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Lower Squaw Creek Conceptual Restoration Plan

Final Report - Lower Squaw Creek Conceptual Restoration Plan, January 2007

Lower Squaw CreekPlacer County has identified the Squaw Creek watershed as a scenic and natural resource of local significance. Since 2002, the Placer Legacy Program has teamed with our project partners to pursue a conservation strategy aimed at restoring hydrologic and ecological function to the Squaw Creek watershed. To date we have had substantial success in facilitating a collaborative approach to restoration planning in Squaw Valley.

Home to the 1960 Winter Olympic Games and located at the end of a stunning alpine valley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Squaw Valley has long been a great American winter destination. A large array of disturbances has impacted Squaw Creek over the last 150 years, the most significant being extensive cattle and sheep grazing in the late 19th Century, and construction of resort facilities prior to the 1960 Olympics. As a result of these cumulative changes to the watershed, the channel and floodplain condition at the Lower Squaw Creek site have significantly changed.

The current channel condition is unstable, and detrimental changes to the channel will continue unless treatments are applied to address both the channel, and the watershed condition that supports the channel. In some locations, the channel has become straighter, Lower Squaw Creeknarrower, and deeper. In others, it has widened and stream velocities have slowed resulting in significant deposits of coarse sediment. In either case, the creek is no longer characteristic of an alpine meadow channel, resulting in significant impacts to existing fish and wildlife habitat, water supply, water quality and recreational opportunities. Because of those past disturbances, Squaw Creek was placed on the Clean Water Act Section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 1992.

Valley residents, through the Friends of Squaw Creek and Placer Legacy, are now working cooperatively to restore Squaw Creek to its former condition. The broad goals of the project are to restore the natural function of the stream and floodplain, recognizing that there are a array of beneficial uses for the stream including water supply, recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, and flood controls. As human infrastructure continues to develop within the watershed, many of these processes and functions will continue to be impacted.

The approach for restoring the ecological integrity of Squaw Creek focuses on restoring key processes and functions that act to sustain a functional natural channel. The County worked with key stakeholders to formulate the following goals for the Conceptual Restoration Plan:
  1. Improve Local Fish Habitat
  2. Improve Water Quality
  3. Improve Channel Bed Stability
  4. Stabilize Channel Banks and Manage Channel Migration Risks
  5. Improve Floodplain Connectivity
  6. Maintain Flood Channels and Manage Flood Hazards
  7. Restore and Improve Wetlands and Ponds
  8. Restore and Improve Riparian Structure and Composition

The next step in the process towards restoring hydrologic function to Squaw Creek is completion of detailed designs for various Squaw Creek restoration projects. A grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency is funding design work on the first restoration project. Design work is expected to be underway in late-2010.

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