Bringing Hat Creek Back to Its Glory
For the latest project news, visit the Hat Creek Restoration Project micro-site.
Reports from the early 1900s suggest that Hat Creek was once California’s premier spring-creek fly fishing experience. By the 1960s, however, the fishery collapsed due to invasive, non-game fish and heavy angling pressure. In 1968, CalTrout founders and CA DFW led a major effort to restore wild trout populations. These efforts were remarkably successful, and in 1972, Hat Creek was designated as the state’s first Wild Trout Management Area — a major paradigm shift away from hatchery supported fisheries. But in the early 1990s, conditions began to deteriorate again due to heavily degraded streambanks, unrestricted cattle grazing, and a collapse of native aquatic vegetation. In 2012, CalTrout secured the largest restoration grant in the organization’s 40-year history. This funding is supporting a substantial, three-year project that commenced in the summer of 2013. Funding is being used to stabilize degraded streambanks, replant native vegetation, and restore in-stream habitat conditions.
On-the-ground restoration work is currently scheduled to begin in the summer of 2014 with work carrying through to the fall of 2015. The project consists of three key elements: 1) planting assemblages of over 5,000 native plants, trees, shrubs, and grasses 2) restoration of 1.5 miles of in-stream habitat using large woody debris, and 3) improvement of existing recreational infrastructure including 4.5 miles of trails, a new parking area, and a new low-profile pedestrian bridge at the historic Carbon Bridge site.
- Restore Hat Creek wild trout populations to over 5,000 fish per mile.
- Restore 1.5 miles of in-stream wild trout habitat with large wood structures.
- Restore over six acres of riparian corridor with over 5,000 native plants, shrubs, and trees.
Year 1: 2013 Finalize Plans (completed)
- Completed hydrology and geomorphology assessments of the sediment issue in Hat Creek; developed recommendations for restoring geomorphic function and in-stream habitat conditions in the WTA.
- Finalized an in-stream restoration strategy that will re-introduce large tree structures as habitat.
- Professionally surveyed and mapped the entire WTA, including the flood plain, key cross sections, degraded streambank reaches, historic Carbon Bridge site, and the proposed new parking area.
- Completed the first ever Hat Creek Riparian Restoration and Re-vegetation Plan; developed plans for re-vegetation using native assemblages of over 5,000 plants, trees, shrubs, and grasses.
- Developed partnership with the Pit River Tribe to provide conservation jobs, training, and youth mentorships.
- Partnered with the Pit River Tribe to develop a noxious weed management strategy, a muskrat management/trapping strategy, and a native greenhouse propagation program.
- Completed a professional archaeological and cultural resource inventory of the entire project area.
- Partnered with the CA DFW to establish baseline wild trout population estimates.
- Launched year one of the Hat Creek Youth Initiative, which provides local at-risk youth with paid summer internships and hands-on ecological education and applied restoration training.
- Coordinated quarterly Hat Creek Resource Advisory meetings to secure feedback and guidance from over a dozen different partners, state and federal agencies, and stakeholder groups.
What We Will Accomplish in 2014 and Beyond
Year 2: 2014 Next Steps
Secure all final permits and approvals, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Water Act, Section 1600 of the CA DFW Code (Streambed Alteration Agreement)
- Secure final project approval from PG&E (land owner), the CA Natural Resources Department, and the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC).
- Begin recreation infrastructure improvements, including trail restoration, parking area re-location, replacement of the historic Carbon Bridge, and interpretive sign plan.
- Begin year one (phase 1) riparian restoration and native plant re-vegetation.
- Launch the Hat Creek Muskrat Control Program to reduce populations.
- Re-introduce large woody debris structure to the Carbon reach (phase 1).
- Continue year two of the Hat Creek Youth Initiative and launch Pit River Tribe workforce training and jobs program.
Year 3: 2015 Complete Construction, Establish Long-Term Maintenance and Monitoring
- Complete second year (phase 2) of riparian restoration and planting.
- Finalize construction of all recreation components: trails, signs, parking area, pedestrian bridge.
- Maintain and monitor all restoration components: measure plant survival rates, re-plant where necessary, monitor trail erosion and sustainability, monitor in-stream habitat restoration impact, measure geomorphic response to in-stream structure, monitor bank stability, muskrat population.
- Utilize adaptive management to improve in-stream habitat strategy based on year one observations.
- Continue working with DFW on wild trout population estimates to measure success of project over time.
To keep up to date on the Hat Creek Youth Initiative follow our blog.
Related Projects:Fall River Restoration