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Thursday, 22 May 2014

Dam Removed on Branciforte Creek

Our featured project from the 2013 construction season is a dam removal on Branicforte Creek, check out the time lapse video below. Originally constructed in 1931, the initial purpose of the dam appears to have been water supply, recreation and fire protection, though it was no longer being used for these purposes. Local, State, and Federal resource agencies have been working for more than a decade to address and eliminate instream barriers to salmonid migration, such as this type of dam.

The RCD played a pivotal role in collaborating with the resource agencies and landowners through the RCD’s Integrated Watershed Restoration Program (IWRP) to develop and implement a project that alleviated regulatory and economic pressure for the landowners, while benefiting natural resources. IWRP is a collaborative program that brings together federal, state and local resource and funding agencies to select and oversee the design and implementation of high priority projects to restore watersheds and improve water quality. With funding from the State Coastal Conservancy, California Fish Passage Forum (a National Fish Habitat Partnership), American Rivers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA), and the County of Santa Cruz, the RCD was able to work with several partners including the funding agencies, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop project designs, permit the project through the RCD and NRCS’ streamlined Santa Cruz Countywide Partners in Restoration Permit Coordination Program, construct the project and complete ongoing monitoring.

The project disassembled the dam using a combination of heavy equipment and hand crews. Once the dam was removed, measures were put in place for long term protection of the stream banks by installing rock and a large stream wood structure, planting vegetation, and installing erosion control measures. The completed project opens nearly three miles of upstream spawning and rearing habitat for salmonids, enhances instream habitat conditions and improves natural sediment transport processes. While this project removed one of the larger fish passage barriers on Branciforte Creek, there are several other known fish passage barriers on the creek. Many of the remaining dams will be the focus of future voluntary conservation efforts to remove additional impediments and enhance habitat. It is our hope that this project serves as a demonstration project for other landowners with an interest in removing dams and other fish passage barriers on their own properties. If you are a landowner interested in fish passage barrier on your property, please contact the RCD.

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