Major oz wrote:
 >>Yesterday evening the Santa Clara County Water District
 >>held a public comment meeting about their plan to
 >>replace the 40" waterfall on Stevens Creek with four
 >>8" falls and rest pools for better steelhead migration.

>.....say what?

>There are steelhead in Santa Clara County?
 >Details please -- you have touched a sensitive nerve.

Stevens Creek has been a seasonal flow watershead as long as I
 have lived here. Back in the late 1980s, for a breif period I walked
 to work along the creekbed. It was dry and flat with big berry
 bushes growing along the sides. Hard to believe that two foot
 long fish could ever swim in the thing. The source of the creek
 is up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, only twenty or thirty miles
 away at the most.

I didn't really know until last night, but what happened was a couple
 of years ago the Santa Clara County steelhead run was declared
 threatened or endangered or something like that, and the Water
 District started looking for something to do to help. I think the threatened
 status opened the spigot on some funding sources, which helped make
 the project feasable.

It turns out that the fish have great difficulty getting over the water
 control features that were not built with them in mind. That 40"
 waterfall is enough to keep lots of them from using the stream.
 The naturalist expects that lowering that jump will double or
 tripple the number of steelhead spawing in Stevens Creek.

He explained that what the steelhead do is wait in San Francisco
 Bay until there is a "peak flow event", at which point they head up
 the river as far as they can get. If it is far enough they spawn and
 head out to sea, and if they can't get far enough then they go back
 out and try something else during the next rainstorm or whatever.

Steelhead spend as little time in the fresh water as possible, because
 once they are acclimated to the sea they don't eat in the rivers. Going
 upstream takes a lot of energy, and spawning really takes a lot of
 energy. They just want to do it and head for the sea. The guy also
 said that unlike salmon, steelhead can spawn every year or two,
 so ones that like the new lower weir could be back again.

Apparently the fish have some choice in the matter of where they
 go to breed. They have a predisposition to go back to where they
 were born, but if that option is not available to them, they will try
 something else. The naturalist was very sure that there would be
 more fish using the creek if we only made it easier.

The project manager explained that there would be some noize
 during the demolition of the current creekbed feature, and the
 crew to build the new weir would be five to ten people. The only
 noticable impact of the construction will be a pen in the cul de sac
 at the end of Central Avenue, which they got a permit from the
 city for. In that pen will be two portapotties along with everything
 else, so the construction workers won't be bothering the rest of us.
 Construction will be finished by about October 15th. (Usually
 the rain doesn't start before the middle of November.)

Money for the project comes from a number of different sources,
 including the fish and game service, the Water Districts habitat
 restoration fund. The project will cost about half a million dollars,
 which somebody said was "dirt cheap for what we get". The current
 low bidder on the project is a Mountain View firm whose name I
 didn't catch with much experience pouring concrete for the
 government. They picked this project to do this year because it
 got them more "bang for the buck" then any of the other habitat
 restoration projects they could have used the money on. If it is
 successfull, then they will do similar projects in other places in
 the county over the following years.

I gave off vibes that I like the idea a lot. I'm hoping it happens.
 Once the thing is built, I will be down there some rainy day or
 night, watching to see those fish getting value out of my tax dollars.

Tian Harter
Posted to on June 12th, 2002