Revegetaion of degraded waterways can increase infiltration through soil decompaction and increased water retention through root channel passages. Habitat Protection and Restoration: The Watershed Management/Habitat Protection and Restoration (Watershed) Component of the San Francisco Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management Plan states that "planting riparian species can enhance breeding and foraging habitats for resident and migrating birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals within the region, as well as provide litter and shading to the stream channel, improving in-stream conditions for fish and other aquatic species." Flood Protection: Stable, functioning wetland habitats improve flood protection by storing excess water and by reducing shoreline erosion from waves and flood waters. Related to a Disadvantaged Community: Over 1/2 of projects will either directly improve conditions within disadvanraged communities or enage these communities on public lands.
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The selected project activities demonstrate the multi-benefits that our projects meet with our existing partners, including, but not limited to, Marin County Public Works, Marin Resource Conservation District, North Marin Water District, Marin County Open Space District, Mill Valley Streamkeepers, Marin Municipal Water District, United States Army Corps of Engineers, Sonoma County Water Agency, Friends of the Petaluma River, Southern Sonoma Resource Conservation District, Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma County Regional Parks, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, City of American Canyon, Department of Fish and Game, Napa Resource Conservation District, Solano Resource Conservation District, Vallejo Flood and Sanitation, Greater Vallejo Recreation District. Many of our current partners have the potential to have additional specific projects that will address benefits to groundwater, drinking water and Native American Tribes that we can integrate into more comprehensive projects.
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Part 2 - Detail

The STRAW project’s goals are to protect and restore the health of riparian and wetland ecosystems in the San Francisco Bay Area; to increase the knowledge of community members in the areas of restoration science, stewardship and climate change; and to improve the environmental knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors of community members who participate in the STRAW program. These goals will be accomplished through the implementation of our integrated education and community-based restoration program. The educational component uses local watersheds and inquiry- and place-based educational strategies as the classroom for meaningful and authentic environmental science learning. STRAW staff, consultants and partners provide the full complement of services necessary to complete a restoration project, including design, implementation, maintenance, monitoring and reporting. In addition, we are in the process of fine-tuning our design practices to ensure that our design principles create projects that will be robust and resilient in the face of climate change. Restoring degraded ecological conditions has been identified as a strategy for preparing for climate change (Millar et al. 2007, U.S. EPA 2012). The restoration of riparian areas has been specifically identified because it can enhance connectivity, provide thermal refugia, and build upon existing resiliency (Seavy et al. 2009). To date, restoration practitioners have relied on historical conditions to make decisions about restoration design, from engineering to planting palettes. Climate change forces us to reconsider these decisions (Dunwiddie et al. 2009). These “climate smart” designs will ensure that our locally-appropriate native plant palate will incorporate species that (1) maximize the number of months that resources (cover, food) would be available for wildlife, (2) increase the capacity of the restoration to rebound from fire and longer and/or more frequent periods of drought, and (3) ensure there is adequate redundancy of design components so that the resulting project will be resilient enough to handle the climatic uncertainty ahead.

 

The STRAW Project coordinates and sustains a network of teachers, students, restoration specialists, landowners and managers, and other community members as they plan and implement watershed studies and restoration projects in Marin, Sonoma, Solano, Alameda and Napa counties. We provide teachers and students from North Bay, East Bay and West Bay BAIRWMP regions with the scientific, educational and technical resources to prepare them for hands-on, outdoor watershed studies, including ecological restoration of riparian corridors and wetland to upland transition zones. Since 1993, more than 30,000 students have participated in over 400 restorations on rural and urban creeks and wetlands, planting close to 32,000 native plants and restoring approximately 25 miles of habitat. STRAW has the volunteer, partner, and landowner/manager commitment, coupled with “shovel-ready” habitat restoration projects, to implement a minimum of 40 planting days annually in most watersheds within the North Bay BAIRWMP counties, providing water quality benefits, habitat improvement, and positive impacts on economic, social and environmental sustainability. Our annual season engages approximately 3500 community volunteers, over half of which qualify as disadvantaged communities using the standard of Title I schools in the California State school system, and results in a minimum of 30,000 linear feet of newly-created habitat. Through volunteer and partner support, each planting day brings a minimum of $10,000 worth of in-kind match, along with a potential for additional monetary match as available. Finally, it is important to note that our project is quite scalable, in that we can provide habitat enhancement and water quality improvement components at scales from the individual project to the regional level, as well as one year or multi-year projects due the deep commitment of our partners and volunteers and our twenty year track record of successfully implemented habitat restoration projects.

