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Letter to the Editor: GRANT WILL HELP FUND SANTA MARGARITA WATERSHED COUNCIL

Editor, Times-Advocate:

Successful Grant application funding will benefit large Santa Margarita Watershed which crosses boundaries of multiple southern California counties (including north San Diego county).  Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG) recently received federal grant funding to form a Santa Margarita Watershed Council.  The WaterSMART Program Phase I Grants invited states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts, local governmental entities, non-profit organizations, existing Watershed Groups, and local and special districts (e.g., irrigation and water districts and county soil conservation districts) to submit proposals for Phase I activities to develop a watershed group, complete watershed restoration planning activities, and design watershed management projects . WRCOG submitted a winning grant application to form a watershed council to help guide regional planning efforts for the Santa Margarita Watershed (SMRW).

The SMRW, a fast-developing area of southwest Riverside County, faces threats to water quality, supply, and ecosystem function from an unusually broad range of legacy and current stressors. To coordinate across community, agriculture, land use, engineering and regulatory interests, and ensure a holistic framework for coordinated action, WRCOG proposes to use funds from this funding opportunity to engage contracted facilitation assistance to form a SMRW Council. The Council will develop (1) a formal collaborative process for stakeholder interaction and engagement around opportunities to protect and restore the SMRW; (2) a central, collaborative information base including a collective Opportunities Map where problems and potential projects can be catalogued; and (3) an implementation framework that guides and coordinates policies, investments, regulations and actions on issues. . Forming a Watershed Council will enable the concerted effort that is needed to elevate the watershed to the level of attention and coordinated care among stakeholders, and to enhance both this beautiful, unique river system and the community alike.   

Project Duration Two years; June 2020 through June 2022

A Watershed Council would provide the forum in which to develop the much needed, holistic perspective that a grassroots, diverse group of stakeholders can bring.. A council is the means and the mechanism by which all parties can emerge from separate silos our work practices tend to create, and collaborate to find solutions to the larger watershed-scale, systemic problems.   

Biological Resources and Endangered Species: The Santa Margarita River is the single largest, finest example of a riparian system and estuary in southern California. The Santa Margarita River and its estuary have largely escaped typical development and channelization of its lower 27 miles and, as such, it supports the largest populations of seven federally- or state-listed endangered species. The river and its watershed supports almost every habitat type occurring in the region including coastal fringe environments, inland and freshwater/riparian habitats, low elevation shrublands, fields and grasslands, high elevation shrublands, coastal lowland oak woodlands, high foothill and montane habitats, vernal pools agricultural and exotic landscapes, and developed and urbanized lands. Among these habitats are some of the largest remaining contiguous stands of Diegan Coastal Sage Scrub and isolated ephemeral wetlands exclusive to the region.

PATRICIA BORCHMANN,

Escondido

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