On the Water Front

Selected tag(s): california land repurposing

Water Leadership Institute reunion: Bridging connections over water

This blog is co-authored by Sue Ruiz (Education Manager, Self-Help Enterprises), Chris Freimund (Director of Development, Watershed Progressive), and Laura Dubin, Rural Community Assistance Corporation

During a rainy Saturday in Visalia, graduates from the Water Leadership Institute (WLI) gathered for an alumni reunion. It only seemed fitting that alumni congregated to discuss solutions to water challenges in an area that historically suffered from drought and recently suffered from severe flooding.

Co-hosted by the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), Self-Help Enterprises (SHE), and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the gathering was meant to foster a support network for community water leaders and influence the future of the WLI. The alumni reunion also included local organizations that work to engage communities to promote equity and water resilience, including the Community Water Center (CWC), Watershed Progressive, and Linguistica Interpreting and Translation. Read More »

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Collaboration and strategic land repurposing: An interview with Julie Rentner, President of River Partners

Most of California’s Central Valley is dedicated to productive and diverse farmland, helping make California the country’s fruit, nut, and vegetable basket. However, due in part to increasingly intense and variable climate conditions, we must manage agricultural landscapes to ensure productivity and reliance for future generations.  The 2,100-acre Dos Rios Ranch Preserve near Modesto is an inspiring example of how marginal farmland can be reimagined to support sustainable agriculture. It also serves as a model to create an abundance of new community and environmental benefits, similar to the types of projects that will be funded by California’s new Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program, a program that incentivizes landowners to voluntarily repurpose land to support long-term water sustainability in the Central Valley. Furthermore, the organization has planted over 350,000 native trees and vegetation, restored 8 miles of riverfront land, and created nearly 250 jobs — an overall success for the area’s ecosystems and economy. The Ranch provides a multitude of new uses, building biodiversity, recreational, climate resilience, cultural, and flood control benefits while improving the health and stability of our water systems which are the backbone of our economy.

Photo Credit: River Partners

We asked Julie Rentner, President of River Partners, to sit down with EDF to discuss the Preserve’s beginnings and journey from irrigated cropland to one of the state’s most significant and largest private-public floodplain restoration projects.

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Nearly $40 million available to help California water managers, growers, and communities achieve groundwater sustainability through the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program

Yesterday, California’s Department of Conservation opened a second application round for the state’s timely and in-demand Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program (MLRP).

Now through March 29th, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and their local non-profit and public agency partners can apply for nearly $9 million block grants to plan for and implement projects that reduce regional groundwater demand and beneficially repurpose formerly irrigated farmland. Block grantees can use MLRP funding in part to provide payments to growers for voluntarily repurposing land to new uses that require less water and create benefits, such as habitat, community parks, restored floodplains, multibenefit recharge areas, dryland crops, managed rangeland, or low-impact solar. Direct funding is also available for federally recognized and non-federally recognized California Native American tribes that are working to reestablish tribal land uses, enact tribal cultural practices, acquire land or easements, and conduct other land repurposing projects. 

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Taking a big leap to solve California water problems: How uncommon partners are finding common ground on the water

Jump into Tuolomne River

This blog is co-authored by Joshua Viers, Professor and Program Director, Secure Water Future, University of California, Merced

There we were, 19 of us on the stony shore of the Tuolumne River, feeling a bit stranded like the crew of Gilligan’s Island.

Our “Finding Common Water” rafting excursion was planned around “no water Wednesday,” when river releases are held back for water conservation and infrastructure maintenance. The trip’s goal: Get off our desk chairs and onto rafts, out of the ordinary and into an extraordinary setting — a hot, highly regulated, wild and scenic river —  to push us out of our comfort zone and get to work on addressing real water problems.

Working with All-Outdoors whitewater expeditions, EDF and UC Merced teamed up to create the trip. Our premise was that paddling a raft together — and yanking each other back into the boats by our life vests — can build camaraderie and help find areas of agreement in ways that Zoom meetings just can’t.

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California’s new Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program is already oversubscribed. Here are 3 features of successful applications.

Last month, the state of California reached an important milestone in its effort to proactively address water scarcity and the changing agricultural landscape: The Department of Conservation awarded over $40 million to regional organizations to strategically repurpose previously irrigated farmland in ways that create new public benefits while reducing groundwater use.

The highly competitive Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program (MLRP) received 12 applications requesting over $110 million  — more than twice the funding available during the program’s inaugural year. The four successful proposals, which received $10 million each, came from critically overdrafted groundwater subbasins in the San Joaquin and Salinas valleys. Here are three common features that gave the successful applications a competitive edge.

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