A coho salmon waits patiently for rain in the Lagunitas watershed so it can move upstream.
A coho salmon waits patiently for rain in the Lagunitas watershed so it can move upstream.

Recovering a Lost Floodplain

The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) will soon undertake its most ambitious habitat restoration project in order to ensure coho salmon remain part of our ecosystem for generations to come.

The Lagunitas Creek Floodplain and Riparian Restoration Project is an effort to restore a one mile-long stretch of river habitat within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The project builds upon Turtle Island Restoration Network’s (our parent organization) partnership with Point Reyes National Seashore to restore the once wild and dynamic alluvial valley of Lagunitas Creek. We’re embarking on the restoration to recover a lost floodplain that has been buried under 20 feet of dirt dumped in the river corridor decades ago to build the villages of Tocaloma and Jewel.

The National Park Service begins demolition on the former villages of Tocaloma and Jewel.

The National Park Service demolished the abandoned structures in 2016 to make room for the habitat restoration planned for Summer 2018.

The restoration will re-create the large dynamic floodplain with side channels, alcoves, and numerous large woody debris structures- all elements that coho salmon critically need. These habitats will create slow off-channel areas that are commonly seen in undeveloped pristine waterways that provide feeding and rearing grounds for fish and other wildlife including California freshwater shrimp and California red-legged frog.

“This is one of the largest projects undertaken in the watershed,” said Preston Brown, director of watershed conservation. “Our goal is to restore the natural functions, letting the stream behave how it wants to, not only to benefit salmon but the entire ecosystem that relies on the dynamic nature of the creek,” he added.

Following the removal of numerous abandoned and dilapidated structures of the former villages, we began work completing engineering designs, permitting, and environmental compliance. The planning is complete and we will begin earthwork this August 2018. This restoration will provide immediate habitat for endangered wildlife and will provide vital services to improve water quality and flood control.

SPAWN has secured funding for the project from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State Water Resources Control Board through competitive grants. Matching funds have been provided by generous donations from SPAWN members and supporters. We are looking forward to engaging volunteers and members to help us in the process. Currently we’re collecting seeds and raising plants for the restoration and will begin planting this November.

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