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January 14, 2011 > Water Words: Grants improve watersheds, create trails and preserve land

Water Words: Grants improve watersheds, create trails and preserve land

Director Richard Santos
Santa Clara Valley Water District

This year the Santa Clara Valley Water District is offering $4.46 million through three of its grant programs: Trail and Open Space, Environmental Enhancement Implementation and Watershed Stewardship. The programs are designed to help meet the outcomes of the voter-approved Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan (Clean, Safe Creeks), which is the primary funding source for the grants.

Clean, Safe Creeks was approved by voters in November 2000 and is a fifteen year program. With only five years left to go, the district is working hard to achieve each of the four outcomes set forth in the plan. These grants help to reach three of them.

Trail and Open Space- This grant program is consistent with a Clean, Safe Creeks outcome that calls for additional open spaces, trails and parks along creeks and in the watersheds when reasonable and appropriate. The objective of the trails element is to provide public access to 70 miles of trails or open space along creeks and in the watersheds. With 65.5 miles of trails completed through the Trail and Open Space Grant Program and development of joint use and joint trail agreements, the district is on track to surpass this goal.

Environmental Enhancement Implementation- Another Clean, Safe Creeks outcome is to create additional wetlands, riparian habitat and favorable stream conditions for fisheries and wildlife (equivalent to 100 acres of tidal or riparian habitat created or restored). This grant program has been developed to assist proponents of restoration and enhancement projects with the construction phase of relevant projects. Since its inception, the Environmental Enhancement Implementation Grant Program has funded the creation or restoration of 358 acres of habitat, exceeding the Clean, Safe Creeks outcome of 100 acres.

Watershed Stewardship- The program helps fulfill several Clean, Safe Creeks outcomes related to a continued reduction of pollutants from urban runoff, general surface water quality protection, healthy creek and bay ecosystems, creations of additional wetlands, and open spaces, trails and parks along creeks. In addition, this program helps fulfill the stewardship component of the district's mission. To date, the Watershed Stewardship Grant Program has awarded approximately $943,000 in funding to 52 projects.

As someone who enjoys running, I appreciate what these programs can accomplish. The Berryessa, Calabazas and Coyote creek trails were each funded through Clean, Safe Creeks and every time I go for a run on one of them I'm reminded of the important work that we do. Not only do these trails beautify our community, but they also provide a green transportation alternative for local residents. If you think one of these programs can benefit your community, I encourage you to write to your local representative and urge them to apply.

The following entities are eligible to submit grant applications:
* Cities
* Towns
* Santa Clara County
* Open space districts
* Internal units of the Santa Clara Valley Water District
* Local non-profit organizations with a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status

A Request for Proposals for each grant was released on Dec. 15, 2010. Applications will be reviewed and ranked based upon the evaluation criteria listed in each RFP. All RFP responses are due March 15, 2011 and project funding will be subject to board approval. To assist entities interested in applying for these grants, the water district will be holding workshops in January. RFPs are now available for their respective grant programs at http://www.valleywater.org/Services/HealthyCreeksandEcoSystems.aspx.

Please direct all inquiries, correspondence and grant applications to Brian Mendenhall, Project Manager, at (408) 265-2607, ext. 3093 or via email at bmendenhall@valleywater.org.

As always, I am available for questions or comments as your District 3 representative for the northern areas of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara; Alviso; Milpitas; and the north San Jose and Berryessa communities. Feel free to contact me at (408) 234-7707.

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