A section of Woodacre Creek that once ran underneath a tennis court has been restored, allowing endangered coho salmon a better chance of survival.
Community members and public officials gathered Friday and yesterday along the Lagunitas Creek watershed to celebrate the restoration of the creek and to hear about efforts to improve stream conditions in general in the Lagunitas Watershed.
Fish in the East Fork Woodacre Creek had been forced to navigate a long culvert in Woodacre to allow passage of coho underneath – among other things – a tennis court that had been built on top of it. Problem was, the rusty, tubular culvert was too narrow and water jetted though it, making it hard for juvenile coho as they struggled upsteam against the force of the water.
As part of the $300,000-plus project, the culvert was pulled out and an open-bottomed arched passage was put in to reduce the speed of water flow and allow better chances for juvenile coho to survive. The tennis court also was moved away from the creek as part of the work.
“I’m excited to see this first project in what will be a series of culvert replacement projects,” Supervisor Steve Kinsey said. “After years of doing necessary homework, a sustainable program is under way, starting in this important tributary in the Lagunitas Watershed.”
In the 1940s, the Lagunitas Watershed helped contribute to a statewide historic high of 500,000 coho. At Lagunitas Creek, the largest coho salmon in state history – 22 pounds and 36 inches long – was caught in January 1959.
But today’s salmon population is 1 percent of that – a decline caused primarily by a loss of free-flowing creeks and rivers that have been affected by development, dams and other obstacles such as the culverts, officials said.
Still, Lagunitas Creek and its tributaries are among the state’s prime coho salmon spawning grounds, and a host of groups are working to keep the species stable.
While the culvert removal has the potential to help the species, it remains to be seen what effect the work will have, said Paola Bouley, a watershed biologist for the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network.
“We really need to monitor these areas to see how the coho do,” she said. “There are still issues such as the creek going dry. We need to figure out how to bring up the water table. It will take … work on a lot of levels. It doesn’t stop here.”