[Fosc] media coverage of FOSC!!!

Mark Rauzon mjrauz at aol.com
Wed Sep 29 13:54:29 PDT 2010

We were on the news last weekend- Our own Kimra McAfee interviewed about the reason to clean creeks- see-


AND--- about the trout kills--

Estuary News-
Bay-Delta News and Views from the San Francisco Estuary Partnership | Volume 19, No.5 | OCTOBER 2010

If there were ever a poster child for urban 
stream restoration, Oakland’s Sausal Creek 
is surely it. One of the longest-running such 
groups in the Bay Area, the Friends of Sausal 
Creek’s accomplishments are prodigious. 
Partnering with the city, the group recently 
removed three dams that blocked the creek’s 
steelhead from moving upstream, and restored 
about 700 feet of channel, planting 1,500 feet 
of creek bank with some 50,000 native plants 
they grew in their own nursery. Over the past 
14 years, they have stabilized land- slides, teamed 
up with the Boy Scouts to remove invasives, 
installed a large native plant garden, produced a 
watershed plan and trail maps for the creek and 
its tribs, built and maintained trails, acquired 
land adjacent to the creek to preserve as open 
space, and spent thousands of hours on com- 
munity outreach and monitoring birds, water 
quality, fish, rare plants, and even oysters at 
the creek’s mouth. 

More recently, the city received a grant to 
liberate 180 feet of stream from a culvert, part 
of a project that will restore another 745 feet 
of stream. Some might say that to see this 
thriving riparian corridor—and fish—in the 
midst of such an urban area is nothing short 
of a miracle. The California Land Steward- 
ship’s Laurel Marcus, who recently completed 
a watershed plan for Sausal Creek, says 
“Sausal is unique amongst urban creeks and 
has significantly better aquatic conditions as 
demonstrated by aquatic insect monitoring.” 
This, says, Marcus, is in part because one of 
its tributaries flows almost entirely through 
park land. But is also clearly the result of the 
city’s and the Friends’ blood, sweat, and— 
especially recently—tears. 

One of the main motivators for both the 
can make it to the Estuary and ocean and back 
upstream again; numerous culverts, especially 
in the creek’s lower reaches, may act as bar- 
riers. Yet steelhead are surprising, amazing 
fish, says the SF Bay Regional Water Board’s 
Leslie Ferguson, and sometimes make their 
way against all odds, a thought that is echoed 
by the US EPA’s Rob Leidy, who lives in the 
watershed and works with the Friends. Leidy 
says it is possible that fish could make their 
way up through the culverts under the right 
conditions. What is known for certain is that 
lots of fish are thriving in the creek, especially 
in its several deep pools and undercut banks, where 
they can hang out and feed when flows get too 
low. One of the Friends’ board members, Sean 
Welch, who walks the creek weekly to conduct 
fish surveys, says he noticed shallow gravel 
beds in the creek with “tons of fry” after this 
year’s wet spring. Others have seen large fish 
in the creek—close to a foot long—although 
no one has witnessed them spawning. 
On August 5, as the city’s Kristin Hathaway 
was walking the stream with consultants 
discussing plans for the upcoming restoration 
project, she discovered several dead trout 
in one of the pools. Hathaway then walked 
upstream and found East Bay MUD conducting 
maintenance of its drinking water pipes in the 
street a couple hundred feet above the pool. A 
few hours later, the city went back out to the 
site with the SF Bay Regional Water Board and 
found dozens more dead fish. While the cause 
of the fish kill is still under investigation, there 
have been numerous problems over the past 
decade with fish being killed when chloram- 
ines—added to water utility pipes to disinfect 
drinking water—have been accidentally 
discharged into local creeks. East Bay MUD’s John Schroeter says his 
agency is still conducting an investigation of the incident but that East Bay MUD crews had

put in a new pipe and then chlorinated it for 

24 hours to protect public health. The water 
was then flushed from the pipe into a tanker 
truck, where it underwent dechlorination, says 
Schroeter. “Our crews did what they were sup- 
posed to do; they dechlorinated the superchlo- 
rinated water,” he says. After the water sat in 
the tanker truck for two to three hours, it was 
released via a three-quarter inch hose into 
the storm drain system that flows into Sausal 
Creek. “We added almost half again as much 
dechlorinating agent as was needed,” says 
Schroeter. “We have no reason to believe the 
water wasn’t fully dechlorinated. According to 
an East Bay MUD report, the superchlorinated 
water was over 200 ppm chlorine (regular tap 
water is about 2 ppm). 

