Recommendations

What watershed and habitat improvement activities would most likely lead toward more desirable conditions in a timely, cost effective manner?

Consider careful planning of land uses that could exacerbate mass wasting, since the relative potential of landsliding is high to very high in 53 percent of the subbasin;

Develop erosion control plans for decommissioning old roads, maintaining existing roads, and constructing new roads. Decommission and revegetate streamside roads where feasible, focusing on those associated with unsuitable fish habitat conditions such as Little, Franchini, Grasshopper, and Osser creeks;

Evaluate the possibility of spreading timber harvesting operations over time and space to avoid concentrated road use by heavy equipment and resultant mobilization of road surface fines into watercourses;

Maintain and enhance existing riparian cover. Ensure that adequate streamside protection zones are used on Buckeye Creek to reduce solar radiation and moderate air temperatures, particularly on mainstem and upper tributaries. Retain, plant, and protect trees to achieve denser riparian canopy where current canopy is inadequate, particularly on the mainstem and Franchini, Grasshopper and Soda creeks;

Encourage the addition of large organic debris and shelter structures in order to improve sediment metering, channel structure, channel function, habitat complexity, and habitat diversity for salmonids. The CDFG survey found pool shelter to be the most limiting factor in Buckeye Creek. Instream structure enhancement is the first of the top three recommendations;

Enhance large woody debris through short and long-term efforts through ongoing large wood placement efforts and enhancement of the natural large woody debris recruitment process by developing large riparian conifers with tree protection, planting, thinning from below, and other vegetation management techniques;

Encourage more habitat inventory surveys and biological surveys of tributaries as only 37 percent of the Buckeye Subbasin has been completed;

Conduct both instream and hillslope monitoring to determine whether current timber harvest practices are allowing for recovery and protection of the salmonid habitat in the subbasin. Improve baseline information on habitat conditions by conducting inventory surveys in major tributaries;

Expand continuous temperature monitoring efforts into the upper subbasin and tributaries. Consider looking at canopy composition and monitoring air temperatures to examine canopy, temperature, and other microclimate effects on water temperatures.

Conclusions

The Buckeye Subbasin is characterized by steep gradient tributaries flowing into the mainstem Buckeye Creek, which is dominated by bedrock and a relatively narrow floodplain. The lower subbasin is influenced by the summer coastal fog and remains cool; the interior areas beyond the influence of the marine layer become hot and dry during summer.

Historic and current accounts show that steelhead trout are common in the subbasin, while only one record described coho salmon on Franchini Creek in the 1960s. High instream sediment levels, simplified instream salmonid habitat, relatively open canopy cover, and a lack of appropriately sized spawning substrate indicate that present conditions on the mainstem of Buckeye Creek are unsuitable for salmonids. However, air photos indicate instream and near stream conditions have improved since 1984 and the trend can be accelerated.

There are abundant opportunities for improvements in subbasin stream conditions. Improvements to instream complexity, such as additional large woody debris, riparian canopy restoration, and water temperature monitoring, are examples of opportunities. The unstable and erosive terrain should be considered prior to project planning and implementation and appropriate best management practices should be followed to minimize erosion and sediment delivery to streams. Current landowners and managers interested and motivated to eliminate impacts related to land use and accelerate a return to suitable conditions for salmonids are encouraged to do so, enlisting the aid and support of Gualala Basin restoration groups, and agency technology, experience, and funding opportunities.