By Ariel Rubissow Okamoto

In Resilient by Design team Public Sediment’s effort to unlock Alameda Creek, the key lies in sediment–raw material needed to build levees and raise marshes so shorelines can withstand sea level rise. “We’re designing a suite of special structures, a mix of living and constructed features, to move more sediment and create a dynamic new equilibrium for the creek,” says team leader Gena Wirth. To get a conversation about sediment going, Wirth’s teammate Claire Napawan will often start by talking about trout. “Lots of the seniors around here remember fishing in the creek,” says Napawan. “We’re looking for ways to make the watershed culturally relevant to the residents.” When RbD first began working various bayshore sites, Alameda County flood control district’s Rohin Saleh was skeptical, but was in for a surprise. “The team’s learning curve has been extraordinary.” The district worked with the team on numerous sediment moving problems and solutions. While the mud and flood engineering proved absorbing, the team also worked out ways to get local residents more up close and personal to the creek. “If kids can’t get into these watersheds, I worry how they’ll relate to nature in the future,” wonders Ralph Boniello from the Alameda Creek Alliance. “Will they be good stewards?”

Read More

Alameda Creek: Harnessing a Watershed for Public Sediment

By Ariel Rubissow Okamoto

In Resilient by Design team Public Sediment’s effort to unlock Alameda Creek, the key lies in sediment–raw material needed to build levees and raise marshes so shorelines can withstand sea level rise. “We’re designing a suite of special structures, a mix of living and constructed features, to move more sediment and create a dynamic new equilibrium for the creek,” says team leader Gena Wirth. To get a conversation about sediment going, Wirth’s teammate Claire Napawan will often start by talking about trout. “Lots of the seniors around here remember fishing in the creek,” says Napawan. “We’re looking for ways to make the watershed culturally relevant to the residents.” When RbD first began working various bayshore sites, Alameda County flood control district’s Rohin Saleh was skeptical, but was in for a surprise. “The team’s learning curve has been extraordinary.” The district worked with the team on numerous sediment moving problems and solutions. While the mud and flood engineering proved absorbing, the team also worked out ways to get local residents more up close and personal to the creek. “If kids can’t get into these watersheds, I worry how they’ll relate to nature in the future,” wonders Ralph Boniello from the Alameda Creek Alliance. “Will they be good stewards?”

Read More

Related Content

Resilent by Design Bay Area Challenge

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge (2017-2018) invited nine teams to design innovative shoreline adaptations to rising sea levels at nine sites around the San Francisco Estuary. The visions provided by this pre-disaster challenge — modeled on the post-disaster Rebuild by Design challenge in New York that followed superstorm Sandy — are powerful, silo-crossing conversation starters for a region now working to prepare low-lying communities, creeks, habitats, and infrastructure for a bigger Bay.
About the author

Ariel Rubissow Okamoto is both today’s editor-in-chief and the founding editor of ESTUARY magazine (1992-2001). She enjoys writing in-depth, silo-crossing stories about water, restoration, and science. She’s a co-author of a Natural History of San Francisco Bay (UC Press 2011), frequent contributor of climate change stories to Bay Nature magazine, and occasional essayist for publications like the San Francisco Chronicle. In other lives, she has been a vintner, soccer mom, and waitress. She lives in San Francisco close to the Bay with her architect husband Paul Okamoto.