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WATERSHED PROJECTS

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District owns approximately 2,000 acres of land in the San Lorenzo River Watershed, which supplies surface and ground water to the District's customers. The District's watershed land is in four separate acreages: Olympia Watershed, Fall Creek, Zayante Creek and Ben Lomond Mountain.


 

Getting to know your watershed: "Fall Creek" is now available on youtube! Click here

 

It is also playing on community TV, Thursdays at 11:30 AM and Saturdays at 11:00 AM until May 6th

 

To get your free DVD please visit the District offices in Boulder Creek. 



A key part of the District's mission is "to manage and protect the environmental health of the aquifers and watersheds." Ongoing watershed stewardship is needed to protect these valuable resources. Stewardship includes controlling invasive species and trespass, reducing fire risk, protecting and restoring sensitive species and monitoring progress.


The Olympia Watershed Management Plan has been completed. Management plans are in the works for the Fall Creek, the Zayante Creek, and the Ben Lomond Mountain properties.


This page describes some of the ongoing Olympia Watershed data collection/restoration projects. Projects have been conducted by staff, consultants, and some through the efforts of citizen/scientists, funded in part by the District's Education Program Data Collection/Restoration Grants.

 

Olympia Watershed sand hills with ponderosa pines

Above: The Olympia Watershed is one four primary watershed landholdings of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. Watershed stewardship is needed to protect groundwater resources and sensitive species.

 

OLYMPIA WATERSHED DATA COLLECTION/RESTORATION PROJECTS

Since 2009, the District has implemented several data collection and restoration projects at the Olympia Watershed. District staff, consultants, government agencies, previous Education Grant recipients, and volunteers have participated in these projects.
If you plan to propose a 2012 Data Collection/Restoration Grant project at the Olympia Watershed for funding by the District's Education Program, please refer to the links below for information about ongoing and completed work in the following recommended project areas:

Invasive species control

Volunteer program organization

Special status species surveys, maps, and monitoring

Historical mining equipment inventory

 

INVASIVE SPECIES CONTROL PROJECTS AT OLYMPIA WATERSHED

The map below indicates the locations of existing invasive species and invasive species control projects:

This map serves as a baseline to plan future implementation and monitoring projects. The following photos indicate the types of invasive species that have been targeted:


Yellow-star thistle beginning to invade in 2008

Site of invasive exotic yellow-star thistle infestation in 2008. After removing the visible plants, the District was awarded a WMA grant in 2009 to continue addressing this problem.

Eradication of yellow-star thistle underway in 2009

More than 4,000 yellow-star thistle plants were removed by Ken Moore from this site on the Olympia watershed property in 2009, partially funded by the District's first WMA grant. The District continues to monitor the site.

Invasive, exotic French broom increases the fuel load and threatens sensitive habitats

A heavy infestation of French broom on the Olympia watershed property is a potential fuel source and the target of ongoing control projects by the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, partially funded by both WMA and USFWS grants.

Invasive, exotic acacia increases the fuel load and threatened sensitive habitats in 2008.

Entrance road to the Olympia watershed property, overgrown with acacia in 2008.

Entrance road to the Olympia Watershed property, after acacia trees were cut and stem-treated by Ken Moore, invasive plant eradication expert, as part of the District's USFWS Partners grant.
Downed acacia is burned after cut and stem-treatment

The Ben Lomond fire crew burns acacia felled a year earlier by Ken Moore on the central part of the Olympia Watershed property. This project is ongoing, and was partially funded by a 2009 WMA grant.

 

OLYMPIA WATERSHED VOLUNTEER PROGRAM ORGANIZATION

Since 2009, the District has implemented several Olympia Watershed invasive species control projects, which have included volunteers organized primarily by Ken Moore, principal, Wildlands Restoration Team. Moore recruited and organized volunteer work parties to control acacia and broom, for projects funded in part by the state Weed Management Agency and by the District's Education Grant program.

