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.”
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.
PCI has been working with Sonoma Land Trust (SLT) since 2020 to design and plan an innovative restoration effort on SLT’s Sears Point Ranch Preserve and the adjacent Sonoma Raceway. The project is just completing construction by Dixon Marine Services, and SLT just released a video previewing the project, with more footage to come soon.
The goal of the project is to restore a degraded coastal grassland valley and alluvial fan – which has eroded into a deeply incised channel called Lakeville Creek – back to a wet meadow complex. 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 “Stage Zero” restoration approach will bring the valley back to its original grade (or close to it), and provide the conditions for natural establishment of an anastomosing network of shallow channels, wetlands, and wet meadow.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) provided funding for both the design and planning phase, and the current construction effort. During the planning phase of the project, PCI completed biological evaluations, secured permits, and helped SLT apply for grant funding.
Watch the video below to learn more about Lakeville Creek and this fascinating restoration approach!
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.