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Project Spotlight: Ocean Breeze Dairy: Ebabias Creek Riparian Restoration Project

The Ocean Breeze Dairy has been operated by the producer Jarrid Bordessa, a fifth-generation dairy operator, since 2003. In those last 16 years, his business model has shifted to grass-fed, certified organic milk production, and he is the right place to do just that. The Valley Ford dairy covers 310 acres of coastal grassland and over 4,500 feet of perennial stream.


In the 2018 annual newsletter, we shared an article about Ocean Breeze Dairy, their distributor, Organic Valley, the Carbon Cycle Institute and the RCD developed a Carbon Farm Plan for the property, identifying opportunities to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, the RCD was successful in securing a California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Healthy Soils Program Demonstration Project to implement two of the practices identified in the plan and to engage with local farmers and ranchers through public workshops.

The two practices being implemented are the application of compost and the restoration of riparian habitat along lower Ebabias Creek, the primary tributary of Americano Creek, whose watershed estuary, the Estero Americano, drains into Bodega Bay and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.  Considered one of California’s most unique coastal wetland types, the Estero Americano contains a diverse assemblage of wetland communities and estuarine habitats.

Ebabias Creek is recognized as the only potentially restorable freshwater habitat for steelhead trout in the Estero Americano watershed, whose upper reaches are believed to still support resident trout.  Despite its significance to the watershed, and the relatively intact riparian corridor in its upper reaches, lower Ebabias Creek has seen significant impacts from livestock operations in this agricultural watershed.  Much of its lower sections lack protection from cattle, leading to minimal riparian vegetation and water quality impacts. 

By excluding livestock and restoring riparian cover through this priority reach in the initial phase of its restoration, the project will work to protect the streambed, shade the stream corridor, and maintain low water temperatures for salmonids and other sensitive riparian species, such as endangered red-legged frogs (Rana aurora draytonii), endangered California freshwater shrimp (Syncaris pacifica), the vulnerable northwestern pond turtles (Clemmys marmorata marmorata). 

In addition to its habitat for aquatic species, the Estero Americano is at the heart of the Pacific Flyway and supports a very large and diverse winter and migratory bird community. The Estero was identified in the Southern Pacific Shorebird Conservation Plan (Hickey et al., 2003) as one of only two “wetlands of importance” for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl in Sonoma County.  The plan identified 62 species of water-associated birds that regularly use the estuary and its lower tributary riparian areas. Restoration of these riparian corridors, with the food sources and roosting opportunities they provide, is essential in supporting these bird migrations.

The CDFA Healthy Soils Program project has served as an important first phase in the restoration of lower Ebabias Creek and we recently received notice from the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) Proposition 1 grant application program that our proposal has been funded, with work to begin in February 2020. 

The additional SCC funding assures that the planting will be maintained and monitored, as we seek to achieve at least an 80% survival rate of the 600 trees and shrubs to be installed.  Ocean Breeze Dairy will be responsible for maintaining the exclusion fence and complying with terms of the riparian grazing plan stipulated in a detailed landowner agreement, which will allow the riparian area to be flash-grazed in early summer as needed for weed control (plants will be protected by sturdy browse protectors).  Beyond the three-year maintenance period, the landowner will be responsible for maintaining the habitat values of the restoration area for a 25-year period, which will include maintaining the exclusion fence and ensuring cattle do not access the riparian area.

The project has been developed in close collaboration with Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB) and Point Blue’s Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed (STRAW) Program as implementing partners, with local NRCS staff as a funding partner, and with Organic Valley as an outreach partner. The STRAW Program works with local schools and teachers, first conducting classroom visits to discuss the projects’ conservation values and overall conservation principles, then organizing field days with elementary school classes to conduct hands-on restoration work.  Teachers participating in the program are provided annual training events and given resources and technical support to integrate watershed science into their classroom year-round.  An estimated 14 classrooms, consisting of 14 teachers, 350 kids, and 60 parent volunteers, will participate, along with 10 interns from Point Blue’s internship program.

While implementation will result in some GHG emissions from vehicle use to and from the project site, these impacts will be offset by the carbon sequestration benefits to riparian restoration.  Long-term sequestration will be assured through a landowner agreement which states that the habitat values of the riparian corridor must be maintained for a 25-year period, allowing the riparian vegetation to continue to mature.  Carbon sequestration approximations for riparian plantings, as calculated through the USDA COMET-Planner, estimates that a 2-acre riparian buffer planting sequesters approximately 4 metric tons CO2 equivalent per year. 

 

For more information contact William Hart- William(at)GoldRidgeRCD.org - (707) 823-5244

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