Priority D: Restore Wildlife Habitat and Provide Open Space
Part of Valley Water’s mission is to care for the environment that surrounds our waterways. A healthy environment leads to clean water and a place we all can enjoy. Priority D projects help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat and provide opportunities for increased access to trails and open space.
Some of our work to protect habitat includes controlling non-native, invasive plants, replanting native plants, and maintaining previously revegetated areas. Other projects include removing fish barriers, improving steelhead habitat and stabilizing eroded creek banks.
Fish Habitat and Passage Improvements
Valley Water completed construction of the Evelyn Bridge Fish Passage Project within Stevens Creek. The project removed two structures to allow sediment to move more quickly through a series of bridges, creating a sustainable low-flow channel for fish passage. Project maintenance is ongoing.
Sometimes, creeks become altered to the point where they no longer allow fish to move through in the best way. Part of Los Gatos Creek had this issue, and Valley Water made improvements to the habitat for native fish by adding gravel and large woody debris to a stretch of the creek just downstream of Highway 17. This improves fish habitat by adding suitable creek bed materials for food and spawning and adds complexity to streamflow by reducing velocity and promoting channel stability, allowing riffles to form. These habitat complexities make it easier for fish to migrate and provides areas to rest and seek refuge from predators. These modifications improve stream conditions for both adult and juvenile steelhead, as well as other native fish in the watershed.
Almaden Lake Improvement Project
Since the Gold Rush, the New Almaden Quiksilver Mine has released thousands of tons of mercury into local creeks and the area that flows into the Guadalupe River. One of those is Alamitos Creek, which created Almaden Lake when an old gravel quarry eroded.
That has left Almaden Lake with mercury-laden sediment at the bottom and has created an inhospitable environment for native Central California Coast steelhead, a species listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
To improve water quality and conditions for fish, Valley Water will build a levee to separate Alamitos Creek from Almaden Lake. This will allow fish to bypass the waters of the lake, where they risk getting lost and being preyed upon by invasive species, such as bass. This will also allow Alamitos Creek to resume its flow directly to Guadalupe River, as it used to do before the quarry filled up with water and created Almaden Lake.
This project reflects Valley Water’s commitment to improving water quality, restoring habitat and protecting the environment.
Creek Restoration and Stabilization
Natural streams function in a certain way, and when they’re altered or affected by nearby development, they sometimes lose their ability to flow and provide habitat the way they originally did. Valley Water is working to stabilize eroding creek banks and help restore the natural functions of stream channels for the safety of creek neighbors and the health of the environment.
The Hale Creek Enhancement pilot Project would restore a portion of the creek to its natural function. The project would replace about 650 feet of the creek that is currently a concrete channel with an earthen channel and vegetation. It would also widen the channel in flood-prone areas, and restore the natural channel bank and meander path of the creek.
Restoring the unique function of a stream benefits the wildlife in and around it, and it also benefits the people living nearby. Streams that are restored and stabilized cost less to maintain annually, and they don’t erode as easily. That means roads and properties are less affected by eroding channel banks – a benefit to everyone.
South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration Partnership
The South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration Project is the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the West Coast. When complete, the project will restore 15,100 acres of industrial salt ponds to a rich mosaic of tidal wetlands and other habitats.
This project reuses local sediment removed from streams flowing into San Francisco Bay to create and rehabilitate habitat in the South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration. Valley Water reuses sediment that must be removed from streams to maintain their capacity to carry floodwaters. Valley Water applies the clean sediment to appropriate locations to improve the success of the restoration effort. For instance, Valley Water used soil from the Lower Berryessa Flood Protection Project along the existing slope at Pond 8 to create a future ecotone, a gentle slope that will be a good basis for marsh vegetation to grow.