2010 Acacia Control Project-training and recruitment of volunteers
The goal of the District's 2010 Weed Management Area Grant was to contain stands of invasive exotic acacia (Acacia dealbata) at the Olympia Watershed.

Ken Moore trained a crew of volunteers to use appropriate methods of vegetation removal, including cutting, stem treatment, and piling for later burning in the quarry area.

Staff recruited volunteers from a list of UCSC students of Professor Ingrid Parker, who is monitoring populations of the Ben Lomond spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana) on District property, and from the attendance list at the District's October 2010 public meeting to inform the public about the management of the Olympia watershed property. The meeting was attended by 61 people, many of whom expressed a desire to participate in watershed maintenance activities, including invasive species control.

2010 Education and Broom Removal Program-recruitment of volunteers

Moore was awarded a 2010 Education Program Grant to initiate and implement the first phase of the Olympia Watershed education and broom removal program. While many volunteers were recruited and the project work plan was completed, the following final project report explains some of the issues involved with recruitment of volunteers:

Final Project Report - Ken Moore, June 27, 2011

Events were held every Sunday beginning April 10 and ending May 29, for a total of 8 events. The goals of the project were met. Areas for broom removal bordering present or potential 1a or 1b sandhills habitat designations were identified, and broom removal was initiated in the highest priority areas on these sites. Some follow-up pulling was also done on previously worked sites. Pictures
of all sites where work occurred were taken following removal and are included in this report.

As stated in the proposal, education was a high priority, and was provided on an ongoing basis throughout the day with all participants. Many attendees said that learning about this rare habitat was a major incentive for them to come, and commented about how much they had learned by the end of the day. At least two of them wrote summaries of what they learned for presentation to their class at their respective schools, San Jose State University, and San Lorenzo Valley High School.

Due to a combination of unavoidable factors, attendance was somewhat less than anticipated. The season for broom removal was already well underway by the time grant funding was awarded, and the first project had to be scheduled before outreach could be done. Additionally, although extremely unusual in late April and May, rain was either predicted for or actually occurring the mornings of five of the following seven Sundays. Easter occurred on April 24 and Mother's Day on May 8. These two holidays always have a severe impact on volunteer projects, as does the prediction of rain on the morning of scheduled projects -- even if rain does not then occur.

 

SPECIAL STATUS SPECIES SURVEYS, MAPS, AND MONITORING

Two rare biotic communities have been documented on the Olympia Watershed property, sand chaparral and sand parkland (Harvey & Stanley Associates, Inc., 1983; McGraw, 2004; Schettler, 2011).

Sand parkland contains the highest diversity and abundance of rare and unique herbaceous plant species, including the three endemic to the sandhills: the Ben Lomond spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens ssp. hartwegiana), Santa Cruz wallflower (Erysimum teretifolium), and Ben Lomond buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum var. decurrens) (McGraw, 2004).

Rare animal species associated with sand parkland communities including the Mount Hermon June beetle, the Zayante band-winged grasshopper (which are present at the Olympia Watershed) and the Santa Cruz kangaroo rat (which has not been observed there since 1984).

The Zayante band-winged grasshopper is an extremely rare species, found only in open habitat characteristic of sand parkland within the Santa Cruz Sandhills. The species was listed as federally endangered in 1997. The Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata) is found only in the Santa Cruz Sandhills, where it inhabits both the sand parkland and sand chaparral communities. The species is also listed as federally endangered.

Local botanist Suzanne Schettler was awarded an Education Grant by the District in 2011 to identify and map rare plants of the sandhills communities (sand specialty plants) at the Olympia Watershed property. Schettler surveyed and mapped 56 of the 83 plants associated with the sandhills at the Olympia Watershed property. The following links provide information about this project:

2012 Sand Specialty Plant Map of the Olympia Watershed. (More detailed maps are available for scientific research with permission of the District.)


Table 2-3 in the District's Olympia Watershed Planning and Recommendations Report lists all known sand specialty plants, and indicates which were identified on the property.

