FAW UPDATE: Atascadero Creek Coho Salmon Study announcement

FAW UPDATE: Atascadero Creek Coho Salmon Study announcement

Gold Ridge Resource and Conservation District (GRRCD) has embarked on an ambitious project to study the Atascadero Creek sub-watershed to determine what obstacles are preventing Coho salmon migration. Coho were historically present in Atascadero Creek. Many of the upper reaches, including Redwood and Jonive Creeks have ideal salmon rearing habitat. The study is funded by a grant from California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If you have creekside property and would like to grant limited creek access for this study or if you know of anyone who might want to participate, please contact GRRCD at 823-5244 for more information.

An article

from the GRRCD newsletter about the project is below.

Anna Ransome
for Friends of Atascadero Wetlands

Subwatershed Coho Habitat Assessment Project

Originally published in Stewards of the Land, Vol 18, November 2018.

Lying just west of Sebastopol is the Atascadero-Green Valley Creek watershed. This important watershed starts in the coastal hills, flows through Graton and Forestville, and continues north to empty into the Russian River. It has been identified as critical and restorable habitat for the endangered Central California Coast coho salmon, and it regularly supports the Russian’s most robust wild coho population.

However, for reasons that have never been identified, the Atascadero Creek subwatershed, which is the system’s largest subwatershed, hasn’t shown evidence of coho since the California Department of Fish and Wildlife started monitoring the creek in the 1960s. The lack of coho is puzzling since the upper tributaries— particularly Redwood and Jonive Creeks—appear to have high-quality salmon rearing reaches, which are known to contain steelhead trout. Without coho present, the area hasn’t been a high priority for restoration efforts. The lack of attention to this critical subwatershed has also been in part a problem of inaccessibility, due both to the highly parcelized ownership of the Atascadero’s upper stream reaches and to the access challenges imposed by the braided wetland complex comprising its lower reach (known as the Atascadero marsh, located in the vicinity of Graton). However, with the Russian River’s coho recovery program releasing coho juveniles into the Atascadero’s upper tributaries as of last fall, a comprehensive planning effort to support their survival has never been more pressing.

In September 2018, the Gold Ridge RCD received a grant from the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Proposition 1 program to work with the Atascadero watershed community to perform an assessment of the Atascadero subwatershed, to identify potential limiting factors to coho passage and survival, and to identify and prioritize site-specific projects to address them. In addition, the assessment includes a stormwater analysis, as high winter stormflow has been identified as a primary limiting factor to coho in lower Green Valley, with the Atascadero subwatershed contributing significantly. Additionally, the RCD’s work in Atascadero will coincide with and support Sonoma Water’s work reshaping the mainstem of the Green Valley Creek to alleviate winter flooding across Green Valley Road.

The Atascadero subwatershed is sizeable; it comprises 60{5fc40a96f14c4a6aa4c2a32569b0a57dcc67c0b31eb04c341474283f11b6cdd2} of Green Valley’s blue-line streams and contains 21 stream-miles. The assessment work will require extensive collaboration from over 180 private landowners throughout the stream network. Over the next several months, Gold Ridge RCD staff will be contacting Atascadero Creek landowners to request limited access for the on-the-ground stream habitat assessments and identification of potential fish passage barriers, as well as learn from the Atascadero Creek community what resource issues they have that we may be able to help address.

The Gold Ridge RCD will soon begin conducting extensive outreach efforts to garner landowner support for this important work. If you live along a stream corridor in the subwatershed (shown in green), including Sexton, Jonive, Redwood, Pitkin, or one of the many unnamed tributaries, and are interested in participating, please contact Sierra Cantor at: Sierra@goldridgercd.org or 707-823-5244.

Funding provided by CA Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Proposition 1 Program, with matching funds from Sonoma Water Cooperative Agreement.