LandSmart On-the-Ground® projects help people put their property conservation plan or watershed-wide management plan recommendations into action. The RCD works in partnership with land owners and managers on projects to conserve, protect, and restore natural resources. Technical staff can provide assistance with project development, engineering, construction oversight, permitting, and environmental compliance. On-the-Ground projects can result from LandSmart Plans, landowner ideas, or other natural resource priorities.

On-the-Ground projects implemented through this program achieve natural resource and land management goals and include:

  • Erosion control on roads, gullies, and streambanks
  • Enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat
  • Alternative water supply development
  • Manure and pasture management
  • Soil health improvement for productivity and carbon sequestration

Collaborative projects with the RCD and their partners have been a great way for us to achieve our sustainability goals while improving our vineyard and the creek that runs through it.

Gio Martorana

Martorana Family Winery

The RCD works in partnership with landowners, resource agencies and local contractors to develop and implement riparian and instream enhancement projects on rural and agricultural lands throughout our District. These projects have multi-benefits both for landowners and for salmonids and other aquatic species that utilize the stream habitat. Riparian enhancement projects are often focused on expanding the riparian corridor, removing invasive species and improving species diversity. These projects are done with the goal of increasing bank stability, protecting against flooding and climate change, improving stormwater management, preventing erosion, improving water quality and water temperature.

Some projects may include other components to more specifically improve instream conditions for salmonids. Adding large wood and boulders to streams can slow water, create areas and pools where fish can rest during migration or live during the freshwater phase of their life cycles. Log structures can also provide cover to keep water cool and protect fish from predators.

Existing high-quality habitat can also be made available to fish by removing or modifying structures that block fish from migrating upstream. Many historic road crossings, dams and other structures that span stream channels make it difficult or impossible for fish to swim upstream beyond the structure. The Sonoma RCD works with willing landowners to assess how these structures can be modified, removed, or replaced in order to improve fish passage while maintaining the function of the structures for the landowners’ use. Focus watersheds for these programs include Austin Creek, Dry Creek, Mill Creek, Maacama Creek, Mark West Creek, Laguna de Santa Rosa, Sonoma Creek Watersheds, and the Petaluma River Watershed.

Information on rainwater catchment and storage projects can be found on our Water Resources page.

The RCD was formed by local farmers and ranchers in 1946 to address their most pertinent natural resource concerns in their watersheds. Over 70 years later, we help ensure that agriculture continues to thrive while also helping agriculturalists – the stewards of the lands they cultivate- be of service to the environment. Implementing beneficial management practices (BMPs) ensure the health of our ecosystems and support the sustainability of our farming and ranching heritage.

Agricultural BMPs implemented through our LandSmart programming achieve natural resource and land management goals. The following are some commonly recommended Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Practices:

  • 449 – Irrigation Water Management
  • 393 – Filter Strip
  • 412 – Grassed Waterway
  • 410 – Grade Stabilization Structure
  • 340 – Cover Crop
  • 560 – Access Road
  • 382 – Fence
  • 516 – Livestock Pipeline
  • 614 – Watering Facility
  • 430 – Irrigation Pipeline
  • 342 – Critical Area Planting
  • 574 – Spring Development 

These and other BMPs may be identified through a LandSmart Plan or through a technical assistance need. Funding for implementation of these BMPs can come from a variety of sources, including the USDA – NRCS and their EQIP program. Vist their website here or call the Petaluma Field office number directly: (707) 794-1242.

During the late 1800s the tidelands bordering San Pablo Bay were “reclaimed” for farm land. Levees were constructed to keep out the bay waters and the lands were drained and allowed to dry out, rain water flushed out the salts from the land and crops were planted. Currently, these lands are either private or publicly owned and support local agricultural operations, infrastructure (i.e. roads) and important habitat and the levees require ongoing maintenance to prevent these lands from flooding.

In order to maintain the levees, landowners are required to obtain permits from some, or all, of the following regulatory agencies: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (with consultation from the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife), County, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Regional Water Quality Control Board, Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the State Lands Commission. Often, obtaining permits can be a lengthy and costly process. For example, receiving an individual permit for levee maintenance could take approximately 2 years to complete and can cost the landowner thousands of dollars. One way to save the landowner time and money, and to streamline the time spent by the regulatory agencies reviewing the permit applications, is for the RCD to administer one permit issued by each regulatory agency for levee maintenance activities being completed by numerous landowners. The effort of creating a permit program for maintaining the levees required the cooperation of many agencies, landowners, politicians and the RCD. The first permits were issued in 1980 and the RCD applies for a renewal of permits every five years. Mitigation for this permit program was required by the regulatory agencies and included the construction of approximately 71 acres of wetlands in Southern Sonoma County. As of 2013, there are twenty-nine participating landowners from the Petaluma River and Sonoma Creek Watersheds.

Each year, the RCD gathers information from each landowner on the work done in the previous year and work to be done the coming year, and submits it to the permitting agencies. The permits include restrictions as to when and how much levee maintenance work can be completed. It also ensures that the environment and endangered species are protected. Under these permits, landowners are not allowed to construct new levees or expand an existing levee. With the assistance of the RCD, the landowners and regulators have reached an agreement to make maintaining levees an easier process for all parties.

Water Quality Credit Trading is an innovative approach to achieve water quality goals and regulatory requirements by the purchase of pollution reduction “credits” from other sources, including water quality management practices on agricultural lands. The RCD, in collaboration with consultants, partners and local agricultural landowners, is working on the development of this first trading market in California in the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed. In the program, agriculture provides nutrient credits through implemented conservation practices for a wastewater treatment plant buyer and will serve as a template transferable to other watersheds in California.

For more information on this program please visit: 

Read the Water Quality Trading Framework for the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed, California here.