By Femke Oldham
The Watershed Project has been working overtime, recently. That’s because we have increased the geographic scope of our on-the-ground watershed protection efforts from two major creek systems to four. Thanks to continued funding from the California Department of Conservation’s Watershed Coordinator Grant Program, we are undertaking a three-year (minimum) project to organize community stewardship activities in the Wildcat, San Pablo, Rheem, and Garrity Creek watersheds.
These sub-watersheds comprise the majority of the larger San Pablo Bay watershed–a rich ecosystem with a toxic past. Decades of housing massive chemical and oil companies, including the Chevron world headquarters, have taken a heavy toll on the water quality and habitat conditions of this watershed. The only things swimming in many parts of the creeks are bits of trash. Yet, the death of this watershed is not imminent.
Past success in Wildcat and San Pablo watersheds has demonstrated of the power of community stewardship. For example, over the past two years we recruited and trained 375 volunteers to carry out Urban Rapid Trash Assessments at selected trash hotspots in the San Pablo and Wildcat Watersheds and removed over 5,440 lbs of trash. Additionally, through three years of volunteerism at monthly stewardship work days, we were able to restore six sites in the Wildcat and San Pablo watersheds, enhancing the biodiversity along 950 linear feet of creek and installing over 2,220 plants.
With renewed funding from the Department of Conservation and other supporters, our work over the coming years will focus on achieving four main objectives: building riparian restoration, protection and enhancement projects; reducing pollution and trash impairment; initiating the development of multiple, strategically-located stormwater management projects using Low Impact Development (LID); and strengthening stakeholder relationships, community awareness and involvement to increase program sustainability.
The last objective will be critical to our success. In order to meet our lofty goals for the San Pablo Bay watershed, we’ll rely on the help of many partners, including SPAWNERS, the Contra Costa County Clean Water Program, Making Waves Academy, and East Bay Regional Parks District.
We will also rely on you, the watershed community, to aid us in our mission to protect our local creeks, streams, marshes, and Bay. Consider joining us for a creek restoration workday or a planting project at the Richmond bioswale. We promise that when you’re working for local watersheds, double shifts aren’t all that bad.