North Richmond Urban Nature Loop Point of Interest #19
We have arrived at the final stop of our route, the fish passage on Wildcat Creek. This is a very important part of the ecosystem, as it is supposed to allow fish to migrate from this creek to the ocean safely. Here, we will learn about the importance of fish migration from the creek to the ocean and the reasons this fish passage has failed the aquatic creatures of Wildcat Creek.
Before people started to manipulate water in California, these creeks and rivers had many fish in them. Historically, anadromous species (fish that migrate from freshwater rivers to the ocean and then migrate back to spawn in the stream where they were born), such as the now-endangered California Steelhead Trout and Chinook Salmon, used these waterways. These fish species were an important food source for the indigenous Lisjan people. Steelhead and Salmon lay eggs upstream, and after the eggs hatch, the fish swim to the ocean where they live most of their lives. Once the fish are mature enough to lay eggs, they swim upstream to return to their hatching location, to lay new eggs, and the cycle starts over.
Today, many barriers exist in creeks, creating a situation in which fish cannot swim upstream. For example, the fish cannot swim up concrete-paved creek beds, when there isn’t a well-defined channel, or when the flows are too low. As nearly all creeks and rivers in California have dams, fish have no chance of returning to their original hatching locations.
To build the railway track above this part of the creek, a bridge was built that included paving the creek bed in concrete, which is unpassable for fish. In the 1980s, an effort was made to build a ‘fish passage’ in this location – a series of baffles that imitate the natural conditions in which fish swim upstream. The design was unsuccessful as it was quickly filled with sediments and trash. The photos above show what the original fish passage really looks like, after cleaning it in 2007.
The Watershed Project is now working with other organizations: hydrologists from FlowWest engineers, designers from Mithun, advocates from Trout Unlimited, and the Contra Costa County Flood Control District to create a new design for the fish passage.
The Watershed Project is working with community members to identify community needs and wants to improve community amenities and access to the creek and nature around it. Some design ideas for what this area can look like, with trails, parks, and areas for gathering and seating are presented in the photos above.