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State Senator John Laird Secures $2M for Carmel River FREE!

We want to express our deepest gratitude to California State Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) for including funding for the Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement Project (Carmel River FREE) in the $60 million he recently secured in the state budget process for priorities in District 17. With all costs going up these days, we are expecting a funding gap and greatly appreciate this additional $2 million investment in Carmel River FREE! 

As a co-sponsor of this project with Monterey County, Big Sur Land Trust is continuing to work with the County to raise the necessary public funds to construct this major, multi-benefit green infrastructure project. We are also pursuing private funding for the ongoing care of the restored habitat and new trails that will be available to the public.

To utilize previously existing state grant funding and begin project implementation, Carmel River FREE will now be carried out in two phases. Phase 1 will focus on the project site to the east of Highway One, including Big Sur Land Trust’s property (formerly known as “Odello East”) and a small portion of Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District’s property. The floodplain south of the Carmel River will be graded, and soil will be moved to build up the foundation for a future 23-acre agricultural preserve. Erosion control seeding and initial restoration plantings will begin, and pathways will be created in the floodplain for conveying floodwaters under the highway via a causeway that will be built during Phase 2 of the project. The County has gone out to bid, and we anticipate that construction on Phase 1 will begin this fall.

Key elements of Phase 2 include, but are not limited to, building the Highway One causeway, floodplain grading on California State Parks property on the west side of the highway, levee notching on the south side of the river, and finalizing trails. We are waiting for FEMA’s final determination on the $25.3 million grant request for the project submitted by the County, which would fund a significant portion of the remaining work. Once all the funding is secured, the County could potentially go out to bid in 2023 – meaning construction could begin in 2024.

These are exciting times at Big Sur Land Trust, and we are so grateful to Senator Laird for his continuing advocacy and support for this important work!

Thank you,
Rachel Saunders
Director of Conservation, Big Sur Land Trust

P.S. If you are interested in donating to our Carmel River FREE stewardship fund, please contact Kate Mitchell Mehle at 831.625.5523 ext.105. Click here for more information.

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