Stories from the Smith River Alliance Newsletter

Elk Creek Watershed – A Coastal Gem

Smith River Alliance is pleased to share the Elk Creek Restoration Feasibility Study Final Report with you!

The Elk Creek watershed is a small (4,735 acres) coastal watershed that includes the Elk Creek Wetland Wildlife Area, parts of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and the town of Crescent City, and a variety of private lands.

The report identified and prioritized restoration projects in the Elk Creek watershed that improve coastal resilience, water quality, hydrology, and fish and wildlife habitat. Thanks to the contributions of over thirty-five stakeholders and advisors we have identified over thirty important projects. Several of the projects identified in the plan are already underway and SRA is working with community partners to advance other high priority projects.

The report is intended as a resource for restoration practitioners, community groups, and agencies interested in restoring, enhancing, and conserving Elk Creek and contains a wealth of information about Elk Creek and its tributaries. The report describes the baseline conditions of hydrogeomorphology, water quality, fisheries, vegetation, and water and soil contamination in the watershed.

Elk Creek is a unique and valuable watershed with large intact coastal wetlands. This habitat is rare in California, and it is estimated that California has lost approximately 91% of its coastal wetlands since the 1950s. Elk Creek’s wetlands and streams provide ideal rearing habitat for salmonids (particularly SONCC Coho Salmon), as well as other wildlife and plant communities.

Restoration is needed in Elk Creek due to the large urban interface and a history of alterations from timber harvest, lumber milling, urban development, and livestock grazing, which have reduced the quantity and quality of habitat for fish and wildlife.

Restoring Elk Creek provides significant benefits for the local community. The wetlands found in Elk Creek provide many ecosystem services. They clean water, protect the city from storm surges and natural disasters, provide habitat for fish and wildlife and are beautiful places to visit. Wetland protection and enhancement can make Crescent City more resilient to flooding and other natural disasters that could become more frequent with climate change and may disproportionately impact already vulnerable populations in the community. Culvert replacements can improve the safety and resiliency of our roads. Projects that improve water quality and enhance fish and wildlife habitat can also build a more climate-resilient community by increasing stormwater infiltration, minimizing impacts from natural disasters, increasing water filtration, and remediating environmental contamination.

The report and appendices can be downloaded from the document library on the SRA website here.

Visit our Elk Creek page to learn more about Crescent City’s urban watershed here.

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