 

Literature Cited

 

Dunwiddie, P.W., S.A. Hall, M.W. Ingraham, J.D. Bakker, K.S. Nelson, R. Ruller, and E. Gray. 2009. Rethinking conservation practice in light of climate change. Ecological Restoration 27:320-329.

 

Millar, C. I., N. L. Stephenson, and S. L. Stephens. 2007. Climate change and forests of the future: Managing in the face of uncertainty. Ecological Applications 17:2145-2151.

 

Seavy, N. E., T. Gardali, G. H. Golet, F. T. Griggs, et al. 2009. Why climate change makes riparian restoration more important than ever. Ecological Restoration 27:330-338.

 

U.S. EPA. 2012 Vulnerability Assessments in Support of the Climate Ready Estuaries Program, Volume I: Results for the San Francisco Estuary Partnership. EPA/600/R-11/058Fa. http://www.epa.gov/ncea.
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Addressing Social Vulnerability and Equity In Climate Change Adaptation Planning http://www.adaptingtorisingtides.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Equity-White-Paper.pdf;

 

Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals http://baeccc.org/pdf/sfbaygoals031799.pdf;

 

Napa County Integrated Water Resource Management Planning Framework http://www.napawatersheds.org/files/managed/Document/5054/Napa%20County%20IRWM%20Planning%20Framework%20-%20Report.pdf;

 

Solano Conservation and Restoraiton Manual http://caff.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/SolanoConservationManual.pdf;

 

San Pablo Bay Watershed Restoration Program Watershed Management Plan DRAFT http://www.marinwatersheds.org/documents/SPBWMngmtPlan_DRAFT_6May_2010_004.pdf;

 

Tomales Bay Integrated Coastal Watershed management Plan (ICWMP) http://www.tomalesbaywatershed.org/informationreports.html;

 

Marin County Watershed Management Plan http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/CD/main/comdev/Watershed/WMP_Pt1.pdf http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/CD/main/comdev/Watershed/WMP_Pt2.pdf

Marin County: San Rafael Creek, Mahone Creek, Walker Creek, Chileno Creek, Keyes Creek, Lagunitas Creek, Tomales Bay, Stemple Creek, Americano Creek, Estero Americano, San Antonio Creek, Novato Creek, Vineyard Creek, Stafford Lake, Miller Creek, Arroyo Corte Madera del Presidio, Corte Madera Creek, Old Mill Creek, Warner Creek, Richardson Bay, Bon Tempe Reservoir

 

Sonoma County: Petaluma River, Corona Creek, East Washington Creek, Adobe Creek, Ellis Creek, Tolay Creek, San Pablo Bay

 

Napa County: Napa River, Sulphur Springs, San Pablo Bay

 

