In Spite of Rainy Year, Redwood Creek Stopped Flowing in Multiple Spots During 2017; The Salmonid Restoration Federation Is Developing Plans to Help


Randy and Bill Eastwood, monitoring team members.

Randy Klein and Bill Eastwood gather data about water flows in Redwood Creek. [Photo provided by SRF]

Even after the abundant rainfall of the 2016/17 rain year, Redwood Creek stopped flowing in six out of nine places it was monitored by the Salmonid Restoration Federation (SRF). The SRF recently concluded its fifth year monitoring low flows Redwood Creek, the 26-square mile watershed that borders the Mattole watershed and flows into the South Fork Eel River.

Redwood Creek flows east from its neighbor the North Fork of the Mattole near Whitethorn Junction and empties into the South Fork of the Eel near Redway Beach. The Briceland Thorn Road roughly parallels Redwood Creek from Huckleberry Hill east to lower Redway. The major tributaries of Redwood Creek include Dinner Creek, China Creek, Miller Creek, Summerville Creek, and Seely Creek.

What Should Be:

Given the high average annual precipitation and large drainage area, Redwood Creek should be a critical tributary for juvenile salmonids in the South Fork Eel watershed. Historically, Redwood Creek supported coho, Chinook and steelhead providing important cold-water refugia for juvenile salmonids.

The Sad Reality:

SRF began a five-year study of low flows in Redwood Creek in 2013 to better understand the flow patterns and prioritize water conservation efforts in the impaired watershed which houses hundreds of residents using Redwood Creek and its springs and headwaters for their domestic water source.

In 2017, SRF’s Monitoring Coordinator, Bill Eastwood, began monitoring Redwood Creek’s summer flows on June 23. Flows decreased steadily throughout the season. 2016 and the four preceding years had been extremely dry while precipitation in 2017 had a higher than average total.

As expected, flows were markedly higher earlier in 2017 compared to 2016. For example, in mid-June 2016, the average flow was 583 gallons per minute (GPM) while in mid-June 2017, the average flow was nearly double at 1,137 GPM.

During July, most flows remained higher than the 2016 average (Dinner Creek was an exception). But sadly, Miller Creek stopped flowing in mid-August in 2017, as did some upper mainstem Redwood Creek tributaries by mid-September.

The SRF monitoring team measured a steady decline in flows for all nine monitoring sites in August and September. By the end of October, Redwood Creek was separated into isolated pools and out of nine monitoring sites, only three maintained flows over one gallon per minute.

disconnected pool in redwood creek 2017

Disconnected pool in Redwood Creek during 2017. [Photo provided by SRF]

The Data:

Comparing data between monitoring sites, Dana Stolzman, Executive Director of SRF, said the data revealed a drastic flow reduction in reaches, or stretches of stream, that were populated compared to reaches that had no residents or withdrawals.

And the monitoring data showed what Stolzman called “pumping signatures” which are sudden, temporary drops in flow that generally recur. The assumption is these signatures or drops are caused by an in-stream pump or a near-stream well being used in the low-flow season.

Planning for Flow Restoration:

For more detailed information, SRF created a Redwood Creek low-flow monitoring page to share flow data, project resources, and an interactive graph. Stolzman explained, “Seeing the flow trends through the years underscores how much Redwood Creek would benefit from a coordinated, community-led water conservation program.”

Stolzman explained SRF has used the low flow monitoring to better understand the flow thresholds and to gain understanding of the flow releases required to mitigate the withdrawals. During the process, SRF has developed conceptual proposals for rainwater catchment ponds and groundwater recharge projects. In the feasibility study on their webpage, SRF writes of one such concept. This consists of

a 50-million-gallon flow enhancement project adjacent to the right bank of Redwood Creek near Briceland and a 300,000 gallon demonstration rainwater catchment pond at Beginnings Inc. in Briceland. …. The physical characteristics of the site combined with enthusiastic landowner support for the project offer excellent potential. …The 300,000 gallon demonstration rainwater catchment pond proposed for Beginnings would provide … flow enhancement benefits while also providing a demonstration project for the community.

Groundwater Recharge Has Great Potential:

Stolzman noted, “It has been interesting to compare the low flows from the extended drought years to this year where we had high precipitation. Despite high rains late into the season, flows in the some of the tributaries of Redwood Creek including Miller Creek fell to less than a gallon per minute by August.”

Stolzman added the estimated human water usage is about 12 million gallons in this watershed and “[p]rojects like the 50-million gallon enhancement could greatly improve streamflows and provide cool water for juvenile salmonids during the dry season when flows and water temperature are most critical for this life stage.”

Groundwater recharge not only improves flows but also, cools the water in the stream. Stolzman said SRF should know by next month whether it will be awarded a planning grant to help fund taking the plans from concept to fully designed and permitted projects ready to implement.The five-year low-flow study funded in part by money from NCRWQCB as well as Fish and Wildlife, has informed their concepts and given SRF and its partners time to build relationships with landowners.




  • Pray for rain yer idiots!

