image - dredging
Experts say a new dredging project planned in Pescadero should help alleviate the persistent winter flooding on area roads. Review File Photo

The long-awaited restoration project to revitalize threatened and endangered wildlife and reduce flooding in Pescadero took a major step forward earlier this month. 

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution on March 12 allocating $1 million toward a dredging effort at Butano Creek. Spearheaded by the San Mateo Resource Conservation District, with additional support from California State Parks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the project aims to re-establish more than a mile of the historic creek channel, remove 45,000 cubic yards of sediment and restore more than 10 miles of habitat for threatened steelhead trout and endangered coho salmon. 

Tackling Pescadero’s chronic flooding has been a priority for the conservation district, government agencies, landowners and community organizers for years. In the wake of centuries of land use and development, the lower portion of the creek has filled with sediment, resulting in consistent flooding that severs the main artery connecting Pescadero with Highway 1. 

“When I first got elected in 2011, I was showing pictures of the flooding in Pescadero,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley at the March 12 board meeting. “I remember we were all kind of appalled. This has been going on for somewhere in the neighborhood of, at least, 25 years. 

“I made it a really big priority to do something about the flooding,” he continued. 

The sediment blockage also prevents the passage of native trout and salmon to the watershed, rendering them unable to spawn, rear their young and find refuge during storms and droughts. 

Kellyx Nelson, executive director of the San Mateo Resource Conservation District, said that the Butano Channel Restoration and Resilience Project will help reduce the flooding along Pescadero Creek Road, restore passage for migrating fish and improve the marsh’s water circulation and quality. The poor water quality in the marsh has led to annual mass deaths of steelhead trout over the years. 

“In addition to the dredge itself, which will remove the sediment that has come down from the watershed, it’s also going to beneficially reuse the sediment onsite to fill some of the old pits in the marsh that exacerbate the water quality problem,” she added.

Last fall, the banks of Butano Creek were cleared to mitigate impacts to the region’s nesting birds in preparation for this summer’s dredging. 

Nelson said that the dredging will begin in June.  

“We’re ready to pull the trigger,” she said. “We’ve selected a contractor and have done a lot of site prep, including some more vegetation management that happened a few weeks ago. It’s happening. 

“This project is one of many efforts, moving forward, for a full watershed-scale restoration,” added Nelson. “I’m ecstatic about this.”

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