Salmon Creek Watershed Council
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Salmon Creek Estuary
Habitat Enhancement Program

A comprehensive study of the Salmon Creek Estuary was completed by the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center's WATER Institute and Prunuske Chatham Inc. in 2006 with funding from the State Coastal Conservancy. The objective of the study was to assess the factors affecting estuarine function and its value as salmonid habitat.

Juvenile salmonids migrate from the upper watershed to the lagoon in the late spring and early summer to feed and prepare for entering the ocean in the fall after the estuary breaches. In summer 2004, a severe drought year, the juveniles were trapped in the lower estuary by upstream poor water quality and pool disconnection. During a three-month period (August - October) hundreds of juveniles in the lower estuary disappeared. Predation by seabirds such as seagulls, pelicans, and cormorants is thought to be the cause. This critical rearing area has become significantly shallower in the last 40 years due to high rates of upstream sediment delivery. It is also lacking in protective cover that was once provided by woody debris, small tidal channels and wetlands, and undercut banks.

Two high-priority recommendations from the Estuary Study have been implemented.

  1. Increase summer rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids through installation of large woody structures and floating protective willow mats near the mouth. This project will be installed in 2010. Read the Interim Project Report pdf 0.4 MB pdf

  2. Increase freshwater inflow to the estuary in late spring and summer to improve water quality and lagoon depths for rearing salmonids. A Salmon Creek Water Conservation Program has been started.

Recent droughts have created summer streamflow conditions similar to that in 2004. With the reintroduction of coho into the system in 2009 and 2010, it is even more critical that the estuary rearing habitat is improved.

Program Partners

Salmon Creek Watershed Council   Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute   Prunuske Chatham, Inc.

Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District   California Coastal Conservancy

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration   California State Parks   California Department of Fish and Game

Dragon Fly
Stream Enhancement

  The Nature Conservancy

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