New Investments in Coordinated Invasive Species Control in the San Joaquin Watershed
(Above) Giant reed was once planted along ditches and waterways to stabilize the banks from erosion. We now know that it has the opposite effect by exacerbating large-scale erosion during storm flows. Treating this weed benefits water quality, wildlife populations, and public safety. The above photo shows California Conservation Corps labor crews have been learning about river restoration while pulling a paycheck for four years.
We are excited to announce that River Partners and our project partner the San Joaquin River Parkway Conservation and Trust, Inc. have been awarded competitive grants from the Bureau of Reclamation’s San Joaquin River Restoration Program and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Watershed Restoration Grant Program to expand the multi-benefit San Joaquin River Weed Control and Jobs Creation Project.
Since its start in 2011, this project has been mapping, prioritizing, and treating problematic noxious weeds along 150 miles of the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam near Fresno to the river’s confluence with the Merced River – all the while employing local workers to support the local economy. To date, more than 430 folks have been employed by the project, treating more than 780 acres of exotic invaders such as giant reed (Arundo donax), perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium), thistles and salt cedar (Tamarisk spp.). The funds driving this project have come from a variety of partners, and often come from competitive programs eligible to the entire state. By successfully competing for funds, this project is improving the environment and bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the San Joaquin Valley to chip away at two big problems: weeds and unemployment.
When we first conceived of this project nearly 7 years ago, we had no idea how many challenges we were facing, not from the extensive infestations of undesirable plants (we had a healthy respect for the scale of that challenge), but from the daunting challenge of finding and managing a workforce across such a large geography with the levels of efficiency that such an ambitious project requires. We learned quickly that partnerships with Federal and State agencies, NGO’s, and of course the local landowners could help us solve employment and workforce management challenges as much as they have helped us solve scientific restoration challenges across the entire Central Valley. Partnering with the Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps and the California Conservation Corps has allowed this project to access crews of talented and motivated young people who are just developing a sense of caring about their local environment, and who need enriching employment experiences. As Sharon Weaver, the Executive Direction for the San Joaquin River Parkway Conservation and Trust, Inc. put it, “Our partnerships have added value to every aspect of this project. River Partners has specific scientific expertise; the River Parkway Trust has on-the-ground presence and relationships with many local landowners, and the Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps is providing education and job-training opportunities for local youth. It’s a winning combination of resources and talent.”
Partners in the fight against riparian weeds
The above article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of the River Partners Journal.