Water Resource Collections and Archives


The Second Annual Berkeley River Restoration Symposium

The Second Annual Berkeley River Restoration Symposium

Lower Cordonices Ck, Albany Village. Restored reach (formerly in a straight concrete culvert) near soccer fields, at 4th St north of Gilman St. Oblique aerial photograph from a kite by Cris Benton, Dept Architecture, UC Berkeley, October 2004. Used by permission.

Lower Cordonices Ck, Albany Village. Restored reach (formerly in a straight concrete culvert) near soccer fields, at 4th St north of Gilman St. Oblique aerial photograph from a kite by Cris Benton, Dept Architecture, UC Berkeley, October 2004. Used by permission.

Saturday 04 December 2004, 1pm-5:30pm
112 Wurster Hall
University of California, Berkeley

The symposium is free and open to the public.Sponsored by the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Beatrix Farrand Fund, and the Water Resources Collections and Archives.


01:00 - 03:00 PART ONE

  • Post-project appraisal of a restoration project: Ackerman Creek, Mendocino County / Leonard Ash and Kent Harrison
  • Long-term post-project appraisal of an urban creek restoration: Baxter Creek, El Cerrito / Alison Purcell
  • Tassajara Creek, Dublin: Post-project appraisal of an urban channel restoration / John deFelice and Jason Hayter
  • Channel form and capacity, San Pablo Ck: implications for restoration / Shannah Anderson and Carolina Balazs
  • Daylighting Islais Ck, San Francisco: a feasibility study / Rosey Jencks and Rebecca Leonardson
  • Riparian vegetation and native bee abundance/diversity, Putah Creek, Solano County / Jennifer Hernandez and Mary Malko
03:00 - 03:30 BREAK
03:30 - 04:30 PART TWO
  • Post-fire channel changes in Muddy Hollow Creek, Pt Reyes / Steve Skripnik and Emily Moshier
  • Channel Changes in Olema Creek, Pt Reyes 1996-2004 / Kyle Carbert and Jasmine LeeHang-Austin
  • Adaptive management in river restoration: theory vs practice in western North America / Jessie Levine
04:30 - 05:30  PANEL DISCUSSION featuring remarks on key issues in river restoration. Panelists: Barry Hecht, Balance Hydrologics; Robert Charbonneau, UC Office of the President; Bruce Orr, Stillwater Sciences; Mark Charlton, USACE Sacramento District; and Chris Richard, Oakland Museum.
05:30 - 06:30  Reception in Lobby


Post-project appraisal of a restoration project: Ackerman Creek, Sonoma County  / Leonard Ash and Kent Harrison
Ackerman Creek, located in Mendocino County near Ukiah, California, is home to the anadromous fish, steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Working with the Department of Fish and Game, in 2001 the Mendocino Redwood Company removed a culvert and performed river channel enhancements in a 3,400 foot reach to improve the steelhead habitat. Perceptible aggrading had reappeared by the summer of 2002, and more channel modifications attempted to limit further degradation of the banks within the reach. A team of researchers from University of California, Berkeley had performed post-project evaluations on this site in 2002 and again in 2003, but their findings about creek incision and project success were still inconclusive. As a continuation of their research, we surveyed the channel for evidence of modifications and adaptations within the project reach. We found that the channel does not appear to be incising appreciably, as was suggested by the previous researchers. However, there was noticeable bank erosion that may be contributing to aggradation downstream of the project. The channel may be modifying into a pool and riffle pattern. After two years, the reconstructed side slopes of the channel have yet to establish riparian vegetation, with the exception of the thriving willow mats. We recommend further investigations of this project to monitor bank stability and riparian vegetation development and to record channel modifications within the streambed.

Long-term post-project appraisal of an urban creek restoration: Baxter Creek, El Cerrito / Alison Purcell
Post-project evaluation and monitoring of stream restoration projects are rarely conducted, and long-term evaluations are even less common but are needed in order to gage the success of a project and to determine the time scale of biological recovery in the system. This study is a 5-year comparison to an initial post-project assessment completed in 1999 that evaluated an urban stream restoration project in Poinsett Park (El Cerrito, California). The results of this study found that habitat quality differed spatially between reaches, but was temporally similar in 1999 and 2004 with slight improvements at the restored reach in 2004. The biological assessment in 2004 found no improvements in ecological condition of the biotic assemblage compared to 1999. This lack of improvement may be attributed to the detrimental and limiting effects of a highly urbanized watershed. It is also possible that the aquatic communities successfully colonized the restored reach within the 2 years following the completion of the restoration project in 1997. A survey of the neighborhood residents indicated that, overall, they were pleased with the restored creek site 7 years after the completion of the project. Approximately half of the residents that moved to the neighborhood after the restoration project was completed were unaware that this segment of creek used to be underground. Long-term evaluations of restoration projects can help managers and designers of future projects determine the timeline of the success of a project.

