The Restoration Oaks Ranch (ROR) Water Cycle Regeneration Project will regenerate and restore to health the hydrological cycle of one complete watershed, and part of another, on Restoration Oaks ranch. Water is the foundation of any food enterprise, and the California drought accentuates the importance of capturing and retaining rainwater as aquifers shrink and wells go dry.
This is a rare opportunity to scientifically measure changes and showcase the results of regenerating the hydrological cycle within a whole watershed. In most cases, property borders define the scope of influence for a watershed or aquifer project. In the case of this project, the property border allows for a complete assessment of an entire watershed, and a nearly complete scope of influence to make decisions on how it is managed. Within the context of integrated planning, design and management, the team can quickly and more freely leverage known and proven methods of regenerative agriculture to benefit the landscape, community and bio-region as a whole.
Farms and ranches on the South Central Coast primarily use well water for crops and livestock. When wells run dry, as they have been during the California drought, conventional wisdom is to rehabilitate the well, drill the well deeper, or drill another well. This is very expensive, and every well-based mitigation carries a risk. The land owner must pay the well contractor whether water exists in greater quantities after the well project or not.
Federal and California support agencies do not provide assistance for projects that focus on retaining and storing water on lands, only for new technologies and water conservation projects applied to existing water sources. If the land does not naturally have water, conservation and technology will do no good. This leaves the food-raising land owner to his or her own devices in periods of low rainfall.
By implementing holistic best practices of induced water infiltration, erosion mitigation, soil building and carbon sequestration, the ROR Water Cycle Regeneration Project will restore native grasses and historic oak populations and recharge the aquifer using guided natural processes. Utilizing earthworks, grazing systems, and vegetative growth that harmonize with natural patterns will provide a framework for building resiliency into the brittle landscape. As the earthworks and associated planting structures are developed, the affected pasture and farm land and its soil biology will be healthier and more resilient. The project’s Phase I planned implementation stages and budget is outlined below.
PHASE I IMPLEMENTATION
Comprehensive site assessment report, with design recommendations, and associated element analysis will be presented to project partners, collaborators and vested participants to best facilitate shared purpose and goals throughout the process.
Baseline soil data (earthworms, infiltration rate, soil pH, total organic carbon, etc.) is collected from sites 1 and 2 and analyzed. Baseline photos with GPS waypoints are taken. Baseline well water data is collected from downslope wells all the way to the lower end of the property, past the blueberry fields.
SITE PLANNING & PREPARATION
Site #1 excavation and earthworks are surveyed and work plans developed. Site #1 was chosen because of the already established vegetative cover above the planned earthworks, which will reduce the instance of sediment deposit into the new earthworks. This location has a North Westerly facing exposure which protects from the evaporative effects of the Southern sun. Site #1 will be the site of the first broad earthworks excavation, with activities occurring in Phase I.
Site #2 excavation and earthworks are surveyed and partial work plans developed. Additionally, the scope of soil stabilization plantings are determined and work plans developed. Site #2 was chosen because of the sparse groundcover and loose soil typical of the Southern facing slopes on the ranch. The current eroded and bare condition of Site #2 will make the sediment reducing and erosion mitigating results of the ROR Water Cycle Regeneration activities visible on the watershed above-ground while not visible changes to the underlying aquifer occur below ground.
(NOTE: Site #2 excavation and earthworks activities are included in Phase II, not Phase I, of the ROR Water Cycle Regeneration Project.)
SOIL STABILIZATION- DEEP-ROOTED GRASSES
Soil stabilization starting at the top of excavation site #2 watershed with the use of a non-invasive, deep rooted, perennial clumping grass, followed by oaks, planted on contour. This is a technique used on the Southern facing slope due to sparse groundcover and loose soil that is prone to sediment deposit in earthworks.
More soil tests are taken and analyzed to gain additional baseline data within the context of a different season.
SOIL STABILIZATION- SHRUB AND OAK TREE PLANTINGS
Tree and shrub plantings are installed within the natural terraces that will have begun to form behind the perennial clumping grasses. The Oak trees will be the succession plantings that will ultimately sustain the capture and storage of rainwater, mitigate erosion, provide shade and habitat for native pollinators, food and shelter for wildlife, nutrients for the soil and the native grasslands.
EARTHWORKS AND HILLTOP WATER INFILTRATION
Broad earthworks activities begin on Site #1. Activities include the excavation of pocket ponds and clearing of natural swales, a 7 foot deep earthen dam, and keylines on contour to slow, spread and sink rainwater, optimizing water infiltration.
Topographical shaping activities begin on Site #2. Activities include keylines on contour, natural swale clearing and other topographic shaping activities that slow, spread and sink rainwater, optimizing water infiltration.
Weather resistant kiosks will be erected at the base of Site #1 and Site #2 that explain the objectives, activities and natural processes supported by the Phase I project. Significant project sponsors will be recognized with gratitude.
PHASE I BUDGET
|Site 1 & 2 Assessment- Data Collection and Lab Analysis||$5,000.00|
|Site 1 & 2 Assessment Report||$2,500.00|
|Site 2 Soil Stabilization- Stock, Site Prep, Labor||$2,000.00|
|Site 2 Soil Stabilization- Clumping Grass, Oak Tree Plantings||$1,000.00|
|Site 1 Earthworks & Excavation||$2,500.00|
|Site 2 Hilltop Water Infiltration||$2,500.00|
|Site 1 & 2 Education Touchpoints- Design, Print & Construct||$2,000.00|