News

Coho salmon will soon swim free again thanks to dam-removal agreement

Cemex, Sempervirens Fund reach accord over structure at Mill Creek in Santa Cruz Mountains

A dam that for decades prohibited coho salmon from reaching its spawning habitat in the Santa Cruz Mountains will be taken down starting this summer after building materials company Cemex and the Sempervirens Fund reached an agreement, the environmental group announced Wednesday.

The dam, which is located on Mill Creek, is on the 8,532-acre San Vicente Redwoods property, which was formerly owned by Cemex. The company sold the property to conservation organizations Sempervirens Fund, Peninsula Open Space Trust, Save the Redwoods League and Land Trust of Santa Cruz County in 2011. Cemex has retained water and infrastructure rights on the property.

The 86,000-acre CZU Lightning Complex wildfires in August and September of 2020 burned all of San Vicente Redwoods and destroyed water lines situated on top of the dam. The lines supplied water to the community of Davenport in Santa Cruz County. The cement company funded rerouting and replacement of their water lines earlier this year and agreed to remove the dam.

Sempervirens Fund expects dam removal to begin late this summer. In March, the group received a $550,000 grant made through the Open Rivers Fund, a program of Resources Legacy Fund supported by the Menlo Park-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The grant will be supplemented by support from individual donors for ongoing restoration work at San Vicente, Sempervirens Fund leaders said.

San Vicente Redwoods is the largest privately held redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The property, which contains logged and old-growth redwoods and eight creeks, provides habitat for many wildlife and plant species important to the region, including the endangered coho salmon. Habitat for salmon is scarce and barriers such as dams diminish their access to critical waters and gravelly sediment needed for their spawning grounds, according to the Sempervirens Fund.

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While rare in the Santa Cruz Mountains, dams like the one on Mill Creek were built in the early 20th century to support redwood logging. Their utility has long since expired and removal is the best option for repairing the ecosystem, the organization said.

"The dam has impeded coho salmon from reaching desperately needed spawning habitat for decades. Removing the dam will restore not only the creek flow, but improve sediment conditions critical for spawning. A restored creek is also essential to the health and resilience of the surrounding redwoods and other nearby and downstream habitats at San Vicente," Sempervirens Fund Executive Director Sara Barth said in the statement.

The Resources Conservation District of Santa Cruz County is also partnering with the Sempervirens Fund on the project's restoration efforts.

"This project, identified as a priority action for recovery of salmonids in the San Vicente Watershed, is an important step forward in helping threatened and endangered steelhead and coho salmon along the Central Coast of California," district Executive Director Lisa Lurie said in the statement.

The Sempervirens Fund and its partners will monitor and survey fish populations in Mill Creek and the greater San Vicente watershed, including coho salmon, steelhead trout and lamprey eels, with help from environmental DNA techniques. In the past, researchers introduced large woody debris, which has already reinvigorated steelhead populations by creating cover and shallow pools for breeding. The fish have been seen in the creek this season, they said.

People as well as salmon will benefit from the dam removal and restoration, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty said in the statement.

"Mill Creek is part of a critical watershed on the North Coast, which provides drinking water for the town of Davenport and habitat for coho. The Mill Creek dam removal project is truly a win-win project as it will improve water quality both for the residents and the coho," he said.

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Coho salmon will soon swim free again thanks to dam-removal agreement

Cemex, Sempervirens Fund reach accord over structure at Mill Creek in Santa Cruz Mountains

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 29, 2021, 9:46 am

A dam that for decades prohibited coho salmon from reaching its spawning habitat in the Santa Cruz Mountains will be taken down starting this summer after building materials company Cemex and the Sempervirens Fund reached an agreement, the environmental group announced Wednesday.

The dam, which is located on Mill Creek, is on the 8,532-acre San Vicente Redwoods property, which was formerly owned by Cemex. The company sold the property to conservation organizations Sempervirens Fund, Peninsula Open Space Trust, Save the Redwoods League and Land Trust of Santa Cruz County in 2011. Cemex has retained water and infrastructure rights on the property.

The 86,000-acre CZU Lightning Complex wildfires in August and September of 2020 burned all of San Vicente Redwoods and destroyed water lines situated on top of the dam. The lines supplied water to the community of Davenport in Santa Cruz County. The cement company funded rerouting and replacement of their water lines earlier this year and agreed to remove the dam.