Tassajara Creek, Dublin: Post-project appraisal of an urban channel restoration / John deFelice and Jason Hayter
In 1999 Alameda County completed a restoration project on a one-mile reach of Tassajara Creek, from immediately north of the Gleason Road Bridge to the I-580 freeway. Conducted as a component of development plans for the surrounding 645 acres, the project sought to control incision, as well as address flood concerns and community desires inherent in a creek such as Tassajara, in a climate such as that of central California, and in an area that was in the process of urbanizing. In the years since its completion the project has been surveyed five previous times by students from the University of California, Berkeley in order to investigate how well the project has continued to meet its goals. On October 24th and 31st, 2004 we resurveyed five cross sections of Tassajara Creek searching for signs of incision, aggradation, and channel migration. We found there to be very little sign of incision, while there were signs of aggradation along the full project reach, and channel migration at varying intervals. We also found that some larger changes in the inner and outer channel bank forms may be occurring, warranting further investigation.

Geomorphic, vegetation and flooding characteristics for San Pablo Creek: a baseline study and restoration potential / Shannah Anderson and Carolina Balazs
San Pablo Creek drains 42 square-miles, before draining into San Pablo Bay in Richmond, California. San Pablo Dam, built in 1919, rarely releases water, so the reach downstream (lower San Pablo Creek Watershed) has a distinct hydrology driven by runoff from the unregulated, lower 11.2 square-mile drainage area. Perhaps because of its low flooding incidences and because land-use policies and management have not historically considered low-order channels and their riparian habitat, regulating agencies such as Contra Costa County have spent little time collecting baseline information on the creek. The specific questions this study addresses are: 1) What are the key ecological zones along San Pablo Creek? What are the geomorphic and vegetation characteristics in each of these zones? and 2) What is the flooding capacity of the creek, given that a recent study indicated high flooding potential for creekside residents? The results of our study indicate that there are five distinct zones, informed by hydrology and geomorphology, along lower San Pablo Creek: the Upper Alluvial Valley, the Lower Alluvial Valley, the Upper Alluvial Fan, the Wildcat-San Pablo Creek Alluvial Fan, and the Tidal Flats. Results from discharge estimates indicate a wide variance of discharge rates between Rantz, Haltiner, and Wannanen-Crippen methods. A high dominance of non-native vegetation and significant incision in cross-sections indicates potential for future restoration efforts.

Daylighting Islais Ck, San Francisco: a feasibility study / Rosey Jencks and Rebecca Leonardson
San Francisco’s Islais Creek has been buried in culverts for more than 70 years. It currently conveys the combined sanitary and storm sewer that drains the Southeast corner of the city. This combined sewer overflows into San Francisco Bay several times a year, and into the city streets approximately once every five years. We propose separating the sewer and storm drains, and explore re-opening Islais Creek to carry stormwater runoff to the bay. We delineated the watershed and channel using Arc/Info and GIS. We chose study reaches at the outlets of three subwatersheds, representing different flow conditions, elevations, urban development constraints, and opportunities for restoration. These variations necessitate different channel forms for each reach; we present experimental designs as cross-sections and planview reaches overlaid onto an aerial photo of the city. We discuss project viability and opportunities.

Post-fire channel changes in Muddy Hollow Creek, Pt Reyes / Steve Skripnik and Emily Moshier
The Mt. Vision Fire of October 1995 burned almost 13,000 acres of wilderness in Point Reyes National Seashore. The 8.3 sq. km watershed of Muddy Hollow Creek was almost entirely burned by the fire. The isolated nature of the watershed provides an excellent location to study post-fire watershed response in Northern California. For the two years following the fire, Collins and Ketcham (2001) documented changes to Muddy Hollow Creek and the watershed. They noted that sediment deposition during the second year after the fire was 2.7 times higher than the previous year. This was due to bed erosion and incision of the middle reach due to large amounts of woody debris falling into the river. They hypothesized that as the sediment load and flow decreased the lower reach would form an extensive alder forest. The middle reach became entrenched due to high flows in the year following the fire.In October 2004, we conducted the first follow-up survey since Collins and Ketchum. We surveyed several cross-sections in the middle reach of Muddy Hollow Creek and documented changes in vegetation and geomorphology from repeat ground and aerial photography in the middle and lower reaches. We measured approximately 5 ft. of incision from the 1996 elevations recorded by Collins and Ketcham as part of a longitudinal survey of the middle reach. We also observed an increase in vegetation and alder forest growth in the lower reach of the creek as hypothesized by Collins and Ketcham. Much of the woody debris in the middle reach is still decaying, but ground cover may slow the rate of erosion seen since the fire. Consequently, we hypothesize that less sediment will be deposited in the lower reach allowing the lower reach to form a more defined channel. Photo points and survey data that we collected can be reproduced to further analyze the post-fire response of the watershed.

Channel Changes in Olema Creek, Pt Reyes 1996-2004 / Kyle Carbert and Jasmine LeeHang-Austin
Olema Creek drains 15mi2 (40km2) just east of Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, California. We documented changes it has undergone since its avulsion in 1994. The site of avulsion has traveled nearly 100 (320 feet) meters upstream since then and the Creek has occupied several different channels. These changes, along with the growth of riparian vegetation, appear to have accelerated since 2001, when cattle ranching ceased in the floodplain. In addition, logjams, which were responsible for the original avulsion, continue to have a significant impact on Olema Creek, having caused many of the subsequent avulsions as well.

