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Winters Putah Creek Nature Park and Putah Creek Council

Dear Putah Creek Council Supporters,

Some citizens in Winters have recently expressed their concerns about the upcoming final phase of the Winters Putah Creek Park Channel Realignment Project because it will disturb an existing beaver colony.  Putah Creek Council is taking this opportunity to describe our role and our support for the project.

Putah Creek Council’s Role

Putah Creek Council is a core member of the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee (LPCCC), which was formed in May 2000 by an Accord between Solano County water interests and Yolo County environmental advocates, to protect and enhance the fish and wildlife resources of Putah Creek. The LPCCC represents the Boards of Supervisors of Solano and Yolo Counties; the Cities of Davis, Fairfield, Suisun, Vacaville, Vallejo and Winters; Solano County Water Agency; Solano Irrigation District; Maine Prairie Water District; UC Davis; Putah Creek Council; and riparian landowners.

Putah Creek Council’s role on the LPCCC is as an advocate for Putah Creek and its fish and wildlife. We also provide community outreach about LPCCC projects, host volunteer stewardship activities for the public along Putah Creek, and conduct both classroom and creek‐ based environmental education programs. Much of our stewardship work along Putah Creek is funded through grants developed by the LPCCC and implemented by LPCCC members.

One of the LPCCC’s first major accomplishments, with community participation, was a Watershed Management Action Plan (WMAP) for Lower Putah Creek . The Winters Putah Creek Park Channel Realignment Project is the highest priority project in the WMAP.  This project implements the City of Winters Putah Creek Park Master Plan and is supported by the Winters Putah Creek Committee, Winters City Council, and Winters Chamber of Commerce.

Why We Support the Project

Putah Creek Council has a long‐term, creek‐wide, science‐based ecological perspective when it comes to our work on behalf of the creek and its wildlife. The flows that Putah Creek Council negotiated in the settlement agreement were only the beginning.  Now the challenge is to make the most of these flows by restoring a more natural channel form and ecological function

The Winters Putah Creek Park Channel Realignment Project accomplishes three goals:  1) it scales the creek channel to more functional dimensions and structure appropriate to the peak flows Putah Creek has now compared to the greater peak flows prior to construction of Monticello Dam; 2) it allows downstream movement of gravel, creating fish habitat; 3) it creates floodplains that are connected to the creek, providing increased area for development of riparian habitat in the park; and 4) it enhances both wildlife movement and public access to the creek on both the north and south banks.

Phase 3 of the project will connect the two previously realigned sections of the creek.  It will fill in a former gravel extraction pit that provides limited aquatic habitat diversity because it is overly wide and excessively deep.  It will also remove the former sewage aeration ponds, and create six acres of new creek floodplain and area for riparian habitat restoration.

The Phase 3 design was developed by a team of scientists and engineers and reviewed at several stages by the Winters Putah Creek Committee, including an ex-officio member of Putah Creek Council. The project is one of four at Winters Putah Creek Park that has attracted funding from state water bonds in statewide competition with other projects.

This project looks to a future creek, richer in diversity of fish, insects, mammals and birds.  Ongoing monitoring of fish and wildlife by UC Davis biologists has found the greatest diversity of wildlife in locations of prior restoration projects.  The fish habitat benefits of prior phases of channel realignment at Winters are already being realized with the first salmon spawning in living memory in the park and a 300% extension of perennial trout habitat.  Further channel narrowing will help extend native fish habitat including trout to the outskirts of Davis. The improved wildlife watching throughout the park as a result of this will be a legacy to future generations.

The Next Steps

Putah Creek Council is working closely with the Putah Creek Streamkeeper who has hired several wildlife biologists from UC Davis to monitor the five adult beaver and one kit that have been observed.  Work will comply with regulatory requirements of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board. The beaver dens have been located, mapped and fences have been erected at an appropriate distance to protect beaver denning areas.  Wildlife monitors are accounting for any wildlife actively using the area.

The present plan is to slowly dewater the gravel pit area over a few days, giving the beavers opportunity to leave the present area during the night and move away on their own. Beavers typically move upstream and downstream naturally on waterways as they deplete favored food plants in the vicinity of their dens and search for under-used areas. When construction starts, Putah Creek Council will be coordinating volunteers to safely relocate native fish and native turtles as the channel is dewatered and will participate with planting events focused on community participation.  The construction’s timeline is uncertain at this time.

The Putah Creek Council Board hopes this provides useful information as the project progresses.  For more information, project documents can be reviewed at this link:  Winters Putah Creek Nature Park