Schroeter says his agency is still “looking 
at some issues” but admits that the water 
from the tank was not tested before it was 
released into the storm drain and creek. “If 
anything,” says Shroeter, “We probably erred 
on the side of over-dechlorinating.” Schroeter 
says there was another discharge of chlori- 
nated water into the creek back in July when 
a truck knocked over a fire hydrant and flooded 
Dimond Park (where the same trout pool 
involved in the August 5 incident is located). 
“We’re looking into that too. Maybe the fish 
were already stressed and we’re seeing some 
residual effects.” Why not discharge the 
dechlorinated water into the sanitary sewer 
treatment system, just to be on the safe side? 
“That is not normal practice; normal practice 
is to dechlorinate and release into the storm 
drain system.” Nonetheless, as its maintenance 
operations continued on the site, East Bay 
MUD began trucking the water to its main 
wastewater treatment plant. 
While the cause of the August 5 fish kill 
will probably be under investigation for a 
while, water line breaks and problems with 
chlorinated discharges and fish kills have 
been a problem for years around the Bay, 
with its aging pipes, and itchy faults shaking 
the ground. Most water purveyors in the Bay 
Area have switched to using chloramines 
(chlorine and ammonia) to disinfect drinking 
water because it lasts longer than chlorine. 
But chloramines are highly toxic to aquatic life, 
according to a May 19, 2009 SF Bay Regional 
Water Board letter to the California Water 
Bay, washing out a restoration project being 
done by the San Francisco PUC and killing at 
least 32 steelhead. After a spill in Berkeley’s 
Strawberry Creek a few years ago that killed 
at least 30 Sacramento suckers, another na- 
tive fish (see “Chlorinated Clues,” ESTUARY, 
February 2006), the Water Board held several 
meetings with East Bay MUD, the public, and 
city officials with the goal of encouraging East 
Bay MUD field personnel to better respond 
to spills. Yet problems with chloramine 
discharges into waterways have continued. In 
the city of El Cerrito, resident George McRae 
says Pacific chorus frogs disappeared from 
Baxter Creek after multiple discharges of 
chloramine-containing water from East Bay 
MUD maintenance activities. 

If chloramines are found to have caused 
this kill and, if tests show that the steelhead 
in Sausal Creek are anadromous (migrate to 
the Bay and ocean and back), NOAA Fisheries 
could prosecute for “take” of a threatened spe- 
cies. Steelhead that are able to make their way 
between creek and ocean are covered by the 
“threatened” listing while steelhead blocked by 
dams or culverts are not, and the only way to 
prove whether these fish are migratory or not 
is to sample their otoliths, or inner-ear bones. 
Those tests show whether the mother of the 
fish or the fish itself had ever been in the ocean 
(it is impossible to test the paternal side). Even 
if the fish are determined to not be migratory, 
NOAA’s Dan Logan says that the Department of 
Fish and Game and the Water Board still have 
“longstanding clear authority to enforce state 
laws or regs that relate to either unpermitted 
killing of wildlife or introduction of chemicals 
to a waterway, either chemicals put in for 
preparing the water for human consumption or 
chemicals put in to dechlorinate.” 
While the bodies of the dead fish from Sau- 
sal Creek await testing at NOAA laboratories, 
the Friends’ Kimra McAfee said she hopes 
something can be done to prevent any further, 
similar incidents. “Maybe something good can 
come out of something terrible. What’s sad is 
that we try to educate every creek neighbor to 
do everything they possibly can for the creek, 
and this is our utility district—if they screw 
up, then poof, the fish are gone.” 
CONTACT: coordinator at sausalcreek.org; 
jschroet at ebmud.com   

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