Watersheds

Watersheds

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Salmon Creek Watershed drains 35 square miles with 35.9 miles of blue line streams. Its headwaters are to the west and south of the town of Occidental, and it drains directly to the Pacific Ocean, just north of Bodega Head (this watershed contains coastal tributaries). Its major land use is agriculture (dairies and pasture land). Salmon Creek is home to a diversity of wildlife. Of these, coho salmon, steelhead trout, red legged frog, Northern spotted owl, and California freshwater shrimp are threatened or endangered species. Because of its geology, it is a naturally water-scarce watershed.

Natural Resource Conservation Efforts

Gold Ridge RCD has coordinated with the Salmon Creek community to build rainwater catchment and storage systems and enhance salmonid habitat throughout the tributaries and mainstem.

The Gold Ridge RCD is currently seeking agricultural landowners within the Estero Americano & Salmon Creek Watersheds who are interested in water security/storage. The drought impacts us all and we’d like to see if we

can help. We currently have grant funds available to assist landowners in developing engineered designs for rainwater catchment, off‐channel water storage, and water conservation projects. We are also developing grant funding proposals for future projects, and we are interested in hearing your needs. For more information or to express interest, please contact William Hart at William@goldridgercd.org or (707) 823-5244.

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The Bodega Harbor area features a natural, protected estuary/harbor fed by several small, freshwater creeks that flow out of the surrounding hills. Cool temperatures and relatively high rainfall due to coastal influences typify the Bodega Unit. Tidal action transforms the harbor into a vast mudflat, making it attractive to large numbers of waterbirds year round. Another peninsula comes down from the north, and forms grassy Bodega Head, surrounded by sand dunes. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a station on the sand spit, and UC Davis operates the Bodega Marine Lab on Bodega Head.  Salmon Creek, Americano Creek, and Stemple Creek and their associated estuaries are the main water bodies. These streams are located in erosive topography and are sensitive to land disturbance. Just south of Bodega Harbor, two major estuaries flow into Bodega Bay, Estero Americano (on the Marin/Sonoma county line) and Estero San Antonio (Marin County). Estero Americano is accessible through a purchase by the Sonoma Land Trust, however Estero San Antonio is located on private ranches and is virtually unstudied and inaccessible. Both of these estuaries are designated Critical Coastal Areas along with the Bodega Marine Life Refuge.

Sources: Bodega Harbor | Audubon Important Bird Areas, Bodega | California Northcoast Regional Water Quality Control Board

Natural Resource Conservation Efforts

Are you a well owner around Bodega Bay? The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District and the Sonoma County Water Agency are working to implement the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring (CASGEM) program, designed to collect groundwater-level elevations in existing private wells to better understand the water resources of west Sonoma County. The groundwater well monitoring program is voluntary, confidential, and at no cost to the landowner. We are seeking participants in the CASGEM groundwater well monitoring program specifically around Bodega Bay. If you are interested and would like to learn more, please contact Will Spangler

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Intro:

Gleason Beach sits at the mouth of  Scotty Creek, about 4 miles north of Bodega Bay and 5 miles south of Jenner in unincorporated Sonoma County, California (making Scotty Creek a coastal tributary). Scotty Creek is a third-order coastal stream with a drainage area of approximately 2,765 acres. A large proportion of the watershed is either grassland or shrubland, but substantial pockets of coniferous forest exist along upland tributary streams, particularly the largest tributary, Rough Creek. Except for the coastal terrace and alluvial areas adjacent to the stream, almost the entire Scotty Creek watershed is underlain by mélange rocks of the Franciscan assemblage. Because of the steepness of the terrain, winter storms bring relatively intense rainfall, particularly in the higher elevations. Habitat types include coastal terrace prairie, nonnative grassland, coastal scrub, eucalyptus forest, riparian, mixed soft rush/western rush marsh, seasonal wetlands, and rock outcrops. Special status species found within the watershed include the Myrtle’s Silverspot Butterfly, the California Red-Legged Frog, coho salmon, and steelhead trout.

