Winter Run - Fish Passage

A swimming dam erected across creek blocks steelhead from critical spawning and rearing habitat

Parks departments across the country have a mission statement along the lines of "make it easy for the public to recreate, etc." But constructing a dam to create a swimming pool? Apparently, the County Parks Department saw it fit their mission and in came the concrete trucks and up went the "Swim Dam." The trade-off for the county's kids playing in an extra three feet of water - salmonids cut-off from some 60 miles of habitat.

One of these barriers serves as a low-water crossing of the creek. The concrete slab staddles the creek and was placed adjacent to a campground. The thinking, at that time, of the County Parks Department - campers shouldn't have to wade across this creek. To be honest, the typical summer flows would not make this a risk even for most childern. The price ultimately paid for keeping campers from getting their shoes wet - steelhead blocked from over half of their historical spawning grounds.

A concrete pad was poured across the creek bed to aid vehicle and foot traffic

Thanks to funds allocated from the California's Department of Fish and Game's Fisheries Restoration Grant Program, the County Parks Department will restore fish passage at two barriers along the creek. A 250 page watershed assessment completed in 2004 identified habitat upstream of these barriers as critical spawning and rearing areas for coho salmon and steelhead trout.

Fast-forward our thinking to now, and thankfully we've learned a few things about restoring stream habitat. County Parks will construct an arched culvert through the low-water crossing. The construction is scheduled for fall of 2008. (Note: the EcoAngler will track the progress of these creek restoration projects in future postings to the site.) As for the Swim Dam, restoration construction is on ice pending grant funding. The best projections for removal of the Swim Dam are fall of 2009.

January 24, 2009 Update

A concrete pad was poured across the creek bed to aid vehicle and foot traffic

In talking with a ranger for the county park I learned that the construction of the arched culvert through the low-water crossing HAS BEEN PLACED ON-HOLD. The ranger mentioned concerns from a variety of agencies and non-profit groups over the impact to the red-legged frog was largely the reason behind the delay. He also said the culvert has been constructed and purchased by the county and is in storage for the time being. He ventured the project could be re-scheduled for the fall of 2009.

December 2015 Update

San Mateo County Parks just announced the removal of two human-made barriers to fish passage in Pescadero Creek, opening some 60 miles of unimpeded access to spawning and rearing habitat for coho salmon and steelhead trout. A time lapse video of dam demolition shows the careful removal:

Lance Armstrong and 2 inches