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Agricultural Division

Best Management Practices for Agricultural Cultivation Within the Riparian Corridor

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Ordinance Number 6089 amends Chapter 26 of the Sonoma County Code to incorporate into zoning the General Plan’s goals, objectives, and policies for the protection of riparian corridors. This includes the establishment of Streamside Conservation Areas (SCAs), as set forth in the Open Space and Resource Conservation Element of the General Plan, in a new Article 65 of Chapter 26 (Article 65). Article 65 recognizes the importance of protecting and enhancing riparian functions. Beneficial uses include but are not limited to providing food, water, and habitat for fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects, and mammals, as well as filtering sediment and pollutants from runoff into streams, and providing erosion protection.

The SCAs and setbacks for agricultural cultivation (Ag Setback) are indicated in the zoning database in the format of RC 100/50 (indicating a 100 foot SCA which encompasses a 50 foot Ag Setback). The zoning database can be accessed at the following location:

Agricultural activities are allowed within the SCA provided they are conducted and maintained in compliance with these approved agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs). The approved BMPs were developed by the Sonoma County Department of Agriculture (Ag Dept) with input from agricultural and regulatory stakeholders.


How to use this Information 

The following BMPs apply to all existing cropland within the SCA. The following BMPs apply to agricultural uses within the Streamside Conservation Area, including those areas that undergo agricultural cultivation (See the Glossary in Appendix A), and associated uses including turn-around areas.

The intent of these BMPs is to prevent controllable sources of sediment, nutrients, pathogens and pesticides from discharging into streams in Sonoma County. Not every BMP will apply to each operation, but should be selected by the grower as necessary to reduce the environmental impact of farming in the setback area.

While BMPs must only be implemented within the SCA, good stewardship of upslope areas is critical for riparian protection, and these BMPs may be applied to the upslope areas to good effect.


  • Contiguous riparian vegetation is protected up to 200 feet from the top of bank, regardless of your property’s SCA category. Contact the Ag Dept for guidelines to make determinations of top of bank, the extent of contiguous riparian vegetation, and other information about the Ag Dept Riparian Corridor Program including enforcement of agricultural BMPs.
  • Areas of the SCA not undergoing agricultural cultivation may be subject to other rules and limitations by Sonoma County, Regional Water Quality Control Boards, or other resource agency regulations. It is your responsibility to ensure that your activities in the setback are in compliance with these standards.