Natural Resource Conservation Efforts:

The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (GRRCD) has entered into a long-term partnership with Caltrans to plan, design and implement projects to satisfy the mitigation conditions for the Highway 1 Gleason Beach project. We use the term mitigation to describe efforts that will limit the adverse environmental effects that result from the development and reconstruction of Highway 1. This process is broken down into three phases:

  1. Evaluation of baseline conditions, assessment of opportunities for habitat enhancement, and development of mitigation recommendations
  2. Mitigation project design and development of monitoring protocols and success criteria
  3. Mitigation project implementation, maintenance and monitoring, and adaptive management

The final mitigation project will address permanent impacts of the Highway 1 construction project by enhancing instream salmonid habitat, creating and enhancing coastal wetlands, and creating and enhancing coastal terrace prairie (CTP) habitat for the benefit of Myrtle’s silverspot butterfly (MSB) and California red-legged frog (CRF) within a proposed 39-acre conservation easement. The project will also include installation of livestock fencing to protect the riparian corridor and stream, implementation of a rotational grazing plan for the Ballard property (within which the proposed conservation easement is located) and the drafting of a long-term management plan, including mitigation project management protocols and a monitoring strategy for evaluating project success.

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  • Learn more about the Scotty Creek Watershed here

Intro: 

Dutch Bill Creek, a tributary of the lower Russian River, flows for eight miles through the hills of west Sonoma County, from its headwaters near Occidental north to its confluence with the Russian at Monte Rio. Dutch Bill Creek drains a watershed area of nearly 12 square miles, and is underlain mostly by the Franciscan Complex, a very diverse geological unit. The watershed supports a variety of land cover types, with extensive forested areas, occurring mostly on the relatively moist north and east-facing slopes, as well as grasslands and scrublands found on the drier, south-facing slopes. The major land use in the Dutch Bill Creek watershed is unmanaged forestland, but there are areas of vineyards, and concentrated residential development, including the communities of Occidental and Camp Meeker. The watershed is also home to a diverse wildlife community, including the endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout, acorn woodpeckers and spotted owls, mountain lions and bobcats, and the threatened California red-legged frog.

Natural Resource Conservation Efforts

For nearly two decades, the Dutch Bill Creek watershed has been the site of intensive efforts to enhance habitat for endangered fish species and restore watershed processes. Extensive work has been undertaken to improve fish passage and enhance habitat within the creek, with additional projects planned for the future. This instream work has been coupled with efforts to reduce sedimentation and improve water quality through erosion control projects, with a focus on the network of unpaved roads throughout the watershed. And in the past several years, water conservation, water storage and streamflow enhancement projects have been designed and built to ensure that the stream has enough flow year-round to support a healthy aquatic community.

For more information or to express interest, please contact John Green at John@goldridgercd.org or (707) 823-5244.

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Intro: 

The Estero Americano is primarily an agricultural watershed with very little development. It is home to the Estero Americano wetlands, which is at the heart of the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds. Hundreds of shore and wetland bird species use the wetland. The Estero is what is called a “drowned river valley,” inundated by a rising sea level, and it continues to be an important buffer to the Sonoma Coast (and an important coastal tributary). The Estero is used recreationally by kayakers and is a haven for birdwatchers. It is home to numerous dairies, cattle, goat and hog ranches.

Natural Resource Conservation Efforts

In an effort to enhance water quantity throughout the watershed for people and wildlife, Gold Ridge RCD has worked with the Estero Americano community to develop alternative water sources and water storage. To enhance the quality of water, landowners in collaboration with the RCD worked to reduce sediment and nutrient pollutants from entering waterways, increase the vegetation of riparian corridors, and exclude livestock from waterways. Constructing water storage systems, repairing erosive gullies, creating nutrient management plans, installing livestock fencing and livestock wet crossings are projects the RCD has achieved through the ambition of the local landowners.

