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Coastal Conservancy awards conservation grants to SLO County

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Two regions in Morro Bay and Atascadero—one in need of environmental protection funds and one ravaged by winter storms—are beneficiaries of state grants.

The grants were announced on Sept. 25 as part of $84 million the State Coastal Conservancy had authorized for projects across the state that aimed to protect and restore coastal lands and make them more accessible.

RECENT RECOVERY After analyzing the impact of the January rainstorms that ravaged SLO County, several grants from the State Coastal Conservancy aim to aid environmental recovery efforts. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE STATE COASTAL CONSERVANCY
  • Photo Courtesy Of The State Coastal Conservancy
  • RECENT RECOVERY After analyzing the impact of the January rainstorms that ravaged SLO County, several grants from the State Coastal Conservancy aim to aid environmental recovery efforts.

"We have done a lot of work with SLO County so it is always a joy to work alongside them when they come to us with these types of projects," Coastal Conservancy project manager Timothy Duff said.

Out of that $84 million, up to $1.5 million will go to acquire and begin conservation efforts on unincorporated land near Atascadero called Wong Asuncion Ranch.

"The ranch reached out to us about six to eight months ago to ask for our potential assistance," Duff said. "Since we are a state agency and their needs align with some of our efforts, it makes sense this money was authorized."

According to the State Coastal Conservancy, the ranch has long been pressured to convert its grasslands and oak woodlands into rural homesites, vineyards, orchards, and other water-intensive uses.

Those calls for development could put many species that call the property home in danger. Some of those include the California red-legged frog and the federally endangered steelhead trout.

But thanks to the funds provided by this grant, the property and its endangered species will be protected via a conservation easement in the coming years.

"It's a pretty straight shot as far as being implemented once we come to terms with the official amount," Duff said. "We will give the funds and they can begin their efforts to preserve and protect the environment on their property."

Not all the funding awarded is going to straightforward efforts, according to Duff.

"The Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District reached out to us after the winter storms that hit them earlier this year and caused flooding around the Chorro Creek floodplain," he said.

The State Coastal Conservancy authorized up to $1.1 million to assist in planning efforts for the long-term future of Chorro Creek in Morro Bay—both to help ensure the land fully recovers and that future rain doesn't cause so much damage.

"A lot of what this current round of funding will go toward is research, project design, and getting the permitting for what we want to make happen out on the land by Chorro Creek to comply with the environmental permitting process," Duff said.

He's hopeful that, with the assistance from the Coastal Conservancy, the damage caused by massive flooding will be a thing of the past.

"This [Morro Bay project] is a more long-term, two- to three-year-long effort that will mainly consist of planning out the path for the future—that's the type of approach you have to come at this with," Duff said. "Then once they have that they will come back to [us] and we will go from there with a new batch of funding." Δ

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