Steelhead Trout Restoration
Since 1997, the Alameda Creek Alliance has spurred major progress toward restoring a self-sustaining population of steelhead trout in the Alameda Creek watershed. Numerous agencies are pursuing projects to allow migratory fish from the Bay to reach spawning habitat in the upper creek. Eleven fish passage projects have been completed since 2001; five dams and four instream barriers have been completely removed, five fish screens have been installed and three fish ladders constructed. Several more projects are scheduled for completion by 2015, including two major fish ladders in the lower creek. These projects will allow steelhead to return to about 20 miles of spawning and rearing habitat in the upper watershed for the first time in nearly half a century.
Stream Flows for Native Fish
The Alameda Creek Alliance secured improved stream flows in Alameda Creek below two major dams that will benefit steelhead trout, chinook salmon and Pacific lamprey, as well as stream and riparian habitat for foothill yellow-legged frogs, western pond turtles and songbirds. As a result of our public pressure and influence from permitting agencies, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission revised the Calaveras Dam rebuild project and agreed to flow releases and changes in dam operations that will dramatically improve stream conditions when the dam is rebuilt in 2015. Cold water flow releases from Calaveras Reservoir into Alameda Creek will improve summer water quality and rearing conditions for trout and changed operations of the 32-foot diversion dam in upper Alameda Creek will allow more unimpaired natural flow to continue downstream in winter and spring.
The Alameda Creek Alliance is working with 16 agencies conducting studies and modeling to determine the range, timing, duration, frequency, and location of the water flows needed to restore the steelhead fishery in Alameda Creek. The Alameda County Water District is negotiating with regulatory agencies to determine appropriate bypass flows for future fish ladders in the lower watershed. In the northern watershed, the Alameda Creek Alliance has prompted Zone 7 Water Agency to begin assessing instream flows for migratory fish in Arroyo Mocho, Arroyo del Valle and Arroyo de la Laguna through Livermore and Pleasanton.
Public and Agency Support
The Alameda Creek Alliance has organized over 70 local conservation and fishing groups and thousands of watershed residents in support of our restoration goals for Alameda Creek. Largely as a result of our community organizing and political pressure there are now 15 local, state, and federal agencies cooperatively working on steelhead restoration projects in the watershed. Our advocacy resulted in formation of the Alameda Creek Fisheries Restoration Workgroup in 1999, a stakeholder group that coordinates fisheries restoration.
Sunol Valley Restoration Plan
Responding to our requests to restore Alameda Creek near the Sunol gravel quarries, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has initiated a Sunol Valley Restoration Plan to determine what restoration of creek and riparian habitat for steelhead trout is physically and biologically feasible in the Sunol Valley reach. The plan will guide future restoration, conservation and monitoring efforts throughout the Sunol Valley.
Stonybrook Creek Fish Passage Strategy
After our documentation of its habitat value for steelhead and rainbow trout, the Alameda County Department of Public Works prepared a draft strategic plan for eliminating barriers to steelhead migration in Stonybrook Creek, an important tributary of Alameda Creek in Niles Canyon. Numerous road crossings and culverts in Stonybrook Creek have been identified as either complete or partial barriers to upstream migrating steelhead. Alameda County is identifying priority crossings for fish passage improvement and estimating potential costs for implementation.
SFPUC Stewardship Policy
Responding to Alameda Creek Alliance concerns about creek and land management, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in 2006 adopted a stewardship policy for management of all SFPUC-owned lands and natural resources affected by operation of their water system. This policy influenced the mitigations and improved operations proposed for Calaveras Reservoir and will provide guidance for protecting and restoring native fish in reaches of Alameda Creek managed by the SFPUC.
Arroyos Stream Management Plan
Alameda Creek Alliance advocacy for a return of steelhead to the arroyos in the northern watershed led Zone 7 Water Agency to propose restoration projects which will remove or modify a dozen small fish passage barriers and restore more natural stream habitat along sections of Arroyo de la Laguna, Arroyo Mocho and Arroyo del Valle. The restoration projects are part of the agencys stream management plan for the creeks, arroyos and flood control channels of the Livermore-Amador Valley.
Saving Niles Canyon
The Alameda Creek Alliance is helping to protect the scenic beauty and habitat value of Niles Canyon, spearheading opposition to a destructive and unnecessary road widening project proposed by CalTrans in the canyon that would damage Alameda Creek. We helped organize massive opposition to the project, protests over tree-cutting, intense media scrutiny and filed a lawsuit challenging the inadequate environmental review. We have forced Caltrans to rescind the approval and abandon permits for phase one of the project, and start over on environmental review.
Caltrans is now promising a new approach to road safety projects in the canyon, based on the Federal Highway Administration conclusion that uniform highway widening is not warranted by the states safety data. Caltrans is now looking at several dozen immediate measures within the existing roadway that can be quickly and inexpensively implemented to reduce vehicle collisions and site-specific projects for five priority safety areas in the canyon to reduce accidents at those locations to levels below state averages.
Quarry Conservation Plans
In 2008 the Alameda Creek Alliance and Center for Biological Diversity signed a historic conservation agreement with mining company Oliver de Silva, Inc., regarding two already-approved quarry projects in the Sunol area - the proposed Apperson Ridge Quarry and the existing Sunol Valley Quarry. Long-term conservation plans will significantly reduce the quarries' biological impacts, improve measures to ease those impacts and add restoration elements for both quarries. The agreement will reduce the grading footprint on Apperson Ridge and delay Apperson Quarry operations until 2030, replace lost habitat at a high ratio, protect and enhance endangered species habitat, provide mitigation for any impacts to the Sunol tule elk herd, and provide significant funding for several major fish-passage projects to help restore steelhead trout in the watershed.
Staples Ranch Conservation Deal
The Alameda Creek Alliance and Center for Biological Diversity negotiated a conservation agreement with Alameda County in 2010 that provides nearly $1 million for habitat preservation as mitigation for grading impacts at the Staples Ranch development in Pleasanton. The agreement will fund protection of rare alkaline soil habitat and restore 85,000 square feet of riparian habitat along the Arroyos.
Kottinger Creek Restoration
The Alameda Creek Alliance helped the Friends of Kottinger Creek in Pleasanton to promote restoration of this tributary to Arroyo Valle. In 2006 the Pleasanton City Council unanimously approved the $1 million Kottinger Creek Restoration Project, completed in 2007.
Eastern Alameda County Bird Count
The Alameda Creek Alliance and Ohlone Audubon Society initiated an annual Eastern Alameda County Christmas Bird Count in 2009, a volunteer-based bird survey effort to assess long-term trends in winter bird populations and promote bird conservation in the Alameda Creek watershed. The annual count attracts 90 volunteers; the average count finds 150 bird species in a 15-mile radius circle in Pleasanton, Sunol and Livermore.
The Alameda Creek Alliance documented wild, adult steelhead attempting to migrate upstream in lower Alameda Creek most winters from 1997-2012. Questions about the origins of these fish led to studies showing that most trout in the watershed, including adult fish at the BART weir, resident rainbow trout and landlocked steelhead above reservoirs, are genetically related to the federally protected Central California Coast wild steelhead trout population. The Alameda Creek Alliance began a fish rescue program for steelhead stranded below dams and barriers in the lower creek; after plans were initiated to make all fish barriers passable to steelhead, this evolved into a program to radio-tag and monitor adult steelhead to learn about fish migration.
The Alameda Creek Alliance has involved hundreds of volunteers in fish rescues, creek cleanups, creek monitoring, and in assisting biologists in gathering scientific data essential to steelhead restoration.