Elk Creek Fish & Restoration

There are approximately fifteen miles of anadromous streams in the Elk Creek basin, eleven of which have potential habitat for threatened Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast (SONCC) coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and 88% of which has high potential for use (NMFS 2014). In addition to coho salmon, coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki), steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) have all been observed in the Elk Creek basin (Chesney 1987, Burgess 1999 & 2005, Garwood 2012, Garwood 2018). CDFW has recently documented seven consecutive years (Garwood 2018) and five historical years (Garwood 2012) of juvenile coho salmon presence in Elk Creek. Garwood (2018) also documented recent juvenile Chinook salmon and resident coastal cutthroat trout.

Development activities around timber harvest and Crescent City expansion has caused simplification of streams, disconnection from the floodplain, and degraded the quality of riparian vegetation (NMFS 2014). Coastal wetlands and estuarine habitats that may have existed in the lower basin have been dredged, channelized, and/or filled (NMFS 2014). These altered channel and hydrologic conditions have reduced: 1) water storage capacity; 2) aquatic and riparian habitats; and 3) the natural water cleansing capabilities of the basin. Long (>500 ft) undersized culverts further reduce hydrologic function while also limiting habitat availability and creating fish barriers for coho salmon. Lastly, historical channel modifications create ideal habitat for invasive reed canary grass, which leads to impaired water and habitat quality.

The Elk Creek Restoration Feasibility Study, completed in 2021, identifies 30 potential restoration projects that could provide significant improvements for Elk Creek’s fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and coastal resilience.