Table 2-3. Sand specialty plants of the Olympia Watershed

 

MORGAN 1983

JEPSON 1993

JEPSON 2011

COMMON NAME

Present at Olympia Watershed

Achillea borealis
Achillea millefolium
Yarrow
X
Antirrhinum multiflorum
Sticky Snapdragon
X
Arctostaphylos silvicola
Silverleaf Manzanita
X
Arenaria californica
Minuartia californica
Douglas' Sandwort
X
Arenaria douglasii
Minuartia douglasii
California Sandwort
X
Armeria maritima
Sea Thrift
Artemisia pycnocephala (sand ecotype)

Beach Sagewort
Brodiaea pulchella

Dichelostemma capitatum
Blue Dicks
X
Calochortus venustus (extinct?)
Mariposa
Calyptridium umbellatum
Calyptridium monospermum
Pussy-paws
X
Cardionema ramosissimum
Sand-mat
X
Carex globosa
Round-fruited Sedge
X
Castilleja affinis
Indian Paintbrush
Ceanothus cuneatus var. dubius

Ceanothus cuneatus
Buck Brush
X
Chorizanthe diffusa
X
Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana
Ben Lomond Spineflower
X
Chrysopsis villosa var. camphorata
Heterotheca sessiliflora ssp. echioides
Golden Aster
X
Clarkia purpurea
Purple Clarkia
X
Clarkia rubicunda
Ruby Chalice Clarkia
Clarkia unguiculata
Elegant Clarkia
X
Collinsia barstiaefolia var. hirsuta
White Chinese Houses
X
Corethrogyne filaginifolia var. virgata
Lessingia filaginifolia
Corethrogyne filaginifolia
X
Cryptantha hispidissima

Cryptantha clevelandii
Cryptantha clevelandii var. florosa
Cleveland's Cryptantha
X
Cryptantha micromeres
Minute-flowered Cryptantha
Cryptantha muricata var. jonesii
Cryptantha muricata
Prickly Cryptantha
Cupressus abramsiana
Hesperocyparis abramsiana var. abramsiana
Santa Cruz Cypress

Delphinium parryi ssp. seditosum
Parry's Larkspur
X
Dudleya cymosa (sand ecotype)
Dudleya palmeri

Eriogonum nudum var. decurrens
Tibinagua
X
Eriophyllum confertiflorum
Yellow Yarrow
X
Erysimum teretifolium
Ben Lomond Wallflower
X
Eschscholzia californica (sand ecotype)
California Poppy
X
Festuca confusa*
Vulpia microstachys var. confusa
Festuca microstachys
Hairy-leaved Fescue
Festuca octoflora
Festuca octoflora
Slender Fescue
Festuca octoflora var. hirtella
Vulpia octoflora var. hirtella
Festuca octoflora
Slender Fescue
Festuca pacifica*
Vulpia microstachys var. pauciflora
Festuca microstachys
Pacific Fescue
X
Festuca rubra
Red Fescue
Filago californica
Logfia californica
California Filago
X
Gilia tenuiflora
X
Gnaphalium "Zayanteense" (proposed name)
Pseudognaphalium "Zayanteense"
Sandhills Everlasting
X
Gnaphalium beneolens
Gnaphalium canescens ssp. beneolens
Pseudognaphalium beneolens
Fragrant Everlasting
X
Haplopappus ericoides ssp. blakei
Ericameria ericoides
Mock Heather
X
Helianthemum scoparium
Rush-Rose
X
Hesperomecon linearis
Meconella linearis
Hesperomecon linearis
Narrow-leaved Meconella
Horkelia cuneata
Horkelia cuneata ssp. cuneata
Horkelia cuneata var. cuneata
Wedge-leaved Horkelia
Koeleria cristata
Koeleria macrantha
June Grass
X
Lasthenia chrysostoma
Lasthenia californica ssp. californica
Goldfields
X
Layia platyglossa (sand ecotype)
Tidy-Tips
X
Linanthus parviflorus (sand ecotype)
Leptosiphon parviflorus
Small-flowered Linanthus
X
Linaria texana
Linaria canadensis var. texana
Nuttallanthus texanus
Toadflax
X
Lotus scoparius
Lotus scoparius var. scoparius
Acmispon glaber var. glaber
Deerweed
X
Lotus strigosus
Acmispon strigosus
Deerweed
X
Lupinus albifrons
Silver Bush Lupine
X
Lupinus arboreus
Yellow Bush Lupine
X
Lupinus bicolor ssp. umbellatus
Lindley's Annual Lupine
X
Luzula multiflora
Luzula comosa
Luzula comosa var. comosa
Wood Rush
X
Malacothrix clevelandii
Cleveland's Malacothrix
Malacothrix floccifera
Wooly Dandelion
X
Mimulus androsaceus
Mimulus rattanii var. decurtatus
Rattan's Monkeyflower

