Volunteers sought for stream adoption in Truckee | SierraSun.com

Volunteers sought for stream adoption in Truckee

Sierra Countis
Sierra Sun
Ryan Salm/ Sierra SunBeth Christman, Program Manager for the Truckee River Watershed Council, measures the pH level in Trout Creek on Thursday. Trout Creek is one of the Adopt A Stream sites in which volunteers will be conducting water quality tests and habitat assessments.
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Wanted: Dedicated community volunteers to help launch a new environmental program in Truckee. Must be willing to adopt a stream and be an advocate for clean water. Positive attitude a plus.

The Truckee River Watershed Council is seeking volunteers to help initiate a water-quality monitoring plan and gather information at designated watershed locations throughout the year.

The Adopt A Stream program has been bolstered by a $28,000 grant from the Sierra Nevada Alliance.

Though all the chosen stream sites have endured some level of monitoring, new development and restoration work near Truckee watersheds spurred the effort to more closely gauge the environmental impacts.

“We feel like there’s a lot of changes that have been happening within the Truckee River watershed,” said Program Manager Beth Christman of the Truckee River Watershed Council. “We felt like we needed to start getting some baseline data.”

Christman said that while the water-quality testing isn’t a comprehensive study of stream conditions, she likened the program to “taking the pulse of the stream.” The goal of the program is to increase the community’s awareness about water quality and encourage people to help the watershed council track progress, Christman said.

Adopt A Stream will focus efforts on the collection of basic data including water temperature, acidity levels, electrical conductivity, which measures the amount of salt and road sands in the water, and dissolved oxygen levels, Christman said. She added that most of the monitoring is “really easy,” and volunteers of all ages can participate.

Funding has also been set aside to conduct nutrient sampling to track aquatic plant growth. The grant money will support the continuation of Truckee River Aquatic Monitors, an ongoing program that catalogues aquatic insect samples.

Just downstream a ways, the South Yuba River Citizens League has led a similar volunteer-based water-quality program since 2001. The program seeks to make the watershed healthy for fish and wildlife and safe for fishing and swimming.

“As much as anything, the program has been successful at engaging local volunteers with the conditions of our watershed and in the commitment to keep them clean,” said Executive Director Jason Rainey of the South Yuba River Citizens League.

Every month close to 100 volunteers monitor over 30 sites on the South Yuba River, he said. The information citizens gather is submitted to the state Water Quality Control Board for further study. In 2002, volunteers identified bacteria in the watershed thought to be linked to the E. coli bacteria, Rainey said ” proof that the program is beneficial.

The South Yuba program has trained eight other environmental groups interested in monitoring water quality, he said.

Christman said the success of the South Yuba program was one of the motivating factors behind Sierra Nevada Alliance’s support of a local program.

Referring to the six watershed locations as “must-hit streams,” Christman said the sites were chosen for specific reasons. Working with other agencies including the California Department of Fish and Game, the watershed council identified Donner Creek, Cold Creek, Martis Creek, Trout Creek, Little Truckee River and Squaw Creek as prime candidates for adoption.

The watershed council hopes to have a total of 20 to 40 volunteers, divided into teams, to monitor the streams every three to four months. The first monitoring day is scheduled for May 12, the Seventh Annual Tahoe Truckee Snapshot Day.