Preservation of Carmel River Environmental Resources

Mitigation Program

One of the District's main responsibilities is to monitor the effects of water production on the environment and work to reduce the negative impacts. In the 1980s, the District implemented several programs designed to sustain healthy riparian vegetation and a viable fishery, and to maintain the bed and banks of Carmel River. The Mitigation Program now incorporates all these activities into one plan for mitigating the adverse environmental effects of the Water Allocation Program.

In April 1990, the Water Allocation Program Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was prepared for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) by Mintier and Associates.  The Final EIR analyzed the effects of five levels of annual Cal-Am production, ranging from 16,744 acre-feet per annum (AFA) to 20,500 AFA.  On November 5, 1990, the MPWMD Board certified the Final EIR, adopted findings, and passed a resolution that set Option V as the new water allocation limit.  Option V resulted in an annual limit of 16,744 acre-feet (AF) for California-American Water Company (Cal-Am) production, and 3,137 AF for non-Cal-Am production, resulting in a total allocation of 19,881 AFA for the water resource system.

Even though Option V was the least damaging alternative of the five options analyzed in the Water Allocation EIR, production at this level still resulted in significant, adverse environmental impacts that must be mitigated.  Thus, the findings adopted by the Board included a "Five-Year Mitigation Program for Option V" and several general mitigation measures.

The Five-Year Mitigation Program formally began in July 1991 with the new fiscal year (FY) and was slated to run until June 30, 1996.  Following public hearings in May 1996 and District Board review of draft reports through September 1996, the Five-Year Evaluation Report for the 1991-1996 comprehensive program as well as an Implementation Plan for FY 1997 through FY 2001 were finalized in October 1996.  In its July 1995 Order WR 95-10, the State Water Resources Control Board directed Cal-Am to carry out any aspect of the Five-Year Mitigation Program that the District does not continue after June 1996.

At their May 3, 2004 meeting, the MPWMD Board of Directors reaffirmed MPWMD's commitment to the Mitigation Program by passing Resolution 2004-03, which states that the District will continue the mitigation program.  The program presently accounts for a significant portion of the District budget in terms of revenue (derived primarily from the MPWMD fee on the Cal-Am bill) and expenditures.

The Mitigation Program focuses on potential impacts related to fisheries, riparian vegetation and wildlife, and the Carmel River Lagoon and includes special status species and aesthetics.  Activities required to avoid or substantially reduce negative impacts to the environment include: irrigation and erosion prevention programs; fishery enhancement programs; establishing flow releases from the existing dams to protect the fish and riparian habitat; monitoring and managing groundwater supplies in Carmel Valley and in the Seaside Groundwater Basin; monitoring surface and groundwater water quality; reducing municipal water demand through water conservation; and regulating activities within the Carmel River riparian corridor.

Protection of the Steelhead Resource

Monitoring conducted by the District shows that the Carmel River steelhead population continues to recover from remnant levels that prevailed as a result of the last drought and past water supply practices. Since 1992, the spawning population has recovered from a handful of fish to levels approaching 900 adults per year as counted at San Clemente Dam (most recently, 483 fish in Winter 2003). In addition, monitoring of the juvenile population at several sites along the main stem Carmel River below Los Padres Dam shows that the population is recovering from low densities during the 1989-91 period (ranging below 0.50 fish per foot [fpf] of stream) to levels frequently ranging above 1.00 fpf during 2002, values that are typical of well-stocked steelhead streams. In 2002, average population density was above the long-term average for the Carmel River.

Protection of the Riparian Corridor

Streamside areas along the Carmel River have shrunk dramatically over the past 80 years as the river incised into alluvial deposits along the Carmel Valley floor after two main stem dams were built and floodplain development intensified.  What once was a wide riparian forested area with shallow threads which separated and joined on their way to the ocean is now nearly all confined into a single deep and narrow channel; however, the remaining corridor is essential for migrating steelhead, resident California red-legged frogs, western pond turtles, and supports a rich variety of other aquatic and terrestrial species.  More than 400 private properties line the river with an estimated 1,000 housing units within a few hundred feet of the river.  MPWMD encourages riverfront property owners to be wise stewards, but has also adopted a set of rules (MPWMD Rule Numbers 120 through 130) to regulate activities immediately adjacent to the main stem.  MPWMD provides a number of services to riverfront property owners, educators, regulators, contractors, and others to help maintain the health of the riparian corridor and disseminate information about this important natural resource.

Additional Information:

Carmel River Watershed Assessment

How to Protect and Enhance the Carmel River

Carmel River Restoration Projects

2002 Large Wood Study    2003 Large Wood Study

DFuerstPUCTestimony (2010)


River Regulations (MPWMD Rule 120-130)

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