    • Everyone should be collecting water now. Rain barrel under each gutter downspout, plumb them together with 1 inch pvc, put a sump pump in the barrel with lowest elevation. 7.48 gallons per cubic foot. Simple, effective and it is the type of water collection for cannabis that is under the least amount of regulation and scrutiny.

      • The average family uses 300 gallons a day or more. I use that in about a week. That’s 6 barrels a day for a family and per week for me.

        So it doesn’t rain from July through October. That is 4 months at least where no collection is possible. Using the best possible optimistic calculation, a family needs to have set aside 720ish full barrels to get them through the summer. Or 36,000 gallons. And that’s saving over and above the unlikely barrel a day they have accumulated for daily use during the rainy season.

        A family goes through over 100,000 gallons per year. Rain barrels are, to forgive the expression, a drop in the bucket.

        Then there’s growers…

        • I agree.. not the best solution for our climate. Who wants to be drinking or showering with Water that’s been cooking all summer in a plastic tank. Not a bad idea for farming though. Those big steel tanks are awesome for water catchment and highly recommended for farmers. 55,000 gal up to I dont know how much. A guy down in Sohum builds them… rod maybe?

          • @Emily Mark Hilvosky & Rod from Ettersburg are who builds the raincatcher tanks. Those steel tanks have a plastic liner inside. However with thermal mass the water never warms even on the hottest days. Great investment for any homestead.

        • Calfire and the State Water Board request the average homestead store 39,000 gallons and not draw any water from July 1st to October 1st. Though not required to do so as we are not growers, we are happily working toward complying to help save the watershed. I was heartbroken to be able to walk completely across Salmon Creek on dry land last summer, the first time in the 40 years we’ve been here. Let’s all work toward water independence!

  • Congress should pass a law to make it rain more and at fair monthly allotments.
    Or build pipelines from streams that have more water to ones that have less, to make it fair.
    Or start trucking water to the under served streams.

    Groundwater recharge works where their is an aquifer to absorb the water. If you start in the hills it can start or exasperate landslides.


    • “Groundwater recharge works where their is an aquifer to absorb the water.”

      I’m not a hydrologist, but we live in a Mediterranean climate which means we receive very little precipitation after May, yet many streams still flow, ergo there’s some sort of ability for the ground to retain and release water it absorbs.
      Many people think first of the outtakes or diversions from streams, but another factor is the reduction to groundwater recharge caused by road cuts and other excavation such as terracing and building flats.
      The intentional groundwater recharge ideas, if they work, would mitigate for both reduced recharge and increased diversions.

      All projects require geologic engineering. Nonetheless, We have examples where this has worked well. Tasha McKee came back from India a few years ago very enthused from having toured areas where ground water recharge had revived dead streams.

      • The forest that used to be here was the instrument that is now missing in the natural hydrology.
        We look around and see trees, but the forest that was is not here.

        • Replaced by pot grows, since the creeks still had water during the period of widespread logging. Even if they were silted. Our creek survived clear cuts akk around but not two new growers.

  • unbridled phillistine

    How much water do the growers take from this watershed???

  • I’ve seen it happen. I went down to the creek and found it dry when it had been flowing the previous day. Suddenly I hear some rocks rattling and look up stream to see a tiny, 4 inch high tsunami wave of water rushing down the creek bed, from bank to bank, that had been dry a second ago. Someone had been pumping all the water there was and now stopped.

    That sort of sight changes your thinking about a resource that seems so endless. What we’re heading for is”no water days” just like we have “no burn days.”

    • unbridled phillistine

      I would rather have Salmon in the stream then a joint in my lips! Peoples priority are so messed up! Make me sick to hear your story. Save the Salmon before its too late! Oops too late.

      • Only buy indoor. If it is produced on the natural gas power plant grid, the carbon footprint is lower than outdoor, and you can avoid all the other negative effects of typical outdoor grows.

        • Oh indoor doesn’t use water huh? You’re wrong [edit] if u think indoor uses less power or water.

          • Timothy McVeigh's ghost

            I would have to respectfully disagree. Indoor operations can be way more environmentally friendly.
            Hydroponics Or dirt about the same usage of water
            No heavy equipment grading the land
            No dump trucks dropping off soil
            The list goes on and on

            • In both cases, it depends on practices. But, in my opinion, best practices outdoor is more environmentally friendly than best practices indoor.

              Solar+LED is rarely used on a large basis. But sun provides direct energy and doesn’t require machine made items and the energy to create them.

              I would need some studies on the water usage but my impression is that to create the same amount of product the water usage would be similar.

              Best practices outdoor don’t include bringing in soil but enhancing lightly the soil you have. And grading is generally not considered best practice.

              On the other hand, indoor is difficult to produce organically (though not impossible) and, of course, requires power.

              If indoor was a better choice for gardening, we’d see a variety of vegetables being grown indoor during the summer. Instead, the vast numbers are grown outdoor because energy usage and thus costs are lower outdoors.

