San Dieguito River Conservancy cleaning up watershed

The SDRVC will work to control invasive non-native species by clearing invasive plants (above), among other steps.

The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy is eradicating invasive weeds from the river course, and replacing them with native plants, in order to control fire risk and and improve the natural habitat.

The restoration project covers almost 95 acres, and takes place along a 2.5-mile stretch of the San Dieguito River between Fairbanks Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe. That area is part of an ongoing revegetation program to improve the streamside environment.

That stretch of river is overgrown with non-native, invasive species, including giant reed, tamarisk, pampas grass, palms, castor bean, and eucalyptus, which crowd out native species and increase fire risk, the conservancy stated. This year the organization will work on manually clearing invasive plants, treating the site with herbicides that are safe for the aquatic environment, and revegetating with native plants.

The San Dieguito River flows from headwaters at springs on Volcan Mountain north of Julian, to the San Dieguito Lagoon between Del Mar and Solana Beach. The watershed courses along 55 miles, from conifer and oak woodlands, to chaparral and coastal wetlands.

The conservancy, a local nonprofit environmental agency, received over $140,000 in grants to help with its efforts to restore a section of the river that has been impacted by urban activity. The grants include $71,826 in Prop. 1 funds from the State Coastal Conservancy, which are aimed at ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects that provide multiple benefits to the habitat.

The organization also received $53,500 to contract crew labor from the Urban Corps of San Diego, which provides paid job training, support services, and high school diploma opportunities to young adults ages 18 to 26. And it was awarded $18,662 from the California Fire Safe Council’s Fire Prevention Grant Program.

The organization plans to improve the habitat for conservation and recreation. It has worked to construct a Coast to Crest Trail from the ocean at Del Mar to Volcan Mountain.

The conservancy offers a series of guided hikes to make the watershed accessible to the public. It also hosts an educational program that has provided field trips for more than 1,000 local students, who learn about the natural resources of the watershed.

--Deborah Sullivan Brennan is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune

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