Volunteers led by environmental analyst Brian Trautwein set out to clean Mission Creek at Oak Park on Saturday, September 18. The group’s efforts are part of the Environmental Defense Center’s Mission Creek Outreach Program.
“This is the cleanest the creek has ever been since we started going out and cleaning it,” said Trautwein. “That means people are starting to be more aware. They’re not throwing trash in the creek anymore. I hope the community will continue to take ownership of it,” he said.
The volunteers cleaned up creek areas through De la Vina and Castillo streets and dropped off the collected litter at trash pick-up sites.
“Right now most people have no reason to care about it,” said Trautwein. “But if people become more aware, they might help clean the creek or be more likely to speak out at hearings, voice opinions to council members, and promote it as a natural resource worth preserving,” he said.
The Mission Outreach Program conducts nature walks and creek tours and presents to organizations like the Wilderness Youth Project on Mission Creek’s history and restoration efforts.
Cleaning efforts at Mission Creek go hand-in-hand with the Mission Creek Steelhead Restoration Project, also led by Trautwein. Southern California steelheads are the most endangered fish in Santa Barbara. There is roughly one percent of the steelhead population remaining with only approximately 500 living adults, he said.
Urban development, pollution, and the introduction of non-native fish to their habitat block 99 percent of steelhead from reaching spawning grounds.
The Restoration Project proposes to modify the Caltrans channels by adding concrete flood-control structures that will help steelhead reach spawning grounds at Mission and Rattlesnake canyons. The concrete floor of the current channel is flat, leaving shallow water levels that do not allow steelhead to complete their trip.
Engineers and planners conducted tests to ensure the fish passageway would not increase flooding or change water levels. Trautwein says the plan features never-been-done six-foot-wide side pockets that will let water spin and create pools to serve as rest stops for the steelhead as they head to spawning grounds.
The project is currently under review, but Trautwein said many of the agencies and organizations needed to approve the project are partners and supporters of the EDC and its causes. Pending approval and funding, renovations are projected to begin in 2011.
Some partners and supporters of EDC and its projects include the City of Santa Barbara Public Works Department, the City of Santa Barbara Creeks Division, Santa Barbara County Flood Control District, California Department of Fish and Game, and the NOAA Fisheries Service.
According to Trautwein, at least $1 million was spent on the design and modeling of the proposed two-segment fish passageway. It is projected to cost $5 million ($1.5 million for the first segment, $3.5 million for the second) to construct. Funding for this project is aided by federal and state grants that are specifically sanctioned for steelhead and salmon restoration.
Trautwein also mentioned that the project will not only benefit the environment, but also the community, as construction efforts will brings more jobs to local residents.