Last week I was down in San Luis obispo are teaching the SRF Bioengineering Field School.  The Salmonid Restoration Federation ( is a really cool group dedicated to providing educational trainings and advocates for Salmonid habitat preservation, restoration, and enhancement.  Last years field school included hands-on bioengineering work on the Santa Ynez river near Buelton.  This year over thirty of us congregated in Arroyo Grande and our field site was on West Corral de Piedra Creek near San Luis Obispo.  This creek runs thru what was once heavily-grazed land but the owner on the east side of the creek is a most fascinating man – Jean Pierre Wolff.

 Jean Pierre has built this vineyard over the last 10 years (the land had acres of old Chardonnay vines) and his wine has won awards 3 times in 8 years.  AND, his vines are NOT irrigated!!  Even with the recent droughts.  He has graded, de-compacted, and managed his land such that all precipitation and runoff GOES BACK INTO THE GROUND.  He has been practicing Low Impact Development for years.  His vines have been trained to “go deep”.  Wolff Vineyards are way ahead of the State and EPA standards regarding Hydromodification. Enough about Jean Pierre.

 Meredith Hardy, Fish Habitat Specialist for the CCCs worked with Jean Pierre and the NRCS, and NOAA NMFS and got a grant to “restore proper function to the stream and develop steelhead habitat.  Susan Littoral with the NRCS did much of the design work which primarily involved constructing a meandering low flow channel.  The channel only averages 11 feet wide and has incised over 3-5 feet in a decade or two.  Very difficult indeed to restore function to an incised, and now seasonal (drought and upstream dam!!) stream. 

 On top of these constraints, Meredith, Susan, and Dana Stolzman (SRF) would like this project to ALSO provide a hands-on site for the Bioengineering Field School.  WOW, think about how to make all that come together in a few days!

 On the positive side, we have some money for Contractors and additional materials.  Bow the construction guys are the absolute TOPS – Pat Molner General Engineering Construction.  Now Pat, his brother Mike, and Gary were with us last year in the Santa Ynez River.  Pat was one of the most willing contractors I ever worked with, he built Willow and Gravel Bendway Weirs that David Derrick would be proud of, his crew learned how to build Live Siltation and what is a LPSTP.  Pat is the greatest, so when I learned he was our guy I knew we could pull off a great bit of work and provide a wonderful learning experience for the SRF Field School attendees.

 And what a great group they were.  This school was filled with professionals whose primary jobs involve habitat enhancement, water quality, restoration projects design, permitting, and implementation.  “Preaching to the choir”!!  Caltrans Landscape Division was well represented.  Dist 5 can be quite proud of the bioengineering elements they have integrated into Highway design.  Heck, they’ve won awards!!  And still want to learn even more techniques.   

 I hope these photos below will give you a feel for the extraordinary experience that SRF Bioengineering Field School provided.  Also, you can check out even more photos from the day here.


Corral de Piedra Creek! Note old partially-failed gabion baskets on left bank – to bad they weren’t “bioengineered” ten years ago when built.

building a meandering low-flow with terrace on opposite bank, along with laying back some of the over-steepened banks. The CCCs will plant the bankssome more rock was needed. Rock Vanes could help ensure the meanders survive AND Rock Vanes provide aquatic habitat and substrate complexity (NCHRP Report 544, 2005)

Live Siltation is a great technique to combine with rock built up to Bank FullPlant live Siltation deep and then “water in” the willow before building rock toe.

Waterjet Stinger in action

“Washing Fines” is very effective in mimicking first flush storms – fines are washed BACK into gravels where they once resided, and the first storms do not result in turbidity spikes!! Tried, tested and documented in Sulphur Creek.

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