Yuba County Resource Conservation District

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“The best ideas are common property.”
Seneca, Epistles
Roman dramatist, philosopher, & politician (5 BC - 65 AD)

Current Programs

CALFED Watershed Program  - California Department of Conservation - Watershed Coordinator Grants Program

In 2000, the California Legislature approved a two-year $2 million pilot grant program to fund watershed coordinators for Resource Conservation Districts, to be administered by the DOC. Due to the great success of the pilot program, the CALFED Bay Delta Program (CALFED) partnered with DOC to extend the program an additional 18 months. The goal of the current Watershed Coordinator Grant Program is to continue to improve watersheds within the CALFED Solution Area by providing support for coordinating watershed improvement efforts. The CALFED Solution Area includes watersheds that contribute water to or receive water from the Bay-Delta system. Since the importance of the program has become evident, DOC has again teamed up with CALFED to expand the grant program with funding from Proposition 50. The expanded grant program will fund watershed coordinator positions for a three-year period. In addition, the expanded program will be open to non-profit organizations, local governments and special districts. Proposed coordinator positions must demonstrate a direct benefit to the watershed and support the goals and objectives of the CALFED Watershed Program and at least one other CALFED program.

The Yuba County Resource Conservation District has teamed up with the Sutter County Resource Conservation District, California Department of Conservation, CALFED and the USDA-Natural resources Conservation Service to establish the Watershed Coordinator position through June of 2007.

The main scope of this grant is to improve water quality entering the Feather River from Sutter and Yuba County. Five major objectives will be completed through this grant:

NRCS/CARCD Outreach Program - Multi-Language Education and Outreach Project

In response to the Request for Proposals solicited by the CARCD and the USDA-NRCS, the Yuba County Resource Conservation District (YCRCD) has developed an education and outreach program that will reach Hindu, Sikh, Hmong, Vietnamese, African American, Latino, and American Indian communities within Yuba County. These communities have yet to fully take advantage of the services provided by the CARCD, YCRCD, USDA-NRCS and other agricultural based agencies such as USDA Rural Development, USDA Farm Service Agency, Yuba-Sutter County Farm Bureau, and the Yuba County Agricultural Commissioner. The lack of participation arises from issues as simple as inadequate information distribution, and more complex issues such as misconceptions about agency policy and practices and/or language barriers. This project will address these issues through communication, education and understanding.

In the spirit of collaboration, the YCRCD intends to break down interagency barriers and build new alliances by uniting the agricultural agencies within Yuba County that best serve growers’ interests and by offering Yuba County’s underserved communities a complete guide to agricultural assistance. By creating a communication network between leaders from these communities, translators and agricultural based agencies, and by utilizing translated educational materials, the YCRCD will increase underserved communities’ participation in CARCD, YCRCD, USDA-NRCS, USDA-Rural Development, USDA-Farm Service Agency, Yuba-Sutter County Farm Bureau, and Yuba County Agricultural Commissioner programs and offer a better understanding of how these agencies serve growers in Yuba County.

Regional Water Quality Control Board – Agricultural Water Quality Grant Program -  Implementation of Feather River TMDL for Orchards”

In order to meet the established Feather River TMDL for diazinon, a collaboration of local entities - the coalition - (Yuba County RCD, Sutter County RCD, Butte County RCD, Yuba County Agricultural Commissioner, Butte County Agricultural Commissioner, Sutter County Agricultural Commissioner, UC Cooperative Extension, UC Davis, CURES and the Butte/Yuba/Sutter Water Quality Coalition) has received a $1.1 million grant from the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Agricultural Water Quality Grant Program to evaluate the effectiveness of vegetated filter strips an orchard floor vegetation to filter midwinter dormant spray runoff in orchards sprayed with organophosphate pesticides. Dormant spray runoff is characterized by sediment and associated constituents including pesticides applied to the orchards. The coalition has located orchards that can be divided into blocks and monitored for runoff and pesticide loads. The project will combine the site-specific evaluations of cover crop efficacy, measured by load reduction of all constituents, with extrapolations of potential load reductions over the entire watershed. These extrapolations will be based on similar soils and slope, and adjusted for potential differences in rainfall that can occur in the region. Results from coalition monitoring will be used to determine the potential reduction in the loads from Coalition lands during the dormant season.

