The Salinas River is the longest river system in the central coast of California. Fertile soils in the floodplain, a highly favorable climate, and the use of river flows for aquifer recharge and irrigation in the Salinas Valley makes it one of the most productive agricultural regions in California. Agriculture in the Salinas Valley generates billions of dollars for the regional economy. However, the successes of the region have also led to management challenges. Key challenges include periodic flooding, maintaining stream flows for agriculture and species habitat, controlling high levels of invasive plants, poor water quality, loss of riparian vegetation, encroachment on the stream channel, and ad-hoc bank stabilization. All of these factors are having an effect on the river and its estuary lagoon.
The Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) is the primary local agency managing water resources along the Salinas River while minimizing flood risk. MCWRA operates the largest reservoir in Monterey County (San Antonio) and the largest reservoir in San Luis Obispo County (Nacimiento). MCWRA also operates a variety of water management facilities along and near the Salinas River, and it is the flood control agency for most of Monterey County. Due to the many and growing challenges facing the Salinas River, it is of utmost importance that MCWRA successfully manage the water resources along the Salinas River while minimizing flood risk and addressing the needs of threatened and endangered species.
MCWRA completed the Salinas River Long-Term Management Plan (LTMP) as the first phase in a comprehensive strategy to help address complex management challenges on the Salinas River. The Agency is currently engaged in the development of the Salinas River Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) which will provide an effective framework to achieve balance between natural resource conservation and water resources management in the Salinas River watershed. The Salinas River HCP will also provide MCWRA with permits under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and California Endangered Species Act (CESA) for impacts to listed species that may result from the facilities maintenance, water operations, floodwater management, capital projects, and other activities covered in the HCP.