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Equine Facilities Cost-Share Program

This unique program utilized cost-share and technical assistance funds from Alameda County, NRCS and Caltrans to protect and enhance water quality at horse stables through implementation of best management practices (BMPs). Typically, the RCD covered 75% of the cost of implementing the conservation projects. These funds came from grants and other funds that the RCD obtained.

The chief water quality issues at horse stables are nutrients from unmanaged manure, erosion of bare areas (such as paddocks, corrals, and roads and pastures), and impacts on creeks and water bodies. There are many BMPs that facilities can use to keep clean water clean, and manage polluted water. The cost-share projects gave the RCD and its partners an opportunity to demonstrate and showcase the most cost-effective practices.

The goals of the program were to protect water quality and riparian habitat and reduce erosion and sedimentation in Alameda County’s watersheds. These efforts helped to ensure the sustainability of horse stable operations while helping stables meet regulatory requirements through voluntary efforts. The stables benefit from improved drainage and less erosion, reduced mud in paddocks and pastures, and easier manure management. These efforts result in more productive pastures and creek protection and enhancement.

Manure management practices that were funded through the cost-share element of the Equine Facilities Assistance Program between 1998 and 2007 included manure storage improvements and cleanup, drainage control around manure storage areas and paddocks, roof runoff control, erosion control measures, re-vegetation, and pasture fencing and re-seeding.

RCD staff worked with funded stable owners and operators to improve each facility's ongoing operating procedures to enhance the environmentally friendly aspects of the operation.

ACRCD and NRCS staff planned and designed conservation projects at three horse stables.

  1. Piedmont Stables, Oakland - a covered manure storage area, arena drainage system, and grass filter strip
  2. Eden Canyon Ranch, Castro Valley - a manure storage bin
  3. Rancho de Los Amigos stable, Castro Valley - a manure composting pad and tarps to cover the windrows and improvements to a grass filter strip

Technical assistance was also provided to a group of pasture managers at Eagle Nest stable in Castro Valley who were experimenting with pasture rotation, compost application and reseeding to improve pasture forage.

Equine Conditional Use Permit Streamlining Project (2003-2004)

Boarding and riding stables in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County require a permit from the Alameda County Planning Department. The application process looks at building safety, water quality, and other health and safety issues, and involves several County departments. Many stable owners have felt that the process was overly expensive, lengthy, and confusing. Alameda County's Agriculture Advisory Committee (AAC) asked the Planning Department to streamline the process and make it more applicant-friendly, in order to support the equine community and to encourage stable owners to voluntarily enter the permit process. The Conservation Partnership worked with stable owners, the Planning Department, and other County departments on this streamlining process.

Together with the Equine Subcommittee of the AAC and the Planning Department, we developed a set of recommendations to make the process less costly and time-consuming, and more straight-forward. The process should be easier for both applicants and County staff, while still providing the same review of health and safety issues. These recommendations were endorsed by the AAC and the Planning Commission and, in February 2004, officially adopted by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Implementation of our recommendations is ongoing.  The final report, The Equine CUP Streamlining Project, Permitting a Future for Alameda County's Equine Industry, is available for download. 

The chief difference between the old permitting process and the new is that the old permit, a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), expired after three years, while the new permit, Site Development Review (SDR), remains with the land and does not expire. Stables with SDR approval will have periodic reviews for compliance with County ordinances, but will no longer have to submit a new application every three years.

Our recommendations also addressed the need for a clearer and more complete application form, and improved communication between departments during application processing. To add more management expertise to the review process, there is a Technical Advisory Committee composed of stable operators and natural resource experts, to offer guidance to applicants and County staff upon request.

To find out more about the SDR process, contact the Alameda County Planning Department. If you would like to get involved in Alameda County's equine facility issues, please get in touch with one of the local equine advocacy groups. There is still work to be done by concerned citizens to implement these recommendations and to take further steps supporting the viability of Alameda County stables.

Horse Keeping Guide and Fact Sheets

Working with other Bay Area RCDs, partnership staff helped develop "Horse Keeping: A Guide to Land Management for Clean Water" and several fact sheets providing practical management information to San Francisco Bay Area horse owners on what they can do to help protect the environment. To view the guide and fact sheets, please click here.