Creeks Cry for Help

November 10, 2010

Recent articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers have highlighted the fragile condition of our local creeks, especially San Francisquito Creek which runs through Woodside, Portola Valley, Stanford lands and other cow-munities before emptying into San Francisco Bay. These articles point out the both the problems and opportunities facing these important habitats. The San Francisquito Creek was recently labeled one of the 24 most “trashed” waterways in the Bay Area by the State Water Resources Board.

We’ve reported on threats to our creeks before. Our earlier article warned about the problems caused by allowing horse wastes to foul our creeks, and called the Town on the carpet for apparently performing improper repair and construction work on trails that cross our creeks without the proper permits and oversight.

While we’re still very worried that the Town hasn’t improved its lax attitude about the health of our riparian environment – despite making a big deal over the new Backyard Habitat and other similar green programs – the new concerns are larger than just our Town. These new concerns include the trash and debris in our creeks, as well as the complex ecological and financial choices regarding Searsville Lake (the major source of San Francisquito Creek, in the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve) since some are calling for the Dam that creates the lake to be removed in order to restore Corte Madera Creek to steelhead trout habitat.

San Francisquito Creek was cited as one of three San Mateo County creeks on the trashed list. An article in the San Jose Mercury states that trash is difficult to regulate and prevent, as it gets swept into the creek by floodwaters and many different places along the course of the waterway, making it different from something like a factory pouring pollution into a river in a specific place. The article says that environmental groups say unfortunately the listing probably won’t speed up the cleanup of our polluted creeks.

One thing that is being done, however, is having volunteers clean up trashed waterways, such as during the recent 26th annual “Coastal Cleanup Day” where thousands of volunteers all over the state descend on garbage-strewn beaches, marshes, and creeks to remove tons of trash. We here in Woodside didn’t note a strong push from our Town officials for participants to help our creeks. Perhaps the Town could host its own ‘Day of the Creek’ to complement the Day of the Horse which would be especially appropriate due to the damage that can be done to our creeks when individuals choose to be poor stewards of their horses and our shared environment. It might even be possible for the Town to approach the state for a grant for creek protection. The city of San Pablo recently got a $1.8 million grant from the state to improve Wildcat Creek so we know it’s possible, even in tough budget times.

The Town needs to show leadership on this important environmental issue now, and ‘walk the walk’ in light of all the green talk we’ve heard lately from Town officials.

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