Yuba County Voluntary Individual Oak and Oak Woodland Management Plan and Landowner Guidelines

December 16th, 2005:  The Yuba County Resource Conservation District (YCRCD) is pleased to announce the approval of the Yuba County Voluntary Individual Oak and Oak Woodland Management Plan and Landowner Guidelines (Voluntary Plan) by the Yuba County Board of Supervisors December 13th, 2005.

The Voluntary Plan has been developed to meet the resource concerns of Yuba County landowners while promoting the general health and economic value of individual oaks and oak woodlands found upon their land.  The Voluntary Plan promotes habitat integration with development plans within oak woodland zones, fire safety, and the economic viability of farming and ranching operations while enhancing the biological integrity and diversity of oak woodlands.  In addition to providing practical management tools for landowners to voluntarily preserve their private oak stands, the adoption of this plan by the Yuba County Board of Supervisors is the precursor to the development and promotion of voluntary oak management education, regeneration, and landowner assistance programs.  

YUBA COUNTY

VOLUNTARY INDIVIDUAL OAK AND OAK WOODLAND MANAGEMENT PLAN AND

LANDOWNER GUIDELINES

The Yuba County Voluntary Individual Oak and Oak Woodland Management Plan is designed for willing landowners who voluntarily choose to apply the management techniques presented in this document, in part or in full, to promote the general health of individual oaks and oak woodlands found upon their land. 

The general objectives of this incentive-based plan are to recognize the importance of protecting and enhancing the individual oaks and oak woodlands of Yuba County.  The recommendations are intended to:

  Promote the retention of specimen age and heritage-size oaks of all species.

  Promote the retention of oaks of all size and species represented on a site.

  Promote the reforesting of oak species through natural or artificial regeneration.

  Promote the removal of trees which are a fire or safety hazard.

  Promote the retention of, where possible, hollow or dead trees used for nesting, etc.

  Plan for replacement trees of all ages, species, sizes and growth form.

In addition to providing practical management tools for landowners to voluntarily preserve their private individual oaks and oak stands, the adoption of this plan by the Yuba County Board of Supervisors is the precursor to receiving financial support from the CA Wildlife Conservation Board to further develop and promote voluntary oak management education, regeneration, and landowner assistance programs.

I.    Status of Oak Woodlands in Yuba County:

 Of the twenty oaks native to California, five are part of human history and the natural heritage of Yuba County. California’s Native Americans developed a culture based on acorns as the staple food that allowed them to have the densest populations anywhere north of Mexico, and the baskets they devised to process the acorns are famous throughout the world for their beauty. When people of European descent began to move into California in the 17th Century, they quickly began using California oaks for fuel and as essential building materials. The five species of native oak found growing in Yuba County are dominant features of the landscape and can be seen in large portions of the county. These are blue oak, interior live oak, valley oak, canyon live oak and black oak.

Black Oak Quercus kelloggiiGrowing up to 70 feet in height among the ponderosa pine, sugar pine, white fir and incense cedar in the conifer belt of Yuba County, black oak provides a deciduous contrast to the always green background of conifers. Its leaves can vary from 2 to 6 inches in length and are divided into angular lobes each one of which is tipped with a long soft bristle. Black oak acorns were considered the best food acorns by the Native Americans of the Sierra Nevada. The acorns are 1 to 1 ½ inches long and sit deep in a cup with thin scales.

Blue Oak Quercus douglasiiThe blue oak is the most common oak of the foothills of the central Sierra Nevada. It can grow to 60 feet tall but is usually somewhat shorter. The 1 to 3 inch long leaves have a wavy or shallowly lobed margin and take on a bluish cast in the summer. The bluish cast is the result of a waxy coating that protects the trees from losing too much water in the long dry hot summers. The acorns are ¾ to 1 ½ inches long and sit in a shallow cup.

Canyon Live Oak Quercus chrysolepisCanyon live oaks vary is size and shape from small trees clinging to dry canyon walls to majestic 70 foot tall broad trees in locations with deeper soils and more water. The 1 ½ to 2 ½ inch long evergreen leaves can have smooth or spiny edges, and are dark green on top and pale blue or gray below. The underside of the leaf is

usually covered with small golden hairs. The acorns are 1 to 2 inches long. The thick knobby cup is also covered with thin golden hairs, hence the common name of gold cup oak. The wood of the canyon live oak is the densest of all California oaks and was used by the early European settlers for a variety of things including mauls or hammers. Another early common name for canyon live oak was maul oak.