Monardella undulata
Monardella undulata ssp. undulata
Wavy-leaved Monardella
X
Muilla maritima
Common Muilla
Navarretia atractyloides
X
Oenothera contorta strigulosa
Camissonia contorta
Contorted Primrose
X
Oenothera micrantha
Camissonia micrantha
Camissoniopsis micrantha
Small Primrose
X
Orthocarpus purpurascens
Castilleja exserta
Owl's Clover
X
Pectocarya penicillata
Winged Pectocarya
Pellaea mucronata
Bird's Foot Fern
Phacelia distans
Common Phacelia
X
Phacelia douglasii
Douglas' Phacelia
Pinus ponderosa
Yellow Pine
X

Pinus sabiniana
Digger Pine, Grey Pine
Plagiobothrys tenellus
Slender Popcorn Flower
Plantago erecta
California Plantain
X
Poa scabrella
Pine Bluegrass
Salvia mellifera
Black Sage
X
Saxifraga californica
Micranthes californica
California Saxifrage
X
Scutellaria tuberosa
Skullcap
Silene verecunda ssp. platyota
Silene verecunda
San Francisco Campion
Stephanomeria virgata
Tall Stephanomeria
X
Thysanocarpus curvipes
Fringe-Pod
X
Tillaea erecta
Crassula connata
Pygmyweed
X
 

* Festuca confusa and F. pacifica have been consolidated into Festuca microstachys

Description of Schettler's field work

Schettler's work provides a baseline for monitoring the status of these special status species as the District's management plan is implemented.

DESCRIPTION OF FIELD WORK
MAPPING OF SANDHILLS PLANTS AT OLYMPIA WATERSHED


Introduction

The ecological importance of Santa Cruz County's Sandhills was recognized in the 1970s by Randall Morgan, for whom the Morgan Preserve at the old Geyer Quarry off Mt. Hermon Road is named. In a 1983 paper he identified a suite of 83 Sand Specialty plants, native plant species characteristic of the Sandhills and indicative of a unique habitat when they occur together (Harvey & Stanley Associates, Inc., 1983). Five of these are special-status species that receive legal protection under federal law (Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973) or state law (California Endangered Species Act, Native Plant Protection Act of 1977, California Environmental Quality Act; or ranking by the California Department of Fish and Game and the California Native Plant Society).

SCIENTIFIC NAME
COMMON NAME

AGENCY STATUS
CALIFORNIA RARE PLANT RANK

Arctostaphylos silvicola
Silver-leaf Manzanita
-
1B.2
Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana Ben Lomond Spineflower Federal Endangered 1B.1

Cupressus (Hesperocyparis) abramsiana

Santa Cruz Cypress
California Endangered, Federal Endangered 1B.2
Eriogonum nudum var. decurrens Naked-stemmed Buckwheat
-
1B.1
Erysimum teretifolium Ben Lomond Wallflower California Endangered,
Federal Endangered
1B.1
Rank 1A plants are presumed extinct in California.
Rank 1B plants are the rarest existing plants. They are rare, threatened, or endangered in California and elsewhere.
The number after the decimal is a threat rating, with 1 being the most threatened category.
 

