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August 12, 2022

Uvas Creek work aims to help fish

Logs, gravel being placed along creek

Crews have been stationed inside the currently dry Uvas Creek alongside Christmas Hill Park for the past few weeks, adding redwood logs and gravel along three sites, with the hope that when the water flows again, fish will have a safer habitat.

Valley Water’s Uvas Creek Fish Habitat Improvement Project aims to increase the creek’s complexity and provide shelter for steelhead trout and other fish.

The “engineered log jams,” as they are called, are designed to create shallower water throughout the creek, while also splitting it in areas and speeding up the flow of the water.

Project Manager Judy Nam said that over the years, the slow-flowing creek has lost its complexity, leaving very few areas for fish to rest or hide from predators.

In addition to placing logs, the work includes installing gravel along areas of the creek, giving fish places to spawn.

“It really builds complexity in the channel,” Nam said. “Instead of the same velocity, we are adding complexity to it, which is what fish really need.”

uvas creek christmas hill park valley water fish habitat
Redwood logs are placed at various areas in Uvas Creek to give fish a place to shelter. Contributed photo

Funding for the project comes from Valley Water’s Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, which is helping fund projects countywide.

In South County, the Upper Llagas Creek Flood Protection Project is well on its way to completion, Valley Water District 1 Director John Varela said.

Valley Water’s project created a new wetland habitat at Lake Silveira, located in unincorporated Morgan Hill near San Martin, with the goal to restore steelhead habitat in Llagas Creek.

Crews planted thousands of native trees, shrubs and other wetland vegetation to support the natural environment and wildlife of Lake Silveira and the restored section of Llagas Creek.

The new wetland habitat also helps support the Western Pond Turtle by including large wooden structures within the lake for the turtles to perch on. 

“This is just one of many projects we are currently involved with in South County,” Varela said.

Herman Garcia, the founder of Gilroy-based Coastal Habitat Education and Environmental Restoration (CHEER) and staunch advocate for local fish, said he has been monitoring the Uvas Creek work.

Garcia and his crew of volunteers are constantly working to reclaim the creek, saying that over the past few months, they have removed about 75,000 pounds of garbage out of the Uvas Creek subbasin. That also included three vehicles in the past six weeks near where crews are currently working on the habitat project.

“There’s blockages all up and down the Uvas subbasin,” he said. “We’re dealing with so much stuff right now.”

The Uvas Creek project has been about a two-year process, according to Nam, as, among other things, Valley Water had to gain approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Crews were expected to begin work on the third and final site of the project this week, and wrap up by the end of August, Nam said.

For information, visit bit.ly/3PRNosF.

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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