Natural Resources Commission focuses on on salmon, potential new gas line

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A calm stretch of Putah Creek flows through downtown Winters. Courtesy photo

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By Jacob Hoffman
Express Correspondent

The Natural Resources Commission discussed all things salmon and work flows at its monthly meeting on Monday, Sept. 19.

The committee heard from Megan Buche, a City Engineer, who provided an update on the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) gas line, which Buche announced would be attached under the Trestle Bridge. This arrangement came after lengthy negotiations with PG&E, as the original plan was to dig the line under Putah Creek. The committee expressed appreciation for Buche and the city engineers who helped design the arrangement, as well as for PG&E for agreeing to this less disruptive compromise.

Committee Chair Kurt Balasek took time to “pass back a thank you to PG&E for being willing to consider our options.” The committee approved the plan, which was sent to the City Council.

Streamkeeper Max Stevenson provided an update on the water flow conditions of Putah Creek, as well as the upcoming arrival of the salmon. Stevenson’s presentation showed that water flows were largely normal, noting some of the differences caused by the recent spat of rain and the amount of water seeping into the ground, as well as the effects of drought on the creek.

Regarding the salmon, Stevenson briefly ran through the history of salmon in Putah Creek and noted efforts to increase their presence this season, which should begin in early October. This will include the temporary removal of a dam, with the permission of local farmers. Stevenson expressed his hope that, given factors regarding where the salmon can go and efforts made to attract them, this season will be a “big year” for salmon. Balasek also proposed Stevenson present on a future project related to the realignment of the Los Rios Check Dam, which Stevenson agreed to do.

The chair provided the floor to Putah Creek Council member Michaila Collins, filling in for Phil Stevens, who briefly discussed a number of community efforts being conducted by the council, including a volunteer trash removal, nursery upkeep, and creek stewardship program that includes the community outreach Creek Explorer’s program for children interested in learning about the Creek and its upkeep.

The commission reviewed their work plan and discussed whether they should add a section to the plan regarding bat populations and the need to protect their habitat and make it a new area of interest. This prompted a wider discussion surrounding how to make sure there’s alignment with the City Council’s plans, including that small amendments are OK, but big ones have to be made clear to the City Council and on a six month to one year basis. The commission resolved to keep their work plan as a living document and eventually create a document to house their potential projects.

Scianna gave a brief update on the upcoming Salmon Festival on Nov. 5, stating that it’s coming along but that they need volunteers to work some of the booths, which will include providing information as well as selling tickets, food, crafts and other items. Scianna invited the other commission members to volunteer if possible or to just attend and see the festival.

A discussion of potential topics for the next meeting, included fire, drought, and zoning updates. The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 17.

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