The long-awaited restoration project to reduce flooding and improve water quality at Pescadero’s historic Butano Creek is set to begin next month.
California State Parks and the San Mateo Resource Conservation District will kick off their work on Sept. 6. The first phase of the project — which will clear trees and brush along the creek downstream of Pescadero Creek Road Bridge — will enable workers to remove sediment next summer without disturbing local wildlife.
“The flooding has been a major concern for the community, from a health and safety perspective, because it floods so regularly,” said Jim Robbins, a project manager for the RCD. “There have also been tremendous concerns, ecologically, because that marsh is just incredibly important.”
Seasonal flooding has plagued Pescadero Creek Road for decades. But in recent years, the RCD and California State Parks have been working to identify causes and solutions to the chronic problem. Their findings all pointed to deposits that have piled up along the creek over time.
“Butano Creek, which used to have a defined channel that went under the bridge and made its way into the marsh, no longer has one,” said Robbins.
Robbins said that not only is the sediment pile creating a flood problem, it’s also contributing to poor water quality and low oxygen levels that have led to significant fish deaths in the area. Beyond that, the sediment creates a barrier for fish fleeing upstream in pursuit of clearer waters.
The project has been divided into three phases. The first, beginning next week, was scheduled to start after nesting season so trees can be removed without disturbing any avian inhabitants. The work is expected to take three to six weeks.
The other two phases of the project, which include removing tall grasses like cattails that can also harbor birds and removal of the sediment itself, are slated to be finished by October 2019.
But will the first phase provide any flooding relief for Pescadero residents this winter?
“Not directly,” said Robbins. “That’s not really the intent of this; if it does, that would be a great benefit. But this is really to reduce the number of things that would cause us to stop and make things difficult next summer.”