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Fences installed to protect Morro Bay watershed

March 4, 2009 |  2:24 pm

Lowerbullcreek

A 3-year-old Morro Bay National Estuary program has installed 70,000 feet of streamside fencing as part of an effort to restore wildlife habitat in a nearby watershed of creek channels and meadowlands that have been degraded by grazing stock.

Cattle have been traditionally permitted in the Chorro Valley watershed's stream systems just east of the estuary, trampling vegetation along creek banks, encouraging erosion and fouling the water with fecal bacteria.

"We're already starting to see a difference in the creeks," said program director Dan Berman. "We're going from bare soil on the banks in some places to a lot of different kinds of plants and small trees."

"The endangered California red-legged frog is present in some of these creeks," he said. "In the long term, we'll have more shade over the water, which will also be good for endangered steelhead trout and other fish."

Funding for the fence program came primarily from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The department was fined by the Regional Water Board for sewage spills in the same watershed, about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. Under an agreement with the estuary program, the fines were funneled into local pollution mitigation efforts, instead of into the statewide fund in Sacramento.

So far, fencing has been completed in most of the upper watershed systems including the Chorro Tributary of Chorro Creek, San Bernardo Creek, San Luisito Creek, Walters Creek, Pennington Creek, San Benito Creek and Bull Creek.

"There are still quite a few places where cattle have access to creeks in the watershed," Berman said. "But we're getting there."

-- Louis Sahagun

-- Photo: Fencing along Lower Bull Creek near Morro Bay. Credit: Morro Bay National Estuary.

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