NOAA Fisheries, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and the Fishery Foundation of California recently completed removal of a 7-foot dam, re-opening more than six miles of spawning habitat for federally protected steelhead.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, fish barriers have been identified as a limiting factor for the steelhead population. The removal of this dam on Bear Creek, a tributary to San Francisquito Creek, will allow steelhead for the first time in decades to access historic habitat for spawning and rearing, and improve ecological connectivity for other fish and wildlife resources.
“With few streams left in the Bay Area that support self-sustaining steelhead populations, protecting and enhancing these watersheds is vital for the continued existence of these fish,” said DFG Environmental Scientist Kristine Atkinson.
Steelhead migrate as adults from the Pacific Ocean into freshwater streams and rivers to spawn. The dam at Bear Creek was on private property in Woodside and blocked fish passage for more than 60 years.
The population of steelhead native to Bear Creek, the Central California Coastal Evolutionarily Significant Unit was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1997. DFG and NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement worked collaboratively with the property owner to remedy the situation.
“Habitat loss and degradation is a high priority for us under ESA, and this case is a good example of how providing compliance assistance helps us solve problems collaboratively,” said Martina Sagapolu, acting Special Agent in Charge for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement’s Southwest Division. “Partnering with landowners as well as agencies such as DFG and NOAA Fisheries RestorationCenter is critical to our success.”
The removal of the dam took two years to complete and cost approximately $30,000. Funding for the project was provided by both the private landowner and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s San Francisco Bay Salmonid Habitat Restoration Fund. To view a time-lapse video of the project, visit http://youtu.be/00O17tSE6Ak.
“Recovery of threatened and endangered species is a tremendous, long-term challenge that offers lasting benefits to the health of our environment and communities,” said biologist Joe Pecharich, of the NOAA Fisheries Restoration Center. “Our work is far from over in the San Francisquito Creek watershed. There are still a number of barriers that DFG and NOAA are looking into for enhancement opportunities.”
Image courtesy California DFG