Atascadero Creek Cleanout Causes Concern

Bulldozer Tracks and Dirt Piled from Annual Clearing

Dozer tracks led a reader to question why the county was doing work in Atascadero Creek. | Credit: Peg Quinn

Bulldozer tracks leading to Atascadero Creek and a pile of what looked like dirt in the creek alarmed bicyclists riding along the Patterson bike path on Monday. One of them, Peg Quinn, sent photos to the Independent asking why the county was filling the creek with dirt.

It turns out that the excavating equipment and trucks are part of the annual maintenance for lower Atascadero Creek. From its confluence with Hospital Creek a little upstream of Turnpike to where Atascadero flows out into the Goleta Slough, the approximately two-mile stretch is cleared pursuant to an environmental impact report that dates to 1994, explained Maureen Spencer of County Public Works.

What appeared to be dirt piles were likely piles of vegetation from the creek, which is disked using heavy equipment to break up the root mass of the plants that grow there year-round. The work enables runoff from the winter rains to flow, spread sediment out to the Goleta Slough downstream, and essentially flush the system of the uprooted vegetation.

A small bulldozer moves vegetation from lower Atascadero Creek to provide a clear channel for winter rains. | Credit: Peg Quinn

“If we didn’t do this yearly, the plants would grow bigger and bigger, trap sediment, and slowly fill in the creek,” Spencer said. And the area is downstream of 2019’s Cave Fire, which is still causing some increased flow of runoff from the area around State Route 154, she added. The scale of the work that bike riders will see next year will depend on what the winter brings.

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