San Luis Rey/Santa Margarita arundo removal given Environmental Mitigation Program funding

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) board approved TransNet Environmental Mitigation Program funding for 15 projects, including one for the San Luis Rey and Santa Margarita watersheds.

SANDAG’s 19-0 vote May 24 will provide $174,000 to the Mission Resource Conservation District (RCD) for the program to remove the invasive arundo weed from the two watersheds. The project was ranked first among habitat restoration and invasive species control projects.

The TransNet sales tax extension approved by the county’s voters in November 2004 included the Environmental Mitigation Program which provides funding to mitigate habitat impacts from regional and local transportation projects. SANDAG allocates $4 million annually for land management and monitoring activities, and for Fiscal Year 2013 the SANDAG board allocated $2 million of that amount for a competitive land management grant program.

Land managers from private non-profit corporations, local jurisdictions, and other government agencies were eligible to apply for the grants, and 34 proposals were received and evaluated.

The competitive grants funded $800,000 for habitat restoration and invasive species control, $800,000 for species-specific management, and $400,000 for habitat maintenance, access control and management, and volunteer coordination. SANDAG funded five of the 13 habitat restoration and invasive species control proposals, whose requests totaled $2.8 million, seven of the 13 species-specific management proposals totaling $2.3 million, and three of the eight habitat maintenance, access control and management, and volunteer coordination requests which totaled $1.5 million.

The ranking criteria included habitat linkage location, proposed measurable results, urgency, available matching funds, and public participation and awareness.

The Mission RCD had requested $261,000 while proposing a $284,000 match. The proposal received 107.67 ranking points out of a possible 145. The arundo eradication program has already removed an estimated 90 percent of arundo which was in the watersheds prior to the program’s initiation, and the SANDAG committee comments included a demonstration of previous success, a high proportion of matching funds, and a high benefit-to-cost ratio. The Mission Resource Conservation District will submit a revised statement of work, budget, and schedule prior to receiving the money.

The County of San Diego’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures also submitted an invasive plant control request to continue the control and eradication of spotted knapweed, purple loosestrife, and yellow starthistle throughout the county, but that $119,709 request ranked 10th with 80.33 points and was not funded.

The Fallbrook Land Conservancy had requested $23,430 to install a gate and signage to prevent vehicular access into the Durling Preserve while offering a $1,430 match, but that proposal ranked last among the eight habitat maintenance, access control management, and volunteer coordination submissions with 52.67 points out of a possible 115 and was not funded.

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