2 of 4: Why Restoration at Winters Putah Creek Park is a Priority
A large-scale restoration project in Putah Creek is scheduled to begin in August 2011. Theproject will narrow the channel, and create floodplains and walking paths. This is the second in a four-part series intended to educate those interested in the project.
In 2004 the Winters community began a series of meetings to identify priority projects for the lower 30 miles of Putah Creek. The community identified the Putah Creek Nature Park restoration project as the highest priority.
Winters residents want to see fewer weeds, better access to the creek, less trash, and greater access to public lands.
If wildlife could vote, they would have voiced a preference for more habitat, fewer invasive plant and animal species, lower water temperature, and more gravel in the creek. See photo above of the gravel along Putah Creek, now trapped behind two dams.
The restoration project is designed to address the needs of both humans and wildlife.
Winters Putah Creek Nature Park has fewer bird species than other nearby areas, especially birds which depend on the streamside area for nesting. The Park has the fewest species of streamside-nesting birds of all sites studied on the creek—from Monticello Dam to Yolo Bypass.
According to UC Davis’ Dr. Andy Engilis, curator of the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, just upstream of Winters Putah Creek Nature Park at Dry Creek, the diversity of bird species is the highest of anywhere on the lower 30 miles of creek.
In other words, Putah Creek can support an immense variety of species; but they are unable to use the habitat in the Winters Putah Creek Nature Park.
The excess of stagnant water, lack of shade, lack of continuous floodplains, and prevalence of foreign vegetation has created a place with diminished abundance of wildlife.
Native animals that disperse into Winters Putah Creek Park find less food and shelter due to the poor quality of habitat.
Humans also have little access to the creek near Winters. The banks are so steep they prevent all but the most agile people from accessing the water. Weeds like Himalayan blackberry are thick and limit one’s ability to walk along the creek to the old percolation pond area on the south bank.
On the north side, the floodplain vanishes into a steep bank about 800 feet downstream of the Car Bridge. On the south side, the floodplain ends where the percolation dam was, and there are no floodplains for more than a thousand feet downstream of the percolation pond area.
Steep banks along Putah Creek Road prevent access to the water in this stretch.
By narrowing the channel the project will create more floodplain—a floodplain that will be planted with native trees and plants, have meandering foot trails, and will create an area that is more accessible to a greater range of humans and wildlife.