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Is There Hope for the Salmon in Green Valley Creek?

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Is There Hope for the Salmon in Green Valley Creek?

By Kimberly Burr

Well if Thomas Creek Ranch and its partners: the Point Blue Conservation Science STRAW program (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) and the local, state, and federal scientists who lead them have anything to say about it, the answer is a resounding yes. Also coordinating was the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (email sierracantor@goldridegrcd.org to learn more or sign up for a spring tour).

With an enormous amount of dedication and coordination, a new feature has been created to protect juvenile, rare salmonids in Green Valley Creek from being completely washed out of this important habitat during rain events.

Rain? Isn’t rain natural, and don’t baby fish know how to deal with rain? Of course salmonids have lived with rain forever. As many Gazette readers know; however, over time, Green Valley Creek watershed has been modified for various reasons. The creek has been straightened out to make agriculture and other building easier. The banks have been encroached upon by large footed domesticated animals, well development, and residential development. The impacts have, from the stand point of wildlife, occurred very rapidly and too rapidly for them to adapt to.

So even rain, in many ways a blessing for salmonids, can create lethal conditions for juvenile salmonids today. The creek now becomes inundated quickly from runoff from even small storms. In addition, the creek did used to meander though the valley, and baby young salmonids used to be able to find slow water and avoid being thrashed and spit out of their nursery under high flow conditions. Historically, landscapes were thickly vegetated and the plant life purified and slowed the runoff so the impacts on new fish were much less intense.

Insects on the Menu

That riparian vegetation is now highly fragmented. The numbers of insects that used to live in the vegetation are likewise highly reduced.

So, that brings us back to the newly constructed feature. With the assistance of public monies, fisheries biologists, and generous landowners, a type of back water eddy has now been created upstream of Highway 116 in Forestville to provide a safe haven for juvenile fish during the recent high velocity rain events.

Middle school students assisting in the restoration effort.

Efforts like these are very important as is returning natural flow complexity to the creek through conservation and responsible farming and building practices. Many thanks to those who are doing their part. Great blue heron and other wildlife have already been observed utilizing the area that includes big root wads that will shelter baby salmon and steelhead as well as grasses and other plants that will entice insects into the area for the fishery.