kellyx-nelson
By Kellyx Nelson,
Executive Director, RCD

I love my job.

As the Executive Director of the San Mateo Resource Conservation District, I get to work with land owners in every watershed in coastal San Mateo County to restore and maintain the health of our local landscape. And I get to learn from amazing staff, like Irina Kogan, our project manager.

I’m especially proud of our recent work within the Butano Creek watershed. This was a creek completely out of balance that, through partnership with POST, we’re bringing back to life. Watch the video to hear the whole story:

 

 What happened to Butano Creek

Over the last century, people have moved the creek out of the way of their roads, farms and homes, straightened it and cleared the wood out of it. The hope was to move water off their land as quickly as possible. And it worked, at least upstream. However, without anything to slow the water down, the creek became more like a fire hose and started to cut down deeper and deeper.

Eventually, it cut so deep that it couldn’t spill water over its banks and lost access to 7/8th of its historic floodplain. In some places, it has exposed banks 20 or 30 feet high!

The creek, which used to carry sediment from the hills and meander along the flat lands, had actually become a source of sediment with no access to the floodplain where it could drop out. It was a double whammy, resulting in the creek carrying 2.5 times its historic load.

All this sediment had to go somewhere, right? Over time, it built up and plugged the mouth of the creek in Pescadero Marsh. Today there is so much sediment there that threatened and endangered species like Coho salmon and steelhead trout can no longer access their historic spawning grounds in Butano Creek. They just can’t get past all the sediment. And the water coming down the creek has no place to go during rainstorms. It spills out across the main road into town, flooding the road and private properties.

Howd we fix it

In late September of 2016, local community members volunteered to plant willow on the banks of Butano Creek to help stabilize the bank and control for erosion.
In late September of 2016, local community members volunteered to plant willow on the banks of Butano Creek to help stabilize the bank and control for erosion.

POST-protected Butano Farms was the ideal location for us to start our watershed restoration at Butano Creek. This is the first location upstream of the Pescadero Marsh where the creek was cutting down and, at 903-acres, it allowed us to repair over a mile of creek and restore over 100 acres of wetlands on just one property.

We received over a million dollars in grant funding from the California Department of Water Resources Urban Streams Restoration Program, California State Coastal Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and POST to restore this section of Butano Creek.

With this funding, we installed structures that help the creek look and function the way it used to, the way nature intended.

These structures are helping to slow the creek down and reconnect with the historic floodplain. This section of Butano Creek can now act like a creek again. It can rise, spill its banks, flood its floodplain and drop its sediment. Over 150,000 tons of sediment will be held from entering the Pescadero Marsh because of this project.

Whats next

In partnership with California State Parks, we are working towards removing the sediment from the mouth of the creek in Pescadero Marsh to “reboot” the system. Coho salmon and steelhead trout will, once again, have access to their historic spawning grounds in Butano Creek. And the project will also help mitigate flooding in nearby Pescadero.

Removing sediment from the marsh would be drastically less effective without addressing the root of the problem upstream. It’s thanks to pioneering land owners like POST that, together, we’re reviving Butano Creek.

                           

The Resource Conservation District in San Mateo County is a nonregulatory special district to help people protect, conserve, and restore natural resources through information, education, and technical assistance programs. For 75 years, the RCD has provided assistance to landowners wishing to best manage their natural resources and has been a focal point for local resource conservation and assistance to agriculture.

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About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 75,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

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