The five special-status plants in the table above occur only in the Sandhills and nowhere else on the planet; all but the Santa Cruz Cypress occur on the San Lorenzo Valley Water District's Olympia Wellfield property. Some other Sandhills plants potentially merit listing as well. In addition, a number of relatively widespread species occur in an unusual form in the Sandhills.

Morgan's species list was used as the framework for mapping the Sandhills plants at the Wellfield during spring and summer 2011. Field work was performed by botanist and landscape contractor Suzanne Schettler, who has conducted restoration of Sandhills habitats since 1995. She was assisted in the field by Ken Moore, who has extensive knowledge of the Wellfield property from his work eradicating invasive species there; he contributed GPS expertise to the mapping project.

By definition, this was neither a full botanical survey of the District's Wellfield property, nor an in-depth ecological study. It was a focused mapping project intended to fill an existing data gap and contribute to the San Lorenzo Valley Water District's Watershed Management Plan. The project was carried out under an Educational Grant from the District.

Method of Survey

All of the Sandhills plants require full sun, so the focus of field work was in open areas free of dense trees or shrubs. A mapped polygon was defined as a patch of vegetation meeting one or both of the following criteria:
" multiple Sandhills plants clustered together in a given location, or
" high density of one or more Sandhills plants
Defining the "edge" of a polygon was a combination of art and science because species' occurrences do not begin or end at a sharp line; rather, they fade in and out gradually. Not all occurrences of Naked-stemmed Buckwheat were mapped, because this species is more or less ubiquitous in all open areas on the Santa Margarita Sand.

Ken Moore recorded a starting point on a hand-held GPS unit (Dell X51V PDA with a GlobalSat GPS receiver); subsequent waypoints were GPS'd while walking along the perimeter of the polygon and back to the starting point. Suzanne Schettler identified the location of the outline of the edge of the polygon. She also took written notes about each polygon and listed each Sandhills plant species present in the polygon.

Charles Baughman converted the GPS information into maps, using the desktop version of OziExplorer to digitize some of the waypoints into shapefiles; he did most of the map work with Global Mapper (http://www.globalmapper.com/ ) to write the PDFs. Ms. Schettler summarized the field information as several tables in Word and entered the inventory of species by polygon into an Excel spreadsheet.

Results

Given that the SLVWD Wellfield at Olympia is a mined-out sand quarry that was significantly impacted by both sand removal and the land use activities related to processing and shipping sand, it is surprisingly rich in Sandhills plants. Sandhills plants were found at 52 locations (polygons). Half of the polygons (26) contained ten or more Sandhills plants, and one polygon (#45) contained 33 Sandhills species. In general, the areas richest in Sandhills plants were located along the southern edge of the property where disturbance has been minimal.

The Wellfield contained 56 of the 83 Sandhills plants (68%) in spring and summer 2011. For comparison, the two Sandhills areas at the Quail Hollow Ranch County Park contain 30 and 46 respectively; the three preserved areas at Quail Hollow Quarry contain 51, 59, and 68 Sandhills plant species respectively, according to Randall Morgan's 1983 report (Harvey & Stanley, Inc., 1983.) The Olympia Wellfield is therefore the third richest example of Sandhills habitat anywhere. Unlike the Quail Hollow Quarry preserves, it offers public access within modest limits.

Discussion

Several species deserve mention.