              • Indoor generally uses far less water than outdoor plants in the ground. Outdoors, water leaches from the plant’s area into surrounding dry areas. There is also usually more evaporation in the hot sun. Indoor growers have more control. That said, it’s hard to grow organically indoors.

                Moot point anyway as most indoor is no longer functioning because of cost. Dividing indoor and outdoor growers made the community easier to divide on other levels. A community divided can not organize as well.

                • I have heard anecdotal evidence that supports what you say about water usage. I’d like to see some studies though.

                  As I try to learn how to promote best practices responsibly, I’m interested in what you say about “Dividing indoor and outdoor growers made the community easier to divide on other levels.” In my mind, the speaking out about indoor issues led to more consciousness about organic and environmental practices and helped give a possible path forward for the Humboldt brand to mean something that MIGHT help as legalization and the consequent corporatization of cannabis continues to roll down on us.

    • Five Counties Restoration has ideas about taking water that prevent these horrifying impacts.
      If your site allows you to gravity feed out of the stream, you can use a quarter inch line and fill a barrel.

      DFW has jurisdiction in such matters, but the idea is the diversion rate is exceedingly low. You then pump from the barrel when it’s full.

  • I wonder if one of their plans is to walk the Watershed and tributaries to see about how these watersheds are getting modified? People do some strange things in these Creeks and Blue Line streams Most watersheds are getting affected by continue droughts one year does not make a watershed replenish storage Storage storage for grapes and AG use keep it safe and clean

  • It has been a drought year, so far, with almost zero rainfall in December and a bit of sprinkles here and there. I don’t understand the rainy year headline.

  • What I admire about SRF’s approach is that it seems non-judgmental. It is seeking facts and practical, science-based solutions rather than pointing fingers of blame. Keep up the good work!

    • unbridled phillistine

      Yes lets not speak about the Elephant in the room. Good praise for an undeserving entity.

      • a shift in the fault can cause a massive drop in one day, like it has in Arcata is the not so distant past, where 10 feet was measured in one day. last year was also hot, I blame evaporation for my creek drying up, which I have never seen dry up in my 8 years observing it. the watershed of my creek is most GD land and the lower extent has 2 domestic wells and no grows except my 2 plants and I don’t water the grass and don’t waste. it got about 100 inches last year. science is important otherwise its a meaningless conversation to discuss why. this location could very well be fault related based on its location, extreme heat, and/or misuse of resources which is what you are referring to. either way its best to collect data and make informed decisions.

  • I am no genius but…why don’t we just take out all the illegal weed grows in this watershed? And THEN measure the flow? The grows are very, very, very easy to see. They are very, very easy to drive right up to with a chipper and take out. If you would rather see some selfish idiots make fat cash instead of saving the fish from extinction then you are wrong. If you think my idea is too much then let’s just take out the large illegal grows? Those are even easier to find! At this point I have to say that the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department is facilitating the extinction of species by refusing to do its job. Similar to when they let Maxxam clearcut in violation of court orders in Owl Creek. Only now the growers are like a team of little Hurwitzes, killing anything for more more more cash…How can the good people of SoHum even look at themselves in the mirror- knowing what they have allowed and encouraged down there? Disgusting.

  • Can we stop taking water from one place to give to another.!!! Be smart don’t by land that doesn’t have a water source. It should be illegal to sell real estate that does not have a source of water to sustain it. Way to many people in this world.

  • Get rid of the Grows and the problem will be over. Or maybe the fishies should build their own dams so they would have water when they want it.

  • Smoking pot is’nt as much fun, now that it’s league.

  • The County is so crazy to permit Cannabis grows that watersheds, watersystems, wildlife, forests and communities are all casualties. Someday we will mourn what we gave up.

  • the sad reality is that there is a direct correlation between residential development of a watershed and decline of Salmonods.

  • If Fish and Game and the State waterboard would allow for Farmers to put in these water catchment ponds, that’d be great. OK!! But no, won’t allow permits for that. SMH

  • You ever hear the song it don’t rain in California in the summertime? Redwood creek has always been (even when it was virgin forest) a great annual salmon and Steelhead stream. If people want a perennial stream build a Dam say at about the old Briceland mill site and let it trickle out through the three or four dry months. That makes more sense than having water sit in poly tanks getting hot and contaminated or sitting in small ponds getting hot and evaporating all summer and never making it to the creek you simply can not store enough to make a positive difference.

    • somehow most of my name got deleted as I posted, but this is Kelley writing:

      Me: perhaps i need to improve the clarity of my descriptive writing, because that is precisely the plan. SRF wont build dams in the stream because modern permitting will prevent that, but infiltration galleries will be side channel impoundments of some sort that “lets water trickle out” through the dry months.

      And rain catchment ponds that are designed for ground water recharge have a leakiness factor designed into them so that water weeps out all summer.

      • I know, I know only Hippie libs shit Rainbows. Let a Capitalist Cowboy or logger put a pond in and all sorts of bad things can happen, might dig up or drown a spotted frog or Owl. I say no water for the devils lettuce or the lettuce farmers.

  • this stream was a major spawning tributary for salmon and steelhead. then the pot growers moved in.

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