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Lawrence Creek—A New Habitat Restoration Approach on the U.S. West Coast

Restoring stream habitat for salmon often takes years of planning, can require a complicated permitting process, and includes some careful engineering. In a high priority area for salmon recovery in Northern California, a small team of biologists created new habitat off the main stream channel of Lawrence Creek. The “off-channel” habitat took a shorter amount of time and was just ten percent of the cost of similar projects.

“What was unique about this partnership is that HRC, the landowner, donated their time and other materials to create this new salmon habitat. The fact that the project was located far from any residential or city infrastructure also meant that the design didn’t need to go through as many approvals as you would normally need. This resulted in a lower overall project cost and a shorter permitting process,” says Matt Goldsworthy, one of the NOAA Fisheries biologists who spearheaded this project.

NOAA Fisheries provided the seed funding for the project construction. The project design was completed by a NOAA Fisheries engineer/hydrologist. Then HRC donated 30 hours of staff time and woody debris to create the off-channel habitat. “These logs alone can cost more than this entire project did,” said Goldsworthy.

The off-channel habitat that was created is a vital part of a salmon’s life cycle—providing them with a place to rest, feed, and grow bigger. Having this type of habitat available to salmon increases their chances of surviving in the ocean. Creating off-channel habitat is specifically identified as a high priority recovery action in NOAA Fisheries’ Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho Salmon Recovery Plan.

So, what’s next for this super restoration team? We plan to replicate this project in other high-priority watersheds for restoration in northern California and possibly look into opportunities south, too. Our team have been back to monitor the restored area and they are already finding juvenile salmon using the new habitat.

Posted February 2 , 2016

Lawrence Creek during construction.
Lawrence Creek after restoration was completed.