Watershead, Spring 2006
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Piru Creek Controversy Warrants More Scrutiny
by Environmental Community

The Department of Water Resources Plan for instituting a more natural summer/fall flow regime in Piru Creek continues as a source of controversy among groups that normally are allies. The Plan would curtail summer and fall water releases from Pyramid Dam, thereby mimicking a more natural flow regime and allowing the middle portion of the Creek to become dry or nearly so during a portion of the year. Such a Plan, which is supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the USDA Forest Service, would effectively shut off trout fishing in the creek during part of the year and has come under fire from some river and recreational interests such as Friends of the River (Sacramento) and the California Wild Heritage Campaign. The Plan aims to foster recovery of the Creek's population of endangered arroyo toads, one of the few major populations remaining in the region. The toad would benefit from a dryer summer flow regime because toad predators such as bullfrogs would eventually be significantly reduced by a combination of low summer flows and high winter flows.

Friends of the Santa Clara River is a long-time member of the California Wild Heritage Campaign and has generally been a strong supporter of the organizations' goals. However, in this instance we are on record as supporting the DWR Plan for Piru Creek because we believe that the recovery of the arroyo toad is an important conservation goal in the region and that partial restrictions of recreational opportunities are warranted to achieve the toad's recovery. We also acknowledge that reasonable people can differ on this issue, but we have called on all parties to be scrupulously honest in adhering to the facts.

Further, Friends believes it is very important to retain what remains of the middle Piru Creek ecosystem. Current Pyramid flow practices have degraded this section of the Creek. Moreover, loss of natural stream habitat and arroyo toad populations has occurred throughout the Santa Clara River Watershed. The Piru Creek population is one of the few remaining viable populations of arroyo toads in the watershed.


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