Interior Live Oak Quercus wislizeniMature interior live oaks in favorable locations are often as broad or broader than their 30 to 60 foot height. The dense covering of leaves obscures the dark branches of the tree. In less favorable locations this adaptable species is often a large shrub. The one to three inch long leaves are shiny deep green above. The underside of the leaf varies from dark green to yellow green. Leaves vary greatly in form and the margins can be smooth, toothed or spiny. The 3/4 to 1 ½ inch long acorns are usually no wider than their cup.

Valley Oak Quercus lobata” -While prime habitat for valley oak is below 2000 feet along the great rivers of the Sacramento Valley where large forests once extended for miles, this oak occurs up to 5,600 feet in the Sierra Nevada. Valley Oaks require more water than the others oaks of Yuba County, so it is not surprising that in the mountains and foothills it is found primarily along streams and rivers. Early European pioneers called it the Water Oak, Swamp Oak and Mush Oak and many of their descendants still use these very appropriate names. Valley Oak is certainly the largest oak species in California and maybe in the entire United States. It can grow to heights of 100 feet and trunks over 9 feet in diameter have been recorded. The outer branches often droop almost to the ground giving this oak a very characteristic look. The deciduous leaves are 2 to 4 inches long, matte green above and pale green below and are deeply lobed. The acorns are 1 1/4 to 2 inches long.

Estimates of the current and historical distribution of oak woodlands -  Best estimates indicate that oak distribution in Yuba County is very similar to what it was in pre European times. Yuba County has avoided the wholesale destruction of the upland oak woodlands that occurred in many counties in California through land conversion for cultivated croplands and cities. However, Valley Oak woodlands have all but diminished with only sparse populations remaining on the valley floor.  Historical records indicate that many oaks were cut for firewood and timber during the gold rush and immediately afterwards.  With the exception of the Valley Oak, most of that loss has been repaired by natural regeneration.

Existing threats - Fire and land conversion are the primary threats to the oak woodlands of Yuba County.  The threat of catastrophic fires can be reduced by following good fuel reduction policies as described in this resolution. Loss of oaks to land conversion for agricultural purposes is not a significant threat in Yuba County. Loss of oak woodland due to conversion of rangeland or forestland to residential development could become a problem unless care is taken to protect the oak resources as outlined in this document. Sudden Oak Death Syndrome (SODS) is a significant problem to many of California’s oaks. SODS is currently limited to the coastal fog belt, but the situation should be monitored and appropriate steps taken if SODS moves into the Sierra Nevada.

Status of natural regeneration and growth trends.  Natural regeneration of native oaks is occurring in Yuba County, and the rate of sapling recruitment appears adequate in most places to replace trees that die of natural causes.

II.    Yuba County seeks to protect the economic value of its individual oaks and oak woodlands.

Yuba County recognizes the economic value of individual oaks and oak woodlands and encourages and supports farming, ranching and grazing practices which are compatible with oak conservation. The following are recommended to enhance range and woodland:

     Reduce overcrowding by thinning less desirable trees and seedlings.

     Trees of all sizes and species should be retained and represented.

     Plan on replacement trees, with emphasis on desired species, by natural or artificial regeneration.

     Leave clumps of natural undisturbed vegetation, and create permanent grass savanna openings.

     Control unwanted sprouts with manual, biological, mechanical, chemical or burning means.

     Leave enough sprouts and seedlings to become replacement trees.

III.      Yuba County seeks to protect and enhance the natural resource value of its individual oaks and oak woodlands.

Yuba County recognizes the critical role that individual oaks and oak woodlands play relative to the health and function of local watersheds, soil and water retention, wildlife habitat and the control of fuel loads. It also values the positive impact of oak woodland on the maintenance of open space which benefits the entire community by adding to the aesthetic beauty of Yuba County as well as filtering wind blown dust and cleaning the air.

The following are recommended to enhance watershed management and protect soils from erosion:

   Avoid machinery use on slopes greater than 30%, whenever possible.

   Divert water on all skid trails and temporary roads as needed to prevent gully erosion.

   Seed waterbars and bare areas as needed or place litter on disturbed areas.

   Retain, when needed, untreated buffer strips of vegetation along all riparian areas.

   Minimize soil surface disturbance. Leave litter and debris in place if possible.

   Install properly sized culverts, where needed, in swales on permanent or semi­permanent roads.

