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Steelhead Trout Can Now Move Freely to Creek from San Francisco Bay

The project will remove a centuries old barrier between Palo Alto and Menlo Park that prevented the fish from multiplying.

The Bonde Weir wall will be removed from the San Francisquito Creek on the border of Palo Alto and Menlo Park to allow steelhead trout to freely swim to areas where they can spawn. Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Bonde Weir wall will be removed from the San Francisquito Creek on the border of Palo Alto and Menlo Park to allow steelhead trout to freely swim to areas where they can spawn. Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Representatives of federal, state and local agencies today announced the elimination of a 105-year-old barrier in a creek between Palo Alto and Menlo Park to allow endangered steelhead trout to migrate upstream from San Francisco Bay.

The project by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service, California State Coastal Conservancy and San Mateo County Resource Conversation District—a state agency—removed the concrete wall from the San Francisquito Creek that blocked most of the migrating native trout, EPA spokesman David Yogi said.


The barrier, placed in the creek back in 1908 to protect the nearby historic El Palo redwood tree from flooding, prevented many juvenile steelhead from swimming upstream to spawn, said Brian Wardman, an engineer from West Sacramento-based Northwest Hydraulic Consultants who worked on the project.

The fish make the upstream swim from the bay each November, when water levels in the free-flowing creek increase due to seasonal rainfall, Wardman said.

The project removed the last obstacle for migrating steelhead in the San Francisquito, identified as a critical habitat for the fish by the U.S. government in 2005, Yogi said. The creek serves as the boundary between the cities of Palo Alto and Menlo Park and the counties of Santa Clara and San Mateo.

Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA's Pacific Southwest regional administrator explained that with the barrier gone, the steelhead, already a federally-threatened species, will be free to move 40 miles upstream from the bay to spawn and rear.

The unimpeded access to the creek, running east toward the bay from Searsville Dam in Portola Valley near Woodside, will improve prospects for the fish species, which have not done particularly well in the Bay, Blumenfeld said.

"It is certainly going to point the indicators in the right direction," Blumenfeld said. "Things have been going down. Habitat loss, pollution, all those things continue to stress and an already stressed population of steelhead."

"So this is sending the tide literally in the other direction," he said. "It's going to open up habitat. And the habitat is a good habitat. It's really going to give a kick start to the population."

The project to extract the wall, called the "Bonde weir," from the creek came about after partnering government agencies obtained $309,000, including a $75,000 grant from the EPA, Blumenfeld said.

"Forty miles of improved access," said Darren Howe, a fisheries biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Santa Rosa. "That's quite a lot. That's a real improvement."

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