When an old dam in Santa Cruz Mountains comes down, coho will be free to swim home again

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains, hidden by dense patches of conifer and far from any paved road, a century-old, abandoned dam whose purpose remains lost to history is quietly choking a small, yet important waterway.

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But not for long.

The unnamed, 30-foot-wide dam on Mill Creek, home to one of the southernmost runs of endangered coho salmon, will be toppled this summer. The demolition is part of a broader effort to both open up passage for struggling fish along the Central Coast and restore a cherished forest known as San Vicente Redwoods.

“With the scale of this property, there’s really just nothing like it,” said Ian Rowbotham, land stewardship manager for the Sempervirens Fund, one of four conservation groups that owns and manages the sprawling woodlands above the community of Davenport, before driving 30 minutes up a dirt road to the dam on Tuesday morning. “We’ve been doing a lot of restoration work here.”

Removal of the stone structure, which keeps fish from swimming upstream and critical sediment in the creek from moving downward, is the biggest and most visible attempt to mend this once heavily burdened forest.

Long owned by building materials companies, most recently Mexico-based CEMEX, the 8,500-acre property was logged and mined for decades. Then, last year it burned in the CZU Lightning Complex fires.

Still, the area is chock-full of scenic canyons and towering ridges overlooking the Pacific. It includes the region’s largest privately held redwood forest. Mountain lions and peregrine falcons are commonly seen, and coho and steelhead migrate from the ocean to the creeks. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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