Habitat Restoration2024-01-24T13:23:42-08:00

Habitat Restoration

SAWA is a leader in native habitat restoration
and non-native plant removal.

SAWA: 20 Years of Leadership in
Habitat Restoration Services

SAWA manages riparian habitat restoration projects at more than 50 locations in the Santa Ana River Watershed, including at conservation easements and development sites. SAWA has removed 6,100 acres of invasive non-native plants from the watershed while providing restoration and biological monitoring services that benefit regulatory agencies, developers, cities, counties, and other entities.

SAWA conducts environmental management projects with a veteran staff of habitat restoration specialists and biologists working collaboratively with governmental agencies, organizations and private citizens. Our partners include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the state Department of Water Resources, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Expert Staff

While providing restoration services, SAWA implements facets of the Santa Ana River Watershed Program, continuously restoring the natural functions and resources of the river and its tributaries.

Work accomplished on the ground is performed by SAWA staff and its partnering agencies. The SAWA Restoration Department spends thousands of hours in the field every year, monitoring and treating its large project areas and monitoring subcontractors’ work and progress. The crew also assists biologists with annual video assessments and documents the progress of removal and restoration projects.

In addition to its highly trained habitat restoration crews, SAWA has on staff at least 15 biologists, many of whom have master’s degrees in biology and who hold permits to monitor and handle various wildlife species. Additionally, SAWA hires seasonal biologist assistants to help trap Brown-headed Cowbirds in the watershed.

In recognition of SAWA’s expertise, CDFW issued a 10-year 1600 permit to perform invasive plant removal projects anywhere in the Santa Ana River Watershed. SAWA’s manager was recognized by the California Invasive Plant Council for his leadership in developing environmentally preferred means of invasive plant removal and habitat registration. He also sits on a state advisory board dealing with integrated pest management plans.

Congress and the California State Legislature have recognized SAWA for its environmental leadership in the Santa Ana River Watershed. This leadership has prompted environmental regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority to contract with SAWA to provide environmental services on their behalf.

SAWA Habitat Restoration Services Staff


James Law
SAWA Project Manager

James is a qualified licensed applicator (License # 117305) with certifications in Landscape Maintenance, Right of Way, Forestry, and Aquatics. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Ecology from the University of California, Irvine and has managed riparian restoration projects since 2006. James was named “Land Manager of the Year” in 2013 by the California Invasive Plant Council. He was appointed to the Council’s advisory board in XXXX to assist with Integrated Pest Management plans (IPMs).


Max Barrett
SAWA Field Supervisor

Max oversees several plant removal projects at SAWA, where he has worked since 2016. He monitors compliance with the Habitat Management and Monitoring Plans and SAWA staff performing the vegetation maintenance and silt removal. Martin also serves as SAWA’s safety officer on the project and is responsible for compliance with SAWA’s injury illness prevention program. Martin holds a qualified applicator license (#144101) and is certified in Aquatics and Landscape Maintenance.


Jennette El Morsy
SAWA Administrative Manager

Jennette is responsible for ensuring SAWA’s compliance with the terms of the public works contractor’s regulations and performing prevailing wage payroll and recordkeeping requirements. She maintains all safety and training records, verifying all employees are familiar with SAWA and Cal OSHA safety requirements. Jennette oversees hiring, including the Homeland Security E Verify Program and criminal and DMV auto background checks. She has been with SAWA since 2008.


Habitat Restoration Services


The Santa Ana Watershed Association holds a variety of permits and certifications related to its Habitat Restoration Services and Wildlife Habitat Management Services, in addition to individual herbicide certifications. The following are some of SAWA’s major permits:

Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit

SAWA operates under General Permit 41 to remove invasive plants in the Santa Ana Watershed at over 50 project sites. SAWA follows the best management practices in the guidelines to avoid adverse impacts on water quality regulated by the Corps. Annual reports on SAWA projects are submitted to the Corps specifying SAWA’s activity under this permit.

California Regional Water Quality Control Board 401 Certification

SAWA performs invasive non-native plant removal and maintenance at over 50 project sites within the Santa Ana River Watershed – many of which are directly permitted by the RWQCB – and must comply with their requirements for each location. Annual reports on the habitat are prepared by SAWA biologists and are submitted to the RWQCB.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife 1600 Permit

SAWA has a 1600 permit through the CDFW, which allows it to conduct invasive plant removal and maintenance in the Santa Ana River Watershed. SAWA provides annual reports to CDFW under its permit for work it performs throughout the watershed.

Department of Industrial Relations

SAWA is registered with the Dept of Industrial Relations as a public works contractor. SAWA has extensive experience performing, recording and reporting prevailing wage projects.

SAWA’s staff of 15 permitted biologists perform biological assessment, monitoring and reporting activities at project sites. This level of staffing provides a basis for turnkey project management, restoration and regulatory compliance. See our Wildlife Habitat Management Services pages for more information.

SAWA Habitat Restoration Services Department Projects

SAWA manages far-flung riparian habitat restoration projects at more than 50 locations throughout a 2,600-square-mile area.

Our experienced and highly trained team of habitat restoration specialists and biologists collaborates with governmental agencies, developers, other non-profit organizations and private citizens on environmental management projects.

Our clients include resource agencies, flood control districts, developers, local governments, regulatory agencies and non-profit conservation organizations.


Comprehensive habitat management planning, invasive plant removal and habitat restoration services


Habitat management plan reports, project financial reports, annual reports, and scientific studies


Continual monitoring and management of plant and wildlife activity


Riverside Flood Control & Water Conservation District—Lake Elsinore Outlet Channel and Gunnerson Pond Non-Native Invasive Plant Removal

Project Dates: November 2016 through 2018

Description: SAWA conducted non-native plant removal and herbicide applications to non-native vegetation within the Lake Elsinore Outlet Channel and around the perimeter

Go to Top