ITEM:

CONSENT CALENDAR

 

10.

CONSIDER AUTHORIZATION OF MITIGATION FUNDS TO CONTRACT FOR TWO FIELD BIOLOGY ASSISTANT POSITIONS

 

Meeting Date:

June 21, 2004

Budgeted:Yes

 

 

 

Staff Contact:

Thomas Christensen

Program/Line Item No.:2-1-3.C - Riparian Habitat Mitigations

 

 

Cost Estimate:$35,800

 

General Counsel Approval:N/A

Committee Recommendation:The Administrative Committee reviewed this item on June 7, 2004 and recommended approval.

CEQA Compliance:N/A

 

SUMMARY: Contract employees have been hired annually since 1992 as Field Biology Assistants to complete riparian habitat mitigation tasks and to assist in a variety of Carmel River management activities.Funding for a total of 2,000 hours for these positions is included in the budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2004-2005.Authorization is requested to rehire two contract Field Biology Assistants, with those individuals entering into agreements with the District for up to 1000 hours of work between July 1, 2004 and June 30, 2005.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Authorize the expenditure of funds to rehire two contract employees as Field Biology Assistants for up to 1,000 hours each during FY 2004-2005.These employees would be paid from $13.75 to $16.50 per hour, based upon experience in the position.The Administrative Committee considered this item at its June 7, 2004 meeting and voted 3 to 0 to recommend approval.

 

IMPACTS TO STAFF/RESOURCES: The anticipated $35,800 for hiring two Field Biology Assistants during FY 2004-2005 is budgeted under the Riparian Habitat Mitigations, Program 2-1-3.C, Field Biology Assistants.A similar amount was budgeted during FY 2003-2004.The Board should note that other than an hourly wage, these employees receive no District benefits except for those required by law (e.g., workers compensation coverage).In the process of analyzing possible budget cuts for the upcoming fiscal year, staff has investigated the consequences of not funding these limited-term positions.If these positions are not continued through FY 2004-2005, the following impacts on staff and resources are projected to occur:

1)†††††††† All pre-dawn leaf moisture potential readings (plant stress measurements, also known as ďpressure bombingĒ) are performed by the Field Biology Assistants.These measurements are included in quarterly reports to the Board and the annual Mitigation Program report.These data give an indication of soil moisture conditions in the riparian corridor and help measure the impacts of groundwater extraction on the health and vigor of streamside vegetation.These results are also part of Cal-Amís Conservation Agreement Monitoring Plan that is submitted to federal agencies under Cal-Amís agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service. Without the Field Biology Assistants, this work would have to be carried out by the Riparian Projects Coordinator.

 

2)†††††††† Groundwater levels in the riparian corridor and soil moisture measurements are also collected by the Field Biology Assistants.These data are important because they are used to detect dangerously low groundwater levels that could lead to vegetation die-off and bank erosion.If the positions were not funded, these activities would have to be shifted the Riparian Projects Coordinator, or be performed less often.

 

3)†††††††† Mapping and synthesis of data related to riparian habitat monitoring and water extraction using Geographical Information Systems is time consuming.Field Biology Assistants have created databases related to habitat monitoring, such as incidental sightings of the federally threatened California red-legged frog (CRLF).This database has enabled the development of maps showing the distribution of CRLF throughout the Carmel River corridor.It is unlikely that these tasks would be performed without the assistance of the Field Biology Assistants.†††

 

4)†††††††† The majority of the photo monitoring of riparian vegetation is performed by the Field Biology Assistants.Photo monitoring along the Carmel River documents visible signs of vegetation stress (premature yellowing leaves, dead snags, and dry understory vegetation) associated with groundwater pumping throughout the riparian corridor.These photos also document the progress of District erosion protection and restoration projects.

5)†††††††† The Districtís vegetation management program keeps the main stem of the Carmel River free of debris dams and encroaching vegetation and helps to protect against erosion.This work is performed by the District River Maintenance Specialist, the River Maintenance Worker, and the Field Biology Assistants.This work can be labor intensive and usually involves a crew of District employees, sometimes supplemented by California Conservation Corps crews.With the help of Field Biology Assistants, the hiring of outside help can be avoided.

 

6)†††††††† Irrigation of riparian vegetation protects against erosion and associated property damage.†† Field Biology Assistants help with the installation and operation of temporary irrigation systems.Assistance with the maintenance of permanent systems is also a function of the Field Biology Assistants.

 

7)†††††††† Field Biology Assistants help with the removal of exotic weeds such as French broom (genista), pampas grass, and arundo from District Restoration Sites.Removal of these invasive species would be significantly reduced without the work of the Field Biology Assistants.

 

8)†††††††† Field Biology Assistants relieve fish rescue workers and District staff of strenuous consecutive weeks of fish rescue activities.The ability to rotate employees and prevent injury would be limited without their assistance.

 

9)†††††††† Field Biology Assistants help the District hydrologists with stream flow gaging station maintenance in remote areas by carrying in heavy equipment such as computers, batteries, shovels, and monitoring equipment.

 

10)           Field Biology Assistants help with annual lagoon vegetation monitoring.In addition to monitoring the health of lagoon vegetation, this work helps to track salinity in the lagoon area as required by the Mitigation Program.Without the Field Biology Assistants, this work would increase the burden of work by other District staff.

 

The cumulative impact of shifting these tasks to the Riparian Projects Coordinator and other District staff, or not being done at all, would limit the Districtís ability to acquire grants, obtain permits for river activities, analyze and report District data related to riparian monitoring, pursue ordinance violations in the Carmel River corridor, and conduct outreach work with the public and other agencies and organizations.These effects would adversely impact the scope and quality of work required by the Districtís Mitigation Program.

 

BACKGROUND: Since the summer of 1992, the District has hired one or two Field Biology Assistants to conduct biological monitoring tasks for riparian mitigation projects.In addition to assisting with vegetation monitoring tasks, the Field Biology Assistants support staff in all aspects of the irrigation and erosion protection programs.The increasing complexity of tasks and greater reporting requirements led to staff recommendations in 1997, 1999, and 2002 to convert these part-time contract positions to a full-time staff position (Riparian Projects Technician).Due to budget constraints, a permanent position has not been created.Since 1999 the District has hired two Field Biology Assistants to help with riparian projects because certain field monitoring tasks are better completed with a team of workers.The duties of the part-time, temporary Field Biology Assistants are listed in the job description included as Exhibit 10-A.†† The Field Biology Assistants work in the Planning and Engineering Division and are supervised by the Riparian Projects Coordinator.

 

 

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