Live from Santa Cruz

March 6, 2009 § 1 Comment

Hello Creekfreaks.  Today I’m live-blogging from the Salmonid Restoration Federation conference in Santa Cruz, CA.  As sobering as it is to reckon with the plummeting salmon populations statewide, it is hard not to be inspired by the sight of natural streams.  Two days in so far, and we’ve had field tours and workshops on dams & dam removal issues, fish barrier removals and fish passage devices, and daylighting of culverted streams.

Daylighting is the removal of a length of pipe (culvert) that was originally installed to replace a live stream.  Culverting destroys aquatic and riparian life, and was employed extensively in the LA basin.  Daylighting opportunities exist at a number of public park sites in LA, such as at Lafayette Park, Lincoln Park, the Chester Washington Golf Course, Sycamore Grove Park, Ladera County Park, and Edward Vincent (Centinela) Park.  I am all too familiar with agency reasons for not daylighting.  Hearing that a public agency chose to greenlight a daylighting, however, was a pleasant surprise.  And to daylight at a town center, right by the public library and ballfields was downright cool. 

Of course it’s not that simple.  The town of Portola Valley had a competition to build this town center.  All but one master plan concept proposed the daylighted stream.  Ironically, the city chose the one without the daylighting.  Public pressure ensued and the town council voted to allow the stream daylighting to be included in the plan.  It was not unanimous, however, and so the community was forced to create a nonprofit organization and fundraise separately to pursue the project.  The entire length of creek that had been buried was not daylighted – about 350′ remains below ground, hopefully to be daylighted in the future.  


Of course I left my camera at home! So sketches from the conference will have to suffice!  Here, the daylighted reach of Sausal Creek.

Of course I left my camera at home! So sketches from the conference will have to suffice! Here, the daylighted reach of Sausal Creek.

The daylighted reach has gentle slopes to the creek, can handle flood flows, and has an open planting plan of wetland/meadow plants mixed with tree clumps that maintains sightlines down to the creek.  The upper banks are vegetated with native grasslands/meadow plants that transition to a lawn for community gatherings and performances.  And, it’s an ephemeral stream.  Like a lot of ours.  The community felt it was important to restore even this least appreciated of stream types.  Another super-cool feature is the planned retrofit of the stormdrain pipe (they didn’t remove it, but rather graded the new stream away from it) for use as an underground cistern.  I hope to see the day that our public areas of Los Angeles look like the south coast equivalent of this. 


Check out Friends of Sausal Creek’s project description.

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