   Rock major dry-draw crossings on roads, where needed.

   Clean undesirable man-caused debris from riparian areas.

   Minimize the use of heavy equipment on saturated soils.

   Provide soil protection, and maintain forage production on rangeland by following “Residual Dry Matter (RDM)” standards for annual grasslands.

The following are recommended to enhance wildlife development and protection:

     Maintain diversity of plant and animal species.

     Develop scattered openings and undisturbed patches of plants.

     Retain thermal cover in the riparian system.

     Provide escape cover from predators.

     Retain scattered dead and cavity trees for nesting, cover and feeding purposes.

     Retain scattered large downed rotten logs, where appropriate.

     Provide scattered small brush piles for nesting and escape, for a maximum of three years, then burn.

     Develop water sources where appropriate.

The following are recommended to reduce fuel loads:

     Improper burning may be dangerous and hazardous to our resources and your personal safety. Be sure to adhere to all burning precautions and contact CDF for assistance and necessary burning permits.

     Utilize unwanted vegetation if at all possible by chipping for mulch or co-generation, fuelwood, etc.

     Utilized material should be piled and burned

     Burn dry material with good ventilation to reduce the smoke production

     Burn on “burn days” only in compliance with Feather River Air Quality District guidelines.

     Participate in the CDF prescribed burning programs when applicable and obtain necessary burning permits for all burning activities. 

IV.   Yuba County plans wisely for building within the oak woodland zone

The following are recommended to protect individual oaks and oak woodland and avoid the negative effects of oak woodland fragmentation while building within the oak woodland zone:

     Cluster improvements to preserve wildlife corridors.

     Protect existing oaks during construction, replace trees with seedlings if removal is unavoidable.

     Avoid root compaction by limiting the use of heavy equipment in the root zone (1.5 times the crown width).

     Minimize cutting roots during road construction, building foundations, or septic systems.

     Avoid grade changes in the drip line zone of the trees.

     Avoid landscaping which requires or allows irrigation within the drip line of the crown of the tree.

     Reseed with grass, fertilize, and/or mulch on disturbed ground just prior to the fall rains or the first rains following disturbance.

     Treat selected diseased or infected trees or portions thereof, where appropriate.

V.    Yuba County seeks to protect its oak woodlands from catastrophic fires.

The following recommendations are made to protect oak woodlands from fire:

   Reduce stocking to 15-30% crown closure near structures and fuel breaks.

   Prune branched and limbs of single stemmed oaks, conifers or other trees to 10’ above the ground line.

   Prune lower limbs and remove dead limbs on desired brush species to reduce the “fire-ladder” effect.

   On multi-stemmed oaks, reduce the number of stems to 2-4 per clump, and prune to 10’ above the ground line.

   Emphasize single stemmed oak species.

   Remove brush and debris from underneath the drip line of desired trees.

   On a fuel break, remove, push aside, pile, and/or burn any unwanted plants.

   Control unwanted sprouts by burning or by manual, biological, mechanical, or chemical means.

   The residual dry matter should not exceed 1,600 pounds per acre. (This does not apply to grazing lands.)

The Yuba County Resource Conservation District will collaborate with the Yuba Watershed Protection and Fire Safe Council, CDF and the USFS to promote these recommendations and protect the communities surrounding Yuba County’s oak woodlands from fire hazard.

VI.   Yuba County supports and encourages education and outreach efforts designed to demonstrate the economic, social and ecological values associated with individual oaks and oak woodlands

These guidelines will be made available to all landowners in the oak woodlands through the Yuba County Resource Conservation District (RCD), the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the UC Cooperative Extension office.

The Directors of the Yuba RCD shall coordinate and promote with local, State and Federal governmental agencies, local private parties and/or organizations, and the UC Cooperative Extension to offer workshops and field trips in oak woodland management and stewardship for landowners, real estate brokers, developers, community organizations and the general public.

All landowners with oak woodlands shall be encouraged to develop forest/rangeland management plans for their lands.

Landowners are encouraged to utilize public and private expert assistance in the technical aspects of resource management and where applicable, participate in government assistance programs to develop such plans and management activities.

VII.    Yuba County supports landowners that participate in the Oak Woodlands Conservation Program

Yuba County appoints the Yuba County Resource Conservation District as the acting agency supporting and advising participating landowners.