Sempervirens Fund expects dam removal to begin late this summer. In March, the group received a $550,000 grant made through the Open Rivers Fund, a program of Resources Legacy Fund supported by the Menlo Park-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The grant will be supplemented by support from individual donors for ongoing restoration work at San Vicente, Sempervirens Fund leaders said.

San Vicente Redwoods is the largest privately held redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The property, which contains logged and old-growth redwoods and eight creeks, provides habitat for many wildlife and plant species important to the region, including the endangered coho salmon. Habitat for salmon is scarce and barriers such as dams diminish their access to critical waters and gravelly sediment needed for their spawning grounds, according to the Sempervirens Fund.

While rare in the Santa Cruz Mountains, dams like the one on Mill Creek were built in the early 20th century to support redwood logging. Their utility has long since expired and removal is the best option for repairing the ecosystem, the organization said.

"The dam has impeded coho salmon from reaching desperately needed spawning habitat for decades. Removing the dam will restore not only the creek flow, but improve sediment conditions critical for spawning. A restored creek is also essential to the health and resilience of the surrounding redwoods and other nearby and downstream habitats at San Vicente," Sempervirens Fund Executive Director Sara Barth said in the statement.

The Resources Conservation District of Santa Cruz County is also partnering with the Sempervirens Fund on the project's restoration efforts.

"This project, identified as a priority action for recovery of salmonids in the San Vicente Watershed, is an important step forward in helping threatened and endangered steelhead and coho salmon along the Central Coast of California," district Executive Director Lisa Lurie said in the statement.

The Sempervirens Fund and its partners will monitor and survey fish populations in Mill Creek and the greater San Vicente watershed, including coho salmon, steelhead trout and lamprey eels, with help from environmental DNA techniques. In the past, researchers introduced large woody debris, which has already reinvigorated steelhead populations by creating cover and shallow pools for breeding. The fish have been seen in the creek this season, they said.

People as well as salmon will benefit from the dam removal and restoration, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty said in the statement.

"Mill Creek is part of a critical watershed on the North Coast, which provides drinking water for the town of Davenport and habitat for coho. The Mill Creek dam removal project is truly a win-win project as it will improve water quality both for the residents and the coho," he said.

Comments

felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2021 at 12:48 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 12:48 pm

Great news.
But Sue, you say all the redwoods were burned. What is left of the habitat and what effect on the salmon?
Can you find out please? Tell us more.


Lee Tran
Registered user
another community
on Apr 29, 2021 at 8:26 pm
Lee Tran, another community
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 8:26 pm

Is there a limit on how much coho salmon one can catch to eat?

Wild salmon tastes better than hatchery salmon and has a more natural color.


Longtime Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2021 at 12:48 am
Longtime Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 12:48 am

@Lee Tran, please don't start to capture these newly freed salmon yet. They are adjusting to their new habitat, and they need time to get established. The habitat of Coho, Steelhead, and Lamprey eels has been greatly disturbed by increased population, dams, and fire. I think it would be kind to leave them alone, and do your fish shopping at the supermarket. Thank you.


NRA Member
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2021 at 12:58 pm
NRA Member, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 12:58 pm

Cook's Seafood in Menlo Park has wild salmon.

Do not poach or fish without a valid CA license because if caught, it will be be the most expensive fish you never get to partake in.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 3, 2021 at 7:52 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 7:52 pm

WOW - that is so cool. So SU - how about that 100 year old dam on your property? How about you take it down so we can have salmon coming up the creek. Yes - we have talked about this many times with excuses about the sludge factor. A 100 year old dam on the Carmel River had the same problem and they worked a great fix for that problem. And saved the city of Carmel from flooding when ever we get rain again.
How about it SU? that would be such a great "learning tool" for the whole campus and city.
Lee Tran - do you live in Cupertino? Go catch a turkey at Rancho.


Lester Woo
Registered user
Mountain View
on May 4, 2021 at 7:48 am
Lester Woo, Mountain View
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 7:48 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Michaela Johnson
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2021 at 8:27 am
Michaela Johnson, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 8:27 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Derek McKennon
Registered user
Stanford
on May 4, 2021 at 10:19 am
Derek McKennon, Stanford
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 10:19 am
Americans First
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2021 at 12:58 pm
Americans First, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 12:58 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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