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The Coastal Watershed Planning and Assessment Program (CWPAP) is a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) program conducting fishery-based watershed assessments along the length of the California coast. Assessment basins are chosen as study areas based upon the nature of the socio-economic and natural resource problems within them. The CDFW Coho Recovery Plan and Steelhead Recovery Plan are useful in selecting basins as well. CWPAP has developed assessment methods, protocols and report outlines.
The assessment program's products are designed to meet these strategic goals:

  • Organize and provide existing information and develop limited baseline data to help evaluate the effectiveness of various resource protection programs over time;
  • Provide assessment information to help focus watershed improvement programs and to assist landowners, local watershed groups, and individuals in developing successful projects. This will help guide support programs, such as the CDFW Fishery Restoration Grants Program, toward those watersheds and project types that can efficiently and effectively improve freshwater habitat and lead to improved salmonid populations;
  • Provide assessment information to help focus cooperative interagency, nonprofit, and private sector approaches to protect watersheds and streams through watershed stewardship, conservation easements, and other incentive programs;
  • Provide assessment information to help landowners and agencies better implement laws that require specific assessments such as the State Forest Practice Act, Clean Water Act, and State Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreements.
The program's work is intended to provide answers to the following assessment questions at the basin, subbasin, and tributary scales in California's coastal watersheds:

  • What are the history and trends of the size, distribution, and relative health and diversity of salmonid populations?
  • What are the current salmonid habitat conditions; how do these conditions compare to desired conditions?
  • What are the impacts of geologic, vegetative, fluvial, and other natural processes on watershed and stream conditions?
  • How has land use affected these natural processes and conditions?
  • Based upon these conditions, trends, and relationships, are there elements that could be considered to be limiting factors for salmon and steelhead production?
  • What watershed management and habitat improvement activities would most likely lead toward more desirable conditions in a timely, cost effective manner?
The general steps in our large-scale assessments include:

  • Outreach and engage residents and landowners in the assessment effort;
  • Determine logical assessment scales;
  • Discover and organize existing data and information according to discipline;
  • Identify data gaps needed to develop the assessment;
  • Collect needed field data and;
  • Amass and analyze watershed process and condition information;
  • Integrate multi-disciplinary findings with GIS and expert opinion;
  • Identify factors limiting the production of salmonids;
  • Spatially determine qualitative refugia ratings for salmonids;
  • Develop conclusions and recommendations;
  • Prepare an assessment report for use in watershed improvement activities;
  • Facilitate implementation of improvements and monitoring of conditions.
The study areas are further delineated into smaller, functional ecological units: (e.g., Wildcat Range tributaries and the Salt River Delta). Demarcation in this logical manner provides a common scale for conducting assessments. It also allows for reporting of findings and making recommendations for watershed improvement activities that are generally applicable across relatively homogeneous areas.
Assessment products include:


  • A basin level Synthesis Report that includes:
  • Collection of assessment basin historical and sociological information;
  • Description and GIS layers of historic and current vegetation cover and change, land use, geology and fluvial geomorphology, water quality, and instream habitat conditions;
  • Evaluation of watershed conditions affecting salmonids;
  • An analysis of the suitability of stream reaches and the watershed for salmonid production and refugia areas;
  • Tributary and watershed recommendations for management, refugia protection, and restoration activities to address limiting factors and improve conditions for salmonid productivity;
  • Monitoring recommendations to improve the adaptive management efforts;
  • Databases of information used and collected;
  • A data catalogue and bibliography;
  • Web based access to the Program's products: CWPAP, and imaps, and ArcIMS site.

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  • Assessments
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