Up a Creek With NOAA Fisheries
A suitable habitat for several native fish species was found
Kit Gordon, GreenTown Los Altos team member, took a trip to look at Permanente Creek’s health and filed this story.
On a cool crisp morning, Mondy Lariz and I waited in the parking lot with Alice Rich, Fisheries and Ecological Consultant. A white van drove up with government license plates carrying Gary Stern and Darren Howe from NOAA Fisheries. The two introduced themselves and we headed up to survey Permanente Creek starting at Heritage Oaks Park.
A month ago, I called Gary with a proposal to remove a massive fish barrier, the 1.3 mile long, concrete Permanente Diversion Channel. Currently, steelhead trout swim past this barrier and up Stevens Creek. They can’t get far on Stevens Creek as there is a dam and its flow is controlled by the Water District for flood mitigation and water supply purposes, but not to sustain fish habitat.
“I don’t want to send fish to their deaths,” Gary feared. He however decided to take a closer look at Permanente Creek to assess its habitat potential.
By the 10th time my boots submerged, I stopped taking them off to empty. I copied Darren’s technique and just swung my heavy water filled boot up the creek bank and bent slightly to empty.
Around 9:15AM we started walking up the creek. Gary and Alice were the most experienced but, dressed as near opposites.
“There won’t be any deep pools,” I mistakenly proclaimed.
Gary had full waders, up to his hip. Alice had shorts and hiking shoes. I soon realized either of these two footwear choices were better alternatives to my knee high boots. By the 10th time my boots submerged, I stopped taking them off to empty. I copied Darren’s technique and just swung my heavy water filled boot up the creek bank and bent slightly to empty.
We found FISH, most likely resident trout along with roach and suckers. Yes, this creek can sustain fish, as least in the late spring.
Happy to see steelhead trout swimming freely in the creek.
“You have a nice little creek here,” Gary said several times.
Mondy, with his depth of knowledge and contacts, answered Gary and Darren’s stream of questions.
We found great habitat for steelhead: refugia, deep pools, cool water, and only a few minor fish barriers. But several more questions needed to be answered. What are the flows in the fall? When should we schedule a date for electrofishing to identify the species? What’s the plan for the minor fish barriers? What about Lehigh’s impact? The sediment increased and the variety of fish decreased as we approached Rancho San Antonio – evidence of Lehigh’s discharges into the creek.
“It may take years for this sediment to clear up, but the potential here is quite good,” Gary concluded.
“What are you doing?” asked Mike, the ranger at Rancho San Antonio as we emerged from 3.5 hours tangled in blackberries, nettles, poison oak, and brush. We didn’t look like the usual RSA guest with twigs sticking out from our hats, soaked pants, waders, and note pads.
“Matt knows we’re here,” I said apologetically. Mike was very excited after hearing our findings and offered to check flows on the upper west branch for us.
“You’ve got a great job,” I said to Darren.
“Not all days are this much fun,” he replied.
Kit Gorden, Green Town Volunteer