The Eel River Recovery Project invites the interested public to the kick off 2017 Outlet Creek monitoring on the morning of May 20 at 10 AM at the Willits Hub at 630 S Main Street two blocks north of Highway 20. Managing Director and aquatic biologist Patrick Higgins will lead the session and explain how to assess the health of Outlet Creek. After designing the 2017 study plan, the group will begin monitoring in the creeks above Willits and visit other sites throughout the watershed over the next several weeks.
From its headwaters near Willits, Outlet Creek flows about 17 miles to the Eel River upstream of Dos Rios. Long Valley Creek is the largest tributary, but numerous others have been very important producers of salmon and steelhead historically, including Bloody Run, Cherry, Sherwood, Baechtel, and Willits creeks among others. Outlet Creek still has large numbers of Chinook salmon and steelhead trout that return to spawn, but coho salmon that were once dominant in the upper reaches are rare. While studies since 2012 by ERRP have found that lower Outlet Creek is often dewatered in late summer, whereas it was formerly perennial, tributaries may maintain cold flow and serve as refugia for salmon and steelhead.
ERRP will be assisting citizen monitors throughout the Outlet Creek basin to continuously monitor water temperature with automated water temperature sensors loaned to ERRP by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Other stream health criteria that will be assessed include aquatic macroinvertebrates, riparian conditions, fish habitat quality, pool frequency and depth and particle size distribution.
Funding for this summer’s work is being provided by Friends of Outlet Creek, a sponsored group of the Trees Foundation. Data collected by ERRP are always confidential in terms of assignment to specific parcels, but summary data are made available to the public and interested parties so that long term trends of stream health can be gauged.
Coffee, bagels and fresh fruit will be served at the Willits Hub where doors will open at 9:30 AM. No charge for participation. See www.EelRiverRecovery.org to learn more or follow us on Facebook to know when you can join us in the field. Anyone wishing to participate in monitoring, or will allow access, should contact Pat Higgins at 707 223-7200. Those interested field trips may also call Willits ERRP volunteer coordinator Robin Leler at 459-0155.