Santa Rosa Creek Watershed Management Plan



The Santa Rosa Creek Watershed Management Plan was funded by California Department of Fish and Game’s (CDFG) Fisheries Restoration Grant Program to develop a technically sound plan that addresses the strategic and scientific needs for watershed management, restoration planning, and south-central California coast steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) recovery in the Santa Rosa Creek watershed, and that will be effective within current and foreseeable land use, water supply, and land ownership patterns in the watershed.

Specifically, the objectives of the watershed management plan are to assess existing conditions, prioritize limiting factors for steelhead, and identify and prioritize restoration recommendations to address these limiting factors and improve physical functions and ecological conditions in the watershed.

How Did the Plan Get Created?

The watershed management plan was developed through the collaboration of a broad spectrum of participants. Stakeholders representing community sectors including agriculture, business, the community services district, planning advisory groups and fishing interests, and who work or live in the watershed, met periodically throughout the development of the watershed management plan to advise and inform the process, contribute historic and current information, assist in evaluating the accuracy of existing conditions and to review information and provide comments. In addition, a Technical Advisory Committee reviewed key watershed management plan elements, and input from the public was solicited at three public workshops. 

Some Creek History

Physical processes and ecological conditions in the Santa Rosa Creek watershed have been affected by historical clearing of land, groundwater pumping, urban development, bank revetment, historical mercury mining, land management practices, and road building. These activities have increased hillslope erosion and fine sediment supply to creek channels, resulted in channel incision, exacerbated low flows in the summer and fall, degraded riparian and aquatic habitat conditions, created barriers to fish migration, decreased water and sediment quality, and introduced non-native invasive species. Several of these effects limit the population of steelhead in the watershed by dramatically reducing instream flows in the summer and fall, decreasing pool habitat and large woody debris for summer and winter rearing, restricting their migration, and possibly limiting the potential for lagoon rearing. 


The watershed management plan includes a suite of management, restoration and study recommendations based on the synthesis of existing watershed conditions, steelhead limiting factors analysis, results of a geomorphic assessment and benthic macroinvertebrate sampling conducted specifically for the watershed management plan, and input from stakeholders and technical advisors. The recommendations present multiple ways to address steelhead limiting factors and conserve and improve physical processes and ecological conditions in the watershed, and are designed to be implemented individually, or in combination, on a voluntary basis, by or with the consent of willing landowners. Recommendations are presented by their ultimate objective and are listed in order of their relative importance to steelhead habitat restoration:

  • Restore the riparian corridor
  • Reduce fine sediment delivery to the creek
  • Conserve and protect open spaces and existing land uses
  • Increase large woody debris supply and retention
  • Remove barriers to fish passage
  • Fill key data gaps
  • Reduce mercury supply

Santa Rosa Creek Enhancement Plan

To be most effective, conservation efforts must understand the big picture—the interaction and interdependency of natural and human systems over time. With this in mind, in 1992 Greenspace commissioned a long-range, comprehensive study of aquatic and riparian ecosystems in Santa Rosa Creek and its lagoon since 1970. The consultants determined that the decline has resulted from "increased human population, increased groundwater pumping, increased non-point source pollution and a natural drought cycle.”  The Enhancement Plan has four goals:

1. Acquire and preserve open space along the creek.

2. Enhance the natural resources of its lower reach.

3. Develop and maintain an information base for the creek.

4. Increase community awareness and enjoyment of the creek.

Documents and Resources

Download the Santa Rosa Enhancement Creek Plan below, and learn more about the natural history of the area, as well as specifics about stream flows, and the variety of wildlife that live in and around the beautiful creek.