Alameda Creek Alliance


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Legal Protection for Alameda Creek Trout

Petitioning for full Endangered Species Act protections for Alameda Creek steelhead trout, including resident rainbow trout and landlocked steelhead above dams

In 1997 steelhead trout in the Central California Coast were listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. The protected population includes anadromous steelhead in all Bay Area streams below major dams and fish passage barriers; resident rainbow trout and juvenile trout are also protected in occupied steelhead streams.

In 2004 the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed to include resident rainbow trout in Alameda Creek and landlocked steelhead trout in Calaveras and San Antonio Reservoirs as part of the steelhead population protected under the Endangered Species Act, based on genetic evidence that Alameda Creek’s resident fish are similar to adult ocean-run steelhead. Studies show adult steelhead attempting to migrate upstream collected in lower Alameda Creek below the BART weir, resident rainbow trout in upper Alameda Creek below major dams and landlocked trout in SFPUC reservoirs are genetically related to Central California Coast wild steelhead. San Francisco opposed the trout listing, relying on an "anonymous" critique of the genetic evidence, influencing NMFS to abandon the Alameda Creek listing proposal.

An unfortunate byproduct of the improper removal of these proposed protections is that Alameda Creek was excluded from the 2005 critical habitat designation for Central California Coast steelhead. The intent of critical habitat is to define and protect the habitat essential to conserve and recover species, by ensuring that no federal agency is impeding recovery of a listed species. Critical habitat applies to federal lands, federal agency actions or private lands where a federal permit is sought (such as major developments), and is key to bringing imperiled wildlife populations back from the brink of extinction. Critical habitat can safeguard essential stream reaches not currently occupied by steelhead, but where reintroduction could occur. Species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as those without such protection.

Once fish passage projects are completed in lower Alameda Creek, the Alameda Creek Alliance can petition for Endangered Species Act protection for all steelhead and rainbow trout populations in the Alameda Creek watershed, as well as expansion of designated critical habitat to include all of Alameda Creek and its tributaries that support rainbow trout or could support steelhead.