Background

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
is the largest marine protected area in the United States, and includes over 5000 square miles of water off California's Central Coast. Established in 1992, the Sanctuary boasts the greatest biodiversity in temperate regions of the world. It is home to 33 species of marine mammals, 94 species of seabirds, 345 species of fish, four species of turtles, and numerous types of marine algae and invertebrates. Over 50 Sanctuary species are on the government special status list, including the southern sea otter.


Central Coast Agriculture
California's Central Coast is also home to another national treasure: rich agricultural land. The region supports a 3.5 billion dollar agricultural industry, produces over 200 types of crops, and employs over 60,000 people. Crops range from nurseries and brussel sprouts along the fog-shrouded San Mateo coast to the diverse row crops, berries and apple orchards of the warm Pajaro Valley. Rolling grazing lands, vineyards, and forests occupy the slopes of these valleys and much of the watersheds of San Luis Obispo, San Benito, Monterey and Santa Clara Counties, sustaining a cattle industry, providing habitat for wildlife and human recreation and improving recharge of local water supplies.


The Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan
Agriculture and the Sanctuary's plants and animals are linked by the drainage patterns of the local watersheds as water flows from the mountains to the flood plains and rivers, and out to sea. The Sanctuary’s Water Quality Protection Program (WQPP) works in over 7000 square miles of watersheds that drain into the ocean and developed the Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan to address a vital component of the region’s economy: farming and ranching.


Agriculture Water Quality Alliance (AWQA)
The Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan, with 24 strategies to reduce agricultural runoff, was developed with extensive input from resource agencies, agriculture industry groups, and environmental groups. The Agriculture Water Quality Alliance coordinating committee, made up of representatives from the agricultural industry, farm assistance agencies, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, has spent the past few years sinking their hands in the soil and putting that plan into practice.



Timeline:
1992 - Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary initiated a regional effort to develop a strategic plan to reduce agricultural runoff. Federal, state and local agencies agreed that they would work together to develop a water quality protection plan for the Monterey Bay Region.
1994 - Sanctuary’s Water Quality Protection Program established.
1999 - Plan entitled “Agriculture and Rural Lands Action Plan” released.
2002 - AWQA (Agriculture Water Quality Alliance) name given to on-going efforts to implement the “Agriculture and Rural Lands Action Plan”.