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Burton Creek set for extensive restoration

North Tahoe’s Burton Creek flows through a patchwork of federal, state and private land, so it’s upcoming restoration involves a gaggle of agencies and groups.

Many of these parties were in the same room on Friday, invited to speak about the creek’s restoration by Star Harbor landowners known as Friends of Burton Creek.

The work the creek will see in the upcoming years is impressive, even if it is split into pieces by the checkerboard land ownership in the watershed.



First, a half-million dollar watershed assessment will kick off this fall, a top-to-bottom analysis of the creek undertaken by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funding was made available for the work after effective lobbying by members of Friends of Burton Creek.

Jane Schmidt, who will oversee the assessment, said the report will take a updated snapshot of the entire watershed and look at the range of fixes that are available, apart from those already in the works.




“The whole natural environment is so dynamic,” she said. “These are systems that are constantly in transition.”

Next, the UC Davis field lab, housed in a historic fish hatchery at the mouth of Burton Creek, will begin a $3 million restoration. The building will be restored, but efforts will also focus on rehabilitating the surrounding wetlands and creating fish spawning areas along lower section of Burton Creek.

“The hatchery is the spark that is getting things going in a lot of ways,” said Bruce Fisher, board member at Star Harbor and Friends of Burton Creek member.

That project is planned to begin next spring.

Then, between 2008 and 2010, Caltrans and Placer County are expected to begin work on reducing sediment and rerouting surrounding creeks to their natural channels in the area.

Meanwhile, officials with California State Parks, which owns a large chunk of the middle watershed, said they has no schedule for adding campgrounds or roads in the Burton Creek State Park, as outlined in its master plan.

They do, however, plan to acquire a section of California Tahoe Conservancy property to the east of the state park as an addition to their Burton Creek holdings, said Ken Anderson of the Sierra District of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

The state agency may also rework some of the outdated roads and bridges in the park, Anderson said.

The result of these combined efforts will be a creek that runs clearer and puts less dirt and sand into Lake Tahoe and a watershed that offers spawning habitat for fish, advocates hope.

And the creek, as it’s restored, will become a classroom for students to learn about the workings of a stream ecosystem, said UC Davis’s education and outreach coordinator Heather Segale.

The work on Burton Creek, Schmidt noted, has already begun.

“The amount of activity that is already going on in this area is pretty tremendous,” she said.


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