Willow Creek, a tributary to the Russian River’s estuary in Sonoma County, has a distressing but familiar history with respect to salmon and steelhead populations. Logging and agriculture prior to 1900 increased surface erosion; subsequent channel modifications trapped sediment. Today, so much sediment has accumulated that it has buried key habitat for juveniles, eliminating pools and restricting migration routes as fish navigate toward the ocean.
A diverse coalition of federal, state and local organizations is working to bring salmon and steelhead back. PCI has participated in an ongoing, multi-pronged approach to ecological restoration in the watershed since the mid-1990s. Now, a fresh injection of federal dollars will aid in the continued restoration of this crucial habitat, as outlined in this Bay Nature article.
“[Gold Ridge RCD] has received $8.4 million in federal money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to begin undoing some of the impacts of roads, farms, and logging along two key tributaries to the Russian River,” writes Alistair Bland, author of the article. “The funding comes as part of $491 million now being doled out over the next five years to marine and aquatic habitat-restoration projects around the country.”
PCI is assisting Gold Ridge RCD in designing and permitting this critical work, which may involve restoring off-channel ponds, increasing channel connectivity, or building wood structures to provide refuge and habitat complexity.
“A year or more will pass before much of this work even begins, as the grant will largely support assessment and planning,” the article states. “[B]ut the hope is to start nudging the needle toward coho recovery.”
Since 2015, PCI has been working with the Nature Conservancy, BLM, the Stornetta Brothers Ranch, and many other partners to restore crucial coho salmon habitat in the Garcia River estuary. The complex habitat features that young salmonids need to survive and thrive have been lost from this important estuary over time. PCI designed multiple engineered log jams and connected off-channel habitat so that juvenile coho can find refuge from high flows and find rich food resources while sheltered from predators. The project was installed last year and monitoring shows that multitudes of young fish are already using the new habitat features just as we hoped. The PCI team is thrilled to see many years’ hard work and collaboration coming to fruition! Click below to see TNC’s new video about the project and learn more.
PCI will be presenting at the California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL) 2023 conference and the 40th Annual Salmonid Restoration Federation (SRF) conference, and we would love for you to stop by and say hi! The SERCAL conference runs April 13-15, and takes place in Davis, with a hybrid format available as well. The SRF conference is April 25-28 in Fortuna. Our presentations are highlighted below.
California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL)
Saturday April 15
PCI’s Joan Schwan, MA, and Carrie Lukacic will be presenting Stage Zero Restoration Design in the Petaluma River Watershed. The presentation is part of the session: Restoring Floodplains: Thinking Outside the Channel and will take place at 11:15 am in the Flowing room.
PCI’s Christopher Woltemade, PhD, will speak as part of the Flow Enhancement Workshop, presenting “Water Budget Modeling Methods: Applications to Assessing Flow Augmentation Strategies for Salmonid Recovery in California.” The workshop will delve into the science and tools available to inform the practicality of whether a flow enhancement project will deliver on long-term flow objectives given hydrogeomorphic properties and other underlying watershed conditions that contribute to inadequate summer flows.
Thursday April 27
PCI’s Justin Bodell, RLA, PC, will speak on the Mill Creek Fish Passage Project: Design, Construction & Lessons Learned. His talk will take place in the Steelhead Room. This session on Fish Passage Design and Implementation is coordinated by PCI’s Lucas Walton, PE, as well as representatives from ESA and Michael Love and Associates.
PCI’s Lauren Hammack will speak on the Garcia River Estuary Enhancement Project along with The Nature Conservancy’s Peter van de Burgt. The talk will cover The Nature Conservancy’s approach to Restoration on the Mendocino Coast and will take place in the Chinook Room.
PCI is proud to be a conference co-sponsor for the Salmonid Restoration Federation conference. More information about the conference is available on SRF’s website.