A Newsworthy Fish

We are improving conditions for salmonids in our watershed, one step at a time, with the hope that in the future the sighting of steelhead will be less newsworthy. Sandy Guldman photographed this steelhead (in the upper part of the photo) in Natalie Coffin Greene Park in Ross, noting a nearby deep pool, a protective undercut at the footbridge, and a perennial tributary stream, all favorable elements for fish.

A Time to Reflect – A Time to Be Grateful

by Nicholas Salcedo

These are strange times. With hearts filled with sorrow and compassion for those that have fallen gravely ill, or worse, lost their lives, Friends of Corte Madera Creek Watershed board members took some time to stop, reflect and share.

Those of us living in the Corte Madera Creek Watershed are fortunate enough to be able to venture outside our homes, to locations we may only access by foot or bicycle. We found we are truly grateful for the watershed, for it provides us with so many different outdoor locations and activities.

A walk in the hills after confinement at home provides a welcome rest for the eyes and a vision of normalcy in nature. Photo by Charles Kennard

We are lucky to have a variety of spots, from marshes to creeks to mountain tops, many of which are protected open space, in our watershed, that are close enough to hike or bike to. We even have a sandy beach, Point San Quentin Beach.

Taking a walk, and taking in the views, are the two most popular activities we have been relying on to get us through the days. “What would we do without the Creekside walking path?” writes Laura. “I’ve never seen it so busy. At any given time, there are families on bikes, couples holding hands, parents pushing strollers, runners with headphones on, skateboarders, dog walkers.” Many other paths in the watershed also provide a nice, easy stroll, like the Larkspur-Corte Madera Path, or those around Shorebird Marsh.

Birdwatching is a reward for many who use these paths. Ann relishes “the everchanging panorama of bird life,” of Shorebird Marsh. “Flocks of pelicans in late winter, numerous ducks, sandpipers, egrets, an occasional stately great blue heron, and more.” Laura continues, on the Creekside marshes, “black-necked stilts are always there, and often killdeer, mallard pairs, avocets, herons—large and small, white and blue. Gulls and geese, sometimes sanderlings. Even an occasional bufflehead.”

Yet others like to take the steeper path, and get some more strenuous exercise. As Mike says, “Baldy is remarkable, a prominent Marin peak (elev. 1,141’) that sits in the middle of the Corte Madera Creek watershed. It allows views of the headwaters, the slopes of Tamalpais, west to the outer reaches of Fairfax, and of the whole of Ross Valley.” Mike continues, “a steep climb by any route, it gets your heart pumping. And then, at the summit, your spirits are raised with wildflower displays, the sights of the north bay and the City of San Francisco.”

Speaking of adventure, some like to just go outside to be in nature, see the world outside their home. “It is all an adventure to my twin grandsons,” say Charlie. “Buzzing grasshoppers, newts, yellow carpets of tarplant, fragrant sagebrush, rope swings hung from an oak tree, and the scramble up to the water tank on Camino de Herrera, where we cut agave leaves from which to make string. There we look out over the jumble of wooded hills around Fairfax, and up to the skyline of Bolinas Ridge and Mount Tamalpais.”

Charlie’s grandson Rafi shows a good grip on mechanics while pulling broom in Hawthorne Canyon. Photo by Charles Kennard

We are all appreciative of the open space, and diverse habitats—woodlands, chaparral, grasslands—providing for the watershed’s plant and animals. Charlie continues, “We’re often reminded that open space is not far away. Deer trim our roses, browse on maidenhair fern at the open front door, or nibble mock-orange leaves. At night, coyotes’ otherworldly calls and responses tell that the predators have left their dens and are roaming the watershed.” As for the two grandsons, they “didn’t encounter any wolves, fierce or friendly,” on their adventure, but they did get to “watch two coyotes slinking away under some Italian stone pines in Hawthorne Canyon.

Others took to relaxation. Gerhard started playing acoustic music with friends and neighbors under a bridge over San Anselmo Creek. “The acoustics are good, as is the airflow.” Myself, I sometimes just enjoy listening to the sounds of the creek, rippling or roaring, and breathing the cooler, creek air. It is a relaxing respite from the ills plaguing our world today. And I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Sandy and Charlie who still carry on with a mission of ours: providing stewardship of the watershed’s natural resources by tending habitat restoration sites, or pulling invasive weeds in its open spaces. Thank you.

