- Jeff Schuyler
Safe Harbor Monitoring
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Eyasco QuB at Mount Shasta, Big Springs.
Safe Harbor Agreements (SHA) are a way to encourage landowners to adopt specific conservation practices that contribute to the recovery of Salmon and Steelhead species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). For volunteering to undertake activities on their property to enhance, restore, or maintain beneficial habitat, the landowners gain some assurance their land use practices will not be restricted. Designing and implementing an effective SHA is not a pain-free process, but hopefully they end up creating an environment for collaborative cooperation between landowners, conservationists and scientists and gives all parties the satisfaction of improving fish habitat and being good stewards of the Earth's natural resources.
A 1991 report by the American Fisheries Society indicated that 214 of about 400 stocks of salmon, steelhead, and sea-run cutthroat trout in the Northwest and California are at risk of extinction. The report also indicated that 106 are already extinct (US Fish and Wildlife Service).
Primary recovery responsibilities for Pacific salmon belong to the Department of Commerce's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA). The SHA is an attempt to find a way to work with landowners rather than against them to change or avoid practices that violate the ESA so as to avoid fines and hard restrictions on a landowners use of their land. Some specific conservation methods that might be included in a SHA are:
Removing fish passage barriers to habitat (e.g. undersized culverts, water diversion structures, small dams)
Managing diversion waters into or out of a natural waterway
Planting riparian vegetation
Maintaining a vegetated buffer along streams
Adding wood to streams
One of the most difficult and contentious conservation methods is managing diversions because many landowners have ingrained practices established over many years of farming or ranching, and the historic water rights to support their practices. Still, fish need cold water in sufficient quantities to support their life cycle, and even the most benign 'business as usual' land use practices can whittle away at the conditions that support an environment conducive to stable fish populations. So while a Safe Harbor agreement may seem like a government incursion to a land owners rights, it's really about what has to be done to protect and enhance vital fish habitat. SHAs give the species the time and space they need to restore populations to healthy, thriving numbers.
One of the conditions of many Safe Harbor Agreements is for the landowners to verify their practices by submitting data reports to government entities. Automated collection can help, but even this sometimes requires significant upfront costs and recurring service contracts. Eyasco, Inc. has helped many small and medium-sized entities to fulfill their data reporting requirements in a cost-effective way by sharing data collection services amongst several adjacent landowners. Like a "good-neighbor" fence, a well designed communication network can share the bandwidth and data collection costs to reduce recurring fees significantly. Even though the bandwidth is shared, the data is securely transmitted and parsed out so that only assigned users can access their data, assign alerts and run reports. As time goes by more and more landowners are willing to buy in when they see how easy the reporting and submitting features are.
10 years of water temperature for a creek in Northern California.
Eyasco, Inc. recognizes that implementing a Safe Harbor Agreement is not easy, but we want all parties to succeed. To a landowner a monitoring and reporting effort can be a big expense that is hard to justify at the beginning of a project. But a successful monitoring effort ideally provides value beyond the successful integration of hardware and software. It's enormously rewarding to stand next a stream and watch the salmon swimming through clear water pathways amongst thick multi-colored vegetation and know you played a small part in it. As the need for environmental awareness and cooperative stewardship efforts grows, Eyasco, Inc. is committed to understanding a landowners needs, using the cost-effective technology, and applying data management skills to assist effective resource management.
Links to Shasta Safe Harbor projects:
Read more about Eyasco's water monitoring