Solano County: Blue Rock Springs Creek
According to the 2006 BAIRWMP plan, the “protection, restoration, and improvement of stewardship of aquatic, riparian, and watershed resources within the region” is a primary goal. Through the STRAW Project, this goal is met both through civic engagement and the creation of additional riparian and wetland habitat throughout the North Bay area. As in any large urban region, the Bay Area’s streams and wetlands have experienced widespread degradation from development impacts such as polluted storm runoff, loss of habitat, erosion and sedimentation problems, invasive species, increased flood severity and decreased biodiversity. STRAW’s restoration work directly addresses these issues in the San Francisco Bay area, using educated and inspired students and community members to create a minimum of 30,000 linear feet of habitat annually. This habitat creation will provide the critical benefits of water quality improvement, stormwater management improvement, infiltration, habitat restoration and flood protection. In addition, the changing climate necessitates that habitat restoration projects be designed to accommodate the climatic uncertainty ahead. The implementation of our “climate smart” designs will ensure that these projects will be as robust and resilient as possible, and will provide the opportunity to educate land managers, public agencies and the general public about the importance of these projects as a successful and concrete means of adapting to climate change.   The STRAW project addresses the social component of stewardship through direct community involvement with practices that build resilient, healthy watersheds. This is a critical component in the Bay Area’s success with regards to adapting to climate chance, especially with regards to the region’s disadvantaged communities. It has been identified that disadvantaged communities will experience more severe problems in the face of climate change (Colten, et al. 2008). The STRAW project helps to balance these inequities by providing meaningful and successful opportunities for all Bay Area communities to engage in projects that actively help our communities adapt to a changing climate. The STRAW project is specifically highlighted as an effective means to “address equity by engaging and educate local communities and stu­dents, and to encourage participation in ecological restoration practices that improve flood protection” (Nutters, H. 2012).   Literature Cited   Colten, C.E., Kates, R.W., Laska, S.B. (2008) “Community Resilience: Lessons from New Orleans and Hur­ricane Katrina.” CARRI Report 3, Community and Regional Resilience Initiative.   Nutters, H. (2012) “Addressing Social Vulnerability and Equity in Climate Change Adaptation Planning.” Adapting To Rising Tides White Paper, Adapting To Rising Tides Project.
The STRAW project has been providing authentic habitat restoration projects and accompanying educational experiences to Bay area communities since 1992. If these projects are not supported, the opportunity for community involvement in these projects will be lost. The greater Bay Area will lose the motivated, effective and supportive workforce of over 3500 volunteers STRAW provides to our various partners and land managers each year. Disadvantaged communities in particular will not receive these services. In addition, the uncertain future climate calls for innovative and scientifically sound restoration techniques to ensure that the habitat restoration projects in Bay Area watersheds will be as resilient as possible. These techniques need to be further developed and disseminated to the greater restoration community.

i. Water Supply (conservation, recycled water, groundwater recharge, surface storage, etc.)

... N/A

ii. Water Quality

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The STRAW project will revegetate and stabilize a minimum of 30,000 linear feet of creek and levy banks annually.  Each planting day will improve water quality through revegetation and invasive plant removal along creek banks and wetlands.  Water quality resources will be improved through decreased sedimentation, nutrient and metals uptake and cooler water temperatures.  Creek and levy banks will be stabilized which will lead to improved flood control and water quality. 

iii. Flood and Stormwater Management

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The STRAW project will revegetate and stabilize a minimum of 30,000 linear feet of creek and levy banks annually.  Each planting day will reduce flooding potential through bank and levy stabilization, along with incorporating progressive planting designs that maximize habitat value in relation to decreasing flood maintenance activities once projects reach maturity.  Using Avoidance Cost Methodology, the authors of Putting a Price on Riparian Corridors as Water Treatment Facilities (Riley, et.al. 2009) calculated that “a typical bay area riparian corridor of 4000 feet for a stream with a flow of 0.5 cfs provides treatment equivalent to a physically constructed stormwater treatment plant designed to treat 320,000 gallons of runoff per day.”  Using the annual value of 30,000 linear feet, the STRAW project provides the treatment equivalent of a stormwater treatment plant designed to treat 2.4 million gallons of runoff per day.  The study further concludes that each 7500 linear feet will provide a cost avoided benefit of approximately 2.1 million dollars.  For the annual value of 30,000 linear feet, the total will be approximately 8.4 million dollars.

Literature Cited

Riley, A. 2009. Putting a Price on Riparian Corridors as Water Treatment FacilitiesSan Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, Watershed Management Program.

 

iv. Resource Stewardship (watershed management, habitat protection and restoration, recreation, open space, etc.)

...

The STRAW project will revegetate and stabilize a minimum of 30,000 linear feet of creek and levy banks annually.  Project results will show a two-fold increase of wildlife utilization, using standardized monitoring protocols of songbird usage on site.  In addition, plant establishment rate will be a minimum of 75%, and will be monitored using protocols developed by STRAW and UC Cooperative Extension staff.

For community engagement, over 3500 students and community members will participate in restoration projects annually, with over 50% of participants from disadvantaged communities as defined by students from Title I schools.  

