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Parks Creek Riparian Project

In 2020 the Shasta Valley Resource Conservation District (SVRCD) was awarded a grant in the amount of $609,263 for the Parks Creek Riparian Improvement Project. In 2022, an additional $70,690 were awarded through an amendment. Funds for this project were provided by a federal grant agreement between the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to implement California’s Non-Point Source Pollution Program pursuant to CWA Section 319(h).

This Project was carried out in the Parks Creek watershed, an unincorporated portion of Siskiyou County, California within the Shasta River Watershed. Parks Creek Ranch is located between the small towns of Gazelle and Edgewood.  Parks Creek is an important tributary to the Shasta River within the Klamath River Basin.

The Parks Creek Riparian Improvement Project (Project) is part of long-term efforts by the SVRCD to address and support reductions of existing agricultural impacts to the water quality of important anadromous waters of the Klamath Basin, such as the Shasta River and Parks Creek. The Shasta River TMDL includes agricultural practices as non-point sources of impairments to water quality. The Project addressed the increased temperature and low dissolved oxygen impairments from anthropogenic source categories, specifically livestock grazing and irrigated agriculture.

The listing of coho salmon under the federal and state Endangered Species Acts increased focus on the fishery in Parks Creek watershed due to its ability to supply and transport clean gravels for spawning and rearing, numerous groundwater springs and thermal refugia, and over summering habitat. Parks Creek has been identified as a key tributary for over-summering coho salmon. 

The goals of the Project were to protect and enhance the important thermal refugia for cold-water fish that Parks Creek provides and helps to reduce elevated temperatures in the main stem Shasta River. The Project addresses Shasta River TMDLs by enhancing riparian and stream processes on Parks Creek. This was accomplished by implementation of native plantings at key locations within the riparian zone of a large cattle operation, and installing cattle exclusion fencing and stock-watering systems in the same reach. In addition, the project quantitatively and qualitatively documented existing water quality and riparian conditions within the project area. The expected long-term results of the Project are three-fold. They are increased shade due to increased riparian vegetation, reduced siltation due to streambank stabilization with managed grazing in the riparian zone after fences and stockwater systems are constructed.

The Project included monitoring of water quality, outreach, education, landowner project development, implementation, and reporting.  Outreach focused on landowners through project discussions and development, as well as a newsletter summarizing project highlights sent to stakeholders, including landowners, agencies, restoration practitioners, and Tribes.

The Project goals achieved through the construction of 4.5 miles of livestock management fencing, 330 total riparian plantings spread over two key planting areas, 6 off channel stockwatering systems, and one new stock well. Landowners provided matching funds to construct an additional stockwater trough and other amenities. These included constructed livestock guardrails at each of the 7 troughs, a pumphouse at the new stockwater well, and providing labor and materials for the buried pipeline from the well to the trough in the southeast pasture. The reach of Parks Creek between Highway 99 and Interstate-5 will be improved for salmon spawning and rearing by protecting and enhancing thermal refugia and the riparian conditions.

The Project successfully implemented over 17,000 feet of buried PVC pipe to serve a total of seven stockwater troughs, 22,500 feet of livestock management fencing, including 3,750 feet of fencing on the river right side of Parks Creek near Hwy 99, and 18,750 feet of fencing on the river left side of Parks Creek between Hwy 99 and Interstate-5. The fencing improvements exclude approximately 700 acres of pasture adjacent to Parks Creek. The final improvements allowing for delivery of water to the last remaining stock trough on the river right of Parks Creek was completed in November 2023.

An amendment in year two (2022) increased the budget and extended the timeframe of the agreement. The amended budget increased to $679,953 with a new end date of March 31, 2024. This was necessary to ensure the project could be implemented as proposed, as permitting and feasibility of using the existing water source to deliver water across Parks Creek exceeded the scope and budget of the original proposal. Additional funds were used to drill a new stock water well and supply all appurtenances for the new stockwater system in the southeast corner of the Project area.

The final construction line-item total was $527,725 of the $679,953, or 77.6% of the Project funds. Additionally, only $16,991 was allocated to Indirect Costs, or 2.5% of the Project funds. The remainder of the funding was distributed as staff time for project management, administrative, and monitoring, as well as a small amount of monitoring equipment costs.

The future of this ranch looks bright. SVRCD has funding to continue plantings along the newly fenced riparian area. Currently in escrow, there are an array of new opportunities for this ranch to continue the increased level of balanced management to benefit the Parks Creek ecosystem. The SVRCD continues to provide unmatched value and cost-effective services that achieve maximal benefit for the resources with its project awards.