Lastly, a common thread in our reflections was our appreciation of family and friends, and the ability to share the paths and open spaces of the watershed with them. Many noted how nice people were, how they were always happy to share space so everyone had enough. “Many people stop to ask what I’m doing and to thank me,” says Sandy at a heavily traveled area where we steward a habitat restoration site. “It’s encouraging to see how many people care about our marsh.”

As a Friend, I would like to say, “Thank you, too,” for kindness is always appreciated in tough times like these. Take care, share some open space with others, and stay safe.

Improvements to the Concrete Channel

The State Coastal Conservancy has provided funding for two projects related to modifications of the concrete channel: one project will develop 65% designs to remove part of the concrete channel at its downstream end and the second will prepare 35% designs to modify the concrete channel to improve fish passage upstream of the Math-Science-Nursing Bridge on the College of Marin Campus.

The Coastal Conservancy is a California state agency, established in 1976, to protect and improve natural lands and waterways, to help people get to and enjoy the outdoors, and to sustain local economies along California’s coast. It acts with others to protect and restore, and increase public access to, California’s coast, ocean, coastal watersheds, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Its vision is of a beautiful, restored, and accessible coast for current and future generations of Californians. More about the Coastal Conservancy’s program can be found at the Conservancy’s website at scc.ca.gov. Information about the Marin Community Foundation can be found at marincf.org.

Project to Remove Lower Reaches of the Corte Madera Creek Concrete Channel

The project illustrated below would create approximately 0.6 acres of new tidal and wetland habitats and 0.8 acres of new riparian and upland transitional habitats by removing or lowering approximately 625 lineal feet of concrete flood channel wall. Importantly, the new habitats would use appropriate native vegetation and be designed at elevations that would accommodate sea-level rise so they would be resilient to climate change. The 65% designs will be prepared in Fall 2020 and used to seek construction funding.

Other notable project elements include:

  1. Hydraulic analysis to confirm project would not increase flood water surface elevations
  2. Improvements to an existing multi-use pathway and “pocket-park” adjacent to the creek
  3. New vegetated basins and bio-swales for stormwater run-off to replace existing storm drains that feed directly into the creek, and
  4. Re-use or recycling of all materials removed for the creation of the new habitats.

Improvements to Fish Passage in the Corte Madera Creek Concrete Channel

Michael Love & Associates (MLA) evaluated the use of new, larger resting pools to improve passage success within the concrete channel in 2007. The analysis identified two configurations of pools that would provide low velocity zones suitable for steelhead to rest at all fish passage flows and that would minimize sedimentation. One was better for straight reaches of the channel and the second better in curved reaches. Current efforts are responding to an additional complication: more water needs to be accommodated in the concrete channel to reduce flooding. MLA and engineers from GHD, consultants working with the Flood Control District on the project, are designing measures to meet all three objectives. The 35% designs are expected in mid-2021.

They Must be Bats!

In mid-April, just after noon, two bat rays (Mylobatis californica) were spotted in the McAllister Avenue slough, a remnant of Corte Madera Creek’s original alignment, just downstream of the concrete channel in Kentfield. Every spring these rays gather in the shallow warm waters of coastal California’s bays and sloughs to feed, mate, and give birth. The creature’s wingspan can exceed five feet. Photo by Nick Salcedo

So Much Pickleweed, So Little Time

In late March, students from Professor David Larsen’s class pursuing Environmental Studies at CSU East Bay helped plant pickleweed at Creekside Marsh, one of Friends’ habitat enhancement projects. Earlier in the day, the class was given a tour of Corte Madera Creek and a sewer pump station by the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District and the Ross Valley Sanitary District, a funder of the planting project. Photo courtesy of Ross Valley Sanitary District.

Snakes in Love

These two rattlesnakes were photographed in September near Phoenix Lake by Gary Leo

Otter on the Lookout

This lone river otter explored the deep pools at a bend in San Anselmo Creek in Fairfax for about half-an-hour before deciding to go and see what lies beyond the watercress upstream. Photo by Gary Leo. Local otter sightings can being recorded at riverotterecology.org. To view a video by Gary, download: River Otter 6 1.4M

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