Work Begins to Save Lagunitas Creek’s Coho Salmon


OLEMA — The Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN), a program of the national environmental organization Turtle Island Restoration Network, started work this week to improve habitat for endangered salmon on Golden Gate National Recreation Area lands along Lagunitas Creek.

The restoration will reconstruct destroyed floodplain wetlands in the ghost town of Jewell, located just downstream of Samuel P. Taylor State Park between Lagunitas Creek and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The project builds off the successful first phase of the project, which occurred a mile downstream in 2018 and saw the removal of more than 13,000 cubic yards of dumped fill and abandoned structures from the ghost town of Tocaloma.

“There is no doubt that the first part of the project is working. We’re seeing many positive results, with wildlife including juvenile Coho recognizing it as new habitat, utilizing the new off-channel areas to survive heavy storms and find insect prey,” said Director of Watershed Conservation Preston Brown. “We’re excited to work with Point Reyes National Seashore, California Fish & Wildlife, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Coastal Conservancy, and hundreds of our local supporters to improve critical habitat for endangered Coho salmon.”

The project aims to recover a lost floodplain that has been buried under dirt that was dumped in the creek corridor decades ago to build the village of Jewell. The project will remove 6,000 cubic yards of fill, concrete, and construction rubble, add several pieces of large woody debris, and create critical side-channel habitats for Coho salmon and other endangered species. The derelict buildings were removed by the National Park Service in 2016.

Several thousand native plants SPAWN has been growing in their native plant nursery will also be added to the area, from around 100 species selected specifically for this spot on Lagunitas Creek.

“Our plants are healthy and ready to go thanks to the volunteer power of thousands of community members that have nurtured the plants over the past few years,” said Audrey Fusco, plant ecologist and native plant nursery manager. “Many students and volunteers will help with planting on the site this upcoming winter, helping to improve habitat for many species of wildlife in addition to Coho, protect biological diversity, and fight climate change.”

In addition to ensuring Coho return to the landscape for generations to come, the project will provide benefits to several endangered species and improve water quality.

“Restoring the floodplain along the creek will re-create the large, dynamic wetland with off-channels, alcoves, and numerous large woody debris structures—all elements that Coho salmon critically need for recovery,” said Executive Director Todd Steiner. “These habitats will create slow off-channel areas that are commonly seen in undeveloped pristine waterways that provide spawning, feeding, and rearing habitat for fish and other threatened wildlife including California freshwater shrimp and California red-legged frog. Future generations of fish, frogs and people will benefit from this work.”

Turtle Island Restoration Network is a leading ocean and marine wildlife conservation non-profit. Its program, the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN), protects endangered, wild Coho salmon and the forests and watersheds they need to survive in West Marin County, California. Learn more at www.seaturtles.org/salmon.

Todd and Preston Survey for Red Legged Frogs

SPAWN Restoration Project Site 2

Jewell Debris

Preston Preps Jewell for Eight-Week Restoration

A version of this post was previously published on seaturtles.org and is republished here with permission from the author.

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