U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
News.bytes Extra, issue 292
Clear Creek Paradox: Bulldozers Are Restoring Ecosystems
As massive earth-moving equipment rumbles across a creek channel near Redding, a casual observer might surmise that a huge sand and gravel mining operation is in full swing. Aligned three abreast, belly scrapers, nudged along by clanking D8 bulldozers, rip up tons of soil and rock with each pass. Nearby, conveyers and sorting equipment rattles, and piles of sand, rock and gravel grow by the hour.
But the work now underway at Lower Clear Creek just south of Redding is not a gravel mining project. This is ecosystem restoration on an industrial scale. It is the continuation of a successful project to restore the creek's salmon-spawning habitat, improve conditions for birds and other wildlife, and to create a peaceful greenway for the public.
Below, a view from an overlook on the north side of Clear Creek shows the new stream corridor taking shape.
The work is part of phase 3B of the Lower Clear Creek Restoration Project, an undertaking coordinated by the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District and involving more than a dozen local, state and federal partners. The project is succeeding in restoring a three-mile reach of the creek that was largely stripped of vegetation and "turned upside down," first by historic gold mining, and until the late 1970s by extraction of sand and gravel.
So far, results of the decade-old effort to reclaim Clear Creek have been impressive. Francis Berg, assistant field manager for the Bureau of Land Management's Redding Field Office, notes that prior to the project start in 1997, about 1,500 fall-run Chinook salmon migrated from the Sacramento River to spawn in Clear Creek. By 2005 that number had ballooned to 16,000. On average, the fall salmon run has increased fivefold since the restoration project began, Berg said.
Planting and natural regeneration of trees and other streamside plants have encouraged the return of songbirds and raptors. Even experts who were confident in the project have been surprised by the number of birds and diversity of species returning to the creek corridor.
Below, Smokey Pittman, an engineer specializing in riparian restoration, explains the stream channel improvements to a group of project partners.
Partners, enthusiastic about their success to date, are now charging forward with the next restoration phase to realign the part of the creek channel to its natural location and to restore another mile of floodplain. The 3B phase of the project, funded by a $3.5 million grant from the CALFED Bay-Delta Program, requires major work:
Below, giant belly scrapers line up for another pass in the work to realign the Clear Creek channel.
When the 3B phase is completed this fall, the restored floodplain will include "scour channels" that provide diverse topography and encourage regeneration of riparian plants. The restored stream will have backwaters and edgewaters essential for the survival of young salmon.
Overall, the creation of more than 13 acres of new wetlands will attract a greater diversity of small mammals and other riparian dependent species.
Most of the work is occurring on about 4,000 acres of public land managed by the BLM. Another 2,000 acres of private lands and about 350 acres controlled by other cooperators are benefitting as well.
As the project proceeds more direct benefits will be noticed by Shasta County residents and visitors. A 10-mile recreation trail system will be constructed through the greenway. These trails could ultimately become part of a 200-mile trail network connecting Clear Creek with the Sacramento River, and Shasta, Trinity and Whiskeytown Lakes. Also planned is a salmon viewing plaza, accessible to the disabled, near a dramatic creek gorge. The public access projects are funded by a $1.1 million grant from the California Rivers and Parkways Program. The salmon viewing area will be constructed on a 30-acre parcel donated to the BLM by the city of Redding.
"What has been most gratifying about this project is the cooperation of partners who are focused clearly on the benefits to the ecosystem and the public," Berg said. "This team has worked together, regardless of who received the credit. Everyone is enjoying the rewards as we reverse more than a century of impacts to this waterway."
Project partners include the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District, the California Department of Fish and Game, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, U. S. Bureau of Land Management , the Redding Rancheria, California Department of Water Resources, the Wildlife Conservation Board, Shasta County, City of Redding, Central Valley Water Quality Control Board, Point Reyes Bird Observatory and the Horsetown Clear Creek Preserve.
Information about this project and restoration work at Upper Clear Creek is available at www.clear-creek.org.
- Jeff Fontana, 7/31/07
BLM California News.bytes, issue 292
|Last updated: 07-31-2007|
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