A big part of the joy of living in Woodside is our beautiful, precious landscape and our just-as-vital “waterscape.” Woodside is blessed to have more than ten creeks running through the Town, and the creek known both as Bear Creek and Bear Gulch Creek has got to be the crown jewel. Providing habitat for frogs, turtles, steelhead, as well as water for other wildlife, it also provides a major source of our drinking water. The creek and its tributaries run all over Town.
Bear Creek, as most COWs know, meets up with Corte Madera Creek in Jasper Ridge and forms San Francisquito Creek as it flows to the Bay. While at one time San Francisquito Creek was bursting with vigorous steelhead, recent years have not been kind to the waterway. As we’ve reported before here and here, the creeks in our region have been under assault by urbanization, equestrian and agricultural wastes, and poor land use practices for some time. The Town of Woodside itself is not blameless, shortsightedly choosing to do unpermitted repair work right in our Town’s creeks without informing the proper authorities. For some time, the future health of Bear Creek has looked shaky.
While there are still numerous threats to the health of San Francisquito Creek, there is reason for celebration this year, with the recent removal of a weir – a concrete barrier dozens of feet wide – that has been intruding into the creek for decades in Palo Alto. The weir was constructed to help support a vital wall that in turn keeps both a pedestrian and Caltrain bridge secure. Modern construction techniques allowed the weir to be replaced with a system of rocks and boulders that will keep the bridges safe while allowing the trout to pass when water levels are low, instead of blocking them and preventing older fish from spawning and young fish from reaching the ocean.
The project was managed by the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the demolition of the weir and reconstruction of the creek cost more than $300,000. The project is one of dozens of projects that have been going on around the San Francisco Bay in an effort to improve water quality and habitat.
As the creek is considered “anchor habitat” for the threatened steelhead species, this is great news! Every little piece of the puzzle to keep our creek healthy is important. We applaud this great news, while realizing there’s more work to be done. There is the long discussed possibility of the removal of Searsville Dam in Jasper Ridge (see our article here), and hopefully, good land management practices from the towns and residents that line the creek.
So take some time to sit by Bear Creek this year and think about what we can all do to keep our creeks healthy for humans and wildlife!