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True
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Increases Water Supply Reliability
Advances/ Expands Conjunctive Management of Multiple Water Supply Sources
Increases Water Use and/or Reuse Efficiency
Provides Additional Water Supply
Promotes Water Quality Protection
Reduces Water Demand
Advances/Expands Water Recycling
Promotes Urban Runoff Reuse
Addresses Sea Level Rise
Addresses other Anticipated Climate Change Impact (e.g. through water management system modifications)
Improves Flood Control (e.g. through wetlands restoration, management, protection)
Promotes Habitat Protection
Establishes Migration Corridors
Re-establishes River-Floodplain Hydrologic Continuity
Re-introduces Anadromous Fish Populations to Upper Watersheds
Enhances and Protects Upper Watershed Forests and Meadow Systems
Other (Please Describe)
Increases Water Use Efficiency or Promotes Energy-Efficient Water Demand Reduction
Improves Water System Energy Efficiency
Advances/Expands Water Recycling
Promotes Urban Runoff Reuse
Promotes Use of Renewable Energy Sources
Contributes to Carbon Sequestration (e.g. through vegetation growth)
Other (Please Describe)
Education! – Over 3500 students and volunteers annually will learn about STRAW’s innovative climate-smart restoration design, as well as implement restoration projects that are tangible and effective means of helping the Bay Area adapt to climate change.
$80,000(low) - $120,000(high)
N/A
N/A
$270,000
State, Federal and Private funding sources
4
Drought Preparedness
Use and Reuse Water More Efficiently
Climate Change Response Actions (Adaptation to Climate Change, Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Reduce Energy Consumption)
Expand Environmental Stewardship
Practice Integrated Flood Management
Protect Surface and Groundwater Quality
Improve Tribal Water and Natural Resources
Ensure Equitable Distribution of Benefits
Reduce Reliance on the Bay-Delta
Reduce Water Demand
Improved Operational Efficiency and Transfers
Increase Water Supply
Improve Water Quality
Improve Flood Management
Practice Resources Stewardship
Other Strategies (Please Describe)
Groundwater Management Plan
Urban Water Management Plan
Water Meter Requirements
Groundwater Monitoring Requirements
AB 1420 Compliance
BMP Compliance
CEQA Compliance
Water supply reliability, water conservation and water use efficiency
Stormwater capture, storage, clean-up, treatment, and management
Removal of invasive non-native species, the creation and enhancement of wetlands, and the acquisition, protection, and restoration of open space and watershed lands
Non-point source pollution reduction, management and monitoring
Groundwater recharge and management projects
Contaminant and salt removal through reclamation, desalting, and other treatment technologies and conveyance of reclaimed water for distribution to users
Water banking, exchange, reclamation and improvement of water quality
Planning and implementation of multipurpose flood management programs
Watershed protection and management
Drinking water treatment and distribution
Ecosystem and fisheries restoration and protection
Reduced Reliance on the Bay-Delta
Projects that directly address a critical water quality or supply issue in a DAC
Urban water suppliers implementing certain BMPs as on page 17 of Guidelines
Be designed to manage stormwater runoff to reduce flood damage (PRC §5096.827)
Be consistent with the applicable Regional Water Quality Control Plans (Basin Plans) (PRC §5096.827)
Not be a part of the State Plan of Flood Control (SPFC) (PRC §5096.827)

Improve Water Quality - Pollution Prevention

Typical benefits:

  • Reduced stormwater treatment needs – 30,000 ft. of stream with approximately 0.5 cfs flow will provide the treatment equivalent of a stormwater treatment plant designed to treat 2.4 million gallons of runoff per day.

Typical impacts:

  • Temporary, small scale implementation impacts – 30,000 linear feet annually.

 

Practice Resources Stewardship - Ecosystem Restoration

Typical benefits:

  • Increased functioning wetland/riparian habitat – minimum of 30,000 linear feet annually
  • Increase migratory songbird population – double species abundance and diversity from site baseline in 5 years
  •  Increased native vegetation along streams and wetlands – minimum of 75% survival rate
  • Involve community members in habitat restoration – minimum of 3500 volunteers will implement projects annually.
  • Improve Water Quality – 30,000 ft. of stream with approximately 0.5 cfs flow will provide the treatment equivalent of a stormwater treatment plant designed to treat 2.4 million gallons of runoff per day.

Typical impacts:

  • Temporary, small scale implementation impacts – 30,000 linear feet annually.

Project team

Part 3 - Benefits

2012 Project Plan STRAW Regional BAIRWMP Draft.xlsx — ZIP archive, 216Kb