Native bees as bioindicators in riparian ecosystems, Putah Creek, Solano County / Jennifer Hernandez and Mary Malko
We sampled native bee populations (using pan traps and aerial netting) to assess the quality of habitat at a restored and a control site on Putah Creek, Solano County, CA. The restoration returned a former agricultural site to a natural oak-savanna. Prior to the restoration the site was covered in annual European grasses and non-native plants. In 1999, the floodplain was re-vegetated with native herbaceous plants, Valley Oak, and native perennial grasses. We measured the creek profile, bankfull discharge, and bed substrate composition and compared it to the structure and composition of the plant community in the floodplain and riparian forest. We used low flow aerial images from 2001 and high flow images from 2004 (10 yr return interval) to assess the location of the floodplain at each site. The restored site had a narrower channel causing the floodplain to extend beyond the riparian forest to the restored oak-savanna. The floodplain at the control site did not extend beyond the riparian forest. We concluded that the greater diversity of flowering plants at the restored site, due in part to more frequent inundation of the floodplain, is able to support a larger and more diverse native bee population.

Adaptive management in river restoration: theory vs practice in western North America / Jessie Levine
Adaptive management is a resource management approach that acknowledges our limited understanding of how natural systems respond to human alterations by treating policies and management interventions in natural systems as experiments from which to learn. In a relatively new field such as river restoration, adaptive management is especially appealing, as it allows managers to learn while acting and promises to reduce uncertainty. By interviewing practitioners and reviewing restoration and adaptive management plans, I assessed the application of adaptive management in ten river restoration projects on the west coast of North America. Although definitions and applications of adaptive management vary widely among practitioners, the projects considered here share three common elements: recognition of uncertainty in river restoration and management, a commitment to monitor, and willingness to adjust actions based on information learned about the system. Most interviewees noted that it is too early to single out any positive ecological or social outcomes or even specific knowledge gained about the system through adaptive management; moreover, the site specific conditions of each stream have largely precluded knowledge transfer between restoration efforts. Practitioners identified a considerable number of barriers in attempting to implement adaptive management. Social and institutional challenges include high costs and limited availability of funding, a mismatch between the lengthiness of the adaptive management process and short funding cycles, agency and stakeholder impatience with the slow pace of adaptive management, a lack of leadership for monitoring and coordinating efforts, and risk aversion among agency personnel and stakeholders. Technical challenges encountered include a limited understanding of how to apply adaptive management and difficulties in translating results from site-level restoration projects to an understanding of the river system. The case study analyses suggest that the successful application of adaptive management will require long-term and stable funding, a long-term institutional commitment, greater leadership, more structured coordination, and training for resource managers.


Bob Charbonneau manages technical environmental services for the University of California Office of the President. Since his first position as a sanitary engineering aide with the Massachusetts Div. of Water Pollution Control in 1980, he's never been too far from the water (or sewer). The author of the Strawberry Creek management plan (which developed from his masters thesis in environmental planning), Bob was responsible for planning and coordinating the restoration of Strawberry Creek on the Berkeley campus, culminating in the successful reintroduction of native fisheries after a century’s absence, and netted a job with EH&S in the process. 

Mark Charlton is the Deputy District Engineer (senior civilian) and Chief of Programs for the Sacramento District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, where he oversees a $450 million annual program in flood control, navigation, environmental restoration, and military construction. He was previously program chief at the Corps' Walla Walla, Washington District, and also served at the Baltimore District and Corps’ headquarters in Washington.

Barry Hecht is senior geomorphologist and principal at Balance Hydrologics, Emeryville, which conducts hydrologic and geomorphic studies of watershed, channel, groundwater, and wetland dynamics in California and elsewhere, often in support of ecological restoration programs. Mr. Hecht is recognized as an authority on Mediterranean-climate river channels in the California Coast, stream-groundwater interactions, and ecological implications of human-induced changes in these episodic systems. 

Bruce Orr is a senior ecologist and principal with Stillwater Sciences, Berkeley, a firm that applies scientific approaches and technologies for environmental problem-solving in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Dr. Orr specializes population and community ecology of aquatic, terrestrial, and fresh and saltmarsh wetland habitats in California and the western US. 

Chris Richard is Curator of Aquatic Biology at Oakland Museum of California, Editor of Guide to East Bay Creeks, and publisher of the bay area series of Creek & Watershed Maps. He is a board member of Save the Bay and Friends of the Estuary.

ABOUT THE CLASS: Restoration of Rivers and Streams (LA227)

Taught since 1992 (the longest-running course devoted to river restoration at a major research university), this course emphasizes understanding of underlying goals and assumptions of restoration and integration of science into restoration planning and design. Students review restoration plans and evaluate completed projects. In addition to lectures and discussions by the instructor, students, and an extraordinary set of guest lecturers drawn from the active restoration community, the principal course requirement is an independent term project involving original research. The term projects are peer-reviewed, revised, and ultimately added to the permanent collection of the UC Water Resources Collections and Archives.

Last modified: 5/27/2011 8:51 AM by S. Haren

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