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The Southwest Region

Volunteers install woody debris in Austin Creek near the Russian River in California

The Southwest Region has a wide range of habitat—from the tidal marshes and salmon streams of California to the coral reefs of Hawai’i. This habitat also faces a wide range of challenges such as development, marine debris, and land-based pollution. The NOAA Restoration Center works with our partners in the Southwest Region to restore habitat. Since 1996, we have supported approximately 400 community restoration projects in the region, benefiting more than 10,000 acres of marine and estuarine habitat and opening approximately 200 miles of salmon habitat.

What We Do

Historically, California waters supported abundant fisheries and large populations of marine mammals. During the past two centuries, development and land use practices impacted coastal and fresh water habitat, resulting in catastrophic decreases in salmon populations. Eighty percent of tidal wetlands and salt marshes have also been lost. In California, we work with our partners to improve fish passage for salmon and other migratory fish, reestablish tidal connections for marshes and wetlands, rehabilitate kelp forests, and reestablish seagrass.

Hawai’i is home to diverse and unique aquatic ecosystems. Its coral reefs contribute more than $360 million each year to the state’s economy, but are suffering from the impacts of marine debris, land-based sources of pollution, and invasive species. Hawai’i has also experienced a 31 percent decrease in its coastal plain wetland areas. We work with our partners in Hawai’i to remove derelict fishing gear and other marine debris, reduce upland erosion to reduce sediment loading into bays and estuaries, and re-establish coastal marshes and wetlands.

Case Study - Carpinteria Creek Watershed Restoration, California

Since 2007, NOAA has partnered with Earth Island Institute on efforts to remove barriers to migration for the endangered Southern California steelhead trout in the Carpinteria Creek watershed in Santa Barbara County, Calif. More than $500,000 in NOAA funding has helped the Institute replace four concrete stream crossings with clear-span bridges, restoring access to high quality steelhead habitat. More than 50 volunteers from local communities joined in the effort, removing invasive species and planting native vegetation along the streambanks.

In 2011, NOAA funds will help remove a fifth barrier along Gobernador Creek, a major tributary to Carpinteria Creek. Water flowing through a concrete crossing on the creek has flushed out sediment downstream, creating a 10-foot vertical drop that acts as a complete barrier to fish migration. The crossing will be demolished and replaced with a full span bridge. Additional work in the creek bed will create a series of step pools and riffles to restore the natural movement of sediment. The removal addresses the last man-made barrier along this tributary and will ultimately open an estimated 1.5 miles of habitat for endangered steelhead.

One of the four crossings removed as part of efforts to restore the Carpinteria Creek watershed

One of the four crossings removed as part of efforts to restore the Carpinteria Creek watershed.