Regional San and SASD recently received a certificate of appreciation from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) for their contribution to a critical cleanup project on Steelhead Creek. Through the joint Confluence Regional Partnership Program, the districts donated $15,000 in grant funding to help pay for this creek cleanup effort, which took place over four days last December.
Named for the steelhead trout found along the waterway, Steelhead Creek flows south from the Elverta area in the north county through the Northgate community to Discovery Park in the American River Parkway. Here, it veers west, flowing parallel to the American River before discharging into the Sacramento River near the Garden Highway, just north of the two rivers’ confluence. In peak wet weather, the creek often flows directly into the submerged floodplain of Discovery Park, thus joining with the American River.
Steelhead Creek is used by fall-run Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout that pass through the creek on their way north to Dry Creek to spawn. But as a main drainage canal traversing populated areas, the creek is impacted by trash and debris from illegal dumping and homeless encampments. The goal of the cleanup was to protect the water quality of the American River watershed by preventing this debris (including hazardous material) from entering the creek during rising water levels and then being transported downstream to the American River Parkway.
The Confluence Program consists of five funding categories, including the Environmental Stewardship category, which helps fund projects that protect or enhance the water quality of regional waterways. The grant application for the Steelhead Creek cleanup was submitted by the City of Sacramento’s Youth, Parks, and Community Enrichment department, in collaboration with Reclamation District 1000 (RD1000) and the American River Flood Control District (ARFCD).
The multi-jurisdictional cleanup was driven by the Regional Water Board’s determination that the trash and hazardous material along Steelhead Creek posed a threat to water quality. The Regional Water Board requested that the agencies responsible for levee management and the adjacent property work together to clean up the material.
During the cleanup, RD1000 and ARFCD provided the heavy equipment to remove material and haul away trash, while the City of Sacramento’s park rangers interfaced with any homeless encampments and oversaw a sheriff’s work crew cleaning up litter.
Over the course of the four-day cleanup, approximately 120,000 pounds of trash and debris were removed, including batteries, gasoline, oil, propane, plastic, paper, wood, and other materials. Confluence Program funding helped pay for the cleanup activities, equipment, and landfill fees.
“This is another good example of how we live our core value of Environmental Stewardship,” said Policy and Planning Director Christoph Dobson. “Protecting water quality is key to our missions, and collaborative efforts like this are critical to ensuring a sustainable environment for future generations.”
The Water Board will now meet with state and local agencies to look at next steps to restore the creek channel heavily impacted by trash and ensure that the debris in the area is kept to a manageable level.
In the meantime, the Steelhead Creek cleanup effort serves as a pilot project and an important step toward identifying how state and local agencies can collaboratively work together to remove trash and debris from other impacted waterways.
“We greatly appreciate the support of the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District and Sacramento Area Sewer District during this successful effort,” said Rich Muhl, senior environmental scientist with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.