  • The most distinctive shrub of the Sandhills, Silver-leaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos silvicola) was likely widespread at the Wellfield before the site was quarried. Today there are probably fewer than 40 plants present although some other Sandhills species have aggressively re-colonized the quarry pits.
  • The flowers of Wooly Dandelion (Malacothrix floccifera) are normally yellow but are white at most Sandhills locations; at the Wellfield it occurs in both color forms.
  • Plants of Naked-stemmed Buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum var. decurrens) are far larger at Polygon #7 than anywhere else in the Sandhills.
  • There were only a few Pussy Paws (Calyptridium monospermum) present in about 1995 (S. Schettler, personal observation) but many hundreds sprang up on a hill near a former quarry pit following removal of invasive Acacias in 2009 and 2010 (Polygons 12, 14, and 15).
  • Several species of Pine are present at the Wellfield. There are some large old Coulter Pines (Pinus coulteri) that must have been planted long ago; Coulter Pines are not native to the Santa Cruz Mountains (Thomas, 1961). (At probably about the same time, several Incense Cedars [Calocedrus decurrens] were planted at the top of the prominent west-facing cutslope in an apparent early attempt at aesthetic remediation.) More recently (1970s or 1980s), Monterey Pines (Pinus radiata), Scots Pines (Pinus sylvestris, a species with short needles), and possibly more Coulter Pines were planted under the auspices of the Water District. Monterey and Coulter Pines are difficult to distinguish from the native Ponderosa Pine until they are mature enough to have cones and develop distinctive bark. All three of these Pines have overlapping features of needle color, needle length, and number of needles per bundle, making the cones the only reliable diagnostic feature. In the context of mapping, this blurs the picture of Ponderosa Pine, which is the signature tree of the Sandhills. There are quite a few immature Pines on the Wellfield that could be offspring of any of the longer-needled Pines, and immature Ponderosa Pines may be present at locations where Ponderosa Pine was not recorded. Knobcone Pine (Pinus attenuata) is native in the Sandhills but is widespread elsewhere, so it was not mapped as a Sandhills plant.

This was a good spring overall in the Sandhills because rainfall during the winter of 2010-2011 was well above average. Some of the places where invasive plants were pile-burned may have supported unusually high populations of Sandhills plants this year as a result of a nutrient pulse from the ash.

The mapping extended to the southern fence line, an area where there is a concentration of Sandhills plants. Shortly after mapping was completed, that property line was surveyed and a new fence was installed north of the old one. Parts of Polygons 44 through 47 and all of Polygon 48 now appear to be off District property.

It should be noted that Sandhills plants occurred outside the mapped polygons, although at lower densities. If every occurrence of Sandhills plants were mapped they would cover two to three times the area shown on the polygons. Such a larger area would fill many of the gaps between polygons. It would also be enlarged around the mapped polygons to extend a moderate distance outward, comprising a few "super-polygons" that enclose the specific polygons mapped in 2011. With only minor modifications, the "super-polygons" correspond to the District's previous mapping of Sand Parkland Habitat and Sand Parkland (Degraded).

In spite of its land use history, the Olympia Watershed contains a remarkable example of Sandhills vegetation.

Citations

Harvey & Stanley Associates, Inc. 1983. Randall Morgan's "Appendices to Analysis of the Loss of Sand Parkland Vegetation at Lone Star Industries' Olympia Quarry, and the Potential for Reestablishing the Sand Parkland Vegetation and Other Options."
Thomas, J. H. 1961. Flora of the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.

 

OLYMPIA WATERSHED HISTORICAL MINING EQUIPMENT INVENTORY

The District has defined a project area for the Olympia Watershed to inventory and map abandoned mining equipment and to identify and document pieces with historical value using interpretive signage.
After the District acquired 17 acres of the Olympia Watershed property in 2009, consultants conducted an environmental site assessment, which recommended removal of all abandoned structures and mining equipment on the property. The District removed several old metal sheds at the same time that it engaged in an invasive-species control project. When dense thickets of the invasive acacia dealbata trees were cut down and removed, more abandoned mining equipment, mostly half-buried cable, became visible. Some, but not all of this equipment has potential historical value.
For a more detailed discussion of the historical value of the mining equipment, please refer to Part III: Planning and Recommendations Report, Chapter 2, Olympia Watershed Property, 2.7.1 Review of existing conditions: Cultural and historical resources.

The map below shows the location of the historical mining equipment. A copy of the complete report is available by request at the District office.

.
 


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