Lakeville Creek Restoration – Construction Phase Complete

A deeply incised, eroding channel on Sonoma Land Trust’s Sears Point Ranch Preserve and the adjacent Sonoma Raceway property has been restored, marking the completion of the earthwork phase of the innovative Lakeville Creek project, and setting the stage for the next step:  planting the site with over 30,000 native wetland and wet meadow plants.

A new video from SLT features PCI Civil Engineer Lucas Walton explaining part of the earthwork process for the project, which included moving roughly 9000 cubic yards (or about 900 dump truck loads) of soil. Watch the video below!

PCI has been working with Sonoma Land Trust (SLT) since 2020 to design and plan this restoration effort. The goal of the project is to restore a degraded coastal grassland valley and alluvial fan back to its historic wet meadow complex condition by filling the channel. The site is on the northwestern edge of San Pablo Bay, just above the historic bay margin, and extends 4,200 feet up from Lakeville Highway. This restoration approach – known as “Stage Zero” – has returned the valley to its original grade (or close to it), and provided the conditions for natural establishment of a branching network of shallow channels, wetlands, and wet meadow.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) provided funding for the design, planning and the construction efforts. During the planning phase of the project, PCI completed biological evaluations, developed the design, secured ecological permits from numerous agencies, and helped SLT apply for grant funding. Construction was provided by Dixon Marine Services. Sonoma County served as lead agency to complete a Statutory Exemption for Restoration Projects to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. Many other partners have also contributed to this effort.

State Water Board Permit Will Accelerate Critical Habitat Work

Last month, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a General Order and Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) that will help PCI and our partners streamline permitting and implementation for important habitat restoration projects.

Salmonid habitat restoration projects similar to PCI’s work for the SF Zen Center, shown here, will be easier to implement with the new General Order.

The State Water Board adopted the General Order and certified the PEIR for Restoration Projects Statewide on August 16.

Previously, the State Water Board issued a general Water Quality Certification for small habitat restoration projects. Projects could only qualify if they did not exceed five acres or a cumulative total of 500 linear feet of stream bank or coastline. Larger restoration projects often had to obtain individual water quality certifications and/or waste discharge requirements, and securing individual authorization was time-consuming and increased the cost of regulatory compliance.

The adoption of the new General Order and accompanying PEIR was eagerly anticipated according to PCI Principal Environmental Planner/Project Manager Carrie Lukacic.

“The General Order not only makes it easier and less cumbersome to secure a permit from the Regional Water Board, it may provide CEQA compliance for restoration projects,” she says. “We are excited to work with our local folks at the Regional Water Board and look forward to introducing the use of available permitting efficiencies to others not as familiar with the use of the tools available for permitting restoration activities. We now have a method to permit both large- and small-scale restoration, which should help increase the pace and scale of critical habitat improvement needs.”

The General Order will provide coverage for the following kinds of restoration projects:
-Improvements to Stream Crossings and Fish Passage
-Removal of Small Dams, Tide Gates, Flood Gates, and Legacy Structures
-Bioengineered Bank Stabilization
-Restoration and Enhancement of Off-Channel and Side-Channel Habitat
-Water Conservation Projects
-Floodplain Restoration
-Removal or Remediation of Pilings and Other In-Water Structures
-Removal of Nonnative Terrestrial and Aquatic Invasive Species and   Revegetation with Native Plants
-Establishment, Restoration, and Enhancement of Tidal, Subtidal, and Freshwater Wetlands
-Establishment, Restoration, and Enhancement of Stream and Riparian Habitat
-Upslope Watershed Sites

A bird’s-eye view of the habitat-enhancement design for the SF Zen Center.

Before/After at Napa Creek

Before/After is a series where we highlight the long-lasting impact of our restoration work.

Instream elements that PCI installed with Proven Management shortly after construction.

Vigorous willow growth and a notable uptick in wildlife recently covered by the Napa Valley Register are two indicators that Napa Creek – a project PCI worked on in 2013 – is becoming the revitalized, healthy waterway that project engineers envisioned two decades ago.

PCI was hired to work with Proven Management to assist with instream elements of the project, under Proven Management’s contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. PCI worked with Proven Management to install rock rootwad revetment structures, bank log pockets, log barbs and rock V-weirs throughout the creek in downtown Napa.

Construction underway after dewatering.
Logs being prepared for use.
The rock rootwad revetment structures.

The City of Napa has historically been prone to destructive and deadly flooding events. According to FEMA, a total of 19 floods caused more than $542 million in residential property damage between 1961 and 1997; that total doesn’t include economic losses in the tourism industry, environmental damage, or loss of life. The Napa River/Napa Creek Flood Protection Project was voted into reality by the passage of Napa County Measure A in 1998. The half-cent local sales tax levy provided a funding mechanism for the local share of the project cost and funded flood protection, drainage improvements, dam safety, and watershed management projects, and helped to strengthen a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Project engineers envisioned a healthy waterway as the centerpiece of Napa; PCI’s work in 2013 helped to make that vision a reality.

Fast-forward ten years, and the project area is thriving. PCI Principal Engineer Lucas Walton recently visited the site and observed that while the weirs haven’t changed, the rootwad revetment is no longer visible because the willows have grown so vigorously

“It is pretty amazing to see how the site has changed and how the local ecology is thriving as a result of the project,” he says.

See the before/after images, below.

A view of the rock weir, rootwad revetment structure and willow plantings shortly after construction, then in 2022.

Another view of the rootwad revetment structure, then the same spot blanketed by willows in 2022.

Gualala River, Mill Bend Preserve

PCI is thrilled to be working with the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy to develop a Conservation Plan for the 113-acre Mill Bend Preserve. This newly-acquired preserve lies at the mouth of the Gualala River, at the border of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, and offers spectacular views of the estuary. It is adjacent to the town of Gualala to the north, and Gualala Point Regional Park to the south.  PCI’s work includes assessment of the site’s rich resources, identifying restoration opportunities, and planning public access that protects sensitive habitats.

The Press Democrat – New 113-acre preserve on Sonoma-Mendocino line aims to bolster Gualala River recovery

PCI design success: Nathanson Creek

Nathanson Creek flows through the city of Sonoma, past schools and homes, on its way to Schell Creek and San Pablo Bay. In the past, it frequently flooded during winter storms. The City of Sonoma, Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Water, and Sonoma County Ag + Open Space worked together to protect and restore a key half-mile reach of the stream. PCI was brought in to develop a restoration design that would simultaneously alleviate the chronic flooding and improve riparian habitat.

The project, completed in late 2018, transformed a flat, compacted, weedy gravel parking lot into beautiful, functional habitat. A side channel and wetland basin were created to provide more room for high flows and to allow for the gradual infiltration of runoff that is so important to water quality. Hundreds of native riparian and wetland plants were planted.

This winter’s robust rains tested the project, and it performed just as planned. Check it out when you are in the neighborhood! The Nathanson Creek Preserve welcomes the public to stroll along this lovely and functional riparian corridor; you can access it from E. MacArthur just east of Broadway.