Such support will consist of, at a minimum:

     Reviewing individual proposals that are being submitted to the Oak Woodland Conservation Program from Yuba County landowners.

     Certifying that individual proposals are consistent with the Yuba County Oak Woodland Management Plan and Landowner Guidelines.

     In cases where they are not consistent, detailing the inconsistencies and making recommendations that will bring the proposal into line with the guidelines if possible.

VIII.   Yuba County will review and update these guidelines as necessary

Yuba County appoints the Yuba County Resource Conservation District the duty of conducting the review of these guidelines on a bi-annual basis and present any recommended changes to the county board of supervisors for final approval.  The Yuba County Resource Conservation District, as assigned by the Board of Supervisors, will build a team to conduct the review.  This team may consist of county officials, private citizens, directors or employees of the Yuba County Resource Conservation District, U.C. Cooperative Extension Service, U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel, California Department of Forestry, Yuba Watershed Protection and Fire Safe Council, Yuba County Public Works Department, Yuba County Planning Commission, LAFCO, Sutter-Yuba NCCP/HCP, other stakeholders or any combination of the above.

 

IX.    These recommendations are considered to be consistent with other guidelines and regulations now in use by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; U.S.D.A. Forest Service; Consolidated Farm Service Agency; Natural Resource Conservation Service; U.C. Cooperative Extension; California Department of Fish and Game; and Yuba County. If any conflict exists, agency regulations and policies prevail.

Program Development (Pending Programs)

Program Development consists of projects the Yuba County RCD is currently pursuing. The following projects are either in the developmental stage or have been submitted for funding and are awaiting review/approval.

CALFED Watershed Program – Department of Water Resources - Lower Feather River HUC/Honcut Creek Watershed Assessment Project

The Yuba County Resource Conservation District (YCRCD), Sutter County Resource Conservation District (SCRCD), Butte County Resource Conservation District (BCRCD) and the City of Yuba City (City) propose to establish a new and unique partnership that merges urban and rural communities to identify and address natural resource concerns through an assessment of the Lower Feather River Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC #18020106) and the Honcut Creek watersheds. The assessment is part of an overall program that will include landowner based outreach, education and in-stream monitoring, and promote an integrated program between urban and rural communities.

The Lower Feather River is the largest natural tributary to the Sacramento River, flowing through Butte County and bisecting Yuba and Sutter Counties.  Honcut Creek is a major tributary to the Lower Feather River, bisecting Butte and Yuba Counties.  Yuba and Butte Counties, along with the City (largest population center in Sutter County), qualify as Disadvantaged Communities.

The partnership is committed to establishing a locally-directed watershed management program and completing a comprehensive watershed assessment for the Lower Feather River HUC/Honcut Creek Watershed that will lead to a comprehensive watershed management strategy. An assessment will establish the basis from which stakeholders can understand watershed components and set the stage for prioritizing specific projects for potential funding.

Desired Project Outcomes

1.         Complete a comprehensive watershed assessment for the Lower Feather River HUC/Honcut Creek Watershed that will guide the management program. The assessment would be conducted in accordance with the California Watershed Assessment Manual (CWAM).

2.         Increase the capacity of existing SCRCD and YCRCD outreach programs by incorporating the principles of the expanded BCRCD public outreach and education program to include Yuba and Sutter Counties, and the City.

3.         Develop the Butte County landowner based “Stream Team” watershed monitoring program and expand to Yuba and Sutter Counties and track long-term watershed condition trends throughout the Lower Feather River HUC/Honcut Creek Watershed.

4.         Begin development of a watershed plan that identifies issues affecting water supply, water quality, anadromous fisheries, and ecosystem; and addresses the data and knowledge gaps that are identified through the completion of the assessment.

5.         Provide the framework to establish an active and locally-directed watershed-wide management program to address water supply and water quality within the Lower Feather River HUC/Honcut Creek Watershed.

The Lower Feather River HUC/Honcut Creek Watershed Assessment will be the basis for ecosystem planning and management to address water supply and quality concerns, and a necessary mechanism to initiate coordinated efforts to rehabilitate key segments of the watershed. The assessment process will provide the information necessary for strategic planning processes as well as serve as an educational and outreach tool for continuing the consensus-building process with landowners, agencies and stakeholders within the watershed area. The assessment will also partially fulfill the CALFED Watershed Program Goal to complete assessments for the entire Bay-Delta watershed by completion of a key missing element.