Since the earliest days of human habitation in the San Francisco Bay Area, the mouths of the region’s many creeks have been valued for their rich ecology and the abundance of plant and animal species. These natural deltas received sediment from the erosive hills upstream, and supported vast expanses of tidal marshlands.
With European settlement, creek mouth areas began to play a major role in flood management. Now, as we witness the advance of sea level rise along with increasing flood risk due to greater storm intensity and tidal surge, we understand that restoring creek mouths to enhance or increase historical functions is key to increasing critical habitat for birds, wildlife and aquatic organisms while reducing flood risk both along the shoreline and farther upstream.
In 2012, the San Francisco Estuary Partnership and the San Francisco Estuary Institute undertook a comprehensive regional inventory and assessment of creek mouths around the Bay. Once complete (in 2013), this work will prepare Bay Area’s ability to prioritize and integrate riparian, tidal and subtidal restoration efforts for multiple benefits, including increasing ecological value and reducing human health and hazard risks from flooding. Data collection and analysis for approximately 85 creeks around the Bay will be complete by summer of 2013.
The project’s longer-term goal, dependent upon additional funding, is to create a user-friendly online web tool that will help agencies, organizations and volunteer stewardship groups understand both regional opportunities and constraints for creek mouth restoration/flood protection projects. The Bay Area Creek Mouth Assessment Tool will provide a picture of historic and current conditions including restoration projects; presence of native and invasive species; endangered species; water quality; and land use and ownership.
The Bay Area Creek Mouth Assessment Project is a collaboration of many federal, state, regional and local partners, sharing data and developing compatible online user interfaces. The project is funded by SFEP’s EPA grant.