Redwood Creek is a 26-mile watershed that has historically supported strong runs of Chinook, Coho salmon, and steelhead. Juveniles of these species are routinely found throughout the watershed in spring and early summer, with Coho and steelhead rearing in the watershed until migrating to the ocean the following spring. The best spawning reaches are found in Dinner, China, and Miller creeks, as well as Redwood Creek and Upper Redwood Creek.
SRF is working collaboratively with sociologist Sara Schremmer, the California Department of Fish and Game and Sanctuary Forest to research the feasibility of doing a “technology transfer” of the Mattole headwaters successful water forbearance program to Redwood Creek.
There are several reasons that Redwood Creek was identified as an ideal watershed to engage the community in this water conservation outreach. Redwood Creek has five populated tributaries - all of which have historically supported salmon runs. Additionally, Redwood Creek was settled earlier than some watersheds in the Southern Humboldt back-to-the-land movement. This means that there is a long history of families who have lived there for decades compared to some other drainages where there has been more recent transfers of land ownership. Redwood Creek has a history of community stewardship that is evidenced by the Briceland volunteer fire department, the established road associations, and forest thinning and restoration projects that have occurred in Miller, Seely, and China creeks.
There has been a notable decrease in water flows during the low season in several Redwood Creek drainages, especially Miller Creek. For decades, residents had ample water and in recent years many long-term residents have witnessed decreases in water during the dry months when salmon are most vulnerable to low flows and high water temperatures.
The purpose of administering the water usage surveys is to determine water usage patterns and trends so it can be ascertained if Redwood Creek tributaries would benefit from increased water storage capacity.
SRF is hosting a series of house meetings for residents to learn about the project and share their concerns and ideas for improved water quality and quantity. They are short and anonymous surveys. SRF’s executive director Dana Stolzman explained, “Landowner participation is key to the success of this project. Since our overall goal is to increase water storage and improve fisheries, it is vital to identify cooperating landowners who would like to assist with flow monitoring and the water forbearance program.”
The water usage surveys and house parties will culminate with a water conservation workshop with presentations about changes in the forest landscape and hydrology, the feasibility study water, conservation opportunities and techniques as well as a tour of water storage projects. The workshop is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Beginnings Octagon in Briceland and will be free to the community.
For more information, please see the Redwood Creek pages of the SRF website at http://www.calsalmon.org.