The Santa Clara Valley Water District’s (District) Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program has many priorities, including eight projects under Priority D for “restoring and protecting vital wildlife habitat and providing opportunities for increased access to trails and open space". In 2010, during the development of the foundational roots of the Priority D5 Project: Ecological Data Collection and Analysis effort, the District implemented a watershed approach to environmental monitoring and assessment using the Wetland and Riparian Area Monitoring Plan’s (WRAMP) 3-level framework recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The D5 Project has been conducting watershed-wide GIS-based (Level-1) and rapid stream condition assessments (Level-2) in five major watersheds of Santa Clara County including Coyote Creek, Guadalupe River, upper Pajaro River, Lower Peninsula, and West Valley watersheds. The five watersheds will be re-assessed by the District on a rotating basis in the gfutre to evaluate temporal and spatial changes in stream condition.
The D5 Project is applying the first two levels (GIS-based aquatic resource inventory and rapid condition assessments of streams) in five watersheds in Santa Clara County and is employing existing online data management and aquatic resource tools developed for statewide wetland monitoring and tracking at a landscape scale. The tools include the California Aquatic Resources Inventory’s (CARI) GIS-based aquatic resource map (CRAM) for wetlands, EcoAtlas and eCRAM (for data management and access) coupled with statistically based, random sampling design methods developed by the USEPA to survey the ecological condition of streams within Santa Clara County. The purpose of the watershed assessments is to align the collection and analysis of ecological data with the needs of water resource decision-makers by collecting data that address specific, regional management questions.
SFEI has been working with the District since 2009, to develop stream survey designs and sample draws, conduct CRAM field assessments, and report on the distribution, abundance, and condition of the aquatic resources within the five major watersheds, based on the California Aquatic Resources Inventory (CARI), and the California Rapid Assessment Method for streams (CRAM). To date, streams in four of the five major watersheds in Santa Clara County have been assessed by the Priority D5 Project with support from SFEI. The final watershed assessment reports can be found at the following links:
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CRAM is a standardized, scientifically defensible rapid assessment method for monitoring the ecological conditions of wetlands throughout California. Because it is standardized, one can compare ecological conditions of wetlands locally, regionally and statewide.
The Bay Area Aquatic Resources Inventory (BAARI) is a GIS base map of the Bay Area's wetlands, open water, streams, ditches, tidal marshes and flats, and riparian areas. BAARI was developed using standardized mapping protocols to ensure that the level of detail and wetland classification system is standardized across the region.