For more information or to express interest, please contact _______ at William@goldridgercd.org or (707) 823-5244.

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Intro: 

Green Valley-Atascadero Watershed is a subwatershed of the lower Russian River, draining 18.7 miles of blue line streams. Green Valley Creek’s headwaters lie just west of the town of Graton, and Atascadero Creek’s headwaters are just north of the town of Bodega. Atascadero flows north to the town of Graton, where it has its confluence with Green Valley Creek. At this confluence is the Atascadero marsh, home to a wide variety of water fowl, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Of these, coho salmon, steelhead trout, red legged frog and California freshwater shrimp are threatened or endangered species. The major land uses are rural residential and agricultural (vineyards, orchards and vegetables).

Natural Resource Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts have focused on enhancing salmon habitat by removing fish passage barriers for migrating salmon and creating habitat for salmonids. Construction of off-channel winter refugia habitat and installation of large woody debris structures are both examples of habitat enhancement projects. The RCD has also worked to enhance water resources in the Green Valley-Atascadero watershed by commissioning a watershed-wide hydrological study, engaging the community on best conservation practices, and developing infrastructure for alternative water sourcing and storing. The RCD has also played a role in hosting a conversation around the flooding of Green Valley Road, and continues to explore mitigation options for this community issue. Lastly, the RCD is currently applying for funding to assess the lower reaches of Green Valley Creek for fish habitat quality.

For more information or to express interest, please contact William@goldridgercd.org or (707) 823-5244.

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Intro: 

Atascadero Creek is part of the lower Russian River watershed. It flows north from Sebastopol to Forestville where it meets with Green Valley Creek, then Green Valley Creek flows to the Russian River. It neighbors the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed, but is not connected. Atascadero Creek has four major streams that drain into it: Redwood Creek, Jonive Creek, Sexton Creek and Pitkin (also called Sullivan) Creek. See the subwatershed map at right. From the modest information we have about the watershed, we know that Atascadero Creek watershed is a complex and diverse system. In parts (particularly the upper reaches) the waterways are creek-like with defined channels and year-round flow, fed by rainfall and springs. In other parts (particularly in the lower reaches), the waterways become dense and marsh-like with less defined creek channels and at times no water flowing on the surface.

The stream that Atascadero flows into, Green Valley Creek, has been identified as critical and restorable habitat for the endangered Central California Coast coho salmon, and it regularly supports the Russian’s most robust wild coho population. Despite anecdotal evidence of coho being historically present, they haven’t been observed in recent surveys. Local landowners have memories of finding coho back in the old days, and historians hold that the creek has been used by coho in the past. In the winters of 2017 and 2018, federal partners in conservation released juvenile coho salmon to the upper reaches of the creek in the hopes that the fish would survive and establish a viable population in the stream.

Natural Resource Conservation Efforts

For more information or to express interest, please contact Sierra Cantor at Sierra@goldridgercd.org or (707) 823-5244.

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For more information on the Laguna de Santa Rosa, check out the resources provided by our frequent and vital collaborators, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation: About the Laguna de Santa Rosa (lagunafoundation.org).

Project examples:

  • Pocket Canyon
  • Smith
  • Bohemian Grove
  • Freezeout

Intro: 

The Russian River Watershed covers 1,500 square miles of urban, agricultural and forested lands in northern Sonoma County and southern Mendocino County, California. Communities in the Russian River Watershed (RRW) depend on a combination of Russian River water and groundwater to meet their water-supply demands. Water is used primarily for agricultural irrigation, municipal and private wells supply, and commercial uses – such as for wineries and recreation. (source: Determining Water Availability in the Russian River Watershed | U.S. Geological Survey (usgs.gov) )

The last 25 miles of the Russian River wind from the Wohler Narrows through a rock-bound forested canyon to the Pacific Ocean. The towns of Guerneville and Monte Rio lie in this canyon and are well-known for floods. Vineyards and orchards occupy the few flat areas along the river that are not developed for residences. Before settlement by early pioneers, the Russian River canyon and its tributaries held some of the largest redwood trees. Many were cut down from the 1860s to 1880s to build houses in San Francisco and other surrounding areas. River Road was once a logging railroad, then a tourist line as the lumber mills closed in the late 1800s and vacation resorts were developed. Today, the lower river canyon is a popular tourist destination with a year-round residential population and a few farms. (source: Lower Russian River | Fish Friendly Farming)

Tributary creeks include: lower Green Valley, Hobson, Fife, Hulbert, Dutch Bill, Freezeout, Austin, Willow, and Sheephouse Creeks.

The neighborhoods within the Lower Russian River Watershed include Forestville, Hacienda, Summerhome Park, Rio Nido, Guerneville, Vacation Beach, Monte Rio, Duncans Mills and Cazadero proper. Source: Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council (ca.gov)

Natural Resource Conservation Efforts:

The two main concerns in the lower Russian River Watershed are water quality concern and septic issues. More specifically, current issues in the Watershed (via the North Coast Water Board: Russian River | California Northcoast Regional Water Quality Control Board) include bacterial quality, toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms, polluted runoff from urban and agricultural areas, high water temperatures, altered sediment levels, and concerns over the amount, location, and timing of water diversions. For water quality and septic concerns in the Lower Russian River Watershed, contact the Lower Russian River Ombudsperson (information can be found below in our local partners).

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Intro: 

Willow Creek is an important lower Russian River tributary stream, entering the river in its estuary. The creek historically provided high-quality habitat for both coho salmon and steelhead, and supported large populations of both species. In contrast to many watersheds in western Sonoma County, Willow Creek is largely forested and contains almost no development, and a large portion of the watershed is in California State Parks ownership.

However, the watershed is impaired by legacy impacts of past land management. Forested areas were logged extensively throughout the 20th century, and large-scale “stream cleaning” efforts were undertaken in the 1970s and 1980s. Subsequent evaluations of instream habitat i have noted that the stream is generally poor in shelter for juvenile salmonids and lacking in large woody debris. Coho have been stocked in Willow Creek for over a decade by the Russian River broodstock program, and both coho and steelhead have been documented returning to Willow Creek to spawn.

The mainstem of Willow Creek currently has many of the characteristics of excellent coho habitat for both spawning and rearing, with low channel gradients, abundant spawning gravels and good riparian cover. However, the lower mainstem of Willow Creek has been severely aggraded in response to widespread erosion triggered by intensive historical logging activities and the development of an extensive logging road network. This aggradation has resulted in the development of a “Stage 0” stream reach between the 2nd In addition, the Willow Creek estuary was channelized and simplified through past management and is considered impaired.

Natural Resource Conservation Efforts

A number of habitat restoration and enhancement projects have been undertaken in Willow Creek over the past two decades, including:

  •       Extensive road-related erosion control projects (including both road upgrading and decommissioning) addressing both upper Willow Creek Road and the extensive network of legacy logging roads, implemented in 2005-06.
  •       Construction of a new bridge at the 2nd bridge Willow Creek Road crossing, accommodating the shift of the channel from the north side of the floodplain to the south side. The new bridge was dedicated in 2011.
  •       Two projects implemented in 2013 that placed over 120 pieces of large wood in the creek to improve instream habitat along 2.75 miles of the Willow Creek mainstem.
  •       Road drainage improvements and repaving of 2.5 miles of lower Willow Creek Road, constructed in 2019-21.

Projects to address estuary impairment, fish passage issues through the Stage 0 reach, a developing barrier at the 3rd bridge crossing and channel simplification along Pomo Creek, a major Willow